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Showing posts from September, 2015

Well, That Went to Shit Quickly

I sharp kick to the ribs woke me this morning. My toddler son was claiming his territory in the bed, and I was left with a small strand at the edge. Balancing precariously, cheeks hanging out in space, I noticed I had 15 minutes before the alarm would go off. I would be forced to hit the snooze button before it woke the little terror. I listened to the sound of the rain falling on the roof with a sense of resignation. I knew there would be no road riding today.

I left the bag of cycling kit next to the computer desk. The Storck remained in the garage, where there was less chance of it growing rust. The newly-trued front wheel stayed in the back of the car. The bits and pieces that supported my routine of after-work rides remained untouched.

On my drive in, the rain chained to snow. It wasn't sticking, but it was snow. I couldn't see the mountains, but I know they got hammered with heavy, wet snow.

It's a little early for this. I still want to ride on the road. I'm not lik…

Not According to Plan

I was riding a large training volume level towards the end of the summer, and the plan was to slowly wean myself off of that as I rolled into the trainer season. Everything was going great, until it rained. Then it rained again. Then it rained some more. Usually rain doesn't stop me from riding, but when the temperatures get to the low 40s and high 30s, I realize it's not sustainable for me. I'll get in one good, if low-intensity ride, and then I'll spend the next couple days with a back in knots and a hesitance to ride again. String a couple of those rides together, and I usually end up sick for a week. I'm a weakling in that way.

Friday it was pouring and I had a sick child to deal with, so I didn't ride. Saturday I managed a good workout on the trainer, and somewhere during that time I waived at Noah as he floated by with all of his animal friends. Sunday was more of the same, so I procrastinated until the exact moment where it was too late to start anything.…

The Jarring Transition

The sight of exposed skin on my wrist was startling. It's been a couple weeks since they haven't been covered by long-sleeve jerseys or arm warmers.

The sight of beaded water running down that skin was downright shocking. It wasn't raining where I was riding (in my garage), so that must mean it was just copious amounts of sweat.

Weird.

With temperatures in the high 30s and rain falling, I just couldn't bring myself to ride outside. It would have been another low-effort ride in a long string of low-effort rides. Besides, with the wife out drinking... um, scrap-booking with her friends all weekend in Girdwood, I had to watch the kids. No four-hour climbing routes for me today.

I kitted up and strode into the garage exuding purpose and confidence. That is, as much as a pale white guy with shaved legs wearing lycra can exude. I did suck in my gut, so I had that going for me.

I logged onto Zwift and did all of the pre-ride stuff that my trainer sessions will likely entail this s…

Virtual Douchebag

Recently I spent a couple days playing a video game. Unlike most video games, where all feats of strength are accomplished with a certain combination of buttons pressed at the same time, this one required actual physical effort. I sweated.

I was playing Zwift, an online cycling video game. After years of watching the same DVDs in rotation over and over again, I decided to mix things up and start living in the current decade. Streaming videos. Virtual reality. That sort of stuff.

I've spent the last couple days trying to come up with a way to describe the experience. Despite the glowing recommendations from people who would rather ride inside than risk the chance of breathing actual air or falling on actual pavement, Zwift isn't an earth-shattering development in sports science. Riding the trainer still sucks.

It is interesting, though.

I've done workout machines of all types with virtual "rabbits", and noted their impact on performance. You work harder with that stim…

Gentle Lesson on the Road

The tube, which had been telegraphing its impending demise for a week, went out with a bang so impressive it unseated the tire's bead for 3 inches.

I was excited to ride. Another great fall day, and what looked like at least two solid hours after work to ride. Then the contractors started filing in to get new badges activated, which obviously had to be done 15 minutes after my usual departure time. OK, two hours became 90 minutes, but it still was an incredible day. I'd up the intensity and take a slightly shorter route. I suited up and rushed out the door before anyone else could stop me.

Two miles into the ride the explosion happened.

No problem, I had a spare tube, CO2, a miniature frame pump, and a well-stocked patch kit. A quick fix and I would be on my way. As I unpacked my saddle bag, I noticed the spare tube's valve stem was too short for the wheel, and I had no extender with me. I'd actually thought about sticking one in the bag before, but for some reason had ne…

Glad I Did

As the work day wound down, I glanced at the bag of cycling kit next to my desk. The bike was out in the parking lot on my car's bike rack. Pull it off, slap on the front wheel, and go. The sun was shining and the temperature was moderate for this time of year. The wind wasn't blowing for a change.

I didn't want to ride.

I had to pick up the kids from school, so I used that excuse to keep me off the bike. I figured I'd do an easy hour on the trainer and call it quits. When we got home, I climbed into bed and closed my eyes. Fifteen minutes later I got up and started changing. I still wasn't motivated, but I knew I would regret not riding on a day like this. When you spend is much time on a trainer as I do, you have ample time for regret.

I rode the 10 miles out to Potter Valley, then wound my way up each evil switchback, past the traditional finish, up the new pavement, and finally reached the top. I was threatening to set a new record for the slowest time up the clim…

Let Your Freak Flag Fly

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The snow has established a solid foothold on the front range around Anchorage. At slightly lower elevations, fog and high humidity add to the recent drop in temperatures. I scraped my windshield the last couple days before work, and briefly considered wearing a jacket.

That escalated quickly.

With a household full of sick people, a handful of hours of sleep, and 7 days straight of work under my belt, I dug deep into my "Suitcase of Nope" and didn't ride my bike. I just wasn't interested, and didn't try to ride myself into enthusiasm. It works a lot of the time, but I knew it wasn't going to happen for me this time.

Instead, I watched the rolling freak show that is Arctic Cross. I mean that in the nicest possible way. 'Cross season in Anchorage is when the roadies and MTB guys get together and steal the last few minutes of competition remaining before the snow closes in. Riders come from all directions and demographics. The bike polo guys come out. The unicyc…

Slow Bleed

I could hear the air hiss out of the tube. I pumped it up a bit more. I knew it would hold sufficient air for the ride, but would be flat the next day. It had for three straight days, so why should today be any different?

The bike was filthy.

The road grit would make horrible noises as the bottom bracket's wavy washer ground it against crankset. It was kinda embarrassing for the first 100 feet or so, until the rain washed out the sand, moose carcass, or whatever else was lodged in there. The top half of the frame tubes were spotless, washed clean as the bike sat on the roof rack by the steady rain. The bottom half of the tubes looked like a grisly crime scene.

The brake tracks on the wheels were liberally coated, adding an unpleasant sonic component to the slowing experience.

The drivetrain was about the cleanest part of the bike, and even there I had some regrets about my lack of attention.

I knew that any attempt to clean the bike would be an effort in futility. 20 feet into a ride…

Polluting the Pond- Tour of Fairbanks Part VI (The Non-Response)

After the Tour of Fairbanks, I wrote some not-so-nice things about the end results of some very nice people's efforts. It was my five-part magnum opus on how I thought they were screwing up all that was good and wonderful about the race and replacing it with something that amounts to the seventh sign.

Looking back, on a lot of points I think I was right. On others, I may have been wrong. On the remainder... I blame the narcotics I was taking for my screwed-up back. I didn't type that. The green-striped unicorns did. My dealer, Rainbow McPushypants, can back me up on that point. In the interests of full disclosure, I Googled "funny drug dealer names", and that one jumped out at me. My real pusher is a military doctor, and her name only makes me giggle when I'm on the medications she prescribes.

A month and some change later, I raced in the Tour of Anchorage. Some of the same issues cropped up that I whined about so forcefully in Fairbanks. Could it be that Fairbanks…

Blogus Interruptus

Yesterday didn't have a post. I feel just horrible about that. I feel like I let nearly 4 people down, and potentially impacted the rest of their day. Nothing I can do or say will ever be able to make up for my shortcoming. All I can do is try to make sure it never happens again.

It will happen again.

A lot.

Yesterday was one of those days. A day where the administrivia came to crescendo just as everyone was running around as if the world was coming to an end. It was raining steadily, so I didn't get on the bike after work and instead planned on a trainer session. Only I forgot about that Arctic Bicycle Club Road Division Committee meeting, where I had envisioned unveiling my master plan for revolutionizing the backwater bike racing, so that we could ultimately overtake curling on the list of sports that nobody cares about.

Alas, the Master Plan had to wait, as there were more pressing matters than subjugating people who slide rocks on ice. And there was beer, which cooled my revo…

Getting Out There

The clouds cloaked the foothills to the east of Anchorage. A steady rain started falling. Not a heavy rain, but the kind that slowly soaks you and makes the temperature seem about 15 degrees lower. I sat in my car and contemplated this as I returned to work from lunch.

That afternoon I would ride. That afternoon I would get wet. That afternoon my back would slowly clench up and begin aching from the cold soaking. The rain would slowly work its way past my shoe covers and into my shoes. Tides of foot funk-infused water would flow from the shoes with every down stroke, only to be replaced on the up stroke. I would be coated with a fine layer of road grit from head to toe, and all of the wonderful substances that make up that grit. My bike would be covered with that same gunk, and my chain would be relentlessly stripped of all oil-based lubrication.

Under my trusty cap and rain jacket, I would settle into a rhythm and adjust to the situation. While not exactly comfortable, it wasn't ex…

Under-Dressed and Alone

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A couple weeks ago I was riding my usual route on base when I noticed a fellow military member standing beside the road. Holding a rifle. A little further up the road, there was another one. This pattern continued for some distance, making me feel somewhat under-dressed. I probably should have joined the party thusly:
Then again, the Secret Service gets a little twitchy when random people start brandishing weapons during a presidential visit.

This was actually a couple hours before Air Force One touched down, and I was trying to sneak a ride in before the place turned into a madhouse with people desperate to get a glimpse of President Obama. I wanted to be far, far away from that scene. It's not a political thing, although I may have differing views on any number of subjects. Rather, I just hate people. Small gatherings I can handle, but crowds have never been my thing. I don't get carried away with the energy of a shared experience. I'd rather define my own.

The vast majorit…

Putting 9-11 Into Personal Perspective

Once again, it all comes down to me.

14 years ago today I woke up early (Alaska time) for some reason, flipped on the TV (which I never did when I woke up), turned to CNN (which was also odd, because I rarely watched the news- I prefer print media), and watched the reports of the plane hitting the World Trade Center. While I watched, the second plane hit, and I knew we were being attacked.

Within a week I was deployed to support a squadron of F-15Es in South Korea while the aircraft carrier in the region headed to the Gulf. I was lucky, because a lot of guys were headed to Afghanistan and later Iraq to do something about the situation we found ourselves in as a nation.

I was ending an enlistment within a year, and the Air Force had elected to deny my request to remain in Alaska in favor of a lot of people who hated it up here. Instead, I was headed back to Florida. I hate the Gulf Coast with a passion, having spent the longest two years of my life in Florida. Flat, hot, humid, insect- an…

Writer's Block

After a long stretch when I had posts lined up for days in advance, today I had nothing.

I got on the bike after work to recover from a long day of debugging databases corrupted by an enterprise software migration planned by morons (you feel me, right?), and was pleasantly surprised that the rain had stopped and the roads were dry. After the previous night's crit-trial in the rain, the last thing I wanted to do was push it, but I found myself fighting the wind and slowly ramping up the wattage...

Then I stopped.

What exactly was I training for at this point? Race season is over. I'm not doing 'cross this year. This is the time of year for long, slow distance and reconnecting with what I enjoy about riding- other than the beating up on your fellow riders while bleeding out of your eyes.

I kicked it down a few notches. I noticed things. I ignored things. I had the choice. It's fall, and fall means winter is just around the corner.

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood...

...and …

2015 Arctic Bike Club Crit-Trial Champion

It was raining and in the mid-50s. Only 8 people signed up. Only 5 actually showed. It was the last race of the season. 

It was supposed to be a crit, but the people that showed did not make for the most cohesive pack. We had a closed course, so the race directors decided to get creative and changed it to a time trial. 20 laps around a crit course, and drafting was allowed if you caught up with the next guy or lapped someone.

Interesting.

I was the first guy out of the chute, and I decided to ride it like I ride the crit on the same course. Hammer the uphill and then back off on the flats. It was 20, 30 second VO2max intervals with a little less than a minute recovery. Between that and cornering more aggressively than most of the "field", I started lapping riders. I was feeling pretty good.

About lap 15 the rain really started to soak in and my back started to question why I needed to ride so hard when I'd already passed everyone. I started to ride a little easier on the rec…

Paying the Piper

Sunday we went to the Alaska State Fair. I usually dread it for the enormous unsatisfying cash-suck it represents, and this year was no different. The kids like it, and my wife tells me I have to go, so I really have no choice in the matter. I go just about every year, and every year I like it a little less.

There is one saving grace of the whole swindle, though: Pork Chop on a Stick. If there is better proof of man having reached the pinnacle of evolution, I don't know what it it. I mean, it's a pork chop. On a stick. The perfect food on the perfect delivery system. Brilliant.

I had 3 of them.

I also had a cinnamon sugar elephant ear, an ice cream cone, some sub-par pulled pork BBQ, french fries, and probably a bunch of other stuff that got lost in the severe insulin imbalance that characterized my day.

I walked out of there hating myself more than usual. Except for the Pork Chop on a Stick part, which was totally worth it.

Monday Pete and I did a few of the more punishing climbs …

Dungeon Upgrades and New Pavement

Friday I decided to clean up the trainer dungeon. It's an annual ritual that mostly involves removing the multiple layers of sweat and dust that cover everything, then sorting the various bike components that I carelessly threw in there during the pavement season. When there's roads to be ridden, I don't have the time to be organized.

This season I decided to add a twist to the usual stack of DVDs that keep me motivated all winter. Last year I noticed my interest in DVDs I had viewed hundreds of times had somehow been diminished. Odd. Since they no longer make them because nobody will buy them anymore, I was forced to look elsewhere.

Zwift is what I came up with. It's basically an online multiplayer cycling videogame. You connect your trainer and whatever other electronic goodies you have to the program, and you ride virtual courses with people all over the world. Since it's still in Beta, the courses are limited, but right now the Richmond World Championship road ra…

What the Fuck Was I Thinking?

One day I decided to respond to the comments about Jeff Dusenbury in the Alaska Dispatch News. As anyone with half a brain will tell you, the comments section of any news outlet is the Afghanistan of reasoned thought. You may go in with the best of intentions, but the only way to win is to outlast everyone else. Outlasting a determined, dogmatic, willfully ignorant, and entrenched foe is next to impossible in that environment. Eventually their lack of a meaningful life will overcome your motivation to provide a balanced perspective.

Then I did the unthinkable. I wrote a letter to the editor. After a week, it wasn't published, so I figured they'd tired of the subject and were more concerned about what color socks Obama was wearing during his visit to Seward.

Then they published it.

I had committed ground troops to an unwinnable war. Just poor strategic planning on my part. The only saving grace seems to be the idiot commenters are outnumbered at the moment, as their allies are foc…

Confirmed Douchebag

Tuesday night we rode around in circles for a while until it was time to ride really hard to a crack in the pavement, at which point we stopped. That's the short-form race report.

A slightly more wordy version is this:

The road racing season is wheezing its way to a close. The new pavement on our criterium course at the old Kulis Air National Guard Base added a couple unexpected races, which the non-climbers among us have appreciated. Our previous crit courses were on the sketchy side, with fall-away turns, road furniture, and other obstacles. The Kulis course has nice pavement, negotiable turns, good sight lines, and is relatively easy to control.

I was so excited that I showed up an hour early. The race crew wasn't even there when I started doing laps. They made the decision to run the course backwards, which added a new element to an already fun race. I threw in a pair of bike socks and a water bottle I won in the Tour Anchorage awards ceremony raffle to make things interestin…

South

I'm late to the game with this one, but I've been mulling it over for a while.

I was born and raised in the capital of the Confederacy. It's a point of family pride that my ancestors fought alongside some of the South's greatest generals. I had Confederate battle flags and commemorative rebel kepis growing up. My college apartment was on Monument Avenue, right across the street from JEB Stuart's statue. In Virginia, you have to try hard not to step on a Civil War battlefield. They're everywhere. To say I was exposed to this part of our nation's history would be an understatement.

For the first 10 or so years of public school, we didn't get past the War of Northern Aggression in history class. We covered the issue of slavery in the abstract, but given the relative raw scars of the Civil Rights Struggle and Segregation that abounded, it's not surprising. The perspectives presented probably differed from those in other parts of the country, as each regio…

Wind Changes

The wind that cooled me yesterday has a bit of a bite today.

Soon I'll start wearing a base layer every ride. Then it will be arm warmers. The arm warmers will be replaced by a long-sleeve jersey, then it will be a softshell jacket.

Knee warmers will give way to leg warmers. Leg warmers to tights.

Wool socks. Shoe covers...

Eventually I will be wrapped in merino wool and Roubaix fleece from head to toe.

The road season ends when ice makes my tire's 1cm square contact patch feel somewhat inadequate for directional control. Then I retreat to the trainer dungeon.

It's a progression that happens every year, although this year it's maybe a little later than normal. Not that I'm complaining about the delay.

Snow is already falling up north. Frost on the cars in the Valley. I get new emails from Alyeska, the ski club, or some other snow sports entity every day. Everyone understands things are about to swing, and are shifting gears accordingly. If you try to fight the weather, y…