Archive for 2011

Departing from my normal practice

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2011

I usually avoid discussing politics because it’s a great way to accentuate points of contention with people when anyone who likes to get things done knows we need to focus on what we have in common. But a recent incident where police were shown on video pepper spraying peaceful protesters has really been bugging me.

At over 5 million Scoville units (habanero peppers are 350,000), that orange stuff you see the cops coating the students faces with is far hotter than the worst peppers you’ve encountered in your life and burns like acid even if it gets in contact with your skin. Get much of it in your eyes or your lungs, and you might need to be hospitalized as some of the students in the video did. It’s dangerous stuff.

The police chief made the ludicrous claim that this extreme action was necessary to because the officers were surrounded and their safety was in jeopardy. A lot of people support the police actions. I only wonder what those same people would have said if these events had occurred in China.

There are few more effective ways to generate contempt for the law than allowing those charged with enforcing it to abuse their authority or not obey it themselves.

A Peachy century

Monday, September 26th, 2011

There are a few rides that have special significance to me, so I do them every year. Although I ride year ’round, I consider the Monster Cookie to be the official start of cycling season. Yesterday, I rode the Peach which ends the season.

The Peach normally attracts over 1,000 cyclists, but it seemed practically empty this year — undoubtedly due to the miserable weather report which called for cool winds and rain all day. Bryan was among the casualties, calling me at 6am to tell me it was just too miserable to ride.

The rain actually wasn’t that bad for the first 50 miles or so, but there was enough that I was glad I brought my commuter rather than my race bike. During the second half of the ride, the rain grew stronger. A number of cyclists opted to shorten their rides due to the rain, but frankly the wind was a much bigger factor. I knew from the beginning that my speed was going to be pathetic, so I set my computer so I couldn’t tell how fast I was going.

I can’t even remember the last time I rode a century under such crummy wind conditions. The big ring on my compact crank got very little use, and all riders were hurting. Fortunately, I was felt really good throughout the day and finished strong — though I was definitely ready for the ride to end at the 100 mile mark.

September is the month of the Bike Commute Challenge, and today represents the first day in 10 years that I chose not to ride in during the Challenge. When I’m in pain, a recovery ride with an easy pace is normally just the ticket. But it’s windy and rainy today, plus I have to make it to orchestra after work. Riding fast for more than 40 miles in lousy conditions when you’re already hurting does not a recovery ride make. Instead, I’m trying out a new philosophy I thought up yesterday. It’s called, “masochism sucks.” So far, it seems to be working well.

An icy hot ride

Tuesday, August 23rd, 2011

I’ve been off the bike a lot due to work and vacation travel lately, but I thought it would be fun to take a recumbent to the Crater Lake Century. I consider the Crater Lake to be one of the best balanced rides out there. There are probably only about three events in the entire country that have scenery this good, it’s challenging without being epic, and the support is excellent.

Since ‘bent riders are the primordial ooze of the cycling world and I was clowning myself by riding one, I figured I may as well go all the way so I donned a jersey with polka dots on it. If you’re not familiar with bicycle racing, the best climber in the Tour de France wears a jersey with polka dots. ‘Bents don’t climb well and their riders have a reputation for being poor climbers, so wearing this outfit made me look especially ridiculous.

It was about 75 degrees and sunny for most of the ride. It doesn’t get better than that. Literally. And the scenery was fantastic. I always tell people that if they only go to one place in Oregon, it should be Crater Lake as that place never disappoints.

The first 30 miles or so is easy time in scenic agricultural land. That’s a nice way to start a ride, particularly if you encounter a bald eagle at close range, which I did.

What makes a ‘bent slow on extended climbs is you can’t rotate different muscle sets very well. That means that you must ease up on the effort to avoid risking cramping even if your legs are strong. If you’re like me and aren’t particularly strong, then you’re doubly screwed. It seemed like the only people I passed were ladies with gray hair.

The climb to the rim was worth it as it always is. The sights are great, and you get some rollers. We’d been given all these warnings about the roads being particularly dangerous due to the late snow melt, but they were just fine.

I kept getting stuck behind vehicles or cyclists who looked a bit squirrely on the descents, so I never got a chance to go full bore even if my speeds got into the mid 40’s a few times. Still, that’s a decent clip.

The good news is that due to riding easy on the climbs, I felt way better than I normally do. I was actually able to eat and enjoy everything, and keeping keeping hydrated was also easy. The BBQ at the end of the ride tasted great, and my legs felt pretty good too. Although I’m normally the kind of guy that likes to operate near my limits, I must say it’s a lot of fun to take an easier pace and enjoy things.

Follow the recipe

Tuesday, August 9th, 2011

This past weekend, I took part in the Shasta Super Century. It’s a great ride. The scenery is outstanding, the route is challenging, and the support is excellent. I look forward to it all year.

When I first started riding the Shasta, I’d prepare by riding repeats on Mary’s Peak and interval workouts in the garage. Back then, I also rode significantly more than I have been over the past few years.

Nowadays, I do no real preparation. My logic is simple: why torture yourself for months to finish a ride when you can just suffer for one day? But since this method also results in me being less fit, I need to ride smarter.

I use a heart rate monitor to help me make sure I don’t ride too hard when I’m on an adrenaline high so I have plenty of energy for the end. But riding hard is fun, and I just couldn’t resist hooking up with a group of local racers. What I didn’t realize is that they had no intention of making it to the end and were just out to have some fun shredding each other on the hills. As a result, I stupidly spent well over an hour with my HR over 160, with significant sections over 170. That’s a rotten pace for a long ride.

I paid dearly for that. On the final climb, I wound up puking and bonking as my pulse dropped to 112 which is ridiculously low given the activity. With my head in a total fog, I stopped 2.5 miles from the end to rest. After a few minutes, I was able to eat three small chunks of cantaloupe which made me feel way better and I rode to the end.

I’m already looking forward to next year, and this time I’ll follow the plan. Or not. Besides, if you really want to have fun, you should ride the way you want rather than the way you should.

That’ll keep me out of trouble…

Tuesday, July 19th, 2011

Earlier today, I signed the first major contract for the company I’m running. In all honesty, I’m not entirely sure why I decided to take this on.

Sure, it’s a great project. It’s useful. Its technically challenging. I’ll learn a lot. And I really like the team I’ll be working with.┬áBut I can say the same about my day job, and it’s not like I need the work. All the same, it felt right.

I think I might be doing this for many of the same reasons I like cycling in mountains and technical ski descents. There is something relaxing about challenging yourself. Just as being in a traffic jam is disappointing because the car can’t do what it is meant to do, operating deep in your comfort zone feels a heck of a lot like driving with one foot on the gas and one on the brake.

Naturally, the timing of this project coincides with an even more complex one at work. While you’d think that would make it harder for me to focus properly on each one, I find that it makes it easier. Just as being active makes you stronger which in turn makes you feel like being even more active, doing things sharpens your skills which makes you feel like taking on more.

Another crazy idea I can’t shake

Saturday, May 7th, 2011

Even though I’ve never actually owned a motorcycle, I’ve had a license to ride one since the mid 80’s. I wanted to buy a bike after having an absolute blast at the safety course I took to prepare. But, I couldn’t afford the new bikes, and the used ones I could find cheap required mechanical skills I didn’t have.

For the past 10 years, money hasn’t been an issue and my commute is almost ideally suited for a motorcycle. However, I like to ride my bicycle for that, and there’s no way I’d be in the condition I am in now if I started using motorized transport. I like cycling way too much to give that up.

Recently, I’ve been thinking more about how I could make it work. Monmouth is near many roads which are ideally suited for motorcycles. There is practically no traffic but there is great scenery, hills, and curves everywhere you look.

I’ve been trying to think of a way to make a motorcycle work for commuting (taking only back roads — I think heavily trafficked highways would be suicidal). Despite the fact I ride my bicycle in anything, regular long distance commuting on a motorcycle is not a good idea.

I still can’t get this bike out of my mind as it would be perfect for the roads that meander through rolling farmland. I frequently encounter motorcycle clubs when I ride my bicycles in these areas.

Shirley is not a fan of my idea. She believes my plan is pointless and more importantly, that I could manage to get myself maimed. That’s a serious issue because if that happened, that would mess up things for her as well as me.

My view is that the things we like the most often have no point. I love dogs and would get more if I could. But as a practical matter, owning them is a responsibility, they take lots of time and money, and they mess up your house. Likewise, the skiing/snowboarding that I like also brings no real benefit (since I’m already in shape) while increasing the possibility of significant injury.

There is risk in everything, and in the end, it’s all about understanding what you value, your limitations, and managing the risk. I regularly ski and snowboard in terrain that would have practically guaranteed serious injury a few years ago, but I still don’t go where I don’t belong. I ride my bicycles in situations which would be unwise for more than 99% of the population. However, it’s safe enough for me because I have the experience and skills to know what I should and should not do.

I know motorcycling is among the riskier activities, but I’m totally convinced it’s not crazy so long as you keep your head on your shoulders and maintain adequate respect for what you face. It’s not hard to find senior citizens that have been enjoying riding for decades. I just can’t get it out of my head that it would be a great match for me and that I could do it smart.