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.