Friday, January 30, 2009

It's Not Easy Being a Loser

Since the beginning of the year I’ve been trying to take my training more serious because I’m planning on doing some epic rides this spring and summer. In addition to inside trainer rides and an occasional outside ride when there isn’t a threat of frostbite I’ve also been trying to eat better.

I actually haven’t had a single donut since the beginning of the year which is quite an accomplishment. I’ve become so serious about my diet I’ve even started eating green food such as salad. This is a major step for me because I’ve always felt that vegetables especially the green ones have poisonous properties and the only reason people eat them is the result of successful government propaganda campaign. OK not really, they just don’t taste very good to me.

Anyway, in order to provide some motivation in the eating better and losing weight area Jenny and I have challenged each other to a weekly contest. Here’s how it works. The person who loses the most weight for the week gets a REALLY BIG PRIZE from the loser. The weigh in is first thing Friday morning with your weight being written on the bathroom mirror so you get to stare at it all week.

When I say really big prize I mean a really big prize. Here’s an example. This week the really big prize is the loser has to pay for a DVD rental at Redbox. If you’ve never seen a Redbox before it’s a DVD dispensing machine usually sitting in front of the grocery store. The cool thing about Redbox is you can rent a DVD for a dollar a day. So this week’s loser is going to be out a whopping dollar. An additional incentive is the movie is then picked by the winner.

This morning was the big weigh in for the week and it turns out that I was the big winner. I rode like a crazy man and ate as much rabbit food as I could stand and it turns out I lost an entire pound. If it were last week Jenny would have whipped me but I caught her on an off week.

Given the fact that I won means I get to keep my streak in tact of not seeing Mama Mia. What a relief! I think that threat was the biggest motivator of all.

We haven’t decided what the prize will be next week but I’m sure it will be equally as good as this weeks. Maybe even a trip to Mecca for a Coke Zero.

It’s good to be a loser, I mean winner.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

My Perfect Riding Shorts

I, like most people have some favorite clothes. I’ve already told you about my thing for tie-dye shirts. Well, the article of clothing that is one of my favorite pieces of cycling attire is a very comfortable pair of camouflage shorts.

Years ago when I started to get serious about cycling I posted a question on a cycling forum in our area about what types of clothing I would want to wear in preparation for my first century. Almost everyone came back with a response that cycling shorts where not only a nice to have but a necessity. A couple of wise souls also added that if I was uncomfortable sporting the lycra look that it was acceptable to wear some shorts over top of them. That way I could ease into wearing cycling shorts in public. I took this advice at the time and bought some pearl izumi cycling shorts (which are super comfortable by the way) then dug through my closet to find the perfect pair of shorts to wear over my cycling shorts. Given the fact that I only owned one pair of shorts at the time this was an easy choice.

Sporting the Camo's on the STP

So, the camouflage shorts became my cycling shorts of choice and I’ve stuck with them ever since. Here are some reasons that I like them so much.

They randomly shrink and stretch
I got these shorts for one of my 29th birthdays (I’ve had many of them) so I’ve been wearing them for years. Through the years they seem to go from fitting perfectly to fitting fairly snug and on occasion they are even baggy on me. I’m not really sure how this happens because I’m quite sure that I’ve always maintained the same body size all of this time. This leads me to believe that these miracle shorts randomly shrink and stretch.

They don’t chafe my knees
These shorts are the perfect length.
They are long enough to cover my bike shorts but they are short enough that they don’t rub on my knees as I ride. If they were any longer I would have to apply chamois butter to my knees and that would be just plain wrong.

More pockets
Because they have pockets on the sides I’m able to carry extra gear when necessary.
They are perfect for a gel or two, cliff bar, or the remote control when I ride inside on the trainer. You’re probably wondering why I would wear shorts over my cycling shorts inside. If you saw the look my kids give me when I don’t wear shorts over my cycling shorts you probably would wear them too. I can tell they want to shield their eyes like superman does to kryptonite but they resist.

Creates a great illusion
Finally, since my shorts are camouflage they tend to blend into the scenery.
On multiple occasions I’ve heard people say, “Hey look, Mike’s not wearing any shorts”. I guess my shorts are good for a laugh. I’m game.

The other day I found a 2 inch tear in my beloved camouflage shorts. I guess after thousands of miles of riding with them on it was bound to happen. If I weren’t wearing cycling shorts under them I would probably have to get rid of them. Lucky for me I always wear my pearl izumi’s with them so I’m thinking there’s probably years of wear left in them.

I guess the ultimate plan of working my way away from the camouflage shorts into just cycling shorts is taking a little longer than expected. Some day I may be a full fledged cyclist proudly sporting my cycling shorts as I fly down the road but for now if you see someone in the Seattle area wearing some really beat up camouflage shorts with a hole in them be sure to say hi.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Before and After

A couple of weeks Jenny and I rode our bikes over the Snohomish to check out some recent flooding. At the time I shared some of these devastating flood pictures with you. A week later I rode out to the same location and took some pictures of the same area. It's amazing how quickly how the flood waters receded. Where the heck did all of the water go? You can hardly tell that there was a flood in the area a week earlier.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

A Case of Cold Feet

Yesterday Jenny and I went for another bike ride over to Snohomish. This time we planned on adding some additional mileage and hills to our ride for training purposes. This week it’s been cold and dry in our area so extra layers have been in order. As we got ready for the ride I put on enough layers for a ride in the upper 30 degree range, pumped tires, filled bike bottles, put the rack on the car and packed the bikes. These are my normal riding duties.

The one thing I forgot to do before we left was check the thermometer. Big Mistake! About half way to our destination I looked up at the temperature reading in our car and it said 27 degrees. I really didn’t panic because it was only 10 lower than I had dressed for so I thought I would probably be all right.

As we started our ride I really wasn’t all that cold except for my fingers but after a couple of minutes they were hurting pretty good. I tried to do my old standby trick of hiding my fingers behind the drops of my handlebars but it didn’t work. Thankfully, Jenny had worn her Cookie Monster gloves so her fingers were toasty warm and she had a spare pair in her seat wedge. She let me use her spare gloves and I slipped them over the two pairs I already had on. That did the trick and I was in business. If you’re wondering what Cookie Monster gloves look like here’s a shot of them. Don’t they look like something Cookie Monster would wear?

It’s interesting how people get cold in different ways. When I’m cold the first thing to get cold are my hands. When Jenny gets cold she always battles cold feet. This makes for interesting car rides switching the heat from the floor to the vents. Luckily, we also have a setting where the heat comes out both of these areas.

Since my cold issues were now solved it was time for Jenny to get cold. You guessed it. Her feet were cold. I had worn some heavy socks for the ride but Jenny only opted to only wear two pairs of fairly thin socks. Not sure what she was thinking. As we rode along her complaining of cold feet started as a small mention and got increasingly louder and louder. I guess her complaining was warranted since by this point in the ride our water bottles had frozen. The only thing I could think of to help her was offer to exchange my thick socks for a pair of her thin ones. I didn’t think she would go for it but when I offered this up she jumped at the chance. So, the next park bench we came to we stopped and switched socks. Honestly, it felt kind of weird sitting on a park bench exchanging socks but luckily it was so cold no one was around.

With the great sock exchange now complete we headed back out for Snohomish. You see we were on a mission. The Snohomish Bakery sells some great muffins and both of us wanted one even if it meant a mild case of frost bite. The rest of the ride I let Jenny draft off of me and she said it was a lot warmer to be out of the breeze.

I must admit it was really nice to walk into a warm bakery. We made our order and Jenny and I sat down at a table. Jenny took her shoes off in hopes that her toes would thaw out. It took quite a while for Jenny’s toes to warm up and she said it was really painful. I guess her toes really were cold.

What happened next reminded me of a cyclist pulling off the road and letting their team car pick them up in the Tour de France or Roberto Doran uttering No Mas when he just couldn’t fight any more. I offered to ride back to the car alone then drive over to pick Jenny up and she reluctantly agreed. I don’t think Jenny was happy about this situation but I’m sure she was relieved that she didn’t have to go back out into the cold.

Lessons Learned:
Mike needs to wear bigger gloves on cold rides
Jenny needs to wear thick socks stuffed with hand warmers on cold rides
Always look at the outside temperature before you ride
Baked goods from the Snohomish Bakery are good enough to risk a little frost bite for.

Temp 27 degrees
Mileage 36 miles

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Adventures in Bike Commuting

On Monday I learned that I had an all day meeting at work that would be getting over late. OK, where I work 4PM is a really late meeting. Since Tuesday is a normal carpool day and we normally leave quite a bit earlier than 4 this put me in a bind. How was I going to get home? Solution: ride my bike home.

I’m not much of a bike commuter because I live 20 miles from where I work and making the trek both ways just seems like too much of a good thing. On occasion I’ve talked one of my carpool buddies into throwing my bike in the back of his truck on the way to work. That way I only have to ride one way and I don’t have to figure out how to take a shower before I start working.

Well, on Monday night I packed all of my gear up in a bag and included a bike lock so I could secure my bike at work. Being the smart guy that I am I left the key in the lock so it would be right there once I got my bike to work. It’s good to have a plan.

Everything was working as planned. I put my bike in the back of my buddy’s truck along with a bag of my riding gear. Then I listened to my carpool buddies give me a hard time about riding home from work. It was like I was riding to work with two Eeyores. You know, “you’ll never make it”, “it’ll never work”. I tried to tell them that 20 miles was really doable and a fairly easy ride. What a bunch of rookies.

Once I got to work I pulled my bike from the back of the truck and wheeled into my building. My plan was to park it under the stairs and lock it to a sprinkler pipe. My well thought out plan was working great until I looked down at my lock and the key was no where to be found. I searched around the parking lot and the back of the truck, no key! Oh crud, what was I going to do. In a move of desperation I ended up looping the lock around the end of the pipe and sliding it up as far as it would go.

This didn’t secure my bike but it gave the illusion that it was locked up. Lucky for me, since my bike was parking under the stairs no one could see my bike anyway. This doesn’t mean I wasn’t a nervous wreck all day though. I went down to check on it a number of times and every time I went down it was still there. What a relief. Here’s some pictures of my bike and the lock illusion.

The ride home was a tough one with many hills but it was just what I needed. I even got to use my new light as I got home after dark. I still have the lock wrapped around my top tube though without a key to unlock it. I’m thinking my options are:

Cut off the lock

Keep looking for the key

Keep the lock on my top tube and amaze my friends with the bike lock illusion trick every chance I get.

I’m thinking I’ll look around for the key for a couple of days and if it doesn’t show up the lock with have a rude encounter with my hack saw.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Light Review and Super Heros

The other night I went for a short ride on the Centennial Trail to test out my new bike flash light. I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised at how well it worked. It lit up the whole trail. My light was a lot like having a head light for a car strapped to my head only not as heavy.

I was the only one on the trail because it closes after dark so the ride was really quiet and peaceful. That is until I looked up and there were a couple of deer standing in front of me. I know that deer don’t normally attack people but looking up and seeing them right in front of me really freaked me out.

Other than my deer incident my night ride was great.

On another note, the other day I referred to gaining a superpower from my father. I guess I’ve also been handing down superpowers to my kids without knowing it. Friday was superhero day at my daughter’s school. Here is a picture of her before she left for school in her true identity. I’m not sure what her superpowers are at this point but her supersuit it way cool. She's also a smart superhero. No capes!!!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Let There Be Light

To start things off I need to tell you of another one of my super powers. This one I believe was handed down from my father like from Jorel (Superman’s Father) to Superman. My super power is the ability to be a tightwad. You might not think this is a superpower but on occasion I’ve even been known stretch dollar bills to their limit without breaking them in the smallest of purchases.

Last summer I went on a number of rides that ended up being races against the sun in order to get home before it got dark. Although it’s always fun riding my bike I really don’t like getting caught on a dark trail not being able to see. That really messes up your average miles per hour stats. In all my years of riding a bike I’ve never owned a bike light.

I’ve always put off getting a light for my bike because I just couldn’t justify spending ~$150 for something I would only use occasionally. A couple of months ago I ran across one of the most brilliant blog posts I’ve ever read. It explained where to find a cheap, super bright flashlight and how to hook it up to your helmet without springing for an expensive attachment device. Here’s the original blog post I’m referring to.

Well, using my tightwad superpowers I put off making this purchase until I had some stray money lying around. OK, there’s virtually never any stray money around our house but as luck would have it I got some money from my parents for Christmas. This being the case I struck while the iron was hot and ordered this Flashlight via the web on Christmas night. Obviously, the stray money wasn’t safe for long.

It turns out that the flashlight, batteries, and charger actually came from Hong Kong so it took a couple of weeks to arrive. Last week as I was vacuuming out one of our cars the mail carrier walked up to me and asked me to sign for a package. Once I figured out what was in the package I wanted to give him a hug but I resisted. Let’s just say I was pretty darn excited to check out my new light.

I was really surprised to see how small the flashlight really was. Here’s a shot of it in my hand.

I was also thinking that the batteries were AA size but they are quite a bit larger than AA. Here’s a shot of the battery.

When I put the flashlight together and turned it on it seemed pretty bright but it was hard to tell since I was standing inside our house during the day. So I did what any flashlight novice would do. I quickly shined it in my eyes to see how powerful it was. That’s something I’ll never do again. Holy Cow, I saw stars for a good 10 minutes and I got an immediate headache. Yep, it passed the brightness test. I looked online and the flashlight is rated at 230 lumens. I really don’t know what the heck a lumen is but 230 is about enough to blind you.

Next for the mounting. Kanyon Kris had a brilliant idea on how to mount the flashlight to a helmet and what makes it so cool is the attachment device didn’t cost anything. He must have superpowers also. All you do is take a LiveStrong type wrist band (we’ve got tons of those around the house) and loop it through the holes in your helmet. Then, use the ends of the wrist band to connect the flashlight. Here’s what the attachment looks like. This attachment is so simple even I could figure out how to do it on my first attempt.

I haven’t gone for a ride with this new light yet but I’ll let you know when I do. So, if you’ve got the tightwad super power like I do you might want to check out this light. The whole set up cost me $40 for the flashlight, rechargeable batteries, and battery charger. I plan on packing this light in my seat wedge pack this summer for night rides just in case I lose track of time and find my self far from home in the dark. No more races against the sun for me.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Tour de Flood

Last week it rained and rained and when you thought it was just about time for it to quit raining it rained some more. Since it rained so much and the temperatures were somewhat warm (50 degrees) our area sustained some flooding. Usually, the flooding isn’t much at all but this time around our area took a beating.

I had the day off on Friday so Jenny and I decided to ride over to Snohomish to check out the flooding.

On our way there we stopped at Lake Cassidy to snap this photo of the dock because I’ve taken picture from there before. Usually I can ride out to the end of the dock but nothing doing this time, it was flooded. As I rode out on the dock I didn’t notice that it was iced over so when I put on my front brake my wheel locked up. Luckily, I was able to put my feet down quickly before I fell into the lake.

The rest of the ride into Snohomish was uneventful but it was really nice to ride outside for a change. In fact, it was the first outdoor riding I had done this year. When we got to Snohomish we immediately saw that there were a number of roads closed. Because we were on bikes we were able to ride through road closure barricades to get a closer look. The flooding was pretty devastating but luckily there weren’t that many houses affected. I guess most people are smart enough to build their houses on a little elevation. Here are some pictures that we snapped of the flood.

Before we headed home we stopped at a bakery for a muffin and a cookie. I don’t know about you but I’ll take baked goods over power bars and shot blocks any day. So the first ride of the year is now in the books. One down, many more to come.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

12 Hours in Photos

I've always been a fan of the Blog 12 Hours in Photos. I think it's a great concept in documenting a day in your life told through pictures. Yesterday I had the day off so I thought I'd give the 12 Hours in photos a try.

6AM: Fixing breakfast for the High School Kids

7AM: Leaving for Junior High

8AM: Leaving for Elementary School

9AM: Bikes taking a break on the way to Snohomish

10AM: Checking out the flooding in Snohomish

11AM: On the ride back home

12PM: Getting ready for Elementary School Christmas Concert in January (Makeup because of snow day)

1PM: The big Christmas Concert

2PM: Taking a nap (one of my superpowers)

3PM: Jenny playing some piano

4PM: Stopping for a bite to eat before a movie

5PM: Marley and Me (good movie!!)

Monday, January 5, 2009

Stickin to the plan

Yesterday was my first day back to work in 2009 so thus ended the cycling fuel reserve season and kicked off the beginning of the winter training season. Since I’m trying to work off the fuel reserves now my diet has gone back to normal. Sad to say but I no longer roam the building at work looking for stray donuts without owners.

I started the day off with a bowl of granola for breakfast then ate a banana, apple, orange, and turkey (with jalapeños) sandwich throughout the rest of my work day. That’s right, no donuts, cookies or candy bars. I even managed to drink 88 oz of water during the day. Word of caution, if you drink this much water at the office you need to take a look at your meeting schedule before hand. For someone who put plans and schedules together for a living you would think I would figure this out but I guess not.

I was really feeling good about the start of the winter training season until after dinner when Jenny pulled out her world famous Cheese Cake from the refrigerator. This wasn’t your ordinary run of the mill cheese cake, this cheese cake was made from a recipe of my deceased Aunt Martha. My Aunt Martha puts Martha Stuart to shame when it comes to recipes. One bite of this Cheese Cake and you’ll be hooked for life. If I didn’t know better I would swear that this cheese cake has the same addictive properties as crack cocaine. It’s just that good.

Here’s the dilemma, do I eat a piece of the Cheese Cake and risk pushing the rest of the family aside as I single handedly eat the balance of the Cheese Cake or do I take a pass? Take a look at this, what would you do…….

I decided to test my will and asked for a small piece. Jenny was nice enough to even give me the coveted family threek (3 pronged fork) to eat it with. When I polished off my piece of yummy goodness I was ready to put the hurt on the rest of the Cheese Cake but I somehow resisted. Multiple kids asked for a second piece but Jenny told them no and put the rest in the fridge. I’m sure she was worried about Cheese Cake addiction.

After the kids went to bed I did some riding on the trainer so I’m thinking I broke even for the day. I’m really hoping the kids ate the rest of the Cheese Cake for breakfast because when I get home I’m going to do some damage to that Cheese Cake if it’s still there.

Saturday, January 3, 2009


Every year when the new year rolls around I wonder what the new year will bring. Will I still be employed at the end of the year? Where will my oldest son live? Will my responsibilities at church still be the same? How many miles will I log on my bike? It’s always interesting to think where life will take you. In regards to cycling there are a lot of things that I’m really excited about in 2009. Here’s my list:

This year Jenny, my oldest son, and I are planning on riding the Seattle to Portland ride. I’ve talked about this ride before. Basically, it’s a back to back century on consecutive days in July that takes you from Seattle to Portland. My brother has consented to ride with us as well. I’m also looking to recruit others to ride with us as well because:
A) the more the merrier
B) misery loves company
C) more people to draft off of
D) all of the above

If you’re interested let me know. (Rob and Jolyn – Hint, Hint)

Training for the STP
We will be registering for the STP early this year. Not because I’m overly organized or I like low bib numbers (people actually care about that – go figure) but because the second we register for an event I become obsessed with the need to train for it. This is really the fun part. I’m actually getting excited just thinking about the training rides. I’m looking forward to:
* Watered down Gatorade
* Cookies N Crème or Chocolate Power bars on a deserted road
* Riding by stray construction sites and spotting a much needed porta potty (you’d have to be there)
* Chamois Butter - This would get my vote as the eighth wonder of the world.
* Pre-Ride PB&Js – No matter how old you are these are just magically delicious.
* Getting a world class farmers tan on my arms and a matching tan from my lower ankles to just above my knees.
* Enjoying a draft after doing a good pull
* Post ride recovery drink of chocolate milk. It does a body good.

The Bike Expo
Every March the Cascade Bike Club puts on a huge bike expo in Seattle. It’s a blast to wonder around looking at the latest in bikes and gear and to talk to people about the upcoming organized rides in the area. Most of all I’m looking forward to this event because some of our bike bottles are getting to the point where they need to be retired. This is a sad occasion for me but a necessary one. I really like bike bottles. The other night I looked at the inside of one of our bottles and it had some form of growth in it. I love bike bottles but when it’s time to go it’s time to go. I’ve going to have to vote some of them off of the island. If we have another good year at the expo we could come home with a healthy addition to our strategic bike bottle reserve to more than make up for the retiring bottles.

Volunteering at the Tour de Cure and possibly LiveStrong Challenge
Last year we volunteered at the Seattle Tour de Cure ride and it was a lot of fun. I mean who wouldn’t want to hand out snacks to sweaty riders while sitting under the shade of a canopy. If you don’t ride this is the way to go. We even got to meet Greg LeMond as he rode through our rest stop. He was a pretty nice guy. This year I’d like to volunteer at the Seattle LiveStrong Challenge on Saturday. I’d much rather ride in the ride but since we don’t ride on Sundays volunteering on Saturday for the running race will have to do.

Riding with my buddies
This is what I’m most excited about. It’s riding with my buddies. Namely Jenny, Barry, Christine, Sam and Denise.

Let the good times roll in 2009!!!