Friday, December 28, 2012

Winter Cross Country Ski

While wintertime in the Seattle area is often correctly characterized as being quite damp and cool, one does not always have to go out riding in the humidity.  On this day, while it was raining buckets in the lowlands, I decided to head up to the higher elevations where the rain would turn to snow.

For my first cross country ski of the season, I typically take it slow and don't go too far, in an effort to ease the old corporeal body into the new activity.  Muscles that haven't been used since last February or so are called into use and sometimes complain.

This plan of taking it easy was dashed by improving snow conditions as I went higher and further along the Mountain Loop Highway, climbing up to near Barlow Pass from the road closure gate at Deer Creek.  Initially, the snow was crusty and icy, as well as being packed down by snowshoers, walkers, and snowmobiles.  But fresh stuff was falling from on high, and it just kept getting better and better.

I stopped to refuel before turning around to head back down.  Mmmmm.  Fudge.  Super calorie dense sweets like this are made for those days when one is burning calories not just from the exertion, but to stay warm as well.

Both cycling and cross country are about getting out into nature, finding that sometimes elusive rhythm, and just going and going.  This day ended up being about a 3 1/2 hour ski, or about an hour and a half longer than I had planned.  Sometimes when the conditions are improving, one just has to keep going.  I was sore all over the next couple of days, but it was very much worth it.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Winter Baby

I was hanging out chatting with my Velomihottie the other day, and happened to mention that I had gained about 8 pounds over the course of late November through now.  She remarked that 8 pounds is about the average weight of babies born in the US, and quickly made the connection that she should call my winter weight gain my "Winter Baby."  She's funny that way, which I love about her.

This has also given rise to other jokes, for instance, last weekend, I went on a fairly long steady ride without taking any calories along in order to burn some fat.  The idea is to burn the energy out of the legs first, and upon bonking, ride slow and steady to teach the body to burn fat.  This gave rise to all kinds of jokes about feeding the Winter Baby to my legs, which continues to be quite amusing to both Velomihottie and I.

Just thought I'd share.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Mt Baker Hill Climb 2012

I made it up the Mt Baker Hillclimb.  This was the first time in 3 years that the event was able to make it to the top.  Last year’s conditions were miserable, but this year was much better, despite there being a cold windy fog at the top.  It wasn’t so much a fog as being in the middle of the clouds that were passing through.

This year was a struggle, though, despite the more favourable conditions.  Part of my strategy to improve my time was to ride with the competitive field this year, but I didn’t manage to hold the wheels for as long as I had visualized being able to.  I was dropped about 8 miles in, as those folks set a rather vigourous pace.  Left to my own devices, I battled through feelings of guilt and shame at destroying my rides earlier in the month, and not being able to continue my training due to this.  Sometimes, I am my own worst enemy, but of course there was nothing I could do to change the past while climbing the mountain, so I just focused on the present moment and kept going up.  Inside the final 1 k, another rider who was already finished and appeared to be climbing up again passed me and encouraged me to put it on the rivet.  I was spent already, and didn’t have it in me to push any harder, which was the goal.  Leave it all on the road.  I did feel satisfied that I had done that, despite the disappointment of not doing my best time.

There are so many lessons to be learned.

The ride back down the mountain was so cold, I shivered and cried.

Apres velo, I met up with some of the folks from the Velominati site for pizza and post ride malted recovery beverages, and really enjoyed the company of like minded compatriots.

The link below is to a photo of me climbing just before the first ski area parking lot.  I seem to be enjoying the suffering at this moment, which is nice to see.  In cycling, as in life, there is suffering, but we can face it and move through it with positivity if we so choose.  Lessons, indeed.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012


I had an epiphany last night.  This has been perhaps the hardest and most difficult year I've ever had, for a variety of reasons, the details of which I won't go into here.  The important realization is that for every punch I've taken, every time I've been knocked down or backwards, I've got back up and that is something to be proud of myself for.  This horrible year has increased my capacity to suffer, and I am stronger for it.  Knowing this in my heart fills me with a great confidence that whatever externalities come my way, I can handle them.  I can keep taking punches and I will keep going.  Bring it on!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Mt Baker

The road to Mt Baker was cleared of snow this Tuesday to Artist's point, and I took full advantage of that this weekend and climbed it on Saturday.  On the drive up there, it was still rather overcast, and only the broad shoulders of the mountain were visible.

I started the climb at the Ranger Station, about 24 miles from the summit, which provides an opportunity for parking, changing and a natural break.  The road starts up from here, but at this point the gradients are milder and the road stair steps up with some flats and even brief downhills.  It follows the Nooksack River upstream, at some points the valley is quite wide, but at others the slopes close in on both sides as the road climbs up and the river is visible far down the valley below.

The early going is a fairly steady gradient and is nicely shaded.

The road truly starts up in earnest with about 12 miles to the summit, and continues steadily for that duration.  After a long haul with the mountain to my right, I encountered the first of the switchbacks that become more frequent when as you reach the top.

The next set of switchbacks looms.
After climbing a long way through forested slopes, the trees give way to alpine rocks and meadows just about the same time that the road flattens out for a brief respite at the ski area.  From here, it is just a couple more miles to Artist's Point, though in the best tradition of climbing, the road continues to steepen from here.

This is where the first embankments of snow can be found along the roadside at this time of year, and it always reminds me of some of the Alpine passes of the Giro in May.  The snow certainly has a cooling effect, when combined with the wind.  With nothing to impede the wind or shelter the rider at this point, as the road switchbacks up the grade, the wind alternately helps and hinders the ascent.

Ride to the clouds.
At the top, it's time to scarf down a granola bar, put a hat on under the helmet, and put a windshell on prior to the long descent.  Despite these preparations, the first part of the descent leaves me shivering with the cold of the snowbanks and the speed and sweat evaporating.  I would never make this climb, even in the hottest weather, without some warmer clothes to descend with.  Once I got below the snow line, the temperatures increased, and it was a comfortable ride back to the ranger station, mostly down hill.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

The Amazing Glasses of Enforced Sunny Optimism

I've had to break these out more than I would have liked recently, but they're a great tool in the proverbial box when you need them.

I simply put them on when the weather is being less than cooperative, then repeat to myself one of the following cheerful affirmations and proceed on my ride:
"It's actually kind of bright out."
"I think it's clearing up."
"It's only a sprinkle."
"It's really just a light mist, mostly."
"It's not raining, that's just marine layer."

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Velominati Seattle Summer Cogal

Last weekend I met up with some of the guys from Velominiti for their Seattle Summer Cogal, and it was great fun.  I was admittedly a little apprehensive and nervous, as I usually ride solo and haven't tested myself much in matching other's accelerations.  Also, this was to be my longest ride to date this season, and I was concerned about taking in adequate food.  I arrived just in the nick of time to avoid Delgadoing, and said, "you guys look casually deliberate," as I rolled up to the group of about 12 in the parking lot.

Sitting in second wheel when the pace was not too high.
We departed under leaden skies and moist, but not wet roads.  It is said that the Inuits in Alaska encounter so much snow that they have 17 different words describing different varieties, and we here in the Pacific Northwest have the same relationship with rain and its variants.  Soon after departure, the roads became more rural, and the pace and grade ramped up, and I was happy to be able to follow the wheels - until I couldn't.  At some point during the second or third climb, I just suddenly started going backwards through most of the group and popped right off the back.  I came to an intersection and not knowing which way to go, simply stopped and waited for someone who had some notion of where we were going, and soon, the one known as @eightzero appeared to guide me into Snohomish.  We chatted most of the way there and actually ended up beating the group that had dropped us to the coffee shop, as they had taken an unplanned detour at some point.

The second half of the ride was much the same, getting dropped once the pace ramped up on the hills, but hanging in there on the flat.  I was fine dropping back and wait for those behind, and we beat the lead group, who had again ventured off the parcours to the beer meeting back at Red Hook.  The rain mostly held off until we were back at the brewery, and the last 5 miles or so, we had a huge tailwind pushing us beerward.

Rolling easy (in the red Canada jersey) as the other James (blue jersey to the right) contemplates dropping the hammer on the group.
Thanks to @mcsqueak for the pictures.

Monday, June 4, 2012

A Gem

There's a peculiar weather phenomenon around here, typically in the winter, when it's grey all day, but the sun peeks out from below the clouds as it sets large and yellow just above the horizon.  Today was one of those days, nevermind that it's early June, that just such a sunset graced us.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

The Ride

"The world is like a ride in an amusement park, and when you choose to go on it you think it's real because that's how powerful our minds are. The ride goes up and down, around and around, it has thrills and chills, and it's very brightly colored, and it's very loud, and it's fun for a while. Many people have been on the ride a long time, and they begin to wonder, "Hey, is this real, or is this just a ride?" And other people have remembered, and they come back to us and say, "Hey, don't worry; don't be afraid, ever, because this is just a ride." And we … kill those people. "Shut him up! I've got a lot invested in this ride, shut him up! Look at my furrows of worry, look at my big bank account, and my family. This has to be real." It's just a ride. But we always kill the good guys who try and tell us that, you ever notice that? And let the demons run amok … But it doesn't matter, because it's just a ride. And we can change it any time we want. It's only a choice. No effort, no work, no job, no savings of money. Just a simple choice, right now, between fear and love. The eyes of fear want you to put bigger locks on your doors, buy guns, close yourself off. The eyes of love instead see all of us as one."  - Bill Hicks.

Monday, May 28, 2012

The Ride

"Eat when you're hungry.  Drink when you're thirsty.  Sleep when you're tired."  So says a Buddhist proverb, echoed more recently by that prophet of cycling, Velocio, in his Seven Commandments of Cycling.  These are:

1. Keep your stops short and few.
2. Eat before you're hungry, drink before you're thirsty.
3. Never get too tired to eat or sleep.
4. Add a layer before you're cold, take one off before you're hot.
5. Lay off wine, meat and tobacco on tour.
6. Ride within yourself, especially in the first hour.
7. Never show off.

Perhaps Buddhism and cycling are the same...

The ride can be meditation, the full fluidity and presentness of the eternal moment, breathing in rhythm with legs turning.  Is the wind changing?  I'm going slightly downhill now.  What gear should I be in to maintain the rhythm?  Look out for that glass!  Gotta wipe the tires...

A stream of motion coming at me for as long as I can maintain making circles.

Pedaling Squares

Sometimes I go for a ride, and rather than making circles and feeling the fluidity of the moment, I pedal squares. This is not the Ideal State, but many times I can pedal through it, and often those moments of presentness and fluidity can return.

Recently, the bike has been beautiful as far as catching those moments when everything goes together, but the rest of life has been the part that is pedaling squares. The lessons from the bike are to keep going, take care of myself, look at what might be changed, experiment, and repeat.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Bike Fitting

Along with the new ride, I also had the opportunity to receive a professional bike fitting from Donnie at Bothell Ski and Bike.  I had several days between purchasing the RS and the bike fitting appointment during which I spent a couple of evenings dialing in the fit to match my position to my other bikes, laying out lines on the wall to get the saddle height, setback to the bottom bracket, and reach to the handlebars just right.  The bike came with some FSA bars that were 44cm wide, but felt really narrow compared to my previous Ritchey bars that are also 44cm.  The Ritcheys are much more square in shape at the tops of the bars, which accounts for them measuring wider at the brake hoods, so I swapped out the FSA's for the Ritcheys as well.

Riding the 15 miles to Bothell at the appointed time for the fitting, the Cervelo felt for the first time like it was truly my bike with everything dialed in.  Donnie mounted the bike up on the trainer in the fit room and used a laser plumb line to check out my position over the pedals both from the front and side.  He also used an angle measurement tool to assess the angle of my leg at the bottom of the pedal stroke and the angle of my upper arm coming down off my body.  I was pleasantly surprised that he made no adjustments to anything on the bike, as I've always prided myself on being more than a little retentive about my position.

After the part where Donnie checked my knees for vertical alignment from the front, he indicated that he thought my knees came in toward the top tube a little too much, and that he'd like to try out some orthopedic arch-supporting insoles in my shoes and perhaps some shims between my cleats and shoes.

Two yellow shims under the cleat at left, a SuperFeet insole inside the right shoe.

I could immediately see in my pedaling motion that my knees were pulled slightly out, more directly above the pedal spindles.  He said this would make the power transfer to the pedals more direct, and if you're a fan of physics, this all sounded logical.  I asked him whether I should have any concerns about riding this way immediately and he told me not really.  500 miles in, I like the changes in my riding.

Monday, May 14, 2012

New Bicycle

2012 Cervelo RS in my driveway.

A confluence of events led me to pick this shiny new ride up from Bothell Ski and Bike on my birthday this year.  These events included the aforementioned birthday, my 41st cycle around the sun, as well as a healthy income tax return resulting from the mortgage interest deduction.  A friend joked to me that I just needed to add an "I" in front of the "RS" on the top tube.  Having put about 400 miles on it since then, I've gotta say that I love riding it.  It definitely seems stiffer at the BB than my Schwinn Peloton Pro, while also being more comfortable at the ass end, which is a worthy combination.  I'm still a little up in the air about the SRAM Rival components, but swapping the gruppo out with the 5 year old Shimano Ultegra from the Schwinn also seems like a non-starter.  Perhaps some future upgrades are in order?

The bike came with a free bike fitting, which was a very interesting and positive experience that I'd like to discuss at further length in a future post.

I would like to ride it across Canada in 2013 for the Tour du Canada.  It seems the perfect bike for that kind of day after day serious mileage event.