Archive for the ‘Cycling’ Category

The end of an era

Tuesday, August 28th, 2012

Last week, I started a new job at Oregon Health Sciences University. I’m really excited about it. The job is challenging, the people are cool, the atmosphere is fantastic, and after 16 years of spending 2hrs or more per day commuting, I’m just minutes from where I work.

Of course I miss the friends and coworkers I left behind.  I may have worked only 5 years at the Alliance, but I’ve worked with many of the people at my offices in Eugene and Corvallis since I first arrived in Oregon. Even though my actual responsibilities aren’t so much different than what I have been doing, it’s a big change for me.

All the same, adjusting to my new digs has been easier than I expected. I ride 85% less than I used to, but I also get to sleep an hour extra per day. I arrive home early enough that I can actually call friends and do things with them. I love being right on the river. And I really like Portland.

People have been kind to me wherever I go, so I’ve liked every place I’ve lived and every job I’ve had. But this time is somehow different — I have a really good feeling about it.

Rant of the day

Wednesday, May 16th, 2012

While cycling through through a green light on my way to work this morning, a guy waiting for a red light on the right suddenly gunned the engine and turned on me (not in front of me, but actually on me in a maneuver that normally would have t-boned me).

Fortunately, I ride in the left of the traffic lane if I can keep up. If I would have been in the designated bike lane, I would have been creamed. Instead, I had enough time to swerve and split the lane with oncoming traffic.

I live by the motto, “Ride like everyone is trying to kill you, but don’t take it personally.” So normally I’d just chalk this up as a stupid mistake and let it go. For some reason (probably because he was driving next to me), I shouted “WHOA! MY LIGHT WAS STILL GREEN!” He replied that he couldn’t see recumbents which struck me as strange because few motorists know what a recumbent is. Here’s a picture of mine if you’ve never seen one.

I understand that people just screw up sometimes. But it was clear the guy thought that *I* was in the wrong for being in his way despite the fact that he was the one that ran a red light. I also understand that some motorists don’t care for middle aged posers, but they’re not the only people you’ll find on bikes. Kids ride them too, and they’re far less likely to pull off an evasive maneuver like I did this morning.

So if you’re riding, watch out for the idiots. They’re not out to get you, but they will anyway if you aren’t vigilant. And if you’re behind the wheel, please be aware that the 2 tons of steel vs. flesh thing never works out well.

Ten years ago today…

Wednesday, February 1st, 2012

I realized I’d become a shadow of my former self and decided to do something about it.

As is the case today, it was dark and cool with light rain. I decided to bike to work. My logic was that if I could ride every day for a month, I could do it as long as needed.

At first, I wimped out and rode from a park and ride 11 miles from work. But not long after I started riding, some jackass stole a taillight assembly from my truck and tried to take the tailgate. Rather than deal with problems like that, I decided to ride the full 18 miles which really didn’t take much longer than driving the first few miles.

After a month, I was sore. After two, I felt better (particularly since it was starting to warm up and the light was returning), and after six, I was totally addicted. Within a year, I was in decent shape and taking on rides I hadn’t done for years.

Since then, my commute has lengthened and I’m more addicted to cycling than ever. Thanks to my decent base, I’ve been able to expand into other sports and hang out with people who really know their stuff. And as much as I whine about getting slower, I’d be damn depressed if I started riding at speeds that I would have been very happy with 10 years ago.

Life is simply more fun when you ride. Pushing your limits for an hour straight on the way into work puts you in a state that takes the edge off the most mind numbing meetings. There’s no substitute for air in the lungs, endorphins in the bloodstream, and a burn in the legs. It’s fun to hang out with people who actually know what they’re doing and participate in activities that most people can only dream about.

Here’s to staying out there and never getting tired of it.

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.

Topping off an excellent cycling season

Monday, September 27th, 2010

Although I ride all year, I get especially excited about cycling season. For me, cycling season officially begins with a ride known as the Monster Cookie which takes place on the third Sunday in April, and it ends with the Peach which is held the last Saturday in September.

The Peach attracts about 1000 riders, but this year the cool wind and rain drove a lot of people away — I’ve never seen so few cyclists at a major event ride before. But I enjoy riding in slop, so I simply took my commuting rig which was literally built for such conditions.

I usually ride solo, but the wind was bad enough that I thought I’d be crazy not to make a few friends. So I started working with a local team around mile 45. The weather was relentless, and a lot of riders were bailing. But I was having a blast as was the team I was with.

Between mile 55 and 75, I didn’t see a single other cyclist aside from the team members. We thought we were off course, but the faint course markings which had been mostly washed away by rain indicated we weren’t. The feed station at mile 75 is normally very busy, but it was desolate when we arrived. The volunteers told us only 5 riders showed up before us, 4 of whom were still there.

During the final leg, the rain started letting up, but I’d worked a bit too hard fighting the wind when I was leading the group. At mile 90, I fell off the back on a modest climb into a headwind. The team support vehicle released their mascot, a pit bull named Ramses, to motivate me. And while that lifted my spirits and gave me a boost, I just didn’t have enough left in me to bridge the gap.

While I was enjoying peach cobbler and ice cream at the end, one of the team members came up to me, said some flattering things about my riding, and reiterated an invitation I’d been given earlier to ride with with their team. The whole day had been fantastic, but that really ended things on a positive note.

Getting soft in my old age

Monday, August 2nd, 2010

As is the case with most endurance geeks, it’s not my style to bail on rides I can finish. But 12 miles from the end of the Shasta Super Century yesterday, that’s exactly what I did.

Overall, the day went well. I covered the first 100 miles and 10,000 feet of climbing faster than I ever had before. However, that speed came from pretending I could keep up with riders who were stronger than me. As a result, I started the final ascent dizzy and nauseated from overexertion.

I had two choices if I wanted to reach the end: 1) I could push on which was guaranteed to make me puke and require me to ride with my head in a fog; or 2) I could take a nap to recover and then ride to the top.

The purpose of these rides is to have fun, and despite having masochistic tendencies, neither puking nor passing out sounded like an attractive way to finish the day. I decided to return to the hotel. After taking a one hour nap, I felt great. There was still time to return to the course and complete the final climb. But who cares? A shower and a fine meal sounded like a much better option.

Humiliating loss in the great rat race

Wednesday, July 14th, 2010

I don’t normally worry about how fast I am compared to other cyclists, but sometimes you have to draw the line.

On the final 5 miles of my commute in on Tuesday, I caught someone hunting me down in my mirror. I was maintaining a brisk pace because I left late for work, so I wasn’t expecting to be overtaken by commuter bicycle traffic.

This guy was gaining on me, his bright yellow jacket flapping in the wind. When I’m on a fast bike, people sometimes hunt me down. If I feel sporty, I try to make that challenging. I felt sporty. And I didn’t feel like getting passed by a what appeared to be an ordinary commuter when I was on my hot rod. I was already doing 22mph, so I figured that if I picked up the pace just a bit, his legs would burn up quickly.

I boosted my speed to 24.5mph. Still gaining. My muscles were protesting a bit at 26.7mph but he was still closing the gap. At this point, I was impressed since few people can generate that sort of speed with fat tires and poor aerodynamics. Between his steady speed, his smooth stroke, and the fact he’d been gaining on me for a mile, it was obvious this guy had a lot more power than me. But I wasn’t ready to concede.

I pushed it up to 29.4mph. I knew I couldn’t hold this level of effort to the edge of town which was still more than a mile away — though I intended to give it my best shot. No dice. My commuting friend was now only 50-60 feet back and still reeling me in.

I knew it was over and that he was going to pass me at over 30mph. I pulled over to acknowledge my humiliating defeat and let him through.

Then, I noticed he was looking a little too relaxed for the pace we’re going. Nice electric bike he’d built…..

Sometimes things just happen

Sunday, May 30th, 2010

When cycling home from work last Friday, Terry and I crashed when a car suddenly turned in on us. I escaped with road rash, bruising, and a damaged bike. Terry wasn’t so lucky. He left the scene in an ambulance and has reconstructive surgery as well as physical therapy to look forward to.

I replayed the crash many times in my mind and am convinced I handled it the best I could have under the circumstances. My decisions were good. My reflexes did exactly what I would have wanted them to do. Sometimes the best you can do is stay with the bike and try to absorb as much of the inevitable impact as you can with the strongest parts of your body.

I hope Terry feels better soon. As for myself, I’m looking forward to a lot of riding in the near future. If you’re a cyclist, be safe out there. If you’re not, it’s always highly appreciated when you take the same care to avoid collisions with cyclists as you would with semis. Whenever you get hit by something made of steel that’s 20 times your size, it rarely works out well.

A good weekend ride

Sunday, August 16th, 2009

I’m a sucker for tough rides, but sometimes it’s fun to go to an event where the scenery is the primary motivation for going and the ride is only a secondary (albeit important) benefit. With that in mind, I went with Bryan this week to take part the Crater Lake Century.

Historically, the Shasta is the ride I look forward to all year because it’s challenging and has fabulous scenery. However, the Crater Lake beats every other ride I’ve been on in the scenery department. And with only a tick over 7500 feet of climbing in 100 miles, the Crater Lake is more civilized and much less of an endurance contest.

I took the new bike Eric built for me. Part of me wondered how I’d do on old school steel since most other riders have crazy light rigs made from carbon fiber or titanium. I was also curious how my new steed would handle at speed on patchy pavement. I figured my geometry and heavy wheels would improve stability considerably. I guessed correctly — I left some good riders in the dust on a 44 mph descent over pavement rough enough to shake my computer mount apart. I’d never be able to take my racing bike over such a crummy surface at a speed like that.

The day ended on a very positive note. I rode the last 8 miles solo on the flats at 19-21mph into a slight headwind. No body parts hurt, and the only physical problems were some nausea issues I always have when I exert myself at altitudes over 7000 feet. Afterwards, Bryan and I soaked in a hot tub for about an hour and went out for a steak. The restaurant was good, but the service was slow — however, they more than made up for it by only charging for one glass of wine when I drank five.

Live and learn

Tuesday, August 4th, 2009

Every time I attempt a difficult ride, I learn something new. Despite the fact that I’ve done the Shasta several times, it’s still an educational experience every time. For those of you who like to cut to the chase, the most important lesson I learned is that hyponatremia is serious business.

This year, I’d done no training and only fun rides — the most I’d climbed in one day this year was 6,000 feet, and the most I’d ridden at once was barely over 100 miles. I figured that tagging on another 10,500 feet plus 40 miles in arid heat would make things interesting.

The riding plan worked better than expected. Although my pace was much slower than in the past, I was feeling great as I passed the 100 mile mark with over 10,000 feet climbed. As I approached the end of the final ascent, I was feeling the best I ever had at this point in the ride.

Suddenly, things fell apart. I started puking my guts out (there was only water in my stomach). I couldn’t perceive my surroundings properly or hold a straight line. One mile before a checkpoint 3 miles from the finish, I knew that if I didn’t stop immediately, I’d black out. I lay in the gravel at the side of the road and fell asleep.

I soon recovered to the point that I could advance to the checkpoint. I was still weak and disoriented, and the organizers suggested I cut my ride short. But given how fast I’d deteriorated, I figured that something was just out of balance.

A couple riders speculated I had a sodium deficiency due to the fact I’d been drinking plain water and hadn’t taken in any salt. It was hot, and I needed about 3 gallons of liquids to stay hydrated. If I force down more than a gallon of anything other than plain water, chances of puking are very high.

I ate some things containing salt, took in some more fluids, rested awhile, and felt good as I finished the last few miles in good form. In other words, had I simply taken a few salt tabs like some of the other riders, the day would have been flawless. Live and learn.

Reality check

Monday, July 27th, 2009

I rarely stay off my bike for more than a few days, but there are certain rides like the Shasta Super Century that I look forward to all year.  It’s got everything — fabulous scenery, long climbs, and wicked fast descents.

I’ve done the Shasta several times now, and every year I’ve prepared for it by spending many weekends training on the side of a mountain as well as countless hours on the road and my trainer. Even with that kind of preparation, I often complete the final ascent with my leg muscles screaming and my head in a fog.

This year, I’m trying something a little different. I’m going to attempt the Shasta without working specifically on extended climbs. The guys at the bike shop think I’m nuts, but I think I might be able to make it about 25 min slower than normal if I manage my effort, hydration, and nutrition properly. My hope is to eliminate all preparation that even seems like work and just do fun rides.

Anyone want to bet on the outcome? Your guess is as good as mine.

Riding season begins!

Wednesday, April 29th, 2009

I ride all year, but I still look forward to cycling season. I may be addicted to my riding fix, but even I prefer tooling about in the warm sun to slogging through darkness, cold, wind, and rain — the predominant riding conditions in the winter.

In my own mind, the official beginning of riding season is a local event known as the Monster Cookie. It’s a metric century (62 miles), but I traditionally stretch it out to 100 miles because that’s the only type of century my purist side recognizes. The picture is of me resting at the halfway point — it was cold in the morning so I took my velomobile.

Unfortunately, work has really been getting in the way of my free time. For years, I averaged over 200 miles/week on my bike even in the winter. However, ever since I started a new job a couple years ago, I’ve been putting in barely half that and it shows in my condition.

Ironically, I’ve been getting better bikes as I ride less. Just a couple weeks ago, I sold my trusty commuter. I’ve been trying to retire this thing for a couple years. It was a heavy beast, but it was so dang practical I kept pulling it out.

In the end, I realized I’d have to sell it if I ever wanted to get another commuting rig. So I went to Craigslist and to let people know a well maintained workhorse with over 50,000 miles on it was available. I got 8 calls in within 24 hours, and the first potential buyer gave me a full price offer.

It has a great new home. The guy who bought it really knows his bikes and appreciated the customizations I made, so it gets another lease on life as a hard core touring bike.

Before winter starts, I need to get a new commuter for riding in slop. I’ve narrowed it down to two choices, a cyclocross bike which I’ll get from my favorite shop or a custom built bike from someone who I know will do a great job. If you’re wondering why I don’t just go custom built, it’s because my tastes are more expensive than my budget, so I need to see what I can get for an amount that won’t break the bank.

But in the meantime, there are a lot of great rides to look forward to.

Redemption

Saturday, September 27th, 2008

Once in a long while, I go on a ride that is truly special. Last weekend was one of those times. Shirley and I drove to California so I could participate in the Everest Challenge. The Everest involves 29,035 feet of climbing on steep roads at high altitude.

The ride hardly could have gone better. I had a blast. Naturally, there was a bit of fatigue, but my legs felt good to the end. I had zero knee pain. Zero numbness. Zero problems with cramping. Zero times with my head in a fog. Zero times wishing it would just end. As I was climbing the last few miles where the average grade is 14%, I found myself thinking “it doesn’t get any better than this.” When you can hold a thought like that after riding so far, you know it must be true.

It has been over 25 years since I felt so good about a ride. When I was 15, I rode my first century — by accident. Although I now think of 100 miles as nothing, I have always regarded that day as one of my great rides because the experience opened my eyes to what was possible. As was the case back then, I didn’t ride the Everest that fast. But unlike most of the other riders who were hurting after finishing, I’m putting in about 200 miles this week.

The only thing that kept the Everest from being an absolutely perfect experience is that despite the fact Shirley provided great support, I drank only a fraction of the liquids I needed and ate practically nothing on the second half of the ride. That was stupid. Shortly after I crossed the finish line, my body decided it had enough so I wound up taking a nap in the gravel for 45 minutes. I wasn’t suffering — I felt as if I was in a feather bed. A few hours later, I had some food and fluids in me and was back to normal.

One thing I didn’t tell anyone is that I was carrying one of Keiko’s old tags for good luck. Despite the fact that my bike computer tells me I’m not nearly as fast as I used to be, this has been my best riding season ever. I’ve had a great time on some real rides, lost no time to injury (something that hasn’t happened for years), and I am dedicating my training effort as well as my performance on the Everest to her memory. There may be no outstanding successes, but there has been a string of consistently good experiences which remind me of why I ride in first place.

I haven’t quite figured out what I’m going to do next year. While I like a challenge, I find that riding slower so I can enjoy the experience speaks to me more than pushing my body to its limits. For this reason, I’m thinking of trying my hand at randonneuring (basically, self supported long distance riding). I’m toying with the idea of trying to pull off 600 km in one day. We’ll see.