Thursday, August 24, 2006

An Announcement

Even if everything goes wrong with my legs, I know I've got a solid crew for LOTOJA.

It's official now. James will be my support crew for LOTOJA!

A Bad Day

Today was a bad day. I don't even know why.

Last night, I made sure to drink plenty of water. I was well-hydrated.

This morning, I got up and, as usual, had some yogurt. I brought some fig newtons (generic brand, which is why I didn't capitalize it). I brought a bottle of water and a bottle of Cytomax. I was wearing some really expensive Giordana bibs and jersey. I had my normal saddle back on (after many days of swapping saddles). Tires were filled. My wound has healed to the point that while on the bike (with nice, tight-fitting lycra), it doesn't bother me and I hardly notice it.

Everything was perfect.

Okay, I guess I can find some things might explain why today didn't go well. I have a FSA K-Wing handlebar. It is very comfy but the flat tops make mounting anything almost impossible. Because I was going for a longish ride before work (the Alpine Loop), I decided I couldn't wait for the sunrise and I'd get some lights on. I managed to jerry-rig the helmet mount for my handlebars. Here's the problem: after about 10 minutes of riding, I didn't need it anymore. (I got kind of a late start due to the lights. Ironic, no?) The rest of the time, it was just bulky, ill-fitting, dead-weight. I probably could have used a wind vest or arm warmers. It was cold up in the mountains.

It was a bad day. I was slow. I wasn't fluid. On the climbs, I kept feeling like I needed to stand up. Instead of using the momentum I gained by standing, I'd coast for about 1/2 second when I sat back down. This meant that I had to shift back down to the lower gears I was in before. On the downhills, I was slow and cautious. I was uncomfortable. My back hurt (something I haven't noticed for months). I was getting saddle-sore.

I think I can attribute some of this discomfort to a short ride I did last night (12.5 miles) in my street clothes. Also, I really pushed my legs last week with a mountain climb followed by a century. This is my first ride since (not counting last night's easy jaunt). Switching saddles around so much has made me used to no saddle.

Bad days come and go. Overall, they don't bother me. I know that the next ride will probably be better. They're just part of riding. Sometimes you can explain them, sometimes you can't. Here's my biggest concern: What if I have a bad day on September 9th? (That's LOTOJA, in case you didn't know.) What if I have a Stage 16?

15 days to LOTOJA.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

A Confession

I have been biking for many, many years. 25+ years, as far as I can tell. It began with a road bike in Indiana. After moving to Oregon, it became a mountain bike. For some reason, after that point, the mere thought of road biking was boring to me. I was young, then.

A few years ago, I bought my brother's Giant Cadex road bike. I didn't use it a lot, but it was fun. I was excited by how smooth it was and how fast I could accelerate. I felt fast, but not reckless--two things that always seemed to go together on the rocky trails near where I live. Something was brewing inside me.

Last year, I had the opportunity to review two Cannondales: the Prophet and the Synapse. Though both are great bikes, I couldn't help but be excited about the Synapse much more. Of course, my old Cadex was old and heavy and flexy compared to the light and nimble Synapse.

Whatever it was that changed inside me, it was dramatic. For the first time ever--even without a new road bike of my own--I was very dedicated to riding the trainer through the winter. As soon as registration opened up in the Spring, I registered for LOTOJA. I have barely been on my mountain bike all year. Every ride I do off-road is a sacrifice: I have to give up riding on the road.

How did this happen? When did I go from making fun of "roadies", to trying to become one.

Signs I've Become a Roadie:
10. Bib shorts. I love them. I have lots. Baggy shorts seem so big and bulky.
9. As I drive down the road, I no longer gaze up at the mountains, but pay attention to how smooth the road is, and how wide the shoulder is.
8. I start thinking about things in terms of kilometers, instead of miles.
7. Though a bit pudgy, I like my jersey's to fit a little tighter--I just can't stand the waste in aerodynamics of loose and floppy clothing. (This one is especially funny given my normal average speed is so slow.)
6. In general, I love to wear bibs and jerseys, and I don't even feel self-conscious in them. I'd wear them all the time, if I could. So comfortable. And handy with all those pockets in the back.
5. Why would I wear full-finger gloves?
4. I always wear a HRM on the bike.
3. I suddenly care about pro cycling, and day-dream of becoming one.
2. I got a road-rash, get this, on the road.
1. I shave my legs, and I think it is cool.

I truly didn't see it coming.

Monday, August 21, 2006


I am the worst descender in the world. I am really bad. One reason for this is my lack of cornering skills. I am not fluid around corners. I brake too late. I don't hold my weight in the right place. I'm jerky in my steering. I feel like this is something I need to work on.

There is a corner that I frequently take. I always think I can go faster than I do. It is an intersection with a light.

Last Thursday, while out on a mid-morning ride, I was heading toward that corner and the light turned green. This was my chance. I could take it fast and know that I had the lane. As I approached, I started to feather my brakes and reduce my speed. "Wimp," I said to myself, "You can take it faster than this." I didn't hit my brakes again on that corner.

Instead, I hit the ground.

As it turns out there is a flush and smooth metal grate on that corner. Also, as it turns out, my tires don't grip as well on that as on the pavement. I hit the ground hard with my right (inside) hip and slid across two lanes--still grateful that the light was green in my favor so I didn't have any cars running over me.

You'll be glad to read that my hip took almost all of the fall. There are some scratches on the brake levers, but my seat and the rest of my bike seem just fine.

I suppose, then, I'm being ungrateful to complain about the large wound on my hip.

Which reminds me. How can Lycra make it through a slide like that across pavement (and I wasn't even wearing these), while my skin UNDER THE LYCRA is totally removed? Also, where did it--the skin--go?

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Not Today

Today was the day. Well, actually, this week was the week. I have today off, and I was going to go on a long ride (100+ miles) today AND Saturday. Lots of miles=more prepared for LOTOJA.

My body has other plans.

I'm sick. Sore throat, headache, coughing, sneezing. You name it.

Instead of riding, then, I'm trying to beat this illness as fast as I can so I can get back in the saddle--though I don't know which saddle to get back into.

Any cure suggestions? Will sleeping all day help?

23 days until LOTOJA.

Monday, August 14, 2006

A Relief

I know this is my third post today. I have excuse for my behavior.

I recently bought this saddle: Sella Italia SLK. It's a pretty nice looking saddle. Compared to my Aliante Gamma, it is about 70 grams lighter, too.

Before I go on to talk about the SLK, I want to mention how much I love the Aliante. The shape is nice. The saddle is soft, without being too mushy. Everyone who has been on my bike has commented on how comfortable this saddle is. From the moment I first sat down on this saddle, it has been one of my favorite ever.

However, it isn't--how should I put this--anatomically correct. Therefore, I decided on the SLK. I probably would have gone with Specialized, but I hate their saddles. Or, at least, I've never enjoyed sitting on any of the ones I've tried.

Thursday, the SLK arrived. But, due to to the Tour, I didn't have time to ride it until Saturday night. My first impressions went like this:

"I can tell this saddle is split down the middle. This padding is very firm. I think I'm really going to like this saddle."

After around 30 miles, I started to realize that, although there wasn't any, um, numbness, I was very uncomfortable. While pedaling, this wasn't as noticeable, but when I stopped pedaling, I felt like I needed to stand up and get off the saddle. That ride ended at 36 miles. It hurt.

Now, I'm fully aware that sometimes it takes some time to get used to a saddle. Heck, I've reviewed quite a few saddles. My experience as been, though, that if a saddle is this uncomfortable after a ride of this length, there might be no hope for honest-to-goodness comfort. That is, my body may grow accustomed to it, but I doubt I'll ever enjoy it.

I think I'll send it back to Performance.

What do you think? Am I jumping the gun, here? Should I give it another 50-60 miles? Anyone have any other saddle suggestions? I'd rather not kill my chances of having more children after riding all day in LOTOJA. Also, I'd rather not spend all 12 hours of it standing out of seething pain.

By the way: 25 days until LOTOJA

... and a Smile

In case some people out there are wondering what the pros drink on rides like this, here's a picture of a bottle I picked up at the base of the climb where we saw the race pass. Keep in mind, it was the middle climb of the day (and the easiest). (Click on the image to get a larger view to see what I'm talking about.) We found quite a few bottles filled with this mysterious brown substance.

Photos from the Tour of Utah

Watching the Tour of Utah on Saturday (stage 6) was awesome. Even though we got there early and had to wait a few hours, my children had a lot of fun. We listened to the radio while waiting to keep tabs on the race and plan for when they'd arrive. It was cool because they had Bob Roll anouncing it. As they headed up the Alpine Loop, one of the local anouncers commented on how he enjoyed climbing it. Bob said, "I'd have to be in the best shape of my life to enjoy a climb like this." Since I really like riding it, I thought that was pretty cool.

Unfortunately, in order to take some pictures, I probably didn't actually "see" as much as I could have without the camera. For instance, somewhere in the group of vehicles that passed, was Bob Roll. That would have been cool to see him.

(Side note on Bob Roll: Though I find him annoying while watching the Tour de France, He was far more interesting and informative than the local commentators. Also, he didn't once have to say "de" (pronounced DAY by Bob) and so didn't sound stupid.)

This is the main break--though there was one guy ahead of them.
I love the HealthNet car. Pretty cool.
Here is the peleton, complete with the yellow jersey there in 2nd.
This was the best part. My children loved cheering on the bikers. A few of them were really cool and smiled and waved at the kids. It was awesome!
The main group of bikes and cars as they passed and headed up to the summit. We were actually camped out at a flat section of the climb (there was a good place to park here).

Well, it was all over too quickly. We managed to pick up a couple water bottles on the way down the mountain as we followed the course they had taken. That was it, though.

I can't wait until next year.

Friday, August 11, 2006

A Mistake

From the Tour of Utah site:
Stage 4
Race Start Time: 12:00 Noon
Finish Time: Approximately 3:50 PM to 4:30 PM

I made it on the mountain before 2:15--thinking that would give me plenty of time. As it turns out, I was wrong. In fact, I was behind the riders and only saw one person (the poor guy struggling up the mountain in last place) who was WAY behind the peloton.

Here's what I didn't pay attention to on the Tour of Utah site:
Distance: 112.5 Kilometers / 69.9 miles

I can't believe they gave them 4 hours to complete 70 miles. Heck, even I could do that. I blame the Tour of Utah folks.

The Good:
  • I got the afternoon off work.
  • I found out how to get to the Mt. Nebo loop--which I plan to ride soon.
  • I got a few discarded water bottles--including a Tour of Utah one and a Toyota-United team bottle.
  • I got my family excited enough for it, that we've decided to see Saturday's stage and skip my summer work party (that's a huge victory for me)

The Bad:
  • So close, but so far. I even wore my HealthNet jersey. All for naught.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Off to the Tour!

Today is a good day. Today, I am finally going to take advantage of being so close to the Tour of Utah. I'm taking the afternoon off and heading up Mt. Nebo with my family to wait for the riders to come by. Though I've never been on it, I hear it is a killer climb. That's good, because I want them going as slow as possible when they go by. The ultimate for me would be if they toss their empty water bottles (bidons) my way. That'd be so cool.

I'm bringing my camera, too, so I hope to have some pictures to post here tomorrow.

Side Note:
I went on a flat 30 miler today. Avg was 19.35 mph. Nothing too exciting, but the fact that I felt fine the whole was was good.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

The Pace Line

Going fast with less effort is fun. In fact, if you can pull it off, I recommend always doing it. It is for this reason (and others, I'm sure, but this is the one that comes to mind right now) that I like nice things on bikes. I like to go fast. I like it taking less effort.

It turns out losing weight also helps you go fast with less effort, but losing the weight actually takes a lot of effort. Just consider that the next time someone suggests losing 10 lbs when all you want to do is buy a better bike or part.

But, this post isn't about weight loss.

Riding in a pace line--or for those day-dreaming types, a peloton--is another way to go faster with less effort. This is one of those phenomena that simply amazes me. It takes so much less effort to ride a bike behind someone (even just one person) than by yourself. I didn't even know I was creating such a useful wind draft behind me when I rode. It is as if you are cheating nature. "You call that wind?! I have a skinny cyclist in front of me. I am invincible!"

Saturday's long ride started out with a group ride. Now, besides the major benefit I've just mentioned of riding in a group, though, there are some drawbacks.

1. It is a bit nerve-wracking to ride really close to someone on a busy highway. I understand this anxiety will probably fade with time as I ride more often in a group, but it took some concentration to keep the proper distance behind the guy in front of me--not too short and not too long.

2. Which leads, of course, to the second negative to riding in a group. You have to watch the backside of another cyclist. I find that, at least in the group I was riding with, if I don't keep an eye on the person/bike in front of me, I'll either get too close or fall back too far. Also, in order to be informed of road hazards coming up, this is especially important. The riders in front have the obligation to, by making use of hand signals, inform the riders behind of potholes, glass, roadkill, etc. You don't want to miss those signs.

3. I don't get to look at the beautiful Utah countryside. This is really just a corollary to the previous one, but when looking down, you can't enjoy the world around you nearly as well. Fortunately, there are times when you can enjoy it. Namely, when you are in front. Of course, when in front, I spend a significant amount of time trying to keep up a pace that just moments earlier I found slow and tedious.

All negatives aside, there is something almost super-human about riding in a pace line. We did almost 50 miles with an average of 21 mph. I can't do that by myself. It was pretty cool.

That being said, the pack aerodynamics didn't make up for all of the gap between my normal average speed and this one. In other words, riding with a group forced me to ride harder than I would have on my own. Perhaps this should be number 4.

4. This isn't the pace I asked for.

There. Anyway, normally, I'd be fine with this, but on Saturday, I was in it for the long haul. That pace, even sheltered from the wind, was tough to do before adding another 70 miles on my own.

Why would I ever ride in a pace line, then? Well, with the right pace line, going the right speed, I could go much further. I could go further and faster. I could probably do 206 miles with a total average (including stops) of 16.5 mph. At least, that's what I'm counting on.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006


(If you are at all queasy or prone to being disgusted easily, skip over this post. Don't say I didn't warn you.)

I sweat so much. I mean, buckets aren't enough. While hiking on vacation in Oregon, the entire back side of me was dripping. Dripping, I tell you.

When cycling, though, it isn't just sweat I deal with. No, as if that weren't enough my body also produces copious amounts of snot while I ride. If the morning is at all brisk, I'm in real trouble.

Some Observations Related to My "Condition"
1. I think this contributes to my propensity to dehydrate while riding.
2. My gloves (the terry thumb/wipe) and helmet pads have reached what I like to call Terminal Physical Carrying Capacity (TPCC). When TPCC is reached, the originally-absorbent material can now no longer absorb anything.

TPCC Explained
When I first started to approach TPCC with my gloves and helmet pads, I wasn't sure if I had washed them in some time. Therefore, to restore what I thought would be the Normal Operating Absorbency (NOA) of the materials in question, I washed them.

This demonstrates the first, and perhaps easiest, way to tell the material has reached TPCC: No amount of washing can restore the material to NOA. In fact, once TPCC has really been reached (sometimes the actual point of reaching TPCC, or the TPCC Moment (TPCCM), is difficult to pin down), no amount of cleansing with any type of detergent/cleaner/stain remover can bring it back out of this state. Hence: Terminal. This has, in fact, been demonstrated time and again by independent labs.*

Another way to tell if you have reached TPCC, or even are approaching it, is by examining the fabric itself. Though this sometimes can be apparent by the discoloration of the material, it is most obvious by feel.

For instance, currently, when I wipe either a) my nose, or b) my brow, the end result is similar to to wiping these same areas with 60-grit sandpaper. That is: it hurts. Also, this quality of TPCC materials has also been studied at some length at the university-level.**

A Conclusion to This Horrible Treatise
As it turns out, both my gloves and my helmet were designed with other uses in mind. Because of this, I am not quite ready to throw them away/burn them/blast them into outer space. Presumably, my helmet would still protect my head in a crash. Same goes with my gloves--well, except they wouldn't protect my head, but my hands--unless, of course, by putting out my hands, I prevent my head from hitting any object and thereby protect my head as well. In the spirit of using it until it wears out, I will, therefore, continue to use my gloves and my helmet.

* This isn't true. No tests have been performed.
** Wrong again. No such study has ever even been dreamed up by so much as a drunken frat boy.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

An Ill Omen

True to my goal, I went on a LONG ride today. Also, as part of my plan I rode with the local velo club. The ride with the velo club went really well. It was a lot of fun, and we made really fast time. That was about 48 miles, and we averaged 21 mph. I was even happy that I was able to hang with the faster half on all of the climbs.

Unfortunately, I think that was too fast of a speed for me--even in a paceline. However, I was determined to ride on and make a long ride of it (with a few climbs mixed in).

All in all, I rode 122.5 miles. My moving average was about 17.5 mph, but it took me about 8 hours (including stops). The careful mathematician will discover that my overall average was a paltry 15.3 mph (if I remember correctly). (For those that don't remember, I need to maintain 16.5 mph for LOTOJA. Ugh.)

Even more disappointing: I'm so exhausted. Even now--4 hours later--I can barely move.

I'll give more details of the ride when I have more energy.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Squaw Peak: In the Evening

Yesterday morning, as you ought to know, left me without a ride. I was sad, but not undaunted. I was determined to get a ride in.

Accordingly, in a whirlwind of bath time and dinner time and reading, I got the children to bed and got on my bike to hit the open road. It was around 7:40 pm. Here are some observations about that ride.

Observation 1
It gets dark earlier than it used to. I can't mount lights on my road handlebars (these) because of the flat tops--a nice feature most of the time. As a consequence, I was in a BIG hurry to finish the ride before dark. I almost made it, if you count dusk as being "before dark."

Observation 2
Gun Shots everywhere. As it turns out, there are a number of places for shooting along the road. For some deranged reason, I never got tired of feigning like I got hit after every report. I only stopped because it was taking too much energy.

Observation 3
Squaw peak is much busier in the evening than in the morning. Squaw Peak faces west and is quite a popular spot for couples. Luckily, I was wearing the Road ID--not a single close call.

Observation 4
New tires make a difference. After too many miles and too many flats on the Vittoria Rubino Pros, I mounted some Hutchinson Top Speeds (a good training tire with a anti-puncture belt). These felt really nice in the turns.

It was a great ride. I actually was able to push myself with a heart-rate higher than 170 the whole way up (about 31 minutes). The weather yesterday was cool--I think it was in the 70s when I left on my ride. Though I wanted to make better time up the hill, I kept up a much faster pace than usual. ("Much," in this case, is relative.) In fact, instead of being in the lowest gear the whole way up, I was able to shift up a gear for around 60-70% of the time.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

The Fates Work Together (Again)

With eager anticipation I got my bike ready for the ride this morning. I fixed the flats in my spare tubes. I put new tires on my bike (Hutchinson Top Speed). I grabbed another 16gm CO2 and stuffed it in my seat pack as well.

Having planned on a long-ish ride, I wanted everything ready so I could get out the door quickly. Consequently, I gathered all my clothes. I filled two water bottles. I found my HRM chest strap (with a newly installed battery, I might add).

I went to bed. It was a little late (11:30pm) for the time I planned to wake up (5:00am), but I was excited to ride.

At some point during the night, my phone woke me up to tell me (via text message) that one of our servers was crying for help. Obligingly (because I value my job), I woke up and fixed it. After being thoroughly awakened, I then struggled to get back to sleep for the next 30 minutes or so.

At some later point in the night, a child of mine woke me up because of a leg cramp or some other such thing. This required me to be awake long enough to encourage said child back to sleep.

I was worried about the morning, but I figured getting up that early was nothing I couldn't handle.

Then, when I woke up, I noticed something different in the air. Something humid. (Please keep in mind, I live in a desert.) I checked outside and there were a few sprinkles here and there.

"Nothing to worry about," I told myself. "I'm sure this is all there's going to be. After all, the ground isn't even wet."

I proceeded to go about my pre-ride routine. The rain continued.

In fact, continued would imply that it was doing the same as before. It was not. Now, it was a downpour.

I screamed out--in my head of course, don't want to wake the little lady--"You've won this time, evil fates!"

I went back to bed. Defeated.