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Showing posts from April, 2016

Fairbanks.

After talking a large dump over last year's event in a series of mean-spirited and completely unfair posts, I entered this year's edition of the Tour of Fairbanks. You should too, and here's why:
The Globe Creek/Wickersham Dome queen stage is back. Boom. List complete. Sign up now. Road race stages in Alaska have a tendency to be multiple laps of the same course. Round and round, with little terrain variance. You know where they're going to hit you, and if you have the strength to follow you can usually respond. Wickersham Dome is different, because it's a 3 hour out-and-back course with constantly changing terrain. The first time I did this stage I remember seeing the Open Class on their return trip, the pack shattered by the strongest Alaskan roadies. Riders were finishing in small groups- 10, 15, 20, 30 minutes or more after the race was won. Even the smaller Masters/Sport pack had finish time gaps over 15 minutes on the shorter Wickersham Dome course. That's

An Unfinished Life.

Going into my garage these days is like personal tour of failure.

Tucked into the stacks of kids bikes and skis sits my bike work stand. If you dance around the debris and semi-filled boxes that litter the floor, ducking your head to avoid the many road bikes and the awkward trail-a-bike that hang from the ceiling, you'll see the stand holds the titanium bike project. Tacked together, but nowhere near complete. A couple hours of uninterrupted wrenching time and it would be ready for Craigslist. It was originally supposed to go to the Arctic Bike Club swap, but I simply ran out of time.

Among the hanging bikes that threaten you with traumatic brain injury sits my Ridley. Completely built, as clean as it's been in years, and ready to sell. That was supposed to go to the swap, but an Odyssean group ride kept me from selling anything this year. It's just as well, because it also meant I didn't buy anything either.

A couple hooks over is a very pretty Madone 6.9 frame, which …

Putting It In the Proper Context.

This morning I put my bike on my car-top bike rack before work. I caught myself admiring the glint of the sun reflecting in the goop that always collects on my rear derailleur's jockey wheels. I should probably take care of that. At any rate, the fact that I was looking at my bike as a thing of grungy beauty is actually a good sign. It means maybe I've turned a corner and all is not lost this season. Riding a bike is something I really, really want to do instead of something I do because... well, that's just what I do.

Maybe it was the sun. With warm spring weather and green popping up all around me, it's kinda hard to have negative thoughts. This winter was difficult for me on several fronts, but the seasonal change has a positive effect on most of us. Long days. The streets are being swept, meaning you don't have to dodge piles of sand and last winter's broken beer bottles. The number of layers I wear for a bike ride is slowly coming down. To relax on the bike…

Changes In Attitude.

Normally, when I'm "training" (in the context of a middle-aged hack cyclist), I have one day a week that is designated as a "rest day". I don't get on the bike at all.

This year, thanks to sickness and other obligations, I've had a lot of unscheduled "rest days". Everyone tells me that as I get older I should ride less, that I will ultimately ride stronger when it matters. Problem is, all I feel is weak and fat. The aches and pains I feel have shifted from being the inevitable result of activity to being the consequence of inactivity.

Now that I've taken some time off from training, I don't do "rest days" anymore.

I do "screw that, I don't feel like it days".

When I don't want to ride, I don't ride. When my schedule or any number of convenient excuses (I have a long list for this very purpose) interfere, I don't ride. Instead of waiting for a pre-ordained day to not kit up and get on the bike, it can be …

Moose Run.

The Moose Run time trial is a benchmark for Arctic Bike Club Road Racing Division cyclists. Ten miles on a rolling course, complete with soul-crushing false flats and frequent headwinds, it provides a periodic test of where your fitness is compared to the competition.  Of course, that changes as the season progresses, with some riders charging into the spring on-form, only to fade towards the end of the year (this is my usual pattern). Other riders start slow and ride themselves into shape, peaking as the Tour of Anchorage rolls around. During years we run multiple time trials on the course, you can see the progression and evaluate the competition accordingly. It's not foolproof, but it's certainly a good indication of potential. I'm usually counted out of contention by the time the last Moose Run before the Tour is tallied.

This year I counted myself out before the first pedal was turned in anger. I wasn't completely sure I wanted to even sign up. I did, and halfhearte…

...Or Not.

The story evolved over the phone.


It started with one child. A good kid that was getting a raw deal and just needed a stable environment. Great.

Then there was a younger brother that he couldn't be separated from. Another great kid. I understand. We'll carve out room somehow.

Then there was a toddler sister. Umm...

...and a five year old brother.

Four kids. OCS not willing to separate (again, I understand).

Fuck no.

We just can't, and my wife, as big as her heart is, agrees. There is no way adding four kids to the household would not negatively impact our own children. The strain would be too great, and we know it- especially when young kids are involved.

We're one of the few ICWA-compliant families (despite my honkiness) in the Anchorage area in the system. A lady I know that works at OCS tries to foist off children on me every time she sees me, but I have yet to see a good match. The safety, security, and stability of our existing children come first, so I'm not the eas…

It Takes a Village.

I just got off the phone with my wife.

She wants to foster a kid. Maybe emergency, maybe long-term. I have no idea.

We've been down this road before. Multiple times.

She says it's a good kid with no major issues. Just needs a stable environment (as if my house could ever be called stable).

The system is full of them. 

It pisses me off, and I have real issues not resorting to physical violence, let alone holding my tongue, when confronting the idiots that put so many kids in this system. A lot of them have serious issues because of the bad choices their parents made before they were even born. Some of them have serious issues because of bad choices their parents made after birth. They're in the system for a reason, and it isn't the fault of the kids. It's enough to make me want to buy a baseball bat, install some strategically-placed spikes, and start swinging away in a room full of these baby-factories. They aren't parents. Not mothers and fathers. They just reprodu…

The Answer My Friend.

Elmendorf Air Force Base and Fort Richardson (I'm too old and cranky to adopt Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson) sit between the Chugach Mountains and the Cook Inlet. Warm air rises off the inlet and cold air rolls off the mountains, which is funneled at ground level by the trees and terrain, so chances are you'll have wind in your face no matter where you're headed. The wind seems worse in the spring. Maybe it's because the temperature differentials between the snow-covered mountains and the sun-warmed(ish) water are greater. Maybe it's because it's just colder than during the summer. Maybe it's because I have the great sense to ride at the times when the winds are the highest. Maybe it's because I'm shocked by any wind in my face that isn't generated by a fan after a winter in the trainer dungeon. Maybe I'm just too feeble to fight the gentle breezes.

Yesterday I caught as much of a break as I could possible hope for.

I rolled out of the park…

Bring Out Your Dead.

As I have already clearly established, I am a hoarder. Hosts of reality television shows would take one look at my multiple piles of treasures, mentally calculate how many episodes it would require to resolve this mess, decide that I'm not that compelling of a character, and take a pass on the whole thing. I'll be found one day crushed under a three-ton stack of 2002 Atomic ski brochures and several decades worth of back issues of Bicycling magazine. Strangely enough, both of those have exactly the same value.

Since I'm not riding as much, I have more time to do things that I've been putting off for the last decade. Discarding crap was high on the list. I started with the obvious and went from there. I actually had a stack of stuff downstairs that I had set aside last year to throw away. It grew to the point that it became the elephant in the room, because it was literally the size of an elephant. I'm not kidding. The kids would tiptoe around it lest they waken the …

When I Feel Like It.

Last week I told Janice I didn't want to train for a while.

The next day she replied something to the effect of, "'bout time you realized it".

Free of the restrictive world of training, I spent the next couple days training anyway. Some habits are hard to break. The results weren't pretty.

I skipped a day, hoping I would bounce back a bit, but the next day was just as bad. An easy group ride on Saturday was all I could muster. The numbers aren't there, and my motivation matches the numbers.

It could be partially a feedback issue. My battery in my power meter is low, causing drop-outs in data. Since I usually ride with a 3 or 10 second average displayed, I don't see the drop-outs, just a low power average. Not nice to be grunting up a hill only to see 138 watts displayed on your Garmin.

I'll change the battery and ride easy this week. Maybe some days I'll open it up, but there won't be any firm plan. I'm tired of being tired, and maybe I just ne…

Running On Empty.

Image
Today's workout was scheduled to be:
1:30, 5x3min VO2max. Today my internal display read:
Last night at the hospital I started getting dizzy. Cold sweat covered my forehead. I made my wife drive home, because I wasn't sure where this was going. Maybe I was just dehydrated from my ride. Maybe it was something I ate. I didn't want to admit that the little one was breaking down my defenses and had infected me with whatever Zika-Ebola hybrid he brought home from daycare.
He got me.
I stayed home with him this morning. Not feeling 100% but willing to give it a try, I left him with his aunt and rode out to Potter Valley. Immediately it became obvious this was going to take a little longer than planned. Great, add 5 minutes and we're good. I hit the bottom of the hill and couldn't manage more than an endurance pace. Fine, add another 5 minutes. The further I went, the less power I generated. OK, cut it off at Lower Potter and head home. On the way back, I was flailing. That wa…

We're Up All Night To Get Pukey.

I spent last night in the ER with the toddler, who has been on a steady regimen of puking once a day for a week. Everything that goes in, comes out in one impressive show. Every time we thought we had it beat, he'd sucker us in with a midnight Exorcist Baby. Monday and Tuesday he even got his mom in on the act, so life was uber-awesome for the healthiest adult in the house. Yesterday he added blowing out from the opposite end. With this new twist, we caved and took him to the doctor. Of course, as soon as we arrived he was all smiles and running around like a terror. No significant dehydration or any other sign of illness. The doctor gave us some tiny anti-puking pills to settle his guts down and, after four hours in the hospital (mostly waiting room), we were on our way home. 

I hope this works, because I'm tired of cleaning up puke.

Tuesday night on the Speedway team ride I got stomped on. When the terrain started tilting up, I started blowing up. The power numbers were there,…

Knowing When To Say When.

Looking back at my Training Peaks logs, the last few months have not been easy for me as a cyclist.

I've ridden a roller coaster of illness. I'd take a day off, rest and recover, and then hit it again. For a day or week I would feel fine, then I'd crash again. I couldn't consistently hit targets, overdoing it out of overenthusiasm or underperforming from fatigue. To try to shake this pattern, I'd take a couple days off, only falling further behind and trigger a frenzy of activity that would start the whole cycle again. It didn't matter if it was an easy week or a hard week, I'd struggle just to keep my head above water.

Eventually it got into my head, and the enthusiasm exited the same door my energy levels left open on their way out. Getting up early in the morning to get on the trainer or kitting up after a stressful day of work instead of climbing back in bed became a battle I lost more than I'd care to admit. Even when I wasn't sick, someone in t…

Foolproof Plan.

Friday night I saw the message on Facebook. A 50 mile(ish) group ride out to Hiland road.

I'd been feeling off recently (like for the last six months), so I thought I'd hang on the back and maybe get in some miles. 8:00AM sounded a bit early, given the morning temperatures this time of year, but that would allow me to get out there and not anger the wife. Three hours on the road, a couple hours with the family, then off to the bike swap to offload a couple bikes and some random parts. Perfect. A three hour tour. A three hour tour.

The ride left as planned, and we took a leisurely pace around Anchorage and out to Eagle River, picking up various and sundry riders as we went. The tranquil pace should have been a warning flag to me, but I figured once we warmed up we'd start turning them over and I could sit in the draft and eat up some miles.

We hit Hiland Road, which is comprised of eight or so miles of climbing. While the kids that wanted to play scampered up the hill, I hung …

Northern Classics.

It was holy week in the world of cycling.  was  A little over a week ago, an attacking Peter Sagan won De Ronde van Vlaanderen (Tour of Flanders) over my sentimental favorite, Fabian Cancellara, who is riding his last season as a professional. Yesterday was Paris Roubaix, where my other sentimental favorite, Tom Boonen, was beaten to the line by Australian Mathew Hayman (no spring chicken at 37). Two very good races, and likely the last two races I'll follow this season from start to finish. Most other races I'll check in on, some more than others.

Some people get all wound up about the Tour, but my enthusiasm for emaciated climbers was pretty much killed 10 years ago. I'll check in to see how things are progressing, but Flanders and Roubaix are the only ones I'll wake up well before dawn for to watch on a video stream in a language I don't understand. I know the names, which is usually more than sufficient to follow the action. Some things transcend language.

Of all…

Getting Old.

Last night was a pleasant 50F. No wind. Mostly clear skies. Dry roads. During early April in Alaska, it doesn't get much better than that.

I was bundled up far more than I usually am for such conditions. I still felt cold. Muscle-aching cold, that loosened up over the miles but never really left me. The ache was a built-in governor, blunting whatever force I could apply to the pedals to an unsatisfying "close but not what I had in mind". The ache affected the space between my ears, further slowing my progress. "Don't push it". I was on the road, but I wasn't all there.

The youngest spent the day at home with his mother after a night of puking. I should have stayed home as well, because I likely caught whatever he has. Maybe it was just lack of sleep. Maybe it was the remnants of a series of sugar rushes and inevitable crashes from the Snickers bars I was using to make it through the day when actual food didn't do the trick.

Whatever the reason, I wasn&…

Fat Shaming.

Recently I've seen article after article about public figures and "fat shaming". Like art, I'm not sure there's a firm consensus on what it exactly is ("but I know it when I see it"), but I'm sure it's a "thing". I used to do it all of the time when I was a kid, because the fat kid was an easy target. Hard to miss. However, I went back through my yearbooks and when I compare the 1980s "fat kids" to the kids of today, they look average. I think the world can use a little more fat shaming, but not from behind the relative anonymity of a keyboard. I mean public, "hey everyone, look at the fat-fat-fatty" fat shaming. Society as a whole is going to have a huge bill to pay in the future because of obesity, and it will amount to taxation of the healthy to subsidize the unhealthy.

When I visit my son's high school, I see plenty of kids that are athletic and otherwise healthy-looking. A majority of those are probably ridi…

Team Ride.

The annual tradition of the Speedway team ride kicked off last night. We usually hit the road every spring once every week or so before the trails dry out and the more offroad-minded leave the pavement. The way this year has gone, we won't be meeting for many road rides.

Most of the group was on 'cross bikes, which was appropriate given the amount of sand and gravel out there. A nice, casual ride to stretch the legs and catch up with everyone. Always a great way to kick off the season, because I don't see a lot of the guys on my MTB-centric team unless we're at the shop at the same time or they decide to do a road division race.

My legs were completely flat from the weekend, and I tried a couple digs to snap them out of it. Didn't happen. The extra weight I'm carrying isn't doing much for me either, but the rest of the guys were kind enough not to "fat shame" me this early in the season. We have months for them to do that, so there's no use in w…

Melting Before Our Eyes.

This past Saturday and Sunday comprised Mighty Mite Weekend, two days of races that signal the end of our program's season. With the way the bottom of the mountain looks right now and the electrical fire that damaged the lift that services the upper mountain, we were fortunate to pull it off.

Saturday's race was a giant slalom on the lower mountain. The fastest girl in my group was throwing it down until she skied through the wrong finish sensor (parallel courses) and was disqualified. My daughter found an extra gear that had thus far gone unused. A quick check of the results told me she was up there on the podium for her group. During the awards ceremony, she didn't hear her name being called to stand on the top step, and I told her to get up there and get her medal. "Me?" was her surprised response. She's never won a medal at Alyeska, and only gotten a couple for skiing during the last four years. This was the girl that told the other kids in her group that …

The Power of Social Media.

I gotta get me some of that social media stuff. I think they sell it by the case at Costco.

I did a little experiment to see how a Facebook post would increase the traffic this blog sees. Bam! Activity immediately spiked to triple the normal readership, topping the all-time charts at seven whole readers a day. This is especially surprising since I don't have any Facebook friends to read my posts, which one would think would stifle social media's impact. No so. SEVEN unique individuals took time out of their busy days to navigate to this blog, before realizing this site has nothing to do with puppies that look like Kanye and quickly redirecting to resume surfing porn sites on company time. I want to thank them personally for their consideration, but please understand if I choose to refrain from shaking hands.

Pumped up by my newfound media dominance, I kitted up and went for a ride on Thursday. Outside. On a road bike. In Alaska.

No studs. No tights. Not much in the way of Roubaix…

Donald Trump Press Release.

(ROULEURS) WASHINGTON —  Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump is taking a break from his campaign to step back into the role of bicycle race promoter, something he hasn't done since the 1990 Tour de Trump. He delivered this speech on the font porch of Goldstream Sports in regards to this year's Tour of Fairbanks, just-a-hair-below-arctic America's premier road cycling race:
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Wow. Whoa. This is some group of people. Thousands.
(APPLAUSE)
So nice, thank you very much. That's really nice. Thank you. It's great to be in Fairbanks, Alaska. And it's an honor to have everybody here. This is beyond anybody's expectations. There's been no crowd like this.
(APPLAUSE)
Let me make one thing clear, this race is going to be huge. It will be a major, super-classy race. A fantastic race. We're going to make the Tour of Fairbanks great again. We've kicked all of the haters a…