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Showing posts from May, 2018

Going Anyway.

I'm looking at the security camera feed that serves as my window. It's raining. Looking at the tip of the flag at the corner of one of my displays, the wind has started to kick up. Not enough to make the camera on the pole shake, but enough so I'd notice.

I'm having an internal debate about whether or not I'm going to ride. I didn't get the best sleep last night, so I'm more than a little off. I didn't eat well, so I'm feeling sluggish. I really don't want to slap on the fenders and all of the wet-weather kit. I would rather not have to clean the bike yet again.

And yet, as I'm having this discussion, I'm grabbing my kit bag to walk down to change. All of these arguments really are just weak excuses. Of course I'm tired. Of course I'm going to get wet. Of course the bike will get dirty. That's the price of playing the game, and the game is still fun enough to justify the cost of admission.

I want every day to be warm and sunny w…

Glad I Missed That.

I didn't see it.

In fact, because I was disconnected from social media and all of the interwebs for four glorious days, I didn't find out until a few days afterwards. 

I didn't know Adam Yates had imploded and lost the pink jersey, after bouncing around and winning seemingly at will. I didn't seeThibaut Pinot drop out of contention with pneumonia. I didn't see any number of other riders suffer after an especially brutal edition of the Giro. I didn't see Chris Froome go on an 80K solo attack and take the leader's jersey, after two weeks of steadily bleeding time to every mid-tier GC rival.

I'm especially happy I didn't see the last one, because I've already seen it. As George Bennett said, “He did a Landis. Jesus!”  Now Bennett says he didn't mean it that way, but that's the way I see it. That's the way I saw it when I watched the stage to Morzine in the 2006 Tour de France. Literally unbelievable.

I'm glad I was out on my bike and e…

New Roads.

Over the Holiday weekend, we went camping. Usually that means a lot of sitting around the fire, eating, and smelling like smoke. This time was different.

After a week and a half off the bike, I got back on. I'd ride the six miles out from the campground to the Parks Highway and turn left or right. The first day I rode a little over 50 miles. The second day I rode a little over 55 miles. The third day I rode a little over 65 miles.

It was the best weather for riding I'd seen this year. Sure, it was a little windy at times (I was in the MatSu area) and I got hit by some raindrops, but for the most part it was glorious.

By glorious, I mean the weather. My fitness is nothing to write home about.

It was the first time I'd used my Garmin Edge 520. I've had it for four months or so, but when I realized the navigation was different than my older Garmin devices, I set it aside and moved onto other things. This weekend I picked it up and did the bare minimum to get it functional wit…

I Have To.

Fuck it. I'm riding.

After a week of working on this camper, I'm ready to get back on my bike to work out the knots. Problem is, my wife has dedicated an entire four-day weekend to camping. Rain is in the forecast. Where we're headed is mostly dusty gravel road. We only have so much fresh water capacity in the camper for showers and post-ride cleaning, and we'll have three adults staying in there.

Fuck it. I'll make it work. I'm riding.

I'll bring rain gear and fenders. I'll drive to where the pavement starts. I'll be miserly with the washing water.

I need to get back on the bike. It's been far too long. Not because of the performance loss or anything as meaningless as that. I'm just missing riding. I have an extensive collection of profanities to unleash upon the wind, saved up over the last week. I need time to think or not think and reach that mediation like state I can only reach by turning over the pedals.

Plus, sitting around a campsite for…

The Stuff You Don't See.

The wife primed the whole interior of Scooter the Toxic Camper (children's book is in development), taking it from battered, 50 year old paneling to a bright white. It made a world of difference in the overall mood of the front half of the camper, and the paint fumes block out the stench of 50 years of mold. Bonus.

Meanwhile, I started prepping for the vinyl floor. Part of this was removing the water lines (are there supposed to be white growths in there?) and about 100' of old copper gas line. What I saw scared the hell out of me. In no less than three places were quarter inch gashes in the lines that had been poorly capped or just folded over and crimped. So, anytime someone turned on the gas from the tank to fire up the stove, they were also filling the camper with propane from multiple sources. I'm surprised this thing didn't explode years ago, which would have made it easier for me, but I guess the rotting walls leaked out enough of the propane to keep things from …

Looking Better.

The opium den named Scooter is looking better on Day 4 or 5 or I forgot which day I'm on now of the camper rebuild.

The back of Scooter didn't look as bad as I first thought, or maybe my standards have been sufficiently lowered for the task at hand. Given how low they were to start with, that's probably not a good thing. At a certain point I had to turn a blind eye to rot and things that looked "off", because there's no way I could fix everything that's wrong here. I'm hoping for relatively well-sealed, dry, and non-explosive. Everything else is just icing on the cake. Words like "pretty" and "well-crafted" do not apply.

Still, there's a certain amount of pride to be found in the work here. Just making it less dingy and brighter probably is the most immediate point of satisfaction, although there's something to be said for the ability to touch a wall and not have it give way in a sickeningly squishy manner. That's always …

Breakdown.

A couple days into the camper project, I'm falling apart.

The deeper I get into the project, the more I see the camper, a 1968 Frolic named Scooter, is in even worse shape than I am.

I pulled off some water-stained paneling in the front to see how bad it was. This was a mistake. Eventually I just pulled of the entire front end and started re-framing. The only thing that was holding it together was the aluminum skin. I'm surprised it didn't collapse over the winter under the snow. I'm not joking.

There was no way to remove all of the sub-standard wood in the thing without completely rebuilding it, so I beefed it up as much as possible. "Pretty" went out the window and "good enough" became the standard. Eventually I got the front end put back together and at least the front end is watertight. The back end scares the hell out of me. It's a dark, moldy cave back there, and I'm terrified it's going to be worse than the front. Again, not joking.

F…

Other Pursuits.

My wife's best friend has a camper. It's one of those '60s era ones, not nearly as desirable these days as a canned ham version, and it's completely beat to shit. The paneling got wet at various times, parts of the wall frames are rotting away, the musty smell of mold pervades the carcass, the electrical is terrifying, the propane system is almost as bad, and the d├ęcor has seen better days. About the best thing I can say for it is at least most of the appliances and tanks had been removed.

If it was mine, I'd find a cliff and push.

However, this friend has limited resources and this is her family's method of getting away from it all. Thus, I was tasked to make it somewhat safe, weather-tight, and freshen up the interior a lot. A whole lot. A butt-load.

In other words, dump a ton of money and time into it. Money and time that will do little to increase the value of the trailer, but maybe that will make it more pleasant to be in. As it is now, I'd rather spend a…

The Little Things.

Monday afternoon was the first time I threw a leg over a top tube after the final stage of the Spring Stage Race on Saturday.

It was chilly. It was windy. It was cloudy. You could see the bands of rain up next to the mountains.

I didn't stuff arm warmers in my back pocket, or for that matter, a packable rain jacket. No fenders or other rain gear either. I went out like it was a moderately pleasant day.


  Because of the wind direction, I got suckered on the first five miles of the ride. I felt good, so I pressed a bit harder on the pedals. When I made the sweeper into the wind, I realized that perhaps I wasn't quite so on form as I had initially believed. Still, I had it in the tank, so I put my head down and started cranking.

Then it started raining.

I cranked on in the drops, figuring it was a better way to stay warm.

I passed Pete Johannsen, out training to put the hurt on me in the next race we both line up for. He was wearing a rain jacket, and I could see the pitying grin un…

The Russian.

Almost two years ago I bought the Russian titanium frame off of eBay.

This was shortly after I broke my collar bone riding the Storck on the Blue Ridge Parkway. On the trip home, TSA managed to add a dent to the Storck's downtube, which pretty much doomed it to a life of trainer-only rides. I should have never bought that bike, but it served as an education in everything I hate about modern bike design. I needed a bike TSA couldn't damage and would hold up well against use and abuse. When this Russian frame initially popped up on eBay, I didn't go for it. Then Lynskey started dumping their excess production onto the market, and prices started to fall drastically. The Russian frame dropped $100, and in my usual impulsive manner I snatched it up.

If the Storck was a bad purchase, the Russian titanium frame was anything but. It arrived just before I went to Mississippi for school, and while there I rode the hell out of it. It was rugged, easy to work on, and cleaned up easily …

I Learned Something I Already Knew.

Despite what the bicycle industry will tell you, no matter how much technology or money you throw at the problem, no matter how much you optimize stiffness/weight/compliance/whatever, one fact remains unchanged.

I can lose on anything.

I've lost races on every bicycle imaginable. I've lost races by large margins on carbon superbikes. I've lost races on lower-tier aluminum by small margins. I've flipped that script in any number of ways. I've managed to lose races across the spectrum in such a comprehensive fashion that I can't make any real correlation between how much a bike costs and how much I'm going to lose by while riding it. All I know is that if it has two wheels and a crankset, I can probably avoid winning on it.

You have to admire my consistency.

Saturday's crit was another example of that. I opted for the Moots with some low-profile aluminum wheels because of the wind. It was plenty stiff and had the requisite snap. Even in my weakened state, I s…

The Bill Came Due.

The back of the right thigh feels like someone took a rusty steak knife to it. At certain times it's just a dull ache, and other times that sadistic bastard twists the blade a bit.

It's my fault.

I cramped up because I didn't drink enough at Bodenburg. Check that. I didn't drink at all at Bodenburg. I just rode around with two full bottles the whole race, because I needed the extra weight for... um... training. It was also the longest ride I'd done this year, with some exertions that I certainly wouldn't have done on my own.
The last lap I could feel it coming on. I felt the slow burn creeping up the back of my leg, and knew it wasn't a question of if, but when. The leg was going to lock up. It was going to be painful. I was an idiot.

When Tom and Bill made their move, I tried to bridge, and I flailed in the wind until the finish, my leg was wrapped in sharp, stabbing pain. I kept pushing until I was sure I had held off the group behind, then limped over the fi…

So There It Is.

It was probably my best-ever result in the Masters 45+ Division category for the Arctic Bike Club Road Division's Spring Stage Race.

It was probably one of my weakest performances in the Masters 45+ Division category for the Arctic Bike Club Road Division's Spring Stage Race.

Huh?

I have to admit it, I wasn't in race shape. I'm far too heavy, and I don't put out the watts like I used to. Put it this way, my peak sprint power for this series was 400W lower than it was in the Tour of Fairbanks a couple years back- and that was riding injured. I couldn't sustain much power, although Training Peaks did send me a nice email saying they bumped up my FTP a few points. Still, it's pitiful. In a sport where performance is often measured in watts per kilogram or in pure wattage, I'm far from where I want to be.

Tactically, I can still douche it up with the best of them. However, I kept trying to jump or bridge like I could when I was something other than round. I ble…

Enough of This Whining.

I signed up. I lined up. I raced.

After weeks, if not months, of wondering if I was ever going to pin on a number again, I just went ahead and did it. Technically I had signed up for the Moose Run TT a couple weeks ago, but since it was cancelled it really doesn't count. I skipped the Patter Valley hill climb on principle and couldn't race the Kulis Crit (not sure I'm mentally ready for that), but I figured now was the time to put up or shut up. I'd rather know where I stand.

Knowing is better than wondering.

Well, after the first stage of the Spring Stage Race, I know. It isn't pretty. I couldn't sustain much power, so the whole ten miles was a series of alternating sprints and spins. The finishing time wasn't completely horrible, so at least that's a positive sign. I got absolutely crushed by a flying Dark Lord Bill Fleming, who got a PR by a good margin thanks to what I can only assume is the most sophisticated doping program this side of Team Sky. I wa…

Trust Issues.

The long ride put some things in perspective which had been rattling around my head.

I don't trust myself at speed at the moment. I realized this during a moderately fast descent. I touched my brakes in the sweeping turn, which is something I never do. I was sitting up high, instead of trying to get lower and faster. My eyes were constantly looking for dangers at all sides instead of looking where I intended to be. Every small crack was a potential season-ended. Every bit of gravel a broken collar bone. Every shiny spot was the place where I made my wife a widow. I never used to have thoughts like this on this particular descent, but right now the combination of too few miles this spring and last season's fall have really messed with my head.

The added weight has really killed my ability to climb. I have no faith that I can make it up Potter ahead of even the slowest of the lower categories. I used to believe I could knock off the weight with a little discipline, but I'm not…

A Break.

The wife is out of town, so I had childcare duties. This meant riding anywhere except for the garage was pretty much out of question.

Thursday rolled around and the youngest didn't have preschool for two days, and I kept the daughter home as well. So, instead of riding the trainer I installed solar panels and re-wired pretty much the entire electrical system in the RV. I love a good project, and I buried myself in it.

After working for a solid seven hours, I quickly packed the kids up with a change of clothes and their iPads, made a quick stop at the grocery store, and drove the RV down the Seward highway with a vague idea of where I was going to end up. By the time we hit Bird Point, the rain was already coming down steadily. Stubbornly I pressed on, hoping it would pass. It didn't. When we got to Portage, all of the state campgrounds were still closed. I did find a nice pull-out next to the river, but the rain picked up a bit and it started to snow. The youngest and I threw ro…

Chasing Numbers.

My recent three days of non-bike-related activity resulted in an eight-point drop in my squiggly lines. To put that in context, it usually takes me a week or more of chugging along at off-season training loads to make the squiggly lines go up a couple points. So, I basically erased a months worth of work in three days.

Except I didn't.

First, it wasn't like I was laying around. I was on my feet, lifting and cutting and moving and fitting stuff all day long. Problem is, I have no good way to track that sort of activity, so my squiggly lines don't know the difference. They just assume I'm a sloth, and most times they would be justified in making that assumption. They also assume that I'm well-rested, which I'm not. I'm bone-tired. That's the problem with incomplete data sets, and I'm fairly sure Hillary Clinton would probably agree with me. You put too much faith in them, and they will let you down. Every. Single. Time.

The real danger is that we're …

Convergence.

Maybe I'm just burnt out.

Maybe it's a result of the falls.

Maybe this thing has run its course and I need to look at other things.

Maybe it's the pressures of life.

Or maybe, just maybe, it's this weather. Or rather, it's what I somewhat unrealistically expect this weather to be this time of year.

Maybe it's all of that stacking up on each other. 

Probably.

Doesn't change the fact that I'm not all fired up to train and race this season. The first race of the year, which I was signed up for, was cancelled. The second race I didn't do, but it was a hill climb, so there's nothing unusual about that. The third, a Kulis crit, I skipped because my wife was out of town and I had to watch the kids. I'm not really broken up about any of this. It's very likely that I will skip the spring stage race as well, or at least the vast majority of it.

I've always enjoyed the Spring Stage Race, because even if I bled time to the skinny guys on the hill climb…

A Change Is Gonna Come.

Some people prefer Sam Cooke's version, by I've always been partial to Otis Redding's take on A Change is Gonna Come

And that's where I'm at right now.

Friday was windy and raining and the wife called me at work and told me I needed to pick up the children from school. I didn't ride. I was burnt out by this seemingly endless stretch of sub-par riding weather. There have been far too many rides recently where I was just not having fun, yet justified riding by telling myself it was "training for the good days" or something like that. Instead of getting stronger, it just gave me that creeping, tired around the eyes kind of weariness.

Saturday I didn't ride either. Instead, I mounted solar panels on top of the RV, which given said wind and rain, was probably not the best idea. I caught a break on the rain for a little while, and I knew I needed to get it done while I had the chance. When that was done, I had to replace a fence post that had broken in …

Not The Time For That.

When you're facing down a brutal headwind in the middle of a ride, getting pelted by cold rain and random debris, it's probably not the best time to make decisions about quitting the sport. Chances are you're going to opt for the couch and a life of glorious obesity 123.2% of the time.

And yet, there I was, making decisions. I decided that I wasn't going to race this year. Maybe ever again. Maybe I'd line up and mentor the lower groups, but I wasn't going to race anymore. I'd had enough. The injuries were too much. I was too fat. My fitness was nowhere it should have been. I don't trust certain riders in a pack setting, and I'm not fast enough to get away from them. I didn't have the mental focus required to train anymore. The list of reasons not to race was impressive, and the reasons to race paled in comparison.

Yeah, you could say my motivation was at a low ebb.

I started to mentally inventory my stockpile of race-specific gear and the best ways…

Spinny Things.

The wind a week ago got me to thinking about wheels.

Specifically, I was thinking about those deep-section carbon wheels on the Compact that flick me from side to side in the smallest breeze. They look cool, and they are great for getting used to a deeper wheel so there isn't that adjustment on race day, but in the wind they are a liability. The hubs are relatively serviceable and durable, but nothing to write home about. The rims are 60mm of carbon bonded to an aluminum brake track, which means they're heavier than they should be but provide somewhat decent braking performance. They were cheap and presented a certain visual image, and because I'm a cheap and superficial bastard, I bought them.


Because I was tired of the unexpected direction changes initiated by those wheels, I dug out my faithful HED Kermesses and put them on the Compact. A wide aluminum rim with a more reasonable profile. While not as sexy as the carbon wheels, they also keep me out of the ditch. They spin…

Easier These Days.

As I mentioned the other day, I have a small pile of blog posts in the bank, meaning what you read isn't necessarily what I'm doing or thinking at the moment. They're often a week or more old, banked against the inevitable times when I can't think of anything to write or just don't have the time to force it upon the rest of the world.

It's especially hard in the winter, when my bike-related activities center around the always (never) interesting but somewhat limited world of the trainer. How much can you really say about sitting and one place and grinding away at the pedals? Five words, tops. I've counted them. The rest is just fluff.

This time of year, as I'm released into the infinite and dynamic world outside, the thoughts come easier. I forget more than I remember, but a lot of them do make it to the blog. Vacations and freedom from carting kids to and from school provide an amazing amount of time that can be wasted crafting this crap. Rides, races, p…