Humiliating loss in the great rat race

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

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 downright therapeutic trip

March 15th, 2010

Ever since we honeymooned in Kauai, Shirley and I promised ourselves that we’d make it back to Hawaii. It took a little longer than expected for us to make it happen, but it was worth the wait. Our condo was literally 20 feet from the ocean, and we watched the whales from our windows every day. We sailed, snorkeled, surfed, and toured all over Maui. And we enjoyed some truly memorable meals.

Even the few things that didn’t happen according to plan have worked out great. When the tsunami warning shut everything down on the island, we managed to explore some of the high mountain areas while most other people were trapped in a few crowded areas because the roads were closed. When a huge storm moved in for a couple days, we enjoyed spectacular waterfalls that resulted from the torrential rainfall and the heavy surf that the storms brought in.

In short, the trip was everything we could hope for, and I doubt it will be our last to the area. The only downside is that it’s completely eliminated my willingness to be cold and wet. If I’m cycling or skiing, I often don’t wear a jacket even when temps are below freezing. I thought I’d fully converted to Oregon weather, but I’m really ready for some warm sun.

A year of kicking back

December 9th, 2009

Now that Xmas season is approaching, I was thinking about sending a holiday letter to friends and family. I know a lot of people hate those, but I like receiving them. Despite the fact that we all can be in constant touch via email, skype, IM, text, Facebook and video chat for free, I still find it interesting to hear what people are up to aside from what they ate for breakfast today.

But if you haven’t done anything, it’s kind of weird to send people a letter detailing what you didn’t do. Customarily, people yak about their kids, jobs, projects, travel, and hobbies since those things collectively absorb all our time, energy, and cash. Since we don’t have kids, I stick with the latter four.

Shirley’s done some neat things this year, but it’s been an uneventful one for me. I haven’t managed to do anything noteworthy at work, there have been no house projects, nor have we traveled anyplace special. This has even been an extraordinarily tame year cycling wise — fewest miles since 2001, fewest centuries since 2001, lowest average speeds since early 2002, no double centuries, and only one ride with over 10,000 feet of climbing. We did get a puppy, so I’m at least on even footing with many six year olds.

I’m was trying to figure out why not having anything to report bothered me since failure doesn’t bother me — the fact that I never win anything has never discouraged my competitive side, I don’t have any lofty career aspirations, and I think it’s important not to get distracted by the rat race.

In the end, I decided it was because I didn’t feel any different aside having aged one year. Taking it easy is not a bad thing, but just marking time is because we don’t have enough of it to squander. So the question is what to do next year — the normal midlife crisis things people do to kid themselves aren’t really any better. When you get right down to it, things are what you make of them, and I’m sure I have everything I actually need. I’ll see if I can make some hay out of that.

Farewell, my friend

November 21st, 2009

Today I was heartbroken to hear that tomorrow I have to say goodbye to Melvil. Mel’s been a regular in our house since we moved to Monmouth nine years ago. We’ve walked hundreds of miles together, played every game canines and humans enjoy at home and on the beach, and slept together more times than I can remember.

Shirley is pretty upset that she will miss getting to say goodbye to him by one day. But poor Mel is in pain all the time and just isn’t having any fun. He’s been doing poorly for a long time, so we knew this day was coming. But no matter how much advance warning you have, it still rips your heart out when the time actually comes.

Tonight, I had the privilege of getting to make him something special to eat. Proper dogs are not into fru fru stuff, and Mel is no exception. He dined on lamb shank cooked medium rare and seasoned with nothing more than a little olive oil, garlic, and salt. Mel has always been the canine epicurean, and he was up to the challenge of finishing the whole thing. He enjoyed chewing on the bone afterwards.

Tomorrow, I get to see him one last time. He’ll be at Minto Brown dog park around noon so if you know him, you should go. After that he will go wherever it is that all the best dogs go.


November 19th, 2009

On Sunday night, Shirley returns from Boston. She’s been working on a project there since August, and it’s been a little surreal — this is the longest time I can remember spending entirely on my own. I always had roommates in college as well as almost all of the time afterwards up until the time we got hitched.

Adjusting wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be. My work hours were helpful in this regard. On a normal day, I return home roughly 12 hours after I leave. As a result, by the time I’ve walked the dog(s), eaten, and whatnot, I usually wind up just vegging out just as I would if Shirley were here.

Nonetheless, I go nuts when I’m just rattling about by myself — stewing in your own juices is a recipe for insanity. To make me feel like there’s life in the house and someone’s happy to have me around, I’ve basically been running a kennel. I don’t know how many days I’ve had only one dog in the house over the past three months, but not very many. I’ve had as many as six, though the most I had for a significant time (week or more) is four.

The time has gone by fast, but I’m ready for Shirley to come back and for whatever follows.

Home alone

October 20th, 2009

I just returned from a short visit with Shirley after a conference in Boston. For those of you who didn’t know, she’s been working on a project there since August and will return on November 22.

It was a great trip — it’s been a long time since we just took a trip to get a couple days away together. One of Shirley’s old friends came down to see us in Boston. We went to New York City to see a show and take in the sights. Even the weather cooperated. Things worked out as well as we could possibly hope.

Since Shirley being away changes my normal routine, one thing I’ve been grappling with is what I should be doing now that I can theoretically do anything.

So what have I actually been doing now that I’ve had time to think about it and come up with something worthwhile to do? Basically, it’s the same ‘ol same ‘ol. Here’s to inertia…

A good weekend ride

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.

Eating our own dog food

August 12th, 2009

I’m a huge believer in doing what you say others should be doing. Libraries are dedicated to open access to information. I think that’s a very good thing because when information is withheld, enormous amounts of energy are wasted duplicate efforts since everyone has to start from scratch. It really limits what you can accomplish.

I keep running into situations where libraries increasingly fail to live up to their rhetoric. While we tell publishers to open up access, our digital repository projects seem obsessed with tightly controlling access even when we’re talking about locally produced resources. If we catalog a book, we worry over how to keep any other institution from benefiting from that information we create without paying — even though that information was produced at public expense and those that need it are also paid by the taxpayer.

The latest disturbing thing I heard regards library contributions to open source software. If you’re not familiar with open source software, the idea is simple. It is free of charge, and everyone can see the code and do what they want with it. However, when someone makes an improvement, they have to make the improvements available for everyone free of charge. The operating system on this web site as well as all the software (including that used to compose this blog post) are open source. The philosophy that is the best way to solve a problem is to have many eyes on a problem.

Anyway, I’m hearing that some agencies funding improvements to existing library open source software don’t want their contributions made available to everyone else — i.e. other libraries. They figure they paid for it, so it’s theirs and others shouldn’t just be able to benefit.

This logic makes sense on the surface, but keep in mind that there would be nothing for them to improve upon unless someone else had developed the rest of the software. Furthermore, no one else can improve on these enhancements, so unless the institution in question wants to supply funding indefinitely, they won’t see improvements. It’s like going to a potluck party and only contributing enough of one dish for you to eat yourself even though you fully intend to eat anything you want that other people brought.

If we’re going to claim we believe in sharing information, that should apply to our own stuff as well. Otherwise, I’m not entirely clear on what value contribute.

Live and learn

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

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.

Taking time to smell the roses

May 11th, 2009

One thing that had been driving me crazy lately is the fact that when I travel for work, I never actually get to see the place I’m visiting. I normally start working almost immediately upon arrival and then I get down to business. Even offline time inevitably gets consumed by work.

After leaving the fine city of Boston last month without getting to see anything, I promised myself that I would give myself at least one day to look around the next time I went someplace. As luck would have it, that place was Bozeman, Montana — a destination within spitting distance of Yellowstone Park.

National parks are possibly America’s greatest contribution to the world’s cultural heritage. Many countries have excellent national parks now, but Yellowstone was the first, and it remains an embodiment of the concept at its best.

Great parks like Yellowstone help us renew our bonds with the planet and remind us that we are all just a small part of something much greater worth preserving. They demonstrate what we sacrifice when we develop areas without conscience. In the day and a half I was there, I saw bears, wolves, bison, antelope, and other wildlife too numerous to mention. The variety of plant life is amazing, and the natural wonders are simply awe inspiring.

There is even something for people compelled to think of priceless intangibles in terms of countable money. Yellowstone attracts three million visitors requiring a wide array of services every year, and you don’t have to go far beyond the park’s boundaries see how much value is left after the lands have been logged, mined, and relegated to low cost development.

I typically don’t take many photos when I travel, but I made an exception this time. You can either see all of them in my photo database or you can see the short version posted to my facebook page.

Riding season begins!

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.

A growing girl

March 9th, 2009

Powder has really been growing fast. In the short time we’ve had her, she’s gone from being one of the smallest and shyest dogs at puppy class to one of the largest and most rambunctious. In this clip, she roughhouses with her new buddy, a lab/Rott mix named Charley. BTW, don’t be mislead by the still in the video. Charley is really a nice guy…

Anniversary day weekend

March 8th, 2009

Every year, we try to do something fun for our anniversary. Since we like to ski and hadn’t been out this season yet, we decided to head out to the Cascades where we stayed in the Five Pines Lodge. I can definitely recommend the place.

And what about our puppy? Well, finding someone to take care of her was as hard as giving diamonds away. Terry obliged, so she spent last weekend with two little boys, a golden retriever, and a cat.

Everyone had a great time. We skied more than 10 miles in one day, and Powder was totally zonked after playing with Goldie, Tiger, Kenny and Nathan. We all slept well that night. Next weekend, we return to the beach. Living in an area where you can cycle year ’round in proximity to sand and snow just never gets old.