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Showing posts from September, 2016

Cool People.

The other night I did a local shop ride. A couple hammerheads were there, but most of the riders were of the "Primal Wear semi-humorous beer-themed jersey" type. You probably know more than a few. Nice, welcoming guys, but a quick glance at their mid-sections confirmed I wasn't going to be dropped on this ride. After a series of eye-bleeding group rides, it was a welcome change.

They introduced me to routes I hadn't considered before, giving me new inspiration for future weekends. Worth the price of admission (free). They kept the pace reasonable, so I had a chance to see the sights and learn the turns instead of focusing purely on holding the wheel in front of me. Another nice change.

At the turnaround, one of the hammerheads jumped. Not thinking, I chased, but reacted too late and ran out of gas halfway across the gap. I throttled back to a reasonably painful pace and spent the next couple miles reeling him in. The group got smaller and smaller in the distance until …

I Wish I Could.

I have more time on my hands than I know what to do with.

My only obligation down here is school, and when the day is done I come back to a quiet room. I change into my kit and go riding. When it's dark, I come back. That usually amounts to two or three hours of riding a weekday, far more than I can muster at home.

At home I have family obligations. Ninety minutes (at best) is all I can squeeze in. No long, slow distance for me. Everything is compressed and organized to get as much benefit as possible out of the precious moments.

A weekend ride here stretches to three or four hours. I wish I could ride longer, but the heat and humidity beats me down until my kit is drooping under the water weight and my pace slows to a crawl. No matter how much I back off the pace, four hours is about my limit. Sometimes I do two rides in the morning and night to avoid the sun, but the totals never really justify the added effort.

When I get back to the room, I shower, change, and then walk a mile or …

Simple.

Back home, I have more bikes than I can ride in a week. Not that it's a bad thing, because I like having bikes for different purposes. I also like that if one bike is out of commission, I have another that can step in. Missing a great day of riding while waiting for a part to come in is never fun.

I have more than a few sets of wheels. Carbon and aluminum of varying types, widths and depths. Again, I like the variety and the flexibility.

Here in Biloxi, I have one bike with one set of wheels. I don't have to think about what I'm going to ride each day, because I only have one choice. Fill up a couple bottles, strap on whatever accessories the ride requires (it gets dark occasionally), kit up, and roll out the door. Doesn't matter what the ride is, the bike is the same.

Simple.

The titanium bike has continued to impress me with its simplicity. It's not the lightest or most responsive bike I've ever owned. It doesn't descend like it's on rails or bound forwar…

Climber?

The local hammerhead ride down here is called the Destroyer. Strong riders pound away for around 40 miles and try to grind everyone in their wake into red smears on the pavement. It's not an explosive ride. People don't throw long range attacks, charge the "hills", or otherwise make large efforts in the middle of the ride. The heavy influence of triathletes in the area have shaped it (and most other rides) into a more steady-state affair.

That's perfectly fine with me. This is their show and I'm just happy to tag along. Every group ride is pushing me to hold on a little longer, fight just that little bit more to resist the incessant pounding they're throwing down. Maybe I'm getting stronger by hanging on. Maybe I'm doing irreparable damage to my muscular systems. I'm not too bright, so I just don't know.

I've done three rides with the group. The first was a rainy affair that was lightly attended because of all of the lightning and thunde…

Dirty.

I built up the titanium bike a month ago, just before I left for this trip.

Everything was shiny and new and quiet.

After a little over 1000 miles, it's starting to complain that I might not be doing enough maintenance.

The best part of the titanium frame is that it doesn't hold or show much dirt. Let it dry, lightly brush it off, and keep on riding.The problem is that while I was blinded by the clean frame, I didn't notice the drivetrain was a bit grungy. Riding in the rain and kicking up abrasive sand and dried chunks of possum road kill into the chain probably didn't do it any favors.

In Anchorage my bike gets filthy pulling out of the driveway, so even if I'm not 100% on top of the maintenance, the interval doesn't quite extend out to every 1000 miles or so.

Tonight I started cleaning the bike in the room, wiping some stuff down and lubricating others. Checking wear items and generally doing things I should have done every day. Down here, this bike is my primary…

80.

The invitation came over my Facebook feed, through a local group of hammerheads.

I didn't think it through all that well.

I paid for it.

I knew good and well it was a 15 mile ride to the meeting place, as I'd ridden there quite a few times before. I left with plenty of time, early in the morning with a pleasant rain cooling me off as I rode. I stopped at a local convenience store to top off the calorie reserves with beef jerky and orange juice. Given the alternatives I was presented, these were the best I could find.

The group met up at the agreed-upon time, and like clockwork the sun came out and started baking us. Perhaps that should have been my first clue. Some guys were riding tri bikes, while others were on road bikes. I wasn't crazy about the mix on the open road, but I was a guest and hoped for the best. It turned out it wasn't their first rodeo, and nobody died. They stayed off their aerobars when not on the front, or at least allowed for a little extra room while…

Killing Time.

Time is something I have too much of at the moment.

Weekends are the worst. Long weekends last forever.

There's only so many hours I can ride in a day. My failing and inadequate body, combined with the heat, humidity, and a nagging saddle sore limit my riding to around four hours (give or take). That leaves a lot of hours left to fill.

Eating is one of my other passions, but I'm trying to lose some weight. Besides, even a day at the casino buffets has to end sometime. Not that I've been this trip, because my last visit was such an overpriced disappointment. Mainly I've been eating cheap and trying to limit the sheer volume I stuff down my throat (with some success).

Naps take up some time, but I'm hesitant to take too many of them lest my instructors take offense at me sleeping in class.

Studying is something I've always been bad at, so there's another thing that doesn't eat up my days.

I surf the internet. I went to a Buddy Guy concert. I watch TV. I do most…

I Got Yelled At.

Actually, I got talked to. In a reasoned and reserved way, explaining the unwritten rules of this particular group.

I appreciated it. This is how riders should communicate. I've been guilty more than once of yelling in the moment as someone sweeps across the front of the field in a sprint (diverging from their line). Adrenaline and rat-bastardness just kinda comes out in loud, profane bursts in moments like that. Afterwards, with the post-event endorphins coursing through my veins, I usually try to explain exactly why I turned the air blue in that moment. I usually apologize. I rarely mean it. However, when the threat of imminent danger is gone, I generally find talking is the most effective way to convey norms and other guidelines.

In my case, I sprinted.

It was my first go-round with the local group of triathletes that make up the "Pain Train". They make laps of the main road through a local park in a mostly non-rotating team time trial. The guy on the front drills it for…

Land of the Diesel.

If I had to characterize the Gulf Coast cyclist, I'd say they can just grind out the miles.

I know a lot of riders that can ride me off their wheels. Chug, chug, chug... and pop! I'm off the back. I realized a few years ago, after years of fruitless flailing, that of all the road cycling disciplines, time trialing only trails climbing as something I'm not suited for. Maybe it's lack of slow-twitch muscle. Maybe it's lack of willpower. Doesn't matter. I suck at it. I stopped doing countless extended efforts at or above functional threshold, which made me suck at time trialing more. I did just enough to keep myself somewhere in the middle of the pack during stage races, then focused on making myself a mediocre sprinter. For me the math added up. Beats being a crappy diesel.

The riders down here, robbed of anything taller to climb than an overpass and surrounded by vile salt water and sand, generally become triathletes. Triathletes generally work on steady-state eff…

Tan Lines.

Something we don't have a lot of in Alaska is suntans. We have a lot of sun in the summer, but it rarely results in impressive suntans. The only time I got any significant sun was during ski camps, where the reflected sunlight often led to more burn than tan. 

Down here in Biloxi, the sun is a little different. Judging by the amount of leathery skin present in these parts, it would have to be. After a few weeks in the area, the palest person of Scandinavian descent ends up with skin the color of rich, Corinthian leather that would make George Hamilton jealous. His orangeness, Donald Trump, wishes he looked he looked this naturally cooked.

Even my normally sickly-pale skin isn't immune to the sun here, and I've begun to develop actual tan lines. While my belly still retains the pallor of an Alaskan resident, the parts of my body not covered by cycling kit have started to bake. First the arm freckles all held hands and joined together, giving the appearance of an actual tan. E…

Sucking.

I may not be very good at riding a bike, but I'm absolutely terrible at not riding a bike.

Given the chance, I'll ride day after day until I can't turn over the pedals anymore, taking my enthusiasm, motivation, and energy down the same black hole. Then I'll wonder why I'm not getting any better at it. I'm smart like that.

A week or so ago I planned today as a rest day. I'd put in a good chunk of miles, and was starting to feel flat. As the impending rest day approached, I started thinking I might just ride easy. Keep the legs spinning. Objects in motion and all that crap.

Today after lunch I walked the half mile to class and was drenched in sweat by the time I got there. The walk home was worse. Lightning and thunder were forecast. I figured I'd wait until just before dark, when it was cooler, then do a few laps of the base. I took a nap.

When I woke up, I felt better (sleeping in an air-conditioned room does that for me). I stepped outside, looked at the s…

Numbers.

My whole goal for riding while I'm down here is big numbers.

By big, I mean by my standards.

Not big power numbers, because I don't think I can generate them down here in this environment.

No big speed numbers, because speed equals more sweat, and I have far too much of that already.

The big numbers I'm talking about are miles and hours. Lots of time in the saddle cranking out mile after mile. If a big week in Anchorage was 150 miles, I try to double it in Biloxi. If I did X back home, Y down here better be a whole lot bigger.

Eventually all of this chasing meaningless numbers gets a little old. The saddle sore tells you to stop the ride at 59.8 miles instead of circling the block to make an even 60. The accumulated aches add up and delay your departures a little more each day. You get tired. Tired of seeing the same old roads and same old sights. Tired of the solo rides that may or may not pay dividends in the future (you start to suspect the latter). Tired.

One thing I have in…

Snot Rockets.

The sinus infection continues, although it's marginally under control. I still blow impressive snot rockets on rides, something I don't think they see a lot of down here. The drugs still make me feel kinda insulated from the world. I get up every morning and flush my head out with saline, then repeat the process at lunch, in the afternoon, and at night. It helps, but there's always more where that came from.

My on-bike performance is similarly blunted. Keeping up with the surges on the "pain train" if I'm badly positioned are a waste of time. I'll catch them on the next lap. Once latched on, I can hang on well enough, but extended efforts fill my heat with phlegm and shut me down. My whole body is fighting this thing, and has little in reserve for the bike.

On longer rides, where the pace is lower, I don't fill up so quickly. Without a paceline, I don't have to worry so much about where the rocket flies, as long as it doesn't hit that truck with…

Water, Water Everywhere.

My hydration strategy has historically been... flawed.

Usually I'll drag along a couple of bottles brimming with the latest and greatest electrolyte replacement substance known to man, and return four hours later with one and a half bottles of the latest and greatest electrolyte replacement substance known to man.

I don't usually respond to the usual indicators to drink, like you know, thirst and stuff. Even when everyone around me is quaffing down bottle after bottle, I don't get the hint. I usually wait until the world goes a little fuzzy and the strength flees from my legs before I cave in and take a sip or two. No more than that, because I might need it later if things get really bad.

I can get away with it in Anchorage most of the time. I usually only sweat twice a year on the open road, on the really hot days. On the trainer, I usually can stumble to the kitchen if things get really bad.

I can't fake it down here. I have to drink, and I have to do it semi-regularly. …

No. It Can't Be. Crap. It Is.

It started with a tickle in the back of my throat one morning. A little rawness that went away after I showered. Forgotten. The next day it was back, a little more insistent this time. The following day there was pressure against my eardrum, leaving me with the sounds of the sea 24-7. All I would have needed was the smell of rotting fish and I would have been in Biloxi. Wait, I am in Biloxi. Crap.

A sinus infection crept up on me during my Virginia trip, and hit full-force after I returned. My nose wouldn't turn off, although I was thankfully able to keep the pressure down with periodic high pressure sinus flushes. I went looking for cold medicine like we have in Anchorage (you know, civilization), but they are in short supply down here. I got the best stuff I could find and doped up, praying it would do the trick.

Obviously riding with a head larger than Charlie Brown's and blowing impressive snot rockets every 100 yards isn't conducive to peak performance, so I backed off …

Four Days.

Because of the compressed work schedule of the school I'm attending, every other Friday is off. I think they just do it to piss me off, so I have to stay here longer. I'd be happy with 12-hour days if I could just leave early.

The first weekend of my school happened to fall on a normal Friday off and Labor day, resulting in a four-day weekend. Want to drive me insane? Stick me in a Gulf Coast hotel room for a long weekend. Even the bike can't keep me sane.

Faced with the unthinkable, I opted out.

I rented a car and drove north. North to mountains. North to cooler temperatures. North to home. After 12 hours of driving, I arrived at the family farm exhausted but elated to be temporarily free of Biloxi. My parents were happy to see me, even though I promptly collapsed and didn't wake up for 12 more hours. When I awoke, I got kitted up and took my bike on the same ride that broke my collarbone. Maybe I could even myself out. Even if I did, I wasn't back in America's t…

Big Man on Campus.

I was facing a 12 hour drive the next day. I really should have been banking as much sleep as possible. I'd ridden enough miles. At least, more than I'd done in a long time. Taking a break would have been the sensible thing to do. 

Instead, I went on a group ride. Probably not one of my brighter moves. 

A classmate had invited me along. I listened to his description and decided it wouldn't kill my to wheel suck for a few laps. Of course, I didn't do that. Once I figured out I was the strongest rider present, I was compelled by my innate douchebagitude to let everyone else know it. I'd slowly ramp up the intensity during my pulls, grinding away until I opened gaps that the headwind finished off. It wasn't intentional, but I didn't sit up, either.

I wasn't putting out an excessive amount of wattage, but it might have been for this B- group. We'd regroup each lap, ride easy for a while, and then start again. Grind grind grind spin spin spin. Lap after lap…

Killing Time.

The worst part of being in Biloxi for me is filling the time. It's no secret that I truly hate the Gulf Coast, and need serious distractions to avoid going full-bore active shooter. For me, that involves a lot of miles. So many miles that I don't have the energy to go to the gun store and start the background check process. So many miles that I run out of sun and can barely walk. That keeps the demons at bay. It's not a perfect strategy, but it works. For now.

After a couple days of re-riding old routes, I went looking for something new. Most of this was purely practical. With the change in season, the dark comes on earlier and earlier. Most of my known routes were in places that took significant time to ride to, on routes that are somewhat sketchy even with good light. Not wanting to be a hood ornament, I tried to find someplace closer, or at least safer, to ride.

Across the bay in Ocean Springs is a nice state park with a really nice road. A lot of local triathletes do tea…

Overdoing It.

For those reading this blog, it seems like only yesterday that I was in Anchorage, trying to sneak in rides between chilly rain.

I wish.

I hate flying, and flying to Biloxi always adds insult to injury. I got off the plane beat up, with a lot of heavy luggage to cart around. By the time I got settled into my "home" for the next couple months, I had two hours of light left and zero interest in riding. I unpacked, went shopping for unhealthy frozen food/beer, and put my bike together. That was all I had in me.

Sunday dawned and it still took me a couple hours to get moving. Eventually I got out, settling on an easy pace to try to find the routes I'd done before.

Greasy sweat.

That's the only way I can describe what it's like on the Gulf Coast. It's like you were droppped in a vat of pork BBQ drippings. It isn't as fun as it may sound. The sweat doesn't evaporate. It just sits there, oozing around on your skin. 

Initially the miles fell away easily. It helps w…

Dodging Raindrops.

Historically, I haven't minded riding in the rain. I just accept it as part of the game, kit up, slap on some fenders, and get out there on the road. Until it gets down into the low 40s, rain is something I can deal with. Sure, I'd rather it be 67.5 degrees and sunny, but I'd usually take a rainy ride over a session on the trainer or not riding at all.

I must be getting old.

This year rain has given me pause on more than one occasion. Sometimes it was because I didn't want to get sick(er), potentially killing fitness just before a race or other event. Other times it was because wet roads and the hazards they present made it hard to accomplish the day's intensity goal. Usually my rain rides are just long grinds at a moderate pace, not puke-inducing interval sessions. Recently I've foregone riding outside because of injury. Some of it can be attributed to the fact a cold soaking causes my back and shoulder to lock up, making a bad situation worse. However, a larger…

Perhaps a Tad Too Conservative.

I finished putting together the titanium bike.

Instead of top-level components, which I had on-hand and were otherwise uncommitted to another project, I went with solid-yet-unflashy parts for this build. It's going to be a travel/training/rain bike, so the need for the best is questionable. I just want something that can take a little abuse and still work well.

The components are a complete mixed bag. The fork is a Easton EC90 I got from Joey. The derailleurs and brakes are Rival. The shifters are Force. The crankset is a Dura Ace SRM. The carbon seatpost is a fairly nice Williams model, the handlebars an old aluminum FSA Wing Pro. The aluminum 3T stem will likely change as I sort out the fit. The saddle is a Specialized Toupe I bought a few years back but never got around to installing.

Usually I try to match component groups when I build a bike. This time? Not so much. In this case, form followed function.

Despite the weather man's gloomy predictions for the week, the rain let u…

Paying For Progress.

In my last post, I mentioned the two tons of junk I threw away. What I didn't mention was how much that hurt.

Needless to say, I didn't ride that day. I took my remaining Percocet, licked the bottle clean, and then crawled into a coma.

I didn't ride the next day either. Rain was failing intermittently, and the cooler temperatures and moisture in the air just made me ache. Riding very possibly could have made me feel better, but I was past the threshold of attempting those first few steps. All I wanted to do was stay as still and warm as possible. My wife was less than thrilled with my lack of mobility, given my impending extended trip and the fact that this was the last weekend before it. I tried to get up and out with the family, but I think my efforts fell short.

I did manage to get the new titanium frame mostly built up once the kids were in bed. Cables run, bars taped- it actually looks almost like a bike. I needed epoxy for the SRM magnet, so I decided to stop work for t…