Sunday, December 21, 2008

Midnight Street Snowboarding

For cycling as in most sports it’s important to cross train. I don’t do much in the way of cross training these days but last Saturday night I found the perfect cross training sport. The only problem is opportunities for this sport only come once every 5 years or so.

Last Saturday night after I finished up a trainer ride I looked out the window and it was snowing really hard AGAIN. Even though I’m really getting tired of the snow I’ve also have been waiting for these conditions ever since we moved into our current house 5 years ago. It was the prefect storm.

The streets had a good coating of ice from a week of snow and by midnight there were 4 heavenly inches of powder on top of that ice. Yep, the perfect conditions for Midnight Street Snowboarding!

I was like a giddy kid waiting for my son to get home from a date so we could do some boarding. He got home at midnight and by 12:15 we headed over to the park for a first trial run. That one went well so we ventured out on the streets. We started with short hills and worked our way up to one of the steepest streets in the city. It was the most fun I’ve had snowboarding in a long time.

Here' s a shot of my son getting ready to do some boarding in the park.

A shot of the top of one of the steepest streets in our city. Notice the lack of any tire tracks. Just fresh powder.

Finally, a short video clip of my son boarding down a medium size street. It was a little hard to keep up with him while holding a camera, trying to avoid man hole covers and snowboarding all at the same time.

This is my idea of cross training. Good times!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Deserted Tropical Island Picks

Since Tuesday night it’s been snowing off and on so the snow accumulations are really starting to grow at our place. The Pacific Northwest basically comes to a standstill when it snows so I’ve been working from home since Wednesday morning.

I’m really starting to get cabin fever because the only time I’ve left the house since Wednesday was for a quick trip to Mecca for some refreshment.

Since I’ve spent so much time in cooped up in one place I’ve thought a lot of the Deserted Tropical Island game that people play. If you aren’t familiar with it here’s how you play. You imagine that you are stuck on a deserted tropical island all by yourself and there’s no way to get off. Basically, it’s a Gilligan’s Island without the Professor or Maryanne. Now that the situation is established you come up with a list of things you could live with for the rest of time on this deserted island. Namely, 3 CDs and 3 DVDs. This obviously takes into account that you will somehow have electricity on your island and are equipped with a TV, DVD, and CD player. OK, maybe the Professor is with you on the island.

The first list is a tough one. I love music, so coming up with a list of only 3 CDs for the rest of time was excruciating.

Bob Marley – Legend
Jackson Browne – Solo Acoustic Vol 2
Death Cab for Cutie – Narrow Stairs

First of all, you just can’t go wrong with Bob Marley and the Legend CD has all of the classics on it. Spending time on a deserted tropical island wouldn’t be complete without some Reggae music and Bob is the master of all Reggae. That was the easiest of the three CDs.

Next, the Jackson Browne Solo Acoustic CD is just plain good. I could listen to that CD over and over for years and not get tired of it. Thus, it should work just fine for my new tropical home.

Finally, Death Cab for Cutie. This was a tough one for me. My son bought this CD recently and I’ve listened to it a lot on my iPod. It’s a leap of faith to put this on the list over Rush – Moving Pictures because that one’s a certified classic in my mind but I’m going with some youth for my last pick.

Now for the DVDs. As you can see I’m a sucker for cheap slapstick humor.

Happy Gilmore
Tommy Boy
The Office Season 2

The first two choices are no brainers for me. I’m giggling right now just thinking about Adam Sandler duking it out with Bob Barker or The deer waking up in the back seat of David Spade and Chris Farley’s car. You just can’t go wrong with either of these movies. I could watch these movies over and over and not get tired of them.

My third choice is cheating a little because it’s comes with multiple discs but I don’t think there is an official set of rules for this game so I’m bending them. Basically, The Office rocks. This TV show just makes me laugh. It reminds me of people at work only in a really exaggerated way.

There you have it. My Deserted Tropical Island picks. It’s not an easy game to play but very fun. You should give this some thought and let me know what your picks would be. Of course, it’s OK to agree with my selections.

By the way, I watched on the news yesterday morning someone trying to get up a hill that had chains on their car. He was shooting at least 4 inches of sparks behind his car. That was some good entertainment. It happens every year never fail.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Going Green Ideas

Recently I read an article about how a rock concert was powered by people riding exercise bikes hooked up to generators. There were literally 6 people riding exercise bikes in the back of the concert that powered the amps, lights and PA system.

This is a pretty cool concept but if people run with this idea this could change the face of a lot of events. Here are some things that could change.

The New and Improved Tour de France:
Rather than riding through the alps the new format would simply have teams hooked up to generators. Each stage would consist of teams hooked up to trainers and generators and the first team to power a small French village would take the stage win for the day. This gives new meaning to the amount of watts a rider produces. Riders like big Thor Hushovd would have a huge advantage with this format. Check out the tree trunk power producing legs on this guy.

I could also see events powered by huge blocks of riders. Here’s a potential headline gone wrong. “Super bowl called off at half time due to bonking generator riders” Apparently, the Super Bowl organizers neglected to provide Gatorade and Power Bars to the riders and by half time they just plain ran out of gas. The organizers called this mishap a Gatorade malfunction.

This could also mean a new set of chores for the kids. In addition to cleaning the kitchen after dinner or mowing the lawn on the weekend kids could also be assigned to put in some generator rides to power the house. I can just hear it now. “Mom, I rode yesterday, Tommy never has to ride. It’s just not fair.”

I’m all for going green but this may not be a good idea after all. Never mind.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Sorry, We're Closed

Here in the Pacific Northwest we pride ourselves on the fact that life continues whether it’s raining or not. We play baseball, ride our bikes, mow our lawns, go for walks, and even wash our cars in the rain here. If it can be done in good weather we also do it in the rain. I guess you could say that we are hearty rain goers.

If there is one thing we are totally scared of around here though. SNOW!!!! On Saturday night it snowed a couple of inches and the kids had a blast playing in it. By the next morning the snow was pretty well trampled down everywhere and the roads were bare and dry. Just to be on the safe side Church was cancelled for the day. What?

Last night it snowed another couple of inches and now school has been cancelled for the day. You would think a blizzard had hit our fair city or something because when it snows everyone stays at home until it melts.

I’ve been watching the news this morning and they have sent news anchors out all over the place to find some snow to talk about. The best they could find was a couple of inches of build up on some bushes next to the wet roadway. There’s some great entertainment value to watching the “Winter Storm Watch of 08” coverage on TV. It’s cracking me up.

I haven’t seen it yet this storm but every time it snows there are people who insist on putting chains on their tires just to be on the safe side. So they end up driving on the bare roads throwing sparks everywhere behind them. It’s quite the sight.

Normally, a person would have to pay for entertainment like this but today it’s free.

On the positive side, I’m sure the kids will love the day off to play in the snow. I also get a free pass to work from home because it’s way too dangerous to drive into work. Any time I get a free pass to work from home I’m taking it whether I can make it in to work or not.

So, if you’re planning on traveling to the Pacific Northwest today don’t bother. We’re closed for the day.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Holiday Tunes

In keeping with the holiday spirit the good people at Specialized have put together a Christmas song played entirely on bicycle parts. This is pretty impressive. When I work on my bike it doesn’t sound anything like this. The link below takes you to the web page which has the song. All you have to do is click on the picture and the song starts.

In addition to bike riding my other hobby is playing the guitar. I’m not very good but I really enjoy playing. A couple of weeks ago we went to a concert of an amazing guitar player named Trace Bundy. He’s one of the better acoustic guitar players I’ve ever seen and he’s hilarious. Here’s a link to him playing Carol of the Bells. Enjoy!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Ridin In The Rain

I had the day off on Friday and since Jenny was tied up with some things she had to do I talked myself into going for a ride. Normally, I don’t need to talk myself into going for a ride but it’s was 41 degrees and raining. Not ideal conditions for a ride but I was itching to get out so I thought I’d brave the conditions, put on some rain battle gear and give it a shot. I really hate being cold so I added two pairs of thermals to my normal riding attire for the day.

Jenny was also nice enough to give me a Christmas gift early. She bought me a head wrap to cover my ears and when she saw the conditions that I was going to ride in she let me open it up early. What a saint.

When I got to the trail head I wasn’t surprised that there wasn’t anyone else around. As I got on my bike and peddled away it was kind of nice to have the trail to myself. I did have to stop several times to make adjustments to my clip on back fender to get it just right but once I got things nailed down the ride was actually really nice.

I rode for a good 10 miles but then I encountered a park ranger standing in the middle of the trail with his white truck. I rode up to him wondering what was going on and he told me that the rest of the trail was closed because they were mowing. Nothing really gets called off in the northwest because of the rain, not even mowing.

Before I spoke with the Ranger I was wondering just how far I should go before I turning back. I guess he answered my question for me. I was actually glad I had to turn around because the rain was starting to soak through my jacket and I could feel the water leaking into my cycling shoes.

Since I was riding I really wasn’t cold but I was starting to get uncomfortable. By the time I got back my feet and arms were completely drenched but it was a great ride. It turned out to be more of an adventure to see how far I could go before getting completely waterlogged than just another bike ride. I actually had a great time. I obviously need to make some adjustments to my gear but I’m interested to see how far I can make it the next time I go for a rain ride.

Equipment adjustments/additions
- Find something to cover my feet with
- Water proof my wind breaker – generic scotch guard should do the trick
- Find some light water proof gloves

I ended up covering my Garmin 305 with a zip lock bag because I wasn’t sure if it was water resistant. I looked at it’s specs and I guess it is water resistant but I’m going to keep the baggie on it just in case.
Last summer I took a great picture of my bike laying on a dock during a nice summer evening ride. As I rode passed that same dock I thought I’d take a winter time picture. Here’s the same shot in different seasons. Rain riding is fun but nothing really beats summer riding.

Thursday, December 11, 2008


Years ago a couple of our kids hid in one of their rooms on a Sunday afternoon for a couple of hours busily working on some project. This was usually cause for some kind of disastrous science experiment but when they emerged they had a Christmas present for Jenny and huge smiles on their faces. Needless to say they were super excited for Jenny to open up their present because they had made it themselves without any help.

On Christmas morning Jenny opened their present and it turned out to be a package full of cotton balls and Q-tips. For some reason Jenny knew exactly what to do with these things, she threw them in the air and shouted Merry Christmas. Who would have thought it? She did exactly what they expected her to do. Their present was a hit. From then on it’s been a tradition in our family that everyone has to make at least one present for each other no matter how cheesy it is. The kids usually hate this but it ends up being the one present they’re the most excited to give out. Don’t get me wrong, we give other gifts to each other but every year we wrack our brains and come up with something that we can make for each other.

One year I made the kids the ultimate gift that I thought I’d never be able to top. I went down to the dollar store and bought them each a toilet brush. When I got home, I got out some pens and ribbons and customized each of the brushes with their names and added cool bows to them. Who wouldn’t like a customized toilet brush with your name on it to use when it’s your turn to wash bathrooms on Saturday. Oh, good times! There’s still a couple of those gems around the house somewhere. It’s the gift that keeps on giving.

Well this year somehow I think I’ve topped the toilet brush gift. A couple of weeks ago a lady in our group showed some of her friends how to make a duct tape tote bag. Anything made from duct tape is cool right? When I heard about this tote bag, the light bulb went off and I knew what I could make for my presents this year. Duct tape gifts! They are very useful and as an added benefit if you are stranded somewhere and in need of a repair you could actually pull apart your duct tape item and make the repair right on the spot.

Since I wasn’t quite sure how to make the bags I begged my co-worker to teach me how to make them. So, she took pity on me and over a couple of lunch breaks we sneaked into a conference room and worked these some duct tape masterpieces. Check out this bag. The technical name for this bag is actually a tote because I would never own up to actually making a purse even if it’s made out of duct tape. This one is for my younger daughter and I also made an orange and black one for my older daughter.

Since I’m going with the duct tape theme this year I also came up with the idea of making duct tape wallets for my sons. It was really pretty simple. All I did was use my own wallet as a guide and a couple of hours later it was done. Check it out, they even have pockets for cards. Dang, these are so cool I might want one of these wallets too. I can hardly wait to give these duct tape masterpieces to my kids. For some reason I’m thinking the kids will like these a lot more than the custom toilet brushes.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Am I Getting Old?

The other night my kids were sitting around the computer giggling. This sight made me just a little nervous. They asked me to come over because they were going to test if I was truly old. Of course I told them there was no way I was old and I could pass any test they gave me. Bring it on!

Then they went to a website and played a sound file which they told me that kids could hear but “old people” couldn’t. As they played the sound file I stood there in silence. I couldn’t hear a thing. They all laughed and laughed and laughed. I thought they were joking but they really could hear this file and I couldn’t. Finally, they turned up the volume all the way and I could hear the sound if I stood directly in front of the speakers.

OK, I give up. I guess I really am old. If this hearing loss came from years of listening to loud music it was worth every last minute.

Here’s the website they were listening to the sound file on. Just click on the play button to see if you are old too. Hopefully, you’ll hear a very high pitched sound. If you don’t hear anything don’t worry you’re in good company.

Good luck!

Monday, December 8, 2008

A Dry Saturday Ride

Last Saturday I woke up and peaked outside the window checking to see how hard it was raining. To my surprise it wasn’t raining at all. Bonus! With that, I gathered up all of my cycling gear, made a PB&H, threw my bike in the back of car and headed over to the Centennial trail. Normally, I would just start from home and ride over to the trail but I haven’t done much training lately so I was looking to minimize on the cycling punishment. There’s a big hill in between my house and the trail. I’ll save that punishment for January when the real training begins.

Once I got to the trail I was glad I skipped the hill from the house. It was like I had some kryptonite in my back pocket. My legs just didn’t have much go in them. I guess I’ve been doing way too much eating and not enough riding. After a while the kryptonite must have dropped out of my pocket because my legs came back to life.

I still felt like I was pedaling squares as opposed to a smooth circles but I had enough energy to enjoy myself. Most people on the trail were all smiles because there just aren’t many days this time of year that are dry. As I got to the end of the trail I noticed 30 or so people running that had on matching shirts. As I passed them I noticed that their shirts said Army on the back. They all seemed like they were dragging and there wasn’t much spring in their step. When I turned around at the end of the trail and passed them coming back I noticed that not one of them had a smile on their face. It was a pretty grim sight. I guess that’s the difference between doing something you enjoy and completing a requirement. Being all you can be didn’t look like much for the day.

On the way back I got into the zone of deep thought as I pedaled along so I didn’t even notice some fellow cyclists as they passed me. They probably said “Onyerlef” but I just didn’t hear it. That startled me back into reality so I decided to do some tagging along. I was able to do some pretty good drafting without being right behind them for a while. All of the sudden I started hearing music and they pulled over. One of them got a phone call and the party was over. I was on my own again for the rest of the ride.

All in all, it was great to ride without the rain. I’m planning on another ride this weekend if the weather holds. The forecast is calling for snow of all things but I’m crossing my fingers.

Friday, December 5, 2008

What I've Learned from Cycling

Have you ever asked yourself if all of the knowledge and techniques that you’ve learned through cycling could ever be translated to other areas of your life? This might be surprising but I use techniques and skills that I’ve learned in cycling to help me get through church almost every Sunday.

The church I attend meets for a 3 hour block on Sunday mornings. If three hours of Church at one time isn’t an endurance event I’m not sure what is. Don’t get me wrong, I benefit from it but it’s a long time to sit in one place with only two breaks.

Here’s what I’ve learned.

1. When I go for a long distance ride I’ve found that it’s important to change my grip on the handlebars quite often. This prevents my hands from going numb. When I’m sitting in church it’s important to change the way I’m sitting quite often. The routine is:
* Sit straight up
* Bend over with elbows on knees
* Sit back up again and put arm around wife
* Cross your legs with left foot up
* Cross your legs with right foot up
* Repeat.

If I follow this routine this keeps my rear end from going to sleep and it probably entertains the people sitting behind me.

2. When I ride centuries I configure my cycle computer to not show the distance on the first screen. I’ve found if I don’t do this I constantly look at how many miles I’ve ridden and calculate how many I’ve got left. This ends up ruining the ride for me.

The second hour of Church is Sunday School and depending on the topic this could be a mind numbingly long hour. In fact, if it’s possible for a clock to seem like it’s going backwards this would be the one hour of the week it actually does. Here’s my solution. If I force myself to not look at the clock on the wall every 3 minutes the time goes by a lot faster and sometimes the lesson is enjoyable. Sometimes!

3. In cycling I’ve learned it’s important to hydrate regularly and to take advantage of rest stops where available. At church this is my silver bullet. If I’m really struggling with a tired rear end or I just can’t concentrate I get up and walk down the hall to get a drink. I don’t use the option very often but it’s a life saver.

I’m sure there are a lot of other techniques I could be using but these seem to get me by in a pinch.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008


Yesterday I was tagged by a fellow blogger named Jeff. He’s got a great blog about running and cycling. The topic that I’ve been tagged with is to tell you 8 things about myself that you probably didn’t already know. Here’s my list.

1. When I was a kid I was a super picky eater and I really didn’t like candy very much. In fact, my parents would buy me a candy bar as a treat when we would go on trips and they would later find it with one bite taken out of them and left in the back seat. I do remember eating paste in Kindergarten though and liking it. This fact embarrasses my family which cracks me up.

2. I’m not a good bleeder. I’ve donated blood twice in my life and both times I came close to passing out. I must have looked awful because both times the nurse came over to me 30 seconds after I started and told me to lie down and put my feet up before I passed out. Needless to say, I don’t donate blood anymore. The last time I had to do a blood test I started to black out and had to put my head on the table for a couple of minutes before I could get up and drive myself home. The blood sample was only about 2 oz. This definitely isn’t one of my super powers.

3. I can name just about any classic rock song within 3 seconds of hearing it. I can also name the artist and year it came out. I try not to yell this information out every time I hear a song but it’s hard not to. This is one of my super powers. It’s a useless superpower but a superpower just the same.

4. I’ve dislocated my knees 4 times. Not wanting to play favorites I’ve dislocated both knees twice.

5. Jenny and I paid more for a pair of bikes than we ever have on any piece of furniture. The funny thing about it is I’m just fine with that. In fact, I like that priority.

6. I love tie dye shirts. I currently own 3 of them and it ticks me off when one wears out and I have to throw it away. It feels a lot like parting with an old friend. If I could find a tie dye cycling jersey that would be the closest thing to cycling heaven that I can think of.

7. I got an undergraduate degree from Brigham Young University and a Masters degree from Oregon State University. These schools are probably on the complete opposite ends of the conservative/liberal spectrum. Both were great schools but very different. I took religion classes at one and learned how to tie dye shirts at the other. I’ll let you decide where I learned what.

8. My dream vacation is to ride my bike from Seattle down the pacific coast to San Francisco.

OK, I think I’ve now fulfilled my tag commitment. Now I’m supposed to tag 8 other people but I’m not quite sure who to stick this on. So, I’m going to let you tag yourself. If you take this responsibility of tagging yourself please leave a comment so I can check out your tag post. This could be fun.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

A Trip To Mecca

For most kids the first word that they say is something like mama or dada or bottle. You won’t believe this but my first word was Coke. I guess I was a focused kid who knew what I wanted and it was a Coke. I always remember coke being in the fridge when I was a kid and man it was gooooood. It was like the nectar of the Gods. Oh to be a kid and drink full calorie Coke and not gain weight. Those were the days.

Well, these days I still enjoy an occasional coke but it's diet now. Converting from regular coke to diet coke wasn’t a pretty process. It took quite some time to get use to drinking diet but I’ve finally acquired the taste for it.

A couple of months ago we discovered the Holy Grail of coke machines in our fair city of Marysville. At the local coke distributor they have soda machines outside of the plant which has 12 oz cans of Coke products for………..
drum roll please………..
One thin quarter!!!
Making a trip to this soda machine is like making a trip to Coke Mecca. The word has definitely got out about Coke Mecca because I’ve never been there when someone else hasn’t pulled up to get a soda. There’s a constant stream of people buying sodas. In fact if you get there after 6 at night both machines are usually sold out.

When we take a trip to Mecca it’s really a roller coaster of emotions. As you drive up to the machines the first thing you do is look at the red letters under the coin drop. If it says Sold Out you attempt to hold back the tears as you make the long drive home in a dejected state. If it says Ice Cold Drinks there are sodas left and you’re in business. The next step is to grab your quarter and try not to do an obnoxious happy dance in the parking lot on your way to the machine.

You can’t go wrong with a Diet Coke or a Coke Zero but my personal favorite is Diet Coke with Lime. Diet Coke with Lime is the best but they don’t actually have a button for this flavor. What they do have is a mystery flavor button. This button is for the left over sodas that probably fell off trucks at the plant. If you’re really lucky and press the mystery button a bright shinny Diet Coke with Lime will pop out of the machine. It’s a lot like hitting the Coke lottery.

So if you’re ever in Marysville just ask anyone for directions to Mecca and they’ll know exactly what you’re talking about. Remember to bring plenty of Quarters with you.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Never To Do List

Last summer I was talking with my sister in law at a family reunion and she mentioned that she had never seen the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life”. My sister in law grew up in Idaho and Utah where it’s almost a requirement to have seen this movie in order to maintain your permanent resident status. I’m not sure how she could have slipped through the “It’s a Wonderful Life” cracks through the years. I’m sure she’ll have to keep this under wraps before the authorities catch wind of this. Since my sister in law had gone this long having not seeing this movie she has made it one of her life goals to never see it.

Also, when I was a kid I knew a youth leader at our church that had never eaten a peanut butter and jelly sandwich in his entire life. What? How could this be? He explained that when he was a kid his older brother used to wrestle him to the ground and hold him down all the while breathing peanut butter and jelly breath in his face. So, he could never get himself to actually eat one of these sandwiches. Thus, another life goal of something never to do.

In the next month or so most of us will be reevaluating our goals and setting some new ones for 2009. I’ve already pulling my list of goals together for 2009 but these two people have got me to thinking that I should pull together a new set of life goals similar to them. A never to do list.

As I tried to come up with this list of things I’ll never do or accomplish it was a lot harder than I thought. My list isn’t complete yet but this is what I’ve got so far.

1. Never see ABBA, Neil Diamond, or Air Supply in concert. This should be easily accomplished because to me this would worse than any form of torture that I could think of. Wedgies, indian rope burns, and the stretching rack seem rather pleasant compared to seeing any of these artists in concert.

2. Never bungee jump. Bungee jumping combines two things I’m really not into. Heights and hurling headfirst toward earth with just a cable around my feet. I don’t think I’ll miss this one at all.

3. Never try mincemeat pie. I’ve never even seen a mincemeat pie in my lifetime but I’ve heard enough chilling tails of people “trying” to eat a piece of mincemeat pie to know this is something I never want to do.

4. Never own a recumbent bike. I know that people who own recumbent bikes swear by them but I also know that it's a requirement to grow a beard to ride one properly. Since I can only grow a meager beard recumbent bikes are out of the question for me.

This list is incomplete for now because I’ve only got the easy ones down. I guess I’ll have to work on my never to do “stretch” goals next.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Book Review of Ghost Trails by Jill Homer

This week I finished reading “Ghost Trails – Journeys Through a Lifetime” which is a book recently written by Jill Homer.


"Ghost Trails" is the true story of Jill Homer and her unlikely route to and on one of the most difficult winter bicycle races in the world, the 350-mile Iditarod Trail Invitational in Alaska. Through her struggles and intimate confrontations with her fears and weaknesses, she discovers the surprising destination of her life's trails.

My thoughts:

I’ve been following Jill’s blog for quite some time now and when I read her overview of her participation in the 2008 Iditarod Trail Invitational I was riveted to it. I couldn’t believe the suffering and learning that she went through to complete this race. I was so impressed with it that I made Jenny sit down and I read it to her as well. Needless to say, when I found out that she had written a book about her 2008 race experience I couldn’t wipe the grin off of my face.

I’m not much of a reader but once I started reading this book I seriously considered taking a sick day from work so I could sit down and finish it because I just couldn’t put it down. If it wasn’t for a pressing project at work I would have done just that. So, as an alternative I put off training and stayed up late for a number of nights until I finally finished it up. I have to say, it was worth it.

Even though I knew Jill finished the race the book was very suspenseful. This book takes you through the highs, lows, injuries, struggles and elation of the race. If you’ve ever completed an endurance event you’ll be able to relate to all of these emotions only Jill’s were intensified 100 times over. As I read the book I found myself cheering for her to keep going and cringing for her when she faced almost insurmountable obstacles.

Books of this nature tend to be just travel logs but Ghost Trails had a lot more to offer. Every other chapter told a story from Jill’s life which in some way gave her experiences to lean on for the Iditarod Trail Invitational. Admittedly, this switching from the race to supporting stories was confusing at first once I got into the rhythm of the book it tended to fit right in.


If you enjoy non-fiction books about endurance sports you’ll love this book. This is a great first effort from Jill Homer. If you’re like me you’ll love this book and have a hard time putting it down which may be to the dismay of your spouse.

If you’re interesting in picking up this book you can order it through the following website.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Let there be Pie!

Last Saturday night we completed the second stage of the cycling fuel reserve trifecta. It was our 6th annual Pie Night. The Pie Night concept is you bring a pie to our house between 6 – 8 pm and eat everyone else’s pie. In the past we have invited a lot of people to Pie Night and it’s been crowded but this year we really topped our personal best for attendance. At least 5 or 6 people came up to me and said “man, it’s really crowded in here”. Oh yeah, that’s a sign of a really good party. It also helped that we invited the fire marshal to pie night so we wouldn’t run the risk of being shut down for breaking the fire code. He didn’t end up coming by his wife did.

Maybe we invited too many people but hey they all bought Pie! Some people were scared away from the crowds and left soon after they arrived but the die hard pie goers hung in there and got all the pie they could handle. By 6:20 our huge dinner table and counter were both covered with pies. Here’s a shot of the goods. We probably had over 40 pies through the night.

I did some serious sampling of the pies. Being the good host that I am I didn’t want people to be offended by not trying theirs so I did my best to sample everything in sight. I really started slowing down after 8 pieces but I was able to press on and get a couple more pieces in through the night. I guess next year I’ll have to start preparing for this event earlier so I can put more pie away. Training is everything.

One of the unique things about the northwest is people automatically take their shoes off when they enter your house. This isn’t a requirement at our house but there ended up being a huge pile of shoes in the entry way. I guess if you were really brave you could have gone home with a better pair of shoes than you came with. We didn’t have any reports of shoe swapping so we must run with a decent crowd.

Also, during the night one of the many kids that were there accidentally stepped on some lipstick in my daughters room and tracked it down the stairs and all around the carpet in our front room. Before we knew it there were 50 or so round red spots on our carpet of lipstick. The parents of the lipstick tracker were mortified but what they didn’t realize is I’m married to the female equivalent of MacGyver. On Monday, Jenny shot each lipstick stain with WD40 and the spots came right up. Who would have thought it? Then all she had to do was go over it with a carpet cleaner and it was good as new.

The night was a lot of fun but very tiring. We still have a couple of pies at our house but I’m doing my part to properly dispose of them before they go bad. I’m already looking forward to next years Pie Night.

Stats for the Night:
100 lbs of pie brought to party
200 lbs of weight gain for party goers
The math doesn't work but somehow it's reality.

Thursday, November 20, 2008


When I’ve been riding a lot and am in pretty good shape an interesting phenomenon happens to me at work somewhere around 9 in the morning. My legs start to get really ancy (probably not a word but you know what I mean) then the rest of my body follows and eventually it starts screaming at me “Hey buddy, let’s go for a ride. NOW!”. Kind of weird but I get a ton of pent up energy in my legs that just needs to be released and it's hard to sit still. I may be running the risk of uncontrollably running around the office at full speed just so it will dissipate. In my mind this is a dangerous condition not only for myself but for all of my co-workers. Of course, I somehow find a way to control myself and after 30 minutes or so it goes away but it’s hard to ignore these urges. I’ve come up with a name and acronym for this condition.

CDD – Cycling Deficit Disorder.

Now that I’ve diagnosed this condition I think I need a prescription. An hour of hard riding would probably do the trick. The only problem is at 9 in the morning I really don’t think my boss would go for that. Oh, what a dilemma. I guess I’ll have to just try to ignore my CDD for now.

Monday, November 17, 2008

My Cycling MacGyver

I had the day off on Friday and since it wasn’t raining for the first time in weeks Jenny and I headed out on our bikes for a ride. It was a cooler morning in the low 50s so we layered up for the ride. We normally wear a small pair of knit gloves over our cycling gloves just to keep our fingers warm. I was able to find my gloves (nice black ones) but Jenny had left hers in the car that the high school kids had driven to school that day. Before our youngest left for school Jenny borrowed a nice pink pair of gloves from her. So off we headed to the Centennial trail. Once we got to the parking lot we did our ritual of sitting in the car and putting on all of our gear. Everything was going just fine until Jenny pulled on her pair of gloves.

When she pulled them on she discovered that the tip of one of the fingers had a hole in it. Personally, I would have just pulled on the glove and been on my merry way knowing that I would have a cold finger tip. I guess exposed body parts of any size are unacceptable to Jenny if the temperature is below 65 degrees. Like a true cycling MacGyver she took a look around the car and found a couple of options.

Option Number 1:
Jenny tried stuffing a cotton ball in the end of the finger with a hole in it. This looked a little funky but it was a great idea because it added more than enough protection from the wind. Since there was a chance of the cotton ball falling out this option didn’t pass the test. Option Failed!!

Option Number 2:
Since option #1 failed Jenny resorted to the other item she could find in the car. OK, I would have never thought of this. Jenny pulled out a Band-Aid from the first aid kit and put it on the tip of her finger. Then, she slid glove on her hand. This allowed her finger to be shielded from the wind. Here’s a picture of the MacGyver solution.

With this crisis solved we had a great ride. It was so nice to ride outside again. Here’s a short video clip of Jenny doing a functional test on her glove solution. As you can see, it worked out great and the threat of 50 degree frostbite was adverted. This solution gives me comfort that if we are ever stuck in a real blizzard Jenny will save us from doom with cotton balls and Band-Aids. She’s a keeper

On another note, I’m currently reading a new book written by Jill Homer. It’s about her participation in the Iditarod Trail Invitational. It’s a fascinating book about how she rode/pushed her bike through 350 miles of snow and terrible weather on this race. If you’re looking to give someone a great cycling book for Christmas you can’t go wrong with this one. Here’s a link where you can order one.

When I finish reading this book I’ll post a full review.

Friday, November 14, 2008

I Have a Theory

A couple of years ago Jenny and I were in our LBS getting a bike fit for our new bikes. The technician doing the bike fit mentioned that women typically don’t ever stand and pedal while they ride. I thought, no way, everyone stands and pedals it’s just part of riding a bike. Or is it? Over the years I’ve tried to watch for this and for the most part he was right! Women don’t stand and pedal even up tough hills. What’s up with this?

Last summer this theory was proven again as I watched the Olympic mountain bike races (on Canadian TV of course). The first night I watched the event was the women’s race. I noticed that all of them stayed in their saddles and ground up the steep switchbacks even as they passed each other. Very rarely did they get out of their seats and pedal.

The next night I watched the men’s mountain bike race on the exact same course and all of them were standing and pounding on their pedals up the same steep switchbacks. Of course there are men who only stay in the saddle and women who stand and pedal but for the most part this theory holds true.

So why the difference? If bikes had been around in Socrates time I’m sure he would have contemplated this situation at length and come up with a theory. Well, here are my theories.

Patience Factor
When I stand and pedal these days it’s because I’m running out of patience with sitting and grinding up a hill. My theory with hills is to sit and grind up hills until I just can’t stand it any longer then stand and mash pedals the rest of the way. It burns a lot of energy but it gets the whole climbing experience over with. A lot of the time I stand and pedal because I just don’t have the patience for sitting and spinning. I think women have a lot more patience for this.

Center of gravity
If you haven’t noticed men and women are built different. OK, I really hope you’ve noticed. Because of this their center of gravity is different. Could that make it more uncomfortable for women to stand and pedal? This is probably a weak theory but hey it could happen.

Boys grew up standing and pedaling
As a kid as soon as I learned how to ride a bike and had a little confidence I had one goal in mind. How far can I jump my bike and what kind of ramps can I build out of scrap wood in the backyard to jump my bike farther. Back then it wasn’t about riding distance but jumping distance. When you jump a bike you certainly don’t stay in your seat, at least not more than once if you know what I mean. Also, most boys grow up riding BMX bikes which are very small and don’t really lend themselves to sitting and pedaling. They scream to their riders “stand up and pedal so we can go fast”. Riding wheelies was also a right of passage as a boy. If you couldn’t ride a wheelie you just weren’t cool. You have to do this standing. Therefore, standing and pedaling quickly becomes a very natural thing for a boy who is looking to jump over anything and everything and ride wheelies in their neighborhood.

On the other hand Jenny can count the number of times she jumped her bike as a kid on, well..... no fingers. She can’t remember ever jumping her bike. The only time she ever remembers standing up and pedaling was when she had a friend on the back of her bike and they needed to get up a hill which probably wasn’t a very common occurrence.

The next time you are out on a group ride check this out. I think you’ll be surprised at what you see.

I’m sure there are tons of other theories out there and you probably have a great one of your own or maybe you totally disagree with me. If you’re brave enough to share your opinion I’d love to hear it

By the way, have a great weekend.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


Well, tonight I went for another trip on the hamster wheel. It’s been raining for the last week so I didn’t have much choice. The weather forecast is calling for some sun this weekend so there’s still some hope for an outside ride. Hope is a good thing.

When I ride on my trainer I’m quite the creature of habit. OK, I’m not a Rainman or anything but it’s nice to have things in order because once I’m riding I don’t like to get off for anything.

Here’s my setup.

Fans: Even in the winter riding on a trainer gets extremely hot so a set of fans blowing on me is a necessity. I’ve ridden without a fan before and I seriously thought my head was going to explode. That wouldn’t be a pretty sight so fans are a requirement.

Sweatshirt: I know, kind of weird since I just said that I ride with fans blowing on me. In the winter when I start out riding the fans are pretty cold so I start by wearing a sweatshirt. After 5 minutes or so I warm up and then the sweatshirt comes off. I must have a 5 degree comfort zone range. Anything out of this range and I’m either too hot or too cold. Strange but it works for me.

TV Remote: This is a must have in order to keep myself preoccupied. If I’m not interested in what’s on TV the clock seems to go backwards.

Cargo Shorts: I wear these over my cycling shorts because they have pockets on the side of the legs. Why is that important? To hold the all TV remote.

OK, now that I’ve reviewed my list again maybe I am a little like a cycling Rainman. Well, gotta go...... Of course, 5 minutes until Wapner, 5 minutes until Wapner.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Hamster Wheel

Last night I completed another stage in the Tour de Trainer. To provide myself some motivation I drank tons of water all day, avoided all cheese burgers, and lied to myself that it was really going to be fun. All in all I think it worked.

Trainer rides have got to be a close relation to Hamsters running on a Hamster wheel only I have access to a remote control and of course I have opposable thumbs. Last night I simultaneously watched football, the food network, and the movie Pearl Harbor. Guys typically don’t multitask but when it comes to watching TV that is one of our super powers.

After the ride was over I was glad that I had done it. More trainer rides to come this week as some major rain storms are forecasted all week. I’m looking forward to July 5th when the rainy season is over.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Tour de Trainer

Telling rain jokes in the Seattle area are almost sport this time of year. Here are a couple of my favorites

What do you call two days of solid rain followed by a day of sun? Monday!

A man come to Seattle for a business trip and after a week of enduring the constant rain he stops a 10 year old by on the street and asks him “does it ever stop raining here”?
The boy replies “how should I know mister I’m only 10 years old”.

As funny as these jokes are lately they are too true to be funny. It’s been raining here for what seems like weeks. So much so it has really limited riding opportunities. That being said this weekend I had to resort to riding in the house on the trainer. Not my favorite way to ride but a necessary evil if I want to work my way toward doing some hefty rides this upcoming spring and summer.

So last Saturday I bit the bullet and did some trainer riding while I watched some football on TV. It was good to get some riding in but the harsh reality set in that my fitness level has dropped off since the bad weather has set in. I’m really going to have to kick it into gear to get back into shape. Thus, another stage of the Tour de Trainer is going to happen tonight. I hope there’s something good on the tube to dull the boredom.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Simple Solutions

I work with a bunch of aerospace engineers in the Seattle area. You probably can’t guess where I work can you? I’m not an engineer by trade but I put plans together for them. To say the least they are an interesting group of people. Every now and then I actually learn something from them.

The other day I was in a meeting with a group of engineers and the guy sitting next to me was writing with a pen that was taped to another pen. One of the pens had blue ink and the other had red ink. They were taped in opposite directions so he could turn it over if he needed to use a difference color of ink. Honestly, it looked pretty weird but I’ve seen weirder things from this group before.

At the end of the meeting I turned to this engineer and told him that I had a pen at my desk that would change ink color with a simple click of a button and that I didn’t really use it that often so I would be glad to give it to him. I actually thought I’d was doing him a favor. He told me that he really liked his taped pen concept and he had used it for years. Then he proceeded to tell me this great story.

He said that years ago he was on a business trip to Florida to support a space launch. At the end of the project they were awarded pens that were developed by NASA that could write in zero gravity. Supposedly, NASA spent huge amounts of money in developing these pens so they could use them in space. After they had developed this wonder of a pen and started using them in space they made a remarkable discovery. They asked the Russians what they wrote with in space given that NASA had devised this brilliant writing solution. I’m sure they wanted to one up the Russians. It turns out that the Russians just used pencils. Duh!!!

I think our basic human nature is to always look for complex solutions to our problems when sometimes a simple obvious solution is staring us in the face. I'm not much of a bike commuter but could the use of bikes for transportation be one of those simple solutions? Now if they could just develop a bike heater for winter riding that would be great.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Strategic Cycling Fuel Reserves

Last week a new cycling season kicked off. This season is a close rival to the regular cycling season and could be just as important. I’m talking about the Strategic Cycling Fuel Reserves season. Some like to describe this season as the off season where you do less riding and more eating thus putting on a few pounds that will have to be ridden off during the spring and summer.

That’s way too harsh of a description though. I like to think of it more as a time where you store the fuel that you’ll need for those long rides in the summer. If you think about it this season is critical to your safety out on the road months from now. No one wants to run a calorie deficit on a long ride and not have a reserve handy as a back up. You just can’t skip this season.

I think I’ve just about got this season down to a science which is broken down into split phases.

Sugar Phase
This phase kicks off a day or so before Halloween. It’s important to remember to start off slowly and work your way up in order to avoid injury. A good way to do this is to start sneaking Halloween candy from the stash you plan on handing out to the Trick or Treaters. On Halloween you can increase your intake of candy by making sure you go through your kids bags to check for open wrappers and other diabolical things that could be done to the candy. Obviously, you will need to consume any questionable items to make sure no one else could hurt themselves on it. It’s just the right thing to do. It’s kind of funny how smarties and sugar babies always pass the parent inspection but the Twix and Peanut Butter cups have such a high rate of open wrappers. Coincidence? I don’t think so.

Pie Phase
The Pie phase is the most critical in your Stragegic Cycling Fuel Reserve season. Most people look forward to Thanksgiving for the turkey and stuffing. At our house it’s for the pie. In fact, every year the Saturday before Thanksgiving we have a neighborhood pie night at our house. Here’s the concept, invite everyone you know to your house and ask them to bring a pie. Basically, it’s a pie pot luck but casseroles aren’t allowed. Then grab a plate and start sampling. Some years we’ve had well over 100 people smash into our house for the gathering. Of course if you are the host of the party you don’t want to offend anyone by not trying their pie. Ahhh, good times. Even though it’s called Pie Night some people end up bringing cake and other non-pie items. This allows me to do Pie Intervals. The effectiveness of this training is amazing. The routine of pie intervals is “Pie, Cake, Pie, Repeat. This night builds up some serious reserves.

Chocolate, Pie, Cookie and Egg Nog Phase
This is the last phase of the season. As work winds down for the year the amount of goodies around the office tends to increase. As much as you try to resist it’s impossible to pass on the baked goods if you have to sit in your cube and smell them. To add to this phase, cookies, pies, and egg nog seem to multiply around the house. Not that this is a bad thing mind you. It just multiplies. It must all be eaten.

So as you enter this critical cycling season remember reserves are an important thing to have. I hope you enjoy the season, it should be a good one.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Creature of Habit

Let me just start by saying that when it comes to sports drinks I am certainly a creature of habit. If I’m going on a long ride where I need to worry about calorie intake my sports drink of choice is the classic lemon-lime Gatorade. I don’t stop there though, I always buy one large bottle which will fill up two bike bottles half way then top these bike bottles off the rest of the way with water. In my opinion this makes the perfect cycling beverage. Not too sweet but just enough flavor to encourage drinking which is exactly what I need. It’s also available everywhere so when you run out on a long ride it’s only a convenience store away.

The other thing you should know is I’m a sucker for free stuff. I really don’t care what it is if it’s free I’m there. With that being said the other day I saw an ad on the web for 5 free samples of a new sports drink. I just couldn’t pass that one up so I gave the minimum amount of personal information up and sent off my request. Usually it takes a couple of months for free samples to arrive if they arrive at all so I quickly forgot about it.

Last night when we got the mail there was a package for me. It was the sports drink samples and it took less than a week to arrive. I know, kind of weird. When I pulled out the samples everyone was mesmerized by the bright shiny packages that came out. There were three different flavors so immediately, the kids found the best sounding flavor and asked if they could try it.

They chose a great sounding flavor – Mangosteen. Just the sound of it made my mouth water. Mango’s and Steen combined into one flavor. OK, I really don’t know what Steen is but the Mango sounded great. Could it be that my old standard of Gatorade would be replaced? My mind was racing as my son got out a bike bottle and mixed it up.

After the Mangosteen concoction was mixed up we all poured some into small glasses to give it a taste test. Have you ever thought you were going to take a drink of seven-up only to find out you are drinking water instead? I had one of these experiences with Mangosteen. As I took my first sip I was expecting to taste a smooth mango taste but what I really tasted was the nasty taste of soap. Before I could say “Hey, this stuff tastes like soap!” one of my kids beat me to it. Jenny was talking to someone at the door while we did the taste testing but when she got back she gave the Mangosteen a whirl and said exactly the same thing. Could it be that Mangosteen is really another name for soap? Was the free sample actually for soap and not a sports drink? I checked the package and it was really a sports drink.

The most anyone drank of the Mangosteen was one sip except for me. For some reason I kept drinking my sample until it was all gone. I think I was hoping that it would magically transform itself into something that tasted good. No luck, it still tasted like soap.

My oldest son was at work last night for the taste testing so we pulled out the bike bottle from the fridge this morning just to see his reaction. This was going to be good. To my surprise he actually liked it! I don’t remember making him eat soap when he was younger if he said a bad word so I’m not sure where he acquired the taste. I guess we all have different tastes. He must prefer soap.

I didn’t say who made this Mangosteen because I’m sure a company worked really hard to get just the right concoction together. It just wasn’t for anyone in our family except for soap boy. For now I guess I’m still a creature of habit with the lemon-lime Gatorade. I’m staying!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Reasons Why I Cycle

I started wondering the other day why I like to cycle so much. I’ve been cycling regularly now for years and I just can’t get it off my mind. I think about riding all the time. When I’m out driving around I often look at hills and wince at how painful it would be to climb them and also day dream about what it would be like to descend them. I just can’t get cycling off of my mind.

There are tons of reasons why I like to ride but I’ve narrowed my list down to 5 major reasons. Here they are:

Cycling keeps me in shape
I’ve cycled since I was in college but a couple of years ago I had a blood test and failed it miserably. I used that as an incentive to really hit the training hard and get serious about getting in shape. I haven’t failed a blood test since. I also justify cycling as my own little health care plan. My thinking is for every ride or trainer session that I put in now that will be one more ride I’ll be able to take when I’m a lot older and retired. I’m really hoping that it works out this way.

Cycling allows me to set goals and achieve them
I’ve always tried to set small goals and work toward them but cycling has given me the chance to set major cycling goals and work for months toward them. It’s so rewarding to train for months for a specific ride and then accomplish it. This keeps me active and working toward something all the time.

Cycling makes me feel like a kid again
Every time I hop in my bike and make those first few pedal strokes I remember all over again the sensation of what it was like being a kid and riding a bike. There’s nothing quite like riding a bike other than maybe flying. When I’m out riding I also have the urge to yell “Wooooo-Whoooo” because I’m having such a good time. Some times I do but most of the time that just scares others so I keep it to myself.

Cycling is my version of an adventure
Going for a long bike ride to me is an adventure. Even if it’s on a route that I’ve been on hundreds of times before there is always something new to see at the speed of a bike. I don’t have to go to far away destinations to have these adventures either. A lot of times I just sit down at the computer, map out a route that looks rural and download it to my Garmin. Then the fun begins. Some routes are better than others but it’s always fun to go out on a cycling adventure.

Cycling is a good excuse to spend time with my buddy
This is by far the biggest reason I like to ride. Going for a bike ride with my best cycling buddy Jenny (my wife) makes all the difference. It’s a great time to catch up and spend time together. We’ve gone on really long rides and super short ones but they’ve always been fun. Except for that time Jenny broke her shoulder. That one, not so fun.

I’m sure you probably have your own list of why you like to ride such as saving money, saving the environment, etc. but I’m sticking with my five. I'm sticking with cycling!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Exclusive Cycling Club

If you own a pair of clipless pedals more than likely you are a member of a very exclusive club. People are not usually part of this club on purpose but by accident. I’m talking about the bruised pride club. Induction occurs usually when riders are getting used to using their clipless pedals. At first it seems very foreign to have your feet secured to your pedals while using clipless pedals but after a few minutes it starts to feel very natural. It also allows you to smooth out your pedal strokes and pedal in circles as opposed to focusing on the downward portion of the stroke. Clipless pedals are great and very easy to convert to until the first time you come to a stop and forget to unclip your feet. The act of falling over while both feet are clipped in takes less than a second unless you’re the one it’s happening to. Then, it feels like it takes minutes. On the way down a lot of things go through your mind like why aren’t my feet touching the ground, I hope this doesn’t hurt, and finally how am I going to do this and make it look like I fell on purpose. Trust me, getting up from one of these falls and saying “I meant to do that” doesn’t work. Don’t try this tactic.

For most people forgetting to unclip your feet at a stop only happens once. That is unless you’re a slow learner. My induction into the bruised pride club happened a couple of years ago on a ride while the kids were at a youth night for our church. As I was finishing up my ride I slowed down to make a left turn into a parking lot. As I looked over my shoulder for traffic I noticed there was a car approaching behind me. Since the car was going faster then I was I thought all I would need to do was slow down a little more and let the car pass me than I would be able to cross the street into the parking lot to pick up the kids. As I waited for the car to pass it didn’t. I looked over again and now the car was right beside me so I slowed down a little more to let it pass. I waited and waited and the car still didn’t pass me so I slowed down to almost a dead stop. As I was starting to wobble the car next to me laid on its horn which scared the pants off me and also prompted me to instinctively hit both of my brakes. I was now stopped but both of my feet were still hooked to their pedals. I struggled to get a foot loose but there was nothing I could do but to think about how stupid I probably looked. Luckily, I didn’t fall into traffic side of the road. Once I hit the ground the car beside me sped off and I imagined that the car full of people had a great laugh at my expense.

What I gained from this was a good scrape on my elbow and knee and a membership into one of the greatest clubs known to cycling. The bruised pride club. I’ve always remembered to unclip when stopping from then on but I still count myself to be in good company in this exclusive club. Are you a member?

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Yard Work Credits

Remember last week when I said doing yard work was going to hopefully gain me some bike riding credits in the future. Last Saturday I was able to cash in on those yard work credits.

As I prepared to go for a ride I looked at the temperature outside for some guidance on what to wear. Since it was only 47 degrees I decided to error on the side of more layers but I think I went a little overboard. For some reason it takes me at least 2 months of cold weather riding to really get in the groove of knowing what to wear.

As I headed down the hill from our house I was glad I had worn all of the layers because the wind in my face was very cold and I was riding in the shade. The downhill section from my house only lasts for all of 30 seconds though and then the 300 feet of climbing stares you right in the face. As I was standing and mashing pedals up the hill I noticed that the sun was now shining and that intense cold I had felt only a couple of minutes earlier was a very distant memory. I was cooking and wondering why the heck I had worn all of those layers.

Luckily, by the time I got over the first hill and things leveled off I rode back into the shade of the trees and all of my layers were tolerable again. There weren’t many people out so I was able to ride along and just enjoy the scenery. Since I needed to be back in a couple of hours in order to go to the Beavers/Husky football game I decided I would just ride out to this nice field with a park bench and turn around.

As I sat on the park bench drinking some water it was really nice to take a look around to enjoy what fall was doing to all of the trees. Even though most of the trees where we live are evergreen there is an occasional tree that turns colors. I like that.

The ride back home was nice but more people were out on the road by this time. All in all it was a nice ride and a very worth while use of my yard work credit. To round out a great day the Beavers beat the Huskies very easily and we all had a great time at the game. Good times. Go Beavs!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Bike Bottle Addiction?

All right let’s see 1, 2, 3, times 4 times 2 plus 2 more. That makes 26! Our family owns 26 bike bottles and some of you will agree and others will disagree but I don’t think we have enough. In fact, I don’t think you can ever have enough bike bottles.

My bike bottle collection started years ago when I bought my first road bike. It was a used Centurion I bought in grad school and it came with a free bike bottle. Back then I thought I’d never have a use for a bike bottle but I obviously didn’t know then what I know now.

Until 2006 we always had a small collection of bike bottles. Then, we found the holy grail of free bike bottles, The Seattle Bike Expo. This is a bike show held in the middle of March every year. It has a couple hundred booths and if you get there early enough on the first day a lot of the vendors are handing out free bike bottles. The first year we attended the expo Jenny looked at the 6 or 7 bike bottles that we came home with and said, “What are we going to do with all of those”? I assured her that they were a necessity and we had to keep them. She reluctantly agreed. Now she’s a believer.

In fact, Jenny has become quite the bike bottle connoisseur. She likes the bike bottles that are tall with the with the medium size lids. If I’m getting bike bottles ready before a ride I know these are her favorites but as a plan B she will use the tall ones with the large size lids. Under no circumstances will she ever use the ones that have the plastic nozzle. I was right, they are a necessity.

Our bike bottles use to be located in a large metal bowl down in the far reaches of a back cupboard. If you were to relate this to a neighborhood this would be the ghetto. Our bike bottles have really moved themselves up in the world over the years. They are now stacked neatly in the high rent district of our cupboard next to the microwave. I guess location is everything.

Every year that we’ve gone to the expo we come home with more bike bottles. To me it’s a lot like topping your personal best for a century or climbing that monstrous hill faster. Last year we topped our personal best for bike bottles at the expo and felt like it was a major accomplishment. Now, before all of the Pacific Northwesterners get ticked at me we actually use all of these bike bottles.

The obvious use for bike bottles is for rides and we definitely use tons of them for that purpose but other uses are almost unlimited. Here are some of my favorites.

The kids bring them to school in their lunches. That way they don’t fill up the landfills with plastic water bottles. Call it my version of being a tree hugger. I’m sure the kids are also the envy of all their classmates. I mean who doesn’t look cool drinking out of a bike bottle.

I bring a small bike bottle to work every morning filled with milk. I’m sure people see it hanging out of my backpack and think I’m using it on a lunchtime ride or something when in reality I use the milk for a bowl of granola while I sit at my desk.

Finally, I’ve never had to resort to using a bike bottle for this but the Fat Cyclist has used bike bottles for emergency situations.

For some reason our bike bottle supply never gets above 30 even though we end up acquiring them at different events and occasions all the time. There must be a mystical force that makes them vanish similar to the mystical force that makes socks disappear in the dryer every week. It’s either that or the kids don’t bring them home from school. I personally think it’s the mystical force.

I don’t have a bike bottle addiction, I really don’t. I’m sure I could quit acquiring them any time I want. I just don’t want to. That doesn’t sound like an addiction does it?

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Down With Yard Work!

Last Saturday was a nice crisp sunny fall day. Perfect for a bike ride. Rather than riding I spent most of the day working in the yard. Yuck!! For some people spending the day working in the yard is therapeutic and almost like a little slice of heaven. To me it reminds me of the ordeal of eating vegetables as a kid. You’ve got to do it but it’s not a pleasant experience. I have grown up a little since those kid vegetable days though. These days I only stomp around making faces for a couple of minutes before I give up and head out to do the yard work.

This last Saturday as I worked out in the yard mowing and hauling dirt I tried to think of the advantages of yard work over cycling. I seriously wracked my brains and could only come up with two advantages. Here they are:

  1. You don’t have to deal with hostel drivers shouting obscenities and throwing things at you while you’re carting dirt around the yard. That is unless you stole the dirt from your neighbors yard and he just caught you.
  2. Doing yard work scores major points with your wife which in turn builds up cycling trip credits for the spring and summer. (at least that’s what I’m hoping)

That’s my entire list. I just couldn’t come up with any other advantages of doing yard work over cycling.

On the other hand the list of advantages of cycling over yard work is almost unlimited. Here is a short list that came to mind. I’m sure there are thousands more.

  1. The harder you work cycling the more breeze you have in your face to cool you off. When doing yard work the harder you work is just that, harder work. No advantage.
  2. In cycling if you get tired you can coast and you still make progress toward your destination.
  3. If you don’t wear gloves while you ride your bike you don’t run the risk of getting blisters the size of Texas on your hands.
  4. If you get tired while you’re cycling and you’re riding with a buddy you can pull behind him to draft. I don’t know much about yard work but I’m pretty sure there aren’t any opportunities for drafting even if you’re following someone else with a wheelbarrow.
  5. If you take your wife on a great cycling adventure you score major points with her which in turn builds up cycling trip credits for the spring and summer.

I think I’ve just talked myself out of doing yard work for the rest of the year. It’s a good thing winter is coming.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

The Perfect Cycling Fuel

Years ago when Jenny and I went on our first long distance organized ride we overheard someone talking about his pre-ride meal. He very proudly told his riding buddy that he had a huge plate of spaghetti before the ride. I’m usually a big fan of spaghetti but he was telling his buddy this at 6:30 in the morning. I can honestly say I’ve never climbed out of bed in the morning and said “Boy, I’m starving I think I’ll start off the day with a big bowl of spaghetti”. Actually, I don’t think I ever will.

Back then I didn’t know much about good cycling nutrition but since then I’m discovered the perfect pre-ride cycling fuel. That’s right my favorite pre-ride meal is a Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwich! This might sound funny but here are my reasons why it’s the prefect pre-ride food.

  • A PB&J is full of the perfect blend of carbohydrates, protein, and youth.

  • This meal is portable so you can take it with you and eat it on your way to meet up with your buddies.

  • It’s relatively cheap when you compare it specialized cycling food.

  • It gives you a good case of PB&J breath which I’m sure your cycling buddies will all envy.

  • Most importantly it’s full of your daily recommended allowance of youth.

I don’t care who you are, riding a bike makes you feel like a kid again or at least it should so eating a PB&J before a ride doesn’t just taste magically delicious it also gets the youth juices going before you start turning those pedals.

You should be careful with what you combine your PB&J with though. If you were to eat a PB&J with an orange soda and follow it up with some pop rocks you would far exceed your daily allowance of youth. This might cause you to ride off of your trail spontaneously throwing rocks and catching frogs. Trust me your cycling buddies won’t like this.

If you’ve never tried a pre-ride PB&J you should give it a spin but be careful. They’re powerful!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

STP Day 2

I started day two of my trek to Portland a little later than I had the day earlier. The reason being was that Saturday was the official start of the STP so I would at some point be riding with the people who dared to ride the entire 204 miles in one day. Also, if I started a little later there would be rest stops open for me to enjoy along the way as well. This was a lot nicer than the day before when I had to keep a keen eye out for random outhouses in construction sites. Although, that was a nice challenge in its own way.

As I pedaled away from Centralia I couldn’t help but wonder if my body had recovered from the previous day of riding and if I was going to have to battle that horrible headwind again. To my pleasant surprise I wasn’t sore at all and there wasn’t a hint of a breeze anywhere. Bonus!

After a while I rode into a small town and had to wait at a train crossing for an oncoming train. As I waited, I made use of my time by switching water bottles and stretching a little. Along behind me came some older ladies that were out for a walk. As they noticed that I was riding a bike with a number on it they walked over to me in amazement. One of them said “There’s no way you have made it here from Seattle already, what time did you leave this morning? You’re nuts!!” When I told them that I had started a day early and I had actually started from Centralia theyboth looked relieved. That gave me something to laugh about for a while as I rode along.

The route on the second day into Portland was much nicer than the first day route because it follows a lot of deserted rural roads and there were actual rest stops that I could stop at to refill my water bottles and do “other things”.

The Worlds Largest Egg (amazing what you see out riding you bike)

After the first 5 miles or so I got into the groove of riding again and I was feeling really good. The only problem was I was really getting tired of riding alone. I brought along an iPod to listen to which was nice but that even got old after a while. I even resorted to listening to church talks while I rode which I must admit was nice to hear someone talking even if it wasn’t to me.

After 20 miles or so I started into the rolling hills that I had read about. From what I read, the rollers weren’t a problem at all and in most cases if you were fast enough going down the previous hill you could usually clear the next roller. I certainly didn’t see many of those kind of rollers on the hills I was riding. After the first couple of rollers I developed a plan of attack that worked for me though. As I approached each uphill section I sat and pedaled until either I lost patience with the slow pace or my back started hurting. Once either one of these conditions were met I would then stand and mash pedals up the rest of the hill until I got to the top. Then I would coast down the next hill and repeat. It was my version of Lather, Rinse, Repeat. The rolling hills lasted for a good 30 miles and man was I glad to be finished with them.

I was now 50 miles into the route for the day and I had yet to see another rider so the loneliness was really starting to get to me. At this point I learned one of the most valuable lessons that I would take away from the ride. As I rode along I looked over to my left and there was a group of people setting up an STP rest stop at an elementary school. I thought about stopping but I knew I would be meeting Jenny for lunch in another 10 miles or so. As I rode by this group they noticed that I was an STP rider and they all clapped and cheered for me as I rode by. I couldn’t believe how good it felt to have someone cheer for me. After riding alone for a solid day a half I almost started bawling because someone else noticed me. Those people who cheered for me probably didn’t think much of it but it sure gave me a boost. This is what I learned. Everyone deserves a good cheering section in whatever they are doing large or small. It’s just important.

After another 10 miles I met Jenny in a park at an official STP rest stop. It sure was nice to see her and spend some time with her. I was the first rider there so the helpers scrambled around to make me a sandwich. It wasn’t anything special but man did it taste great. I must have been suffering from powerbar overload. I even drank a banana flavored sports drink and liked it! Amazing what you’ll consume on a long ride.

The next landmark that I came to was the Longview bridge. For the STP riders that cross this bridge on Sunday it periodically closes down for them so they can all ride alone on it without cars. For the Saturday riders you’re on your own to ride on the side of the bridge while the logging trucks wiz by. It sounds pretty nuts but it wasn’t all that bad as long as you could dodge the wood chips on the side of the road left there from the logging trucks. Once you get to the other side of the bridge you are officially in the state of Oregon.

After I crossed into the state of Oregon and headed down highway 30 the first of many one day STP riders passed me. He didn’t just pass me he flew by me. This guy must have been in out of control shape because after 160 miles he passed me going at least 20 MPH. Pretty impressive. I can’t tell you how nice it was to have riders passing me. It normally bugs me to have people pass me but in this case it I didn’t mind it at all. At last other STP riders. I thought about joining a couple of pace lines but they were riding way to fast for me to hang on the back.

As I rode into Portland someone had spray painted on the street a huge sign. “You have officially ridden 200 miles, only 4 more to go” I couldn’t wipe the smile off of my face. The last 4 miles were through the city of Portland and into the park. As I entered the park there was a huge party for STP finishers and they announced my name as I crossed the finish line. What a relief, I had done it.

As I wondered around the park there were bikes lying all over the place. There were also a lot of 1 day riders lying on the grass asleep. I can’t imagine riding 204 miles in one day but if I ever did I would probably pass out in the middle of the park too. After I took a shower in one of the shower trucks that they have in the park Jenny and I grabbed some food and hung out for a while before heading home.

For me, this ride was a lonely but rewarding ride. I was very glad that I had completed it. I learned that with a lot of determination and perseverance I also learned that everyone needs a cheering section.

Jenny did a great job in her support vehicle role. She was always there too supply me with additional food, Gatorade, and moral support. She also drew on the side of our car a big picture of me riding my bike with the words below it. Go Mike! All while wearing a sling.

We are planning on riding the STP again in 2009 but hopefully this time with more people. If you’re interested in doing a Friday/Saturday STP let me know because we’d love to have the company.