Sunday, August 31, 2008

Saturday Afternoon Ride

Yesterday morning I woke up with one goal in mind. Go for a ride of course! When I looked out the window it wasn’t raining but it looked awfully cool. You see we have been having October weather in August lately. The other night while Jenny and I were watching the weather report we noticed that the Seattle area was the coldest spot in the country. I mean a high of 61 in late August is not your typical weather.

So, after cleaning the kitchen, moping the floor, mowing the lawn, birthday shopping and going to a wedding reception I was ready to ride. Lucky for me the weather had gone from cool to rainy to sunny. By the time I got out for a ride it was sunny and in the low 60’s.

Since it was getting late and Jenny and I were planning on going on a date later I decided to only go for a short ride. The route I chose was to ride from our house then up 64th street, over to the centennial trail and down to Smoky Point and back. This is a pretty tough ride so it was prefect for a short trip.

Lately I have been doing a lot of weight lifting including an emphasis on the legs. I think this is really starting to pay off because I was able to make it up the hills a lot easier and my average speed for this route was up. I could really tell that my cardio is lacking though. After getting to the top of the first hill I stood at the light and was involuntarily gasping for air for at least a minute. I guess this is an area to work on.

All in all I was very pleased with the ride. My speed was up and I wasn’t completely wiped out by the end. Since tomorrow is Labor Day Jenny and I are hoping to get another ride in. Man I love holidays.

Distance: 16.75 Miles
Avg MPG: 14.1

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Cycling Conversations

If you have ever ridden a bike for any significant distance you’ve probably had a conversation with yourself. It’s really hard not to. When I ride, the conversations I have with myself can be put into one of five categories.

I have the most amazing arguments with myself when the ride gets tough. Most of the time the argument goes something like this.

Dang, my legs are really starting to get tired.
Just get over it you’ve still got 20 miles to go
Maybe someone I know will drive by and offer me a ride home
Yea, like that’s going to happen
OK, dumb thought. Must keep riding. This is fun remember

Pep talks
If I’m having a good cycling day for some reason I’m giving myself good pep talks. Such as:
Oh yeah, I just made it over the third hill and my legs are holding up pretty well today. I’ll have no problem with the rest of them at this rate. Now I remember why I ride.

This conversation usually begins way before I start riding. I start making up excuses why I can take the day off or go off of my training plan. The excuses range from really technical such as “I read in a book that your body needs recovery time and if it’s good enough for Lance Armstrong I need some time off too”. This actually works sometimes but most of the time I come back to my senses and ride anyway.

The other justification is a lot simpler such as should I ride today or take a nap? Ride or nap? Ride or nap? This one is a lot tougher for me because one of my super powers is the ability to fall asleep any time anywhere. Napping usually wins in this conversation.

When I road the STP in 2007 I bought a cool STP t-shirt the night before the ride. On day 1 when I really wanted to quit I had a justification conversation with myself to keep riding. The conversation was “hey man, you already bought the shirt if you quit now you’ll feel like a dork wearing it.” It’s amazing that a simple conversation like that could motivate me for 102 miles but it worked.

Once I’m riding for some reason I have these wild calculation conversations going on in my head most of the time. They are like those terrible distance times rate = time story problems that we learned in 6th grade but they never end.

They sound like “OK, I’m traveling at 15 MPH and I have 37 miles to go if I factor in 1 pit stop and three hilly sections what time do I estimate that I’ll get back home. Oh yeah, I’ll also need to factor in time to hook the bikes on the rack and driving time back to the house”.

And on and on it goes. To end this horrible math conversation I usually turn off my distance reading on my cycling computer. Without that figure I’m not smart enough to solve the equation anymore so I quit thinking about it. Conversation ended. Thank heavens.

I’ve often heard that riding a bike is equivalent to traveling at the speed of life. By that I mean you are able to see a lot of things on your journey by bike that you never would by car and you also have more time to think about these strange things. So these conversations usually go like this.

“Man that barn looks old. I wonder if I was even born when it was last painted. I wonder if they had to paint it all by brush back then. Who do you think painted it and how many owners do you think have owned it since it’s been painted.” This conversation could meander for hours and usually does if no one else is around.

Come to think of it I do have a lot of conversations with myself when I ride alone. I hope this is healthy. I should probably ride with others more often. At least I don’t have group conversations with myself when I ride alone.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The Princess Turns 9

Last nights ride wasn’t very uneventful. I didn’t get to riding until 8:30 so it was another inside trainer ride. I rode for an hour while Jenny and I watched a couple of episodes of the Gilmore Girls Season 3. I really struggled to make it an hour. I swear this should be getting easier but not so far. I guess I have that to look forward to. Pretty soon I’m going to start introducing intervals. I’m not looking forward to that.

On another note yesterday was Denise’s 9th birthday. She made out pretty well. She scored on all kinds of lute from Earrings to Barbies. This was right up Denise’s alley. Last night we also went out for dinner in celebration of Denise’s birthday to Cristianos. When we entered the restaurant I noticed that people were staring at Denise and pointing. I was wondering what the heck was going on then I took a look at her and instantly knew what all the fuss was about. She wore a tiara and a sequined scarf all day yesterday. Oh to be a 9 year old princess!

Because it was Denise’s birthday she got her very own bowl of ice cream. Of course we all helped ourselves to at least a spoonful but Denise got to enjoy the rest.

Denise also requested a beach scene birthday cake. When she told us all of the details of her cake requirements like must have waves and a beach with a mermaid I thought there was no way possible to make this cake.

Little did I know that Jenny had such cake decorating skills. Check this cake out. Just what Denise asked for.

Not too shabby. I think when my birthday rolls around I’ll request a Tour de France Alp D'huez cake with all of the switchbacks and fans lining the road. I can’t wait.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Blackberries, Blackberries and more Blackberries

The other day when I was out riding I noticed at least 5 or 6 other riders who had stopped by the side of the trail to pick some wild blackberries. I’m sure the nutritional content for a handful of these yummy berries is equivalent to at least a power bar and they taste a lot better. If you live and ride in the Pacific Northwest wild blackberries are one of the rewards for putting up with the constant rain for 8 months out of the year. They are everywhere this time of year and there for the picking.

Here is a recipe for blackberry cobbler that my family totally loves.

1 quart of blackberries
2 cups of brown sugar
2 cups of oats
2 cups of wheat flour
1 ½ stick of margarine or butter

Melt the butter
Mix the rest of the ingredients except for the blackberries in a large bowl with a wooden spoon.
Once it’s all mixed together take half of this mixture and spread it in the bottom of 13 X 9 glass dish (or something like this)
Now cover the mixture that you have put down with blackberries
Finally, take the rest of the mixture you have left in the bowl and spread it on top of the blackberries.

Bake at 350 for 20 minutes or until golden brown.

This cobbler is so good my friend from Tennessee would say it’s mother whipping good.

So the next time your out on a ride and you spot some blackberries grab a bunch of them and take them home. One warning though, take a plastic zip lock bag with you. Blackberries make a horrible mess in your jersey pocket.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Watermelon Ride

Yesterdays ride reminded me a lot of cutting open a big ripe watermelon and just eating the center. You know the sweetest part of the watermelon without any seeds.

To begin with the weather was a sunny 75 degrees with only a light breeze. Not too hot and not too cold. It doesn’t get much better than that. We also decided to take an easy route and drive over to the centennial trail and ride to Snohomish. By driving over to the centennial trail as opposed to riding there we skipped all of the nasty hills. In my mind this is equivalent to bypassing the seeds of the watermelon and going straight to the center.

We started off at the 84th Street entry point and rode over to Snohomish. This is a fairly flat trail with no cars and very few people on a Friday afternoon. Once we got into Snohomish we decided to stop in at a new burger joint there.

Now for the big decision. Do I go for the Root Beer Shake and break even on the calorie consumption/expenditure scale or should I be good and just refill my water bottles. I struggled with this tough decision for at least 3 seconds. You guessed it I went for the Root Beer Shake. It was pretty darn good. They even put whip cream on the top to boot. We sat outside in the sun while we drank them because it was just too nice of a day to stay inside. We sat there for a long time because it just felt so dang good we didn’t want to leave. Good times!

Showing off the goods

Enjoying the sun in downtown Snohomish

The ride back was leisurely to say the least. We got passed by 3 or 4 other riders. OK, this is the guy in me but I hate that. Anyway, it was a really nice ride on a really nice day.

Distance: 27 miles
Avg Speed: 13 mph
Cadence: 73

Friday, August 22, 2008

Mutual Night Trainer Ride

On Wednesday night all of the kids went their separate ways except for Denise. Since we wanted to get some riding in we went down to the Redbox and rented The Spiderwick Chronicles. This turned out to be a really good movie. It’s one of those movies that the kids and adults enjoy. Bonus! Since the better TV is downstairs, Jenny and I carried our bikes and trainers downstairs to ride. I must admit that it was a pain to drag our gear downstairs but it was great to ride on our tile floor watching the larger TV that is hooked up to the stereo.

The only thing that we forgot to bring down for our ride was our fans. I was fine for the first 20 minutes of the ride but after that boy did I get hot. In fact, there were times where I thought my head was going to explode. You know the feeling right? I was able to ride through it though and made it for my allotted hour ride.

These days I can ride my trainer for an hour but it’s still a bit of a struggle for me. I’m working toward riding fairly comfortable for an hour and then I’ll start adding interval rides to the mix. More to come on that.

So, two rides down for the week so far. I’m hoping to get outside for another ride this weekend. It will be nice to enjoy the out of doors. It feels like the outside riding opportunities are quickly slipping away from us again.

Duration: 1 hour
Distance: 15 miles

Thursday, August 21, 2008

My 2009 Cycling Goals

As the bulk of the cycling season comes to a close I’d like to make my grandiose plans known for 2009 to beat the holiday rush.

Before I unveil my BIG goal I’d like to review my 2008 cycling season accomplishments. I can summarize it all up in one word “Bummer”. At the beginning of the year Jenny and I had plans to ride the RSVP

That ride sold out before we could buy tickets. Plan B also fell through which was to ride the STP because of conflicts with EFY for the kids.

So 2008 has stepped along without a cycling commitment or plan. Soooo, the longest ride of this year has been a mere 40 miles. Enough of the whining from me because it’s my own fault.

Now for the 2009 goal! Jenny, Barry, and I along with anyone else who wants to ride with us are going to ride the 2009 STP next July. We plan on signing up for this ride in January as soon as sales open up in order to commit ourselves to train for it. This will be the 30th anniversary of the STP so why not ride in celebration. The ride is scheduled for July 11 - 12, 2009 which is a Saturday and Sunday. Because we have a commitment on Sunday we are planning on starting on Friday and then finishing up with the one day riders on Saturday.

Now that I’ve got the big goal announced here are my short range goals to get prepared for the STP.

On a weekly basis my goal is to ride at least three times a week. This will be mostly on a trainer as the weather gets wet and cold. If I’m using the trainer I plan on pounding away for an hour a piece including intervals twice a week. I also plan on doing some weight lifting in order to help with my hill climbing. Longer training rides will start in the spring when the weather gets warmer.

As a dress rehearsal for the STP, Jenny and I plan on riding the Flying Wheels Summer Century. This is a really tough ride. My goal is to make it the whole 100 miles this time.

I am really excited for 2009 cycling events.

A lot of my blog entries in the future will be talking about how my training is coming along in preparation for the STP. If it seems like I’m slacking off I give you permission to give me a hard time in order to get me back on track.

If you are interested in riding the STP with us please let me know because we’d love the company. 2009 is going to be a GREAT year.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

A Great Day at the Beach

Have you ever had one of those days where you say to yourself “dang, it just doesn’t get any better than this!”

Jenny and I had one of those days recently while we were in Florida. The day started out by sleeping in until we were good and ready to wake up. This just doesn’t happen enough these days. Then we got ready and made our way out of the condo and down to a bagel place for breakfast. We also picked up some sodas for our day on the beach on the way home.

A walk down the beach
Once we arrived home again we grabbed some towels and beach chairs and headed out to the beach. Our condo was situated right across the street from the beach so it’s just a short walk to get there. No need to pack up the car at all. If you ever get down to New Smyrna Beach, FL you should check out the condo we stayed at. Very comfortable, clean, affordable and a great location. (

Anyway, once we got down to the beach we dropped off all of our gear and decided to take a walk. We walked for quite a ways looking at all of the sights. The beach was very clean and the sand was incredibly fine. Where we live the sand is a lot coarser so walking on this sand was a treat. We were also surprised at all of the very dark tans that people had. Where live the sun doesn’t shine very often so a dark tan is very rare unless you are a tanning salon junkie. We ended up walking so far that both of our feet were hurting pretty good before we got back.

A great swim
Now that we were back where we started we decided to cool off in the water. I couldn’t believe how nice the water was. It was just slightly cool getting into but once you were in it was very comfortable. In fact, after paddling around for a couple of minutes there was no getting me out. This was the best water temperature I’ve ever felt in the ocean. Jenny and I took turns floating around on the boogie board that we had and just floating around on our own. After a while we started doing some body surfing with and without the boogie board. Good times! All in all we were in the water for a good 3 hours. That was the longest I’ve every stayed in ocean water ever.

A great conversation
After we were good and pruny from being in the water for so long we sat in our beach chairs and just soaked in the rays while doing some people watching. We ended up talking and talking and then talking some more. It was really nice to not be under any time pressures and to be able to do some catching up. We ended up talking for a couple of hours.

A “great” sunburn
We could have hung out on the beach for at least a couple of more hours but we could tell that we were getting burnt to a crisp so we reluctantly headed back to our condo. I haven’t had a sunburn like that for years but it was worth it.

After cleaning up a bit we headed out to end the day with some dinner. We had a great meal at JBs Fish Camp. This restaurant was billed as seafood with a southern flair. It lived up to its expectations. Good eats. After we ate we took a walk out on the pier that they had set up. All of the sudden I started to itch all over. I was worried that I might be having a reaction to the seafood but alas it was the mosquitoes. They were eating us alive. I’ve never been attacked like that before. We didn’t hang out too long there and thus this ended our day.

By far this was the best day I’ve ever spent on the beach.

Friday, August 15, 2008

What I learned about convertibles in Florida

Last week Jenny and I took a 20th anniversary trip out to Florida. This turned out to be more fun that I had every imagined. When we got to the rental car place they asked if we wanted to rent a convertible at no extra charge. After a loooong deliberation of at least .00001 seconds we jumped at the chance. I’ve never driven a convertible before. Here are some things that I learned.

Wind isn’t always your friend
After we exited rental car place we immediately pulled over and put the top down. Even though it was hot and humid outside cruising with the top down is the way to go. Man it was nice. I was driving and Jenny was navigating with a stack of papers in her possession which included a map to the condo and the access code to get us in. Once we got onto the freeway I noticed that the wind was throwing a couple of loose objects around in the back seat. In fact, one or two of these things flew out. Luckily, the items in the back seat weren’t important. When this happened Jenny made sure that she had a really good grip on our directions and access code. Wind is a really sneaky thing. Even though Jenny had a really tight grip on those papers, out they came and down the freeway they went. We both looked at each other in disbelief for what had just happened. There was no turning back for the papers so after a minute or two of panic Jenny started to make some phone calls. One to Barry who got the directions for us on the web. The other to Eileen for additional instructions. This turned out really nice because Jenny was able to visit with Eileen while we drove. They hadn’t spoken in years so it was nice for them to catch up. Lesson learned, if you want things to stay put in a convertible you need to bolt them down or at least duct tape them.

Sunscreen, Freeways, and Convertibles don’t mix
On our second day in Florida we decided we would spend the day at Disney World. This was about an hour and a half drive. Before we left we put on our sunscreen because we are from Washington State thus we never see the sun for longer than 20 minute bursts at a time. Of course we decided to drive with the top down because it was warm, sunny, and most importantly it was the cool thing to do. We cruised down the freeway in style with the top down but after 45 minutes or so I noticed that my eyes were starting to water from the constant wind in my face. Normally this wouldn’t have been a problem but I also had sunscreen on my face. If you haven’t had sunscreen in your eyes before it’s not a pleasant feeling. In fact, it’s very similar to getting a good dose of shampoo in your eyes while in the shower except there’s not water handy to wash it out. Anyway, the last 20 minutes of the drive it was getting so bad that I was having a hard time seeing. Of course we didn’t stop to put the top up. We were being ultra cool driving around with the top down. I didn’t want something like eyesight to get in the way of that. Lesson learned, put sunscreen on after you get to your destination.

Driving around with a convertible is way cool if you can follow some simple rules. If we lived in a warmer climate I would love to have one so I could do more cruising with my favorite navigator.

Jenny enjoying the breeze

Mike doing some cruising

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Farm Animal Observations

While we were on vacation we attended a Perkins family reunion in the gem state of Idaho (que the Idaho State Song). We stayed in a great cabin in the hills overlooking Clifton Idaho. I think the population of Clifton is about 250.

The farm animals far outnumber the people in the area around the cabin for miles around. Having lived in the city all of my life I don’t profess to know much about farm animals. While we were at the cabin I made a few observations about farm animals which I’m sure is common knowledge to people from rural America but was a surprise to me. Here we go.

Cows aren’t sun worshipers
I knew there were tons of cows in the hills around the cabin but during the day you couldn’t see many for some reason. I asked my father in law and he said the cows all huddle in the shade of the trees during the heat of the day and probably sleep. Then in the evening they come out to graze when it has cooled off. I guess I would do the same if I had a thick leather coat on in 90 degree weather. This totally blew my vision of the California cows basking in the sunshine like they advertise on the radio. Maybe Idaho cows are different than California cows. I can only hope.

There’s a queen bee among cows that call all of the shots
Just like there is a queen bee in every hive that calls the shots so it is with cows. One morning Jenny and I got up early to take some pictures of the sunrise. When we walked down the dirt road to get some shots of the cabin in the new sun we ran into some heat fearing cows. They were coming down from a nearby hill where they had been grazing most of the night. As the sun was starting to come out they were heading for the shade of the trees for the day. We heard one of the cows making this terribly painful mooing sound. This was the queen bee cow. Once she saw that there were humans coming her way she increased the volume of her moos to call all of the cows down from the hill and into the safety of the trees. It was like she was yelling….. “Ned come down from that hill and get into these trees before the humans get here. Don’t make me come up there or you’ll be sorry”. She continued this painful sounding moo until all of the cows were safely in the trees. It was like a cow version of a control freak soccer mom. I guess cows can’t live in peace either.

Sheep aren’t loaners
While Jenny and I were out observing the cows coming home to the shade of the trees for the day we saw one lone sheep wander down from the hills with the cows. As far as the eye could see there weren’t any other sheep around. This lone sheep followed the screeching moos of the queen bee cow and followed the rest of the heard into the trees for the day. I thought this was quite strange but my father in law said that sheep have a high need to be with a herd of some sort. I guess this sheep felt pretty comfortable hanging out with the Idaho cow gang for some reason. Hence the saying “Another pathetic sheep following the herd”. Sheep aren’t loaners.

Calves are pretty nimble
On the drive up to the cabin you have to drive for a couple of miles over gravel and dirt roads. The only life you see on the way there are cows and more cows. Occasionally, you will turn a corner and there will be cows standing right in the middle of the road. Obviously, these cows are used to cars coming by once in a while because if you drive up behind them they will saunter off of the road and out of your way. Cows aren’t very fast animals. On our drive up to the cabin we encountered some cows that had some calves with them. As the cows sauntered out of our way one of the calves ran beside our car and like a graceful gazelle leapt between two barbwire rows of a fence. I was shocked that any form of a cow could be so nimble. I’m sure over time with a lot of hanging out in the shade of the trees and standing around all night eating like they are at a Chuck-A-Rama buffet calves make the transformation from graceful to slow and round.

So in my estimation, if cows would spend more time in the sun playing cow games such as kick the salt lick and spend less time grazing they would be a lot more nimble and graceful. I’m glad they don’t because I still occasionally enjoy a good marbled steak.

Keep up the good work cows.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Bakery Ride

On Friday afternoon after we arrived on Lopez Island and set up camp Mike and I rode over to the best bakery in all of the San Juan islands. Holly B’s Bakery.

The ride was short but very scenic. On our exit from the campground we spotted a bald eagle flying around in a field right in front of us. It really is amazing how wide their wing spans are.

It was a 4 mile trip over to the bakery through some less traveled roads, up over a hill and down to the Lopez Village.

Once we arrived at the village I knew just where the bakery was located because Jenny and I have been there a lot in the past. If you are ever on Lopez Island you have to make it a point to stop in at Holly B’s Bakery. It’s simply the best.

I got a cheese cake square with local raspberries. It was really good. In fact, I was wishing I had two or three more but I resisted. After we made our purchase we sat out on the chairs outside of the bakery and did some serious people watching while we relaxed. There is a definite difference between the locals and the tourists. After sitting there for a half an hour or so we decided that we should get back to the camp. I hated to leave but I knew that we should.

The ride back was equally scenic except the bald eagle had left.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Mt. Constitution Ride

Two Thursdays ago 6 of us rode up Mt. Constitution as an optional ride on the High Adventure. I had done some research for this ride before hand and had heard some horror stories about how steep it was so I was really second guessing myself if I could really make it or not.

Before we started I decided if I was going to make it I would have to ride like I was one of the slowski’s. You know those DSL turtles.

As we started out I immediately took the rear and shifted down into my lowest gear. I kept up with the rest of the riders but I was definitely trying to conserve energy. All of the reports I had read were right. This ride was really steep and unrelenting. Fortunately, it wasn’t impossible. We ended up taking a lot of breaks along the way. Every now and then we would ride up to a switch back and around the corner would pop out an amazing view. These were great areas to stop for a break.

As we pushed on I started to get a little jittery. I was in the middle of the riders by now so I sped up a little and then pulled over and sucked down a chocolate gel really quick. It tasted really good but a little thick so I chased it down with some water. That did the trick and I was ready to ride again when the rest of the riders caught up to me again. Jeff and I dropped to the back and pushed on. Toward the top of the mountain the climb seemed to level off. After riding up a 17% grade hill when it levels to 6 or 7% this seems like heaven. Jeff and I had recovered enough to ride side by side and have a conversation. We talked about a book I was reading about Neil Peart riding his BMW 1200 across the country during a 2004 Rush Tour. Jeff seemed to know a lot about BMW motorcycles as he rides a motorcycle himself.

After a couple of more switchbacks we reached the top of Mt. Constitution. I was very happy and kind of surprised that I had made it. At the top of the mountain there is an observation tower you can climb up. Once up there you can see all of the other islands that make up the San Juan’s, Mt. Baker and Victoria Island in BC Canada. It’s quite a sight to see.

After wandering around the top for a while we started our descent. All of the work that we had put into our climb was now paying off. Since we were flying down the hill faster than cars could travel we were able to take up the middle of the lane. At some sections of the descent I had to slam down pretty hard on my brakes because of the tight hairpin turns. It wasn’t as bad as I had read about though. The descent was a blast. It took us 55 minutes of riding to get to the top of the mountain but only 10 minutes to descend the mountain. It was the most fun I’ve ever had flying down a mountain. At the bottom, the road straightens out so we were able to really let loose and gain some speed.

We were having so much fun we went right passed our campground exit and had to backtrack to get back to our camp.

All in all I was really happy that I made this ride and I would do it again. It wasn’t as bad as everyone says.