Monday, June 29, 2009

The Final Countdown

Since last July I’ve had my sights set on a goal of riding the Seattle to Portland bike ride. This is a right of passage for Northwest cyclists to say that they have completed this ride. It’s a 204 mile ride that is typically broken up into two days unless you’re nuts enough to do it in one which I’m not. I completed this ride back in 2007 as a solo effort but this year I’m going to do it with Jenny and my oldest son which should be a lot more fun. As neither one of them have ever completed a century this will be a great opportunity for them to pick up numbers 1 and 2 on consecutive days.

Now to the nerdiness of my cycling goals
Last July when we decided to do the STP I drew up a plan of how many miles I would need to ride each week in order to enjoy the ride and be ready when the event came around. Being the cycling nerd that I am I set up a spreadsheet to track my progress to the goal. After the first 3 weeks I fell behind my goal and in November and December my cycling grew almost nonexistent due to the holiday season level of slacktitude that I achieved. For those of you not familiar with the term Slacktitude here is the definition because I’m sure you’ll want to incorporate this into your everyday vocabulary.

Slacktitude, [slak-ti-tood] – A sedentary state caused by excessive sleep and massive consumption of pie, cookies, and cheese cake.

Because of the high level of stacktitude that I obtained during the holidays I generated myself an almost insurmountable cycling goal deficit. I thought about just deleting my goofy spreadsheet but I kept at it. Over the last 4 months I really kicked it in gear and have clawed my way out of the slacktitude hole that I dug and have surpassed my STP goal.

So, the STP is less than two weeks away and all that’s left are some dress rehearsal rides this week and some recovery next week. I’m planning on taking a lot of pictures of the ride. More to come.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Photo of the Week

This morning Jenny and I went on a training ride on some rural roads.  We passed a lot of cows on our way and I could have sworn that I could hear the cows cheering for us.  It must have been the wind.  Anyway, here is the picture of the week.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

What's in Your Seatbag?

A couple of times a year I go through my seat bag and clear out the weird things that I end up carrying around with me on my bike. I usually do this before the winter riding starts and then in the spring. Since I'll be riding back to back centuries in a couple of weeks I was curious what I had in my seat bag. Above is what I found.

* Spare Tube, I haven't had a flat in over 2 years. I hope this tube still holds air but I really don't want to find out.
* Multipurpose Tool
* Tire Levers
* 87 Cents, not sure where this came from and why I'm carrying around pennies.
* Tylenol and Ibuprofen, I don't ride anywhere without some Vitamin I and T. I don't use it very often but when I do it works like a champ
* Powerbar, I really hate these things. I'm not sure why I'm carrying it with me because even if I was bonking I might not even eat it. As you can tell it's been smashed in the back of my bag for quite some time.
* Black Cherry Almond Clif Bar, I saw this at the grocery store and it sounded great. When Jenny saw it she turned her nose up at it. So it's all mine. I'll probably eat it this Friday. Already looking forward to it.
* Glass Cleaners, I don't use these very often but they come in handy in getting road grime off of your sunglasses.
* Surgical Glove, I use this to change tires or put on dropped chains. That way you don't have to ride with a grease covered hand the rest of the ride. I love these things.

Well, that's it. I going to get rid of that power bar and replace it with a Gel and when I do the double century a couple of chamious creme packets will also be added. See anything I'm missing?

Monday, June 22, 2009

Blistering Ride

Last week my neighbor told me about a group ride in Snohomish on Saturday morning so I decided to check it out.  On Friday I also got a call from my buddy Dan at work asking me if I had any riding plans for Saturday morning so I invited him to the group ride (that I had never been on).  Last week Dan finished one of the toughest centuries in the state in 5 hours so I knew that he would want to ride with the fast group which was fine with me since I wanted to give the fast group a try also.  On Saturday morning we both showed up at the start of the group ride and headed out with the fast group.


The 1st Commandment of Group Riding

As we headed out on the group ride I heard a honking noise 3 or 4 times.  At first I didn't pay much attention to it but after a while I put two and two together and realized that the rider in front of me was clearing his nose unannounced.  GROSS!!! I can't say I know everything about group riding but I do know the first commandment.


"Thou shalt not launch snot rockets on a group ride if thy colleagues are in the general vicinity"


Once I figured out what was going on I quickly passed the offender but every time we stopped or slowed down he would ride passed me so it became a game of pass the snot launcher.  To be honest this really isn't my favorite game even though there was element of danger involved. 



I also noticed as we rode along that the fast group was only maintaining a pace of ~15 MPH.  I'm really not a speed demon but as we rode along both Dan and I were looking at each other like "This is the pace of the fast group"?  To make matters worse after about 5 miles we stopped for a rest break and as we stood around staring at each other I started telling Dan of another route I knew in the area.  Sensing that neither one of us wanted to continue at the current pace or dodge any more mucus missiles we agreed to abandon the group ride and explore the other route.   


Desperation Drafting

As we headed out on the alternative route we kept a really fast pace which actually felt good.  As we started into the first of many rolling hills I noticed that Dan didn't slow much from his fast pace at all.  At that point I knew I could be in trouble because there was just no way that I could maintain that speed up the hills too.  I was able to catch Dan at the top of the hill but not without much leg and lung burning occurring first.  Lucky for me, Dan didn't seem to have a problem with me drafting in order to catch my breath.  Well, the momentary drafting turned into long term drafting as I found that this was going to be the only way to keep up with him.  To be honest, it was a ton of fun to ride this route so fast.  In fact, at one point we came upon a pace line of 4 riders and before we knew it we had blown passed them like they were standing still.  After a while we were able to ride side by side as my legs recovered a little bit.  Toward the end of the ride I took a pull or two but they didn't last for more than a minute at a time as I just didn't have much left in the tank at that point. 

Dan putting the hammer down


Slow Ride Home

Toward the end of the ride Dan and I parted ways as we live in opposite directions.  At this point I had 10 more miles to ride to get home and I felt like I had been thoroughly baked at 350 degrees until golden brown.  So my game plan for the rest of the ride was to not have a full body muscle cramp and to keep my tires on the ground. 


As I walked in the door of the house I was tired but still had a smile on my face because it was a great ride.



63 miles

2501ft  elevation gain

Snot rockets dodged countless


Thursday, June 18, 2009

Video of the Week

I've always wanted to give someone "The Look" in a race and then drop the rest of the peloton like a bad habit.  Since I don't race this has just become dream of mine.  Every now and then when Jenny and I are riding we practice "The Look" on people we know won't ever see it.  It really serves two purposes.  First, it gives me practice if the chance ever comes up and most importantly, it cracks both of us up.  It's just one of those inside jokes that I never get tired of.  The other day Jenny gave an unexpected jogger "The Look" and I actually got it on video.  OK, it might not be funny to you but it just cracks me up.  Jenny's got skills.  Here's the original a video of "The Look" (it's about 20 seconds into the video) and then Jenny's version.   

Have a great weekend and if anyone gets the chance to give "The Look" do it once for me.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Thoughts From the Saddle

Last Friday Jenny and I did a 67 mile training ride. This is one of our favorite routes because it's mainly rural roads that are lined with thick forest on either side. The first 40 miles of this route are full of rolling hills which get your legs and lungs burning on the way up and your heart pounding on the way down because of the speed. The last 27 miles are fairly flat which used to be my favorite section but last Friday things were different.

I must have eaten my Wheaties on Friday because the hills didn't really bother me that much and when it came to the descents it was the most fun I have had on a bike in a long time. Every time we got to a descent I would tuck down into the drops and get as aerodynamic as I could. Occasionally, I was able to go the speed limit or above so naturally I pulled into the middle of my lane because if I was going the same speed as a car I think I deserve more of the road. In addition, there just weren't that many cars on the road anyway.

This ride got me thinking about life and how sometimes it feels a lot like a long section of rolling hills. We all have hills in our lives where things just don't go our way or things are hard. While suffering up hills on a bike I often question why I like to ride and why I put myself through the torture. I've found if I just keep spinning my legs, put my head down, and tell myself "you can do it, you can do it" before I know it I'm cresting the hill and looking over at the descent that I get to enjoy. At that moment I remember why I like to ride bikes. It's the sense of accomplishment and thrill of the descent.

I guess in life sometimes we just need to put our heads down, keep our legs spinning, tell ourselves we can do it and eventually we'll get to the top of the hill we're fighting through. In the end everyone deserves a good descent now and then.

Enjoy the ride!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Photo of the Week

This weeks photo was taken a couple of years ago in the winter.  Jenny and I got caught in a rain storm 10 miles away from our car.  As we kept riding the rain got steadily harder but it didn't dampen our spirits for some reason.  It was one of the better rain rides I've ever been on.  By the time we got back to the car I literally poured water out of my cycling shoes.  The hot shower after that ride never felt better.  Makes me appreciate summer all the more these days.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Product Review: Camelbak Podium Bike Bottle

As you've might have heard I love bike bottles, in fact I almost shed a tear when one of the many that I own gets old and I have to throw them away. It feels a lot like saying goodbye forever to a really good friend. In fact, I'm getting choked up just writing about it right now.

I own tall ones, short ones, skinny ones and even some fat bike bottles but I've never owned an official Camelbak Podium bike bottle before now. When I completed the 100 miles of nowhere trainer ride a couple of the items that I received in my goodie bag from the fat cyclist himself were a couple of Camelbak Podium bottles. Other than the t-shirt this was the product that I was the most excited to try out because of the new design, it had a cool argyle print, and of course it was a bike bottle.

Official New Design Description
To give them a fair shake, here is what the Camelbak website has to say about their bottles.
* 100% BPA-Free
* Jet Valve(tm): Lets you sip from any direction, or squirt to cool off on long rides. Eliminates the "bite open, hip-slap shut" steps.
* No Sticky Frame: Made from medical-grade silicone, the Jet Valve eliminates splatter on your frame or jersey.
* Leak-Proof: Positive shut-off for leak-proof transport. At base of valve, turn bar 90 degrees to stop water flow.
* High Flow Rate: Squeezable bottle offers more water when you needs it.
* Better Taste: Made from custom-blended TruTaste(tm), which lets you taste your water, not your bottle. Also lined with HydroGuard(tm) to prevent bacteria build-up.

My Explanation of the New Design
The bottle itself is your basic run of the mill plastic bike bottle. The holy cow super cool new design is all in the cap of the bottle.
First of all the bottle has a dial on the top of the lid which opens and closes the flow of liquid. It's basically an on/off switch for your bike bottle. The other new feature is the valve device. Here's how it works, if the bottle is switched to open and you tip your bottle upside down no liquid will flow out of it. This could really come in handy if you have a problem spilling liquid all over the place while getting the bottle from your bottle cage to your mouth. I must be the Bob Roll of recreational cyclists with a talking with my hands problem because I always seem to be cleaning a sticky mess off of my top tube. This being the case you would think this would be the prefect bottle for me. Although the bottle won't spill even if it's in the open position once you squeeze it liquid will squirt out. Not rocket science but this is a pretty cool feature. For a bike bottle I guess this is pretty high tech.

My Honest Opinion of the Bottle
I love the thought of not spilling any liquid while waving the bottle around wildly but once you get it to your mouth you have to squeeze pretty darn hard to get the liquid out. Thus, when the liquid finally does come out it's in a really wide stream and has a ton of force behind it. Maybe I'm just a spaz on a bike but every time I tried to squirt a drink into my mouth it ended up going everywhere. So in order to not look like I have a drinking problem I resorted to placing my lips tightly around the nozzle before squeezing. This works fine if you're just cruising along but once you start hammering away and breathing hard this technique just doesn't work unless you like passing out while riding due to lack of oxygen.

My Recommendation
I think the design of the Camelbak Podium bottle is cool and I know a lot of people really like them but I think they are a pain to deal with while I'm riding. I guess they just aren't cool enough to come on rides with me mainly because of my own spaz factor. These bike bottles are probably great for people with a lot more coordination than me. So for me these bottles got cut from the Varsity Squad and got moved down to Junior Varsity. For now they are only invited to come along when I mow the lawn where it's safer.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Clipless Training

Last night my 14 year old son and I went for a short ride. Since Jenny had already done her training ride for the day with our other son her bike was available so my son opted to take her road bike over his mountain bike. Jenny and our son are roughly the same size so this worked out perfectly.

When we got to the trail I realized that he had never ridden a road bike and to add to the complexity he hadn't ever used clipless pedals either. Although it could have been entertaining to watch him slowly fall over while struggling to get out of his pedals at the first stop I decided that he at least needed to know how to get out of his pedals before the slow fall to the ground occurred.

So before we headed out I gave my son the grand tour of a road bike including how to use the index shifters, where to put your hands on the hoods, and especially how to get out of the clipless pedals. We practiced a number of times with the clipless pedals before we pushed off just for good measure and then we were off.

I think he liked the speed of a road bike over a full suspension mountain bike but it was obvious that road bikes aren't nearly as stable as mountain bikes because at first he was all over the trail until he got used to Jenny's bike. Everything was going smoothly until we approached our first stop. I reminded him with plenty of time so he could struggle his way out of the pedals which he did but when he came to a stop he was still sitting on the seat so he toppled over until his feet hit the ground and he could catch himself. He didn't actually fall over but it wasn't the most graceful stop I've ever seen. I'm not sure how he stops on his mountain bike but I'm sure it wasn't anything like that.

It never occurred to me that there is a whole process of stopping on a road bike that might be different than what he was used to. So for the next couple minutes I showed him the process of stopping on a road bike.
1. Unclip from your pedals
2. Stand on your pedals while moving forward out of your seat
3. Apply the breaks until you come to a stop
4. Put one foot down.
5. Breath a sigh of relief
As we rode along we had a great time and he really liked the speed that a road bike could generate. Every stop was still an adventure but he was a good sport about it and he even liked the chain marks he got on his leg from the flailing around.

In the end we ended up riding 15 miles and he was never inducted into the clipless pedal club. If you're not familiar with this club you automatically become a member the first time you come to a stop and forget to unclip from your pedals thus toppling over at a slow rate while your eyes widen and your feet struggle to get loose. I became a member years ago but haven't been to a club meeting for quite some time.

I'm sure my son's club membership is coming but at least he wasn't inducted last night. I have to add of all of our kids he is the one who is the most theatrical so he loved the fact that his cycling shoes made a clicking sound as he walked. I've always been embarrassed by that sound but he loved the fact that cycling shoes could almost double as tap shoes. Kind of makes me shake my head. I hope we have plenty of rides in our future and years from now he will remember that I took it easy on him last night and he will return the favor when way faster than me.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Cross Training?

The Plan
For a couple of days last week I planned out a Saturday morning training route in my head. Maybe I've got some kind of condition but I like to plan out training rides days in advance so I know exactly how it's going to play out. My entire Saturday was booked after 10am so my plan was to wake up at 4:30, gobble down some food and be out on the bike by 5:00. That way I could pound out a good training ride and be back in time to get ready for a piano recital that 3 people in my family were participating in at 10. Along the way I also planned on picking up that bottle of Gatorade with my century to nowhere earnings so I could single handedly kick start the economy. I was also looking forward to getting to the recital and quoting Hannibal from the A-Team "I love it when a plan comes together". Well, I never even got close to uttering those words on Saturday because along the way my plan fell apart. I guess everyone will have to wait another week for the economy to get back on track. Here's how the plan really happened.

What time did you say?
Friday night my oldest son graduated from High School. By the time the graduation was over it was almost 10PM. After the ceremony we had kids going in a couple of different directions so Jenny and I plotted out who was going to take who where. I drew the straw to drive my oldest son and 6 of his friends on the first leg of their graduation party. As I asked about the details I found out that my driving responsibilities weren't going to end until 1:30am which meant that I probably wouldn't be in getting to bed until around 2am.

Planned Flushed :-(
At that point I could tell that any chances of getting up at 4:30 for a ride were not going to happen unless I wanted to ride on only a couple of hours of sleep. I could hear a giant flushing sound off in the distance. I surmised that it was my ride plans being flushed for Saturday. In the long run, I can always go on a ride but I only get to be transportation for graduation parties once per kid so it was OK.

Cross Training Opportunity
One of the graduation activities for the night was to play a couple of hours of WhirlyBall. If you've never seen WhirlyBall before you should check out the link because it's like nothing you've seen before. Basically, it's like playing basketball only you're throwing a whilfle ball with a hand-held scoop. By the way, you do all of this while driving a bumper car with a funky steer wheel. All of the kids absolutely loved playing and it was really funny to watch them. Now for the cross training opportunity. After a couple of games a group of kids came out of the court and challenged the parents to a game or two. At first I was a little nervous just on the sheer foolishness factor but I got over it quickly and was ready to go. After all since my ride plans had been scrubbed I thought maybe I could use this as some good cross training.

Crash Training Opportunity
The first game that we played was a blast. After figuring out how to navigate the bumper cars the adults whipped on the kids in the first game. Since we won the first game we stayed on the court to challenge the next group of kids. The next game was quite a bit different. The second group of opponents included a couple of kids that were really large and their sole intent was to ram into their opponents with their cars at full speed. I think this had something to do with them lettering in (American) football. As we played I would be looking over to where the ball was so I could get into position and all of the sudden some kid would smack into my car at full speed. It was quite the whiplash experience. After a disastrous loss all of the adults wandered off the court dazed and confused. All of us were holding body parts and wondering how sore we were going to be in the morning. After a brief discussion the adult team retired from competition and let the kids beat up on themselves for the rest of the night.

In the final analysis, whirlyball isn't much of a cross training activity for cycling unless you have a need to train for bike crashes. If you ever get the chance to play take a very close look at your opponents before you wander out on the court and have fun. By the way, I was able to get a short training ride in on Saturday night after all.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Cycling Meme

OK, I've never been a fan of chain letters but I was recently tagged by The Old Bag (she gave herself the name not me) to add to a meme. This one was hard to turn down because I was the only one tagged and it has to do with cycling. This meme originated from Fat Lad somewhere west of Huddersfield in the UK. It went like this:

When I was a young lad, we used to play a word and memory game called: “My old mother went to market” it went a little something like this:

Little Bobby: “My old mother went to market and all she bought was: Tomatoes”

Little Jimmy: “My old mother went to market and all she bought was tomatoes… and some potatoes” until it had traversed the circle of children to me:

Little Fat Lad: “My old mother went to market and all she bought was tomatoes and some potatoes and some carrots and some lettuce and … ” already the witty one ” a rocket powered cyber ninja weasel”

So the meme proceeds as follows:

You nominate a blogger who you know will respond and ask them to add to the list of things they have bought only in June that are cycling related. Come the end of June Fat Lad is going to try and track it’s course and see what we’ve all purchased in June

1. Fat Lad went to the bike shop in June and all he bought was: A new PC971 Sram Chain and a Cassete Spanner and a chain wear tool.

2. TOB went to the bike shop in June and all she bought was: a new pair of ruby red Sidis and some X-Series Cleats (but it's only the 4th!).

3. Mike J went to the bike shop in June and he bought two Gel Flasks and some Handle Bar Grips.
Hey 331, I know you just made some great purchases for your cycling adventures - you get to carry the meme forward.

Blame Fat Lad it's his fault.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Photo of the Week

This week's photo was taken at the top of a steep hill at the end of a pretty hard training ride.  I bet you know the feeling.  

My potential titles:

"The Rest Stop"
"Please don't make me name this area Throw Up Hill"
Have a great weekend and in the words of Freddy Mercury of Queen "Get on your bikes and ride!"

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Personal Economic Stimulus Package

A couple of weeks ago when I completed the grueling 100 Miles of Nowhere trainer ride my parents took a bet up with each other on whether I could really ride the entire 100 miles or not. Since my parents are really high stakes gamblers the bet was an entire dollar. At the time it kind of bugged me that one of my parents was actually betting against me but that eventually served to just motivate me.

After I finished the ride the first thing I did was to call my parents and proudly tell my dad that he owed my mom a buck. Honestly, it felt pretty darn good to make that phone call. It was like taking a step up on the podium at the end of a stage race minus the cute girls and stuffed lion.

Well, last week I got a letter in the mail from my parents with a short note stating that they were proud of me for completing the ride and that I deserved the winnings from the betting pool. As I looked inside the envelope it contained the two dollars that were bet on my ride. That put quite the grin on my face.

Now that I've accepted this money for riding in the 100 Miles of Nowhere challenge I'm left to wonder if this will affect my amateur status as a cyclist. If I ever enter a real race will I have to ride in the professional classification? What if I were ever to run for office, would I be accused of taking gambling money for sporting events or even worse throwing a charity ride?

The other thing that has come across my mind is if I got this huge sum of money for doing a charity event maybe I should donate it to LAF. Well, in the final analysis I'm going to use my two dollars as my own personal economic stimulus package. I plan on using it to buy a Gatorade for the training ride I'm planning for Saturday morning. I'm sure after I make my purchase on Saturday using my economic stimulus money that the economy will snap right back in line and the world will have my parents to thank.

Thanks Mom and Dad.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Strange Bruises

A couple of years ago I noticed that I had some strange bruising on both of my hands. It was curiously located on both of my hands between my thumb and index fingers a ways up toward the wrist. These marks definitely looked like bruises but strangely enough they didn't hurt like bruises when I touched them. I would stare at them while I was working wondering where they came from and why they seemed to be getting darker. As I pieced the clues together I noticed that these marks got darker the more cycling I did. I wondered if somehow I was bruising my hands by gripping the handle bars too tight or maybe it had to do with the way I was placing my hands on the hoods. Could it be from some strange way I was carrying my bike downstairs when I wanted to go for a ride. In either case the bruises weren't going away and seemed to be getting worse as the cycling season went on. Should I be worried about them because after all they didn't hurt? Then one day as I was getting ready to ride I figured out the origin of the strange bruises as I pulled my cycling gloves on.

Duh, these strange marks on my hands were sun tan marks from my cycling gloves. This year the marks are coming back with a vengeance but now they just make me smile because they come from something that I love.

Here's to strange cycling tans!