Saturday, November 27, 2010

Trusting an old friend

It's been a while since I rode outdoors, let alone solo. But on Thanksgiving Day, just about the time most people were sitting down to their enormous feasts, I set out on a spontaneous ride. With no clue of the route I'd take or how long I would ride, I inflated the tires of my trusty Trek, jammed some gel & shot blocks in my pocket, filled the water bottles, and set out into the cold. The sun was out earlier but I quickly discovered that it was much colder than I had anticipated. Clad only in a Sugoi baselayer, long sleeved jersey, vest & knickers, but with 2 pairs of wool socks, I didn't warm up as much as I would have liked. But I figured that would just make me ride harder, make it count. Right?

Thoughts invade my mind as I pedal, across TV Highway and onto River Road. Got the pump, spare tubes. I have my cell phone. Does anyone know where I'm going? No, even I don't know the answer to that. Wow, there's a lot of gravel and stuff in the bike lane, good thing there's not much car traffic. I'm cold. Pedal harder. I'll be fine, because I trust my bike. It's like an old friend, when we get together, I'm reminded of all the good times we've had. I remember my first ride on this bike, a 70 mile LiveStrong challenge, then my first century. Good times. I smile.

What's great about riding solo is that you can go as fast or a slow as you want, without having to wait for anyone else (or have them wait for you). No forced listening to conversations you have no interest in. No worrying about yelling "car back" to people in front of you or having it yelled at the person who continues to ride next to you and talk to you as you wish for solitude.

Solo. That word has come to define part of who I am. On holidays, and sometimes, on bike rides. But it's a good thing. It's okay. I'm okay with it. I do some of my best thinking on these rides.

So I decide to pass the time thinking of what I'm grateful for. Seems like a good tradition on a Thanksgiving ride. First I think of my lungs, as they fill with air and oxygen to fuel my body. Lungs are good. Then, my legs, working like pistons, knees up, light on the pedals. Then I'm grateful for the turkey bacon and pumpkin pancakes I made for breakfast, for a kitchen to cook them in, for the ability to ride and to enjoy this day.

On Burkhalter Road, I stop to eat some gel, as I'm getting hungry and wishing I had eaten a bit more before leaving so late in the day. I look up at the sun filtered through hazy clouds and give it credit for at least trying to shine through them to bring some warmth. I don't want to wait long because I'm still cold. I consider crossing Highway 47 on Simpson Road, riding past the golf course and back through Cornelius and estimate how much time this will take. On a warmer day, maybe starting earlier, or wearing another layer, this would be a no brainer. But on this day, I decide to cut the ride short and continue to Hillsboro on Minter Bridge Road. I know this is the right thing to do.

I stop to talk to some pygmy goats along the road, who are bleating at me through the chainlink fence. They are incredibly cute! I feed them some handfuls of grass until the dogs start barking at the unwelcome intruder, and I continue on. I get to Main Street, which turns into Baseline. I consider making the ride longer, but at this point I can only think about hot chocolate.

Arriving home, I patiently enter the code to open my garage door but it refuses to comply. I consider how miserable it would be to spend hours shivering on my front porch, and contemplate breaking into my house. The thermometer on my porch says about 38 degrees if I read it right. Just as I take a tire lever to pry the screen off a window, I try the code once more and the door opens. Warmth, hot chocolate, a down blanket, a hot bubble bath. Then a delicious meal.

This is my Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Training with Grain

Last week, I came across this on the Bob's Red Mill website after seeing it on Twitter: "Train with Grain: Welcome Aboard the Pain Train". I like the sound of that! Turns out, there is this cool contest where you can win a 'cross bike for racing - AND - they send you a free sample kit! Sign me up! This morning I went to my mailbox and there it was!
It was like my birthday, or Christmas! I opened the box, so excited to see what was inside. An armband to wear when I race! And this is no wimpy sample pack - there were regular-sized packages of quinoa, 7-grain pancake & waffle mix, steel cut oats, and whole ground flaxseed meal. Score!

This company does things right. Social media, recipe contests, blogging. And they are a sponsor of the cross crusade. How can you not love them?

If you want some great healthy grains, love to race 'cross and want a chance to win a bike, check out this site: Good luck, and enjoy the grain - but the bike is MINE!

Cross Season, Flo-style

After all that hesitation, I showed up at PIR with my bike last Sunday, and I rode it. In the mud. Lots and lots of mud. And I had the best time! I was apprehensive but didn't want to pre-ride the course - no, I'd get too tired. The weather was wet, windy and fortunately, not too cold. I had run out of excuses - I had skinny tires on my bike, thanks to Victor! So I signed up. Pinned on a number. Sort of warmed up. Lined up. And I raced! Okay, I rode. And I had a blast!

I wasn't fast, and the first lap kind of hurt. I didn't crash, but just kept pedaling around the corners, through the mud and the puddles that were really small ponds. The water was warm in my shoes. I didn't really run up the run-ups. I hucked that heavy bike over the barriers, one tire at a time. I heard my name everywhere and didn't look up but I wondered, how do so many people here know me? I heard cowbells. I saw the face of a little girl cheering for me as I rode by, which made me smile. I tried to go faster on the pavement. I cheered for Traci, Sherry, Sierra, Kendra, and Heidi when they passed me. I managed to do 3 laps and was ecstatic to see the flag signaling the end of the race.

I caught up with Melanie, Kendra, and Tina after the race to catch our breath, pose for pictures and swap stories about the course. I felt great, like I had actually accomplished something. Who cares if I was almost last? What matters is that I had fun.

I wasn't up for paying for 2 days of racing in Astoria. I signed up for Sunday and showed up in my costume, which I'd been really excited about for months (Thanks to Traci for finding it on Etsy!). Then I saw Melanie & Kendra, who informed me that they'd decided not to race. I promptly declared that if they weren't racing, neither was I. But in the team tent, when people asked if I was racing, I answered with a shrug. As it got closer to the start time, I reluctantly agreed to ride one lap. Sure, I can do one lap. I rode over and lined up literally 2 minutes before they started sending off groups of women. Finally, the start, left turn, then right, into the mud, past the PV tent, left and over the barriers, and suddenly we were being told to slow and stop. There had been a crash, so they re-started all the women. So, I did ride an entire lap and then some. Past the place where they stopped us, I coasted past Ali and promptly fell on the off-camber turn. Couldn't unclip from my right pedal! Argh. I made it and struggled to get up the long hill, then I think I wiped out again on the sharp z-turn. Wound my way through the barns, spotting Kender with my camera yelling "Come on, Flo!" which made me laugh. When I got to the PV tent again, I pulled over and put my bike down, unnoticed. It was no big deal, I just decided I was done.

I'll post pictures later.

Monday, October 11, 2010


I have a fear of commitment. Many people who know me can vouch for this. I'm talking about racing. On two wheels.

It pains me to register for a ride in advance. I don't have an OBRA number. I don't commit to many events ahead of time. When I do, it's like I have a panic attack in advance and all the self-doubt creeps up into my gut at once.

PIR? No, I can't get there early enough. Blind date? Darn, I have a "Ride with Power" class at the NW Athlete's lounge that I've paid for in advance. Cross Crusade? Oh, maybe. But I have a big heavy mountain bike. Cross bike? No, can't commit the funds, and anyway, can't justify it because I don't commit to racing.

Racing? Me? Nah.... more like "participating". But that's okay. I recall a conversation with Russell Cree at Alpenrose 2 years ago. I told him I don't have the competitive drive which he called "eye of the tiger". Nope, don't have it. I saw the game faces yesterday at Rainier, the focus, the determination. How do they keep riding when people are screaming at them, ringing cowbells and yelling? Oh - I get it - that is supposed to encourage them! I vaguely remember from the first time I "rode" at Hillsboro - that yelling made me pedal harder, I got a charge out of hearing my name, and it made me both happy and self conscious at the same time. I'm not comfortable with all that attention, so I thought I can't let them down, they're cheering for me! That pressure. I couldn't take it last year, couldn't get up the courage to participate, so I didn't. I wasn't even in the right frame of mind to show up & socialize. Lame. This year, well, I think it's time to commit. People ask, are you racing? Are you going to race? Which races will you do? Oh... I mutter something about how I haven't thought about it, I didn't buy a cross bike, then I change the subject.

I love showing up at 'cross races and seeing so many people I know, even on various teams. They are all having a great time no matter how their particular races go. It's about fun. It's not serious competition (at least not for me). I like what Einar says - when asked how his race went: "I finished".

I've been thinking about triathlons recently. It was something I wanted to do when I turned 50, but couldn't commit. So, is it too late? I hate running, I tell everyone. But last week, to burn off some stress on one of my walks, I challenged myself - run just to the end of that street, I thought. So I did. No pain, no burning desire to stop. Felt kind of good, even. Hmmm. This isn't so bad. So I am seriously considering checking into a short distance (sprint?) tri for next season. Stay tuned - because I haven't committed to anything yet, I reserve the right to say that I never said any of this.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Riding for joy

Today was a perfect day to rediscover the joy I experience while riding a bicycle. The perfect confluence of crystal clear blue skies, warm temperatures, and smooth roads.

My ears soak up the sounds of a bird announcing our invasion of the quiet, the whirr of my chain, the clicking of flying insects, the pound of a hammer, my breathing as I climb Cooper Spur. My eyes absorb filtered sunshine, glimpses of Mt. Hood through the trees, a furry caterpillar scooting across the road, a stick which suddenly becomes a cricket and hops away just before going under my front tire, the golden vine maples among the green ferns.

This is what I love about cycling. This day is not about getting to camp, or the next rest stop, or riding a certain number of miles, or getting home by a certain time. This is about savoring every second, every minute, and every hour in the saddle, the air in the lungs, the burn in the legs, the sun on the skin. These are the sensations that will sustain me as I ride through the winter, during rides in the rain and cold. I will remember the warmth, the wind in my ears, and the sounds of this day when I am riding a fendered bike and bundled from head to toe.

All stress and work and financial worries and family issues disappear. My mind focuses only on the road, the handlebars, and the beauty around me. Bliss.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Cycle Oregon 2010: rain, rollers & recovery

Reader's Digest version:
Day 0, Portland to Elgin: Pack, drive 5 hours, freeze in tent, try to sleep.
Day 1, Elgin to Enterprise: cold, not enough bluerooms, warm sun, paceline. Skipped option to see Wallowa lake (regrettably). Beautiful golf course for camp. Gorgeous sunset.
Day 2, Enterprise to Clarkston: Gradual climb, winding descent, skipped rest stop (bad call), long, endless climb, great views. Finally lunch before fast gradual downhill, then fast winding downhill into Clarkston. Marching band. Skipped option to Lewiston.
Day 3, Clarkston to Waitsburg: Ride along the Snake river. Paceline with Rich & Karen. Flat just before lunch.
Day 4, Waitsburg-Walla Walla loop: wheatfields, rollers. Great lunch & best hazelnut latte ever.
Day 5, Waitsburg to Pendleton: wheatfields, massive rollers. Sidis trashed by gravel at rest stops. Exhausted & cranky. Sprinklers on football field blast my tent. Lovely.
Day 6, Pendleton: Awoke to rain. Ride? No thanks. Parade. Fantastic bistro lunch. Massage. Wine.
Day 7, Pendleton to Elgin: 2am thunder, pouring rain, lightning. Anxiety. 5:30am, partly cloudy skies. Happy to pack wet tent. Ride squeaky Bike Friday guy off wheel. Great band at lunch rest stop prior to climb. Climb climb climb climb. 6600 feet! Relief at summit, fantastic singing downhill to Elgin. Done.

Longer version:

So, Cycle Oregon #2 is in the books. Did I ever question that I could ride it? No. Did I enjoy every minute? Certainly not. Can I do better in terms of packing & managing my time to get the most enjoyment out of the week? Absolutely.

I'd say the keys to enjoying Cycle Oregon are planning and recovery. You must plan to bring the appropriate clothing and gear, be prepared for any weather, and structure your days to get the most enjoyment out of the ride. That means be prepared, ride at your own pace, and give yourself time to relax. Sounds simple, but trust me, this is not an easy thing.

In reality, it's tough, considering some of the routes are long and challenging, and when you stop to fill your water bottles, eat, use the blue rooms and stretch a couple of times along the way, you may not arrive in camp until late afternoon. Then there is the business of finding your luggage, locating your camping "crew", and setting up your tent. Next is hitting the showers. Then dinner, by which time I am usually starving, so I try to find time to grab $5 and get a smoothie from the Ben & Jerry's truck, otherwise I'm running on the chocolate milk handed out by volunteers at the finish line, which is chugged and greatly enjoyed as the most welcome reward ever for riding that day's route.

Last year I said "this isn't a vacation." So this year I planned to get massages, go to yoga, do more exploring, and relax. That didn't happen. The first massage I had scheduled was on Monday, the day we rode over Rattlesnake pass from Enterprise into Clarkston, Washington. What a long ride - and the climbs were relentless. The descents were amazing though, especially the winding roads down into Clarkston. I got into camp at 4:45, not enough time to get my act together, and couldn't find the massage tent anyway. We did manage to take a shuttle into Enterprise for some BBQ ribs one night, but didn't do a whole lot of exploring besides that.

On the plus side, I camped with Dean & his Intel crew who were extremely entertaining, so we had a lot of laughs with them. I had plenty of solitary time on the road, so it was nice to have people to hang out with in camp. My one cranky day was the ride into Pendleton, and after talking to others that day, I wasn't the only one who didn't entirely enjoy the day of endless rollers, no scenery but wheatfields & clouds, and the hill you had to hike in order to camp, retrieve your bags and shower. So we set up camp on the football field, and after relocating 3 times I chose a spot on the edge of the field by the track. Bad call.

After a somewhat uninteresting dinner at 8pm which I merely pushed around the plate, I crawled into my tent with my iPod as company, deciding to keep the crankypants attitude to myself. Just starting to doze off around 9pm, I'm startled by what sounded like a torrential downpour on the roof of my tent. Wait, there's water IN my tent. Now the rainfly on the left side is plastered to the tent, ripped out of the stake, and water pours into the top vent. I quickly close the velcro on both "skylights", exit the tent & in my tights, keens & rain jacket I run to where my bike is standing, yank a stake, lay down the bike, and run back to my tent. Meanwhile my tent neighbor had grabbed a plastic lined cardboard box used for trash and up-ended it over the offending sprinkler to stop the spray. It was like a firehose! People are running around with headlamps, doing what they can to minimize the damage. It's dark, and people are asking if someone has notified Rider Services so they can shut off the water. I am drenched from sitting directly in front of the sprinkler to re-stake my rain fly. I crawl back into my tent to towel off and assess the damage. Not too bad, really. I hang the wet jacket to dry and crawl into my sleeping bag, replace ipod earphones and eventually drift off to sleep.

On Friday, Dean and I went into town after breakfast to watch the parade. It was fun watching the horses, mules, wagons, oxen and rodeo queens ride by. It was humid. Headed back to camp where the crew was getting ready to head for the rodeo, all but Dave who was the only one in our group to do the Pendleton option loop ride. He & I walked back downtown to find a decent meal for lunch, ending up at a bistro across from the steakhouse, which we followed up with a Tillamook cheeseburger at the Burgerville Nomad (2nd lunch) and then found a place to buy wine & chocolate. Thinking everyone would want to go out for dinner, we skipped the steakhouse. Back at camp, the rodeo attendees drifted in and 3 bottles of wine were consumed, with everyone talking until about 11pm which was pretty late considering we usually wake up before sunrise.

2am: I awoke to wind whipping at my tent, followed by torrential rain, and then thunder & lightning. I'm sure everyone was also thinking if the weather continued, Saturday's ride would be nasty. I figured it would be a game day decision. Fortunately we awoke to partly cloudy skies with no hint of storms on the horizon. Last camp breakfast force feeding (Bob's Red Mill oatmeal is my favorite!) Riding east, I got dropped at a stoplight by the group, but found Aleson & Carol. Couldn't stay with Aleson when the road tilted upward, she's just so strong now! Saw Glen & then Dean. Took a couple of photos but not nearly enough. Devoured my 1/2 sandwich & chips at the lunch stop where they had a great band playing songs by Eve 6, Pearl Jam and the Presidents of the United States. Climbed up the slide to toss my gear drop bag into the box, told that if I made the shot, my stuff would go to Elgin, but if I missed, my stuff would go somewhere else. Rode off with lyrics from "Peaches" in my head, energized for the climb ahead. It was long. Relentless. Beautiful forest, breathing in the clean pine air. Legs felt great. I could even shift, stand & comfortably pedal, unweighting alternate legs, no weight on the bars, and I began passing people. The pink signs from the amusing CO crew saying "this is not the top" at each false summit became annoying, followed by one declaring "This is the top - NOT!" Finally, the summit. Took a quick photo and smiled as I passed the sign saying "ALL DOWNHILL"! Cranked it up and let 'er rip! Passed Dean who gave me a thumbs down. Oh no! Turned around to find out what was up, he had a mechanical. Crap! Continued ticking off the miles to Elgin. Finally, a left turn, and there were the CO flags. Cowbells, I hear cowbells! Then I hear Barb yell "it's LINDA!" right turn to cheers, cowbells, photos, hugs, and chocolate milk. Ahhh. I could have ridden another 30 miles.

Barb is amazing. Not only did she and Dean drive us to Elgin, but she took care of my cat Levi all week. Then she got up at some insanely early hour to drive back to Elgin so she could help Emily sell the remaining windchimes that her students made. They are awesome. (I found some when I got home - Barb surprised me! No wonder she wouldn't let me buy any.)

After showers, we had a great dinner in La Grande with Emily, then went to bed early. Woke up early too, did some laundry & went to brunch at Foley Station. Excellent food! Drove home, arriving about 5pm, and Levi purred in my arms for a long time, insisting that I carry him around while he did so.

Next year? I hear the route is entirely in Oregon, and the only hint is that it contains the best 80 miles of roads that CO has never been on. So, we'll see. But I would definitely consider tent & porter or a more luxurious option so that I can enjoy the relaxing as much as the riding.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Ready as I'll ever be.

Last year at this time, I was probably 10-15 lbs. lighter. I'd done more climbing, having ridden High Rocks & Crater Lake on consecutive weekends, as the Portland Century. Seems like we had more climbing on our Saturday club rides as well.

This year, well, I haven't ridden as much during the week. Thursday evening SE rides, 1/2 Portland Century, disappointing Crater Lake due to winter in August, a few other rides here & there. Ride with Power class helped, I think. Neck & shoulder still bother me, even after physical therapy + massage - it's never enough. At some point, I'll just have to get another bike. Who knows.

Anyway, all that's left to do now is check the weather, then hope for the best & pack my stuff. I have it all piled up & ready to go. Squeeze everything into ziploc bags, toss it in, hope it all fits and is less than the maximum weight of 65 pounds, and look forward to a nice week of riding in beautiful country, meeting new people, setting up my tent, relaxing, and enjoying the week. Cycle Oregon, here I come!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

On giving back

I got an email yesterday thanking me for volunteering at Bike Beaverton, reminding me that it is about community. While it can be frustrating to ride with kids and people new to cycling, I did have one woman tell me that she learned by watching me, so I explained the signs to her for stopping, turning, etc. She was an adorable older lady on a mountain bike and it was fun to see her manage the hills while she was still learning to shift gears on her bike!

Another Bridge Pedal is behind me, the second year I've volunteered and taken on the task of managing the Hawthorne Bridge crew. As a major fundraiser for our speedskating club, it involves a lot of time and hard work, and we had 2 crews to place & retrieve cones on the Macadam and McLoughlin portion of the course as well. After riding 50 miles in Hood River, we arrived at the load location & got to the bridge only to discover that the Bridgefest crew was still busy loading up the sod that had been placed on the center lanes for the "picnic on the bridge" event. It took about an hour for them to clear out so we could then close down one center lane and the southern eastbound lane. We placed the signs & cones and waited for the city crew to arrive with the plywood truck and forklift. It took us until 11:30pm to finish, and what an exhausting job it was. When we were about 20 feet from the west end of the bridge, we ran out of plywood and the city crew had to go to the warehouse to get more, causing a delay of almost an hour. I told several people to just go, we had it handled, but they all stayed, so 8 of us finished the job. No one was interested in going out for pizza as we were beyond hungry and it was too late. Driving to the east side of the bridge, I discovered that all 3 of our big road signs had been inadvertently picked up by the Bridgefest crew, so I called Rick & Brad to report it. Drove 2 of my ragged crew home & staggered home to bed.

Sunday morning by 7am I parked on the Madison's viaduct and ran to the bridge to replace the plywood on the 2 lift sections. City crew was already there to help out. Shortly the riders began to pour over the bridge in droves. On the east side, it appeared that Eileen, the volunteer from Providence, needed some help directing cyclists down the Water Avenue ramp, as there weren't enough cones to clearly mark the way. Some riders seemed confused as they looked around for direction, some came off the high curb a bit too abruptly, as they prefer the sidewalk to riding on the plywood. One woman went down and it took 2 of us to help her up and back onto her bike.

No major catastrophe. Sarah told me yesterday that one person had their tire stuck in a gap between the plywood but I didn't see it nor hear of it. I walked the length of the bridge a few times to check the plywood, keep people moving on the sidewalk and took a few group photos of people who stopped to admire the view.

Finally it was time to load up the plywood again. One of my volunteers showed up. One. I radioed that I needed bodies, and they were sent. The city crew pitched in to help out. We strained, sweated, lifted, stacked, wiped sand out of our eyes, snacked on energy bars and drank warm water. Finally, we reached the east end of the bridge. Time to stack and load the cones and signs into my car and head over to unload.

Home by 4pm with a chipotle burrito and lemonade on the couch, time to read the Sunday paper. Napped for two hours, then took a hot bath and went to bed.

Dear Portland, I gave you my weekend. I did my best to make the Hawthorne Bridge safe for cycling. I hope you enjoyed it.

I am grateful for the hundreds of people who thanked us for their hard work as they rode by. I am grateful for the volunteers who came out and sweated and suffered with me, just so my club could earn money so we can afford to pay the ice rink to skate. I am grateful for this wonderful city that shuts down its bridges once a year on an August Sunday so people can enjoy the view and imagine what it would be like to have little or no car traffic. I am grateful to the organizers of the Providence Bridge Pedal for the opportunity to contribute.

But mostly, my dear fellow Portland cyclists, thank you for your smiles, and for showing me what joy looks like.


Friday, July 23, 2010

Can't believe it's almost over.

Watching the Tour throughout most of the month of July leaves little time for such unimportant things as sleeping, working, and eating, but they must be done. I am already dreading Monday morning, when I will inevitably turn on the TV and find that the voices of Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen no longer fill my living room as I shuffle over to the kitchen for my first cup of coffee shortly before sunrise. I suppose I should prepare myself now.

This Tour has been full of bad luck for some - Cadel Evans' broken elbow, Tyler Farrar's broken wrist, Frank Shleck's broken collarbone, to name a few. Some have abandoned, some have soldiered on. Chapeau to Cadel for hanging in there, and to the sprinters for making it over the Alps and the Pyrenees. Tough lads, they are.

Some surprises - Lance losing time on the cobbles, Contador not winning a stage, Levi falling back in GC, and Chris Horner currently sitting at #10. I'm so happy for Chris, he is one tough guy, and I've enjoyed his daily blog posts in the Oregonian.

It's been filled with some drama too - from Renshaw's expulsion from the Tour after Stage 11, to Contador's attack when Andy Schleck had a mechanical on Stage 15. But what kind of a Tour would it be if there were no questionable tactics, no death-defying descents, no nasty weather, no situations where you can easily argue for one rider or another "well, that's bike racing". Reminds me of short track and Apolo Ohno always insisting at the Olympics that he can be the most fit, the most prepared mentally and physically, but once on the ice, anything can happen. "That's short track", he said in 2002 after crawling across the finish line following a dramatic pile-up when last-place Aussie Steven Bradbury glided across the line to capture the gold.

So, this bike racing, it is endlessly fascinating to me - every year I learn more about it and it becomes even more so. Why is that? After having seen the film "Chasing Legends" lastnight, could it be because I'm forming a list of the "Hottest guys in the Tour" calendar? No, that's not it - the Tour for me is not just about shaved muscular legs and fit bodies in spandex. It's about so much more than that. The passion for achievement, the willingness to "turn themselves inside out" as Paul Sherwen says, the sacrifices the domestiques make for the team, the strategy of one rider against another, team against team, rider against doubt, weather, injury, illness, fatigue. The beauty of France unfolding under each pedalstroke of the peloton, the crowds who come out in their crazy costumes, their skimpy clothing in the heat, waving their flags, shaking their fists at the riders, running alongside them, screaming "ALLEZ!!! ALLEZ!!!!" Willing them up the mountains, propelling them upward with the sheer passion of an entire country - the world, it seems, with all the flags representing so many nations waving in the wind. I even saw a University of Oregon flag on one stage flying next to an American flag! One day, I thought, I'd love to be there, but I don't think I'd scream and run alongside the riders. Just imagine camping there for days, waiting in anticipation, writing names in chalk on the road, meeting people from countries you've never been to, and then suddently, the motorcade arrives, the riders pounding out a rhythm with their bikes, their eyes looking ahead, unphased by the mayhem. How they manage to concentrate amidst all that chaos is beyond my comprehension! Some day, I shall ride up one of those climbs on my bike and await the peloton so I can experience it myself.

Until Monday, I will enjoy every minute. Can Andy Schleck gain time on Contador in tomorrow's time trial, an event Contador has been steadily improving in? Will Fabian Cancellara dominate as he did in the prologue? Will youngster Tony Martin outride Fabian like he did in the Tour de Suisse? Will Lance's farewell Tour end in a dramatic fashion? We shall see.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Best & worst

Commercials during the Tour are repeated ad nauseum throughout the coverage. I find that by mid-Tour, I have them all memorized, even though I record the live coverage on my DVR, but usually watch it at the same time, so I can't fast forward through all the ads. Even at night I'll watch the prime time coverage and forget that I have the day's stage recorded, but sometimes I'm too tired to pick up the remote, or I just get up & do something while the commercials are on.

I find myself missing the mojito commercials from last year in favor of the Michelob Ultra spots with Lance and featuring "Song Two" by Blur, a song I'm getting really tired of hearing. But it's better than the Cadillac commercials from last year featuring the whatshername redhead actress from Grey's Anatomy/Private Practice. I'd like to pretend I'd never seen the ridiculous ads for credit scores that are supposed to be what, dogs? Really? It's so stupid I hope that the agency that came up with this "creative" idea is never given another chance to come up with something even worse. My favorites, even though I've seen them probaby a hundred times by now, are the Radio Shack ads featuring Lance on his bike talking cell phone etiquette to his "assistant" Alphonse. They make me laugh every single time. My favorite one features Alphonse in full Radio Shack kit (with helmet) riding Lance's bike on the helmet. Camera pans past a note on the door "in France on business - Lance."

"They say the weight gain in training was a problem, but Lance said 'go ahead young man'. They're raising French babies and throwing soft cheeses, as is the custom here."
*cell phone attached to his waist rings, with an unrecognizable tune ringtone*
"Oh hey Lance, I was just faxing, I'm pretty busy."
"Get off my bike, Alphonse."
"Right, I'll get back to work". Hangs up the phone. A smile crosses his face.
"Oh yes, everyone is running after him, small children, saying 'he's the champion, ahhhh, woooooo!"

Me: Giggles.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Holding my breath

Wow, stage 9 today already? I am so far behind. I swear every day I spend maybe 6-8 hours sleeping and the rest either watching the Tour or reading about it online.

There have been some really brutal stages so far. With Frank Schleck and Christian Vandevelde out, there are still a lot of GC contenders left. But it became clear today that Contador and Andy Schleck are the best climbers in the business, as Bob Roll would say. Watching Lance and his series of bad luck issues, beginning with the spill in Stage 2 and then the flat on Stage 3 which lost him some time, and culminating in not one, not two, but three crashes on stage 8, it's clear that an 8th Tour win will not happen for him. It's really bizarre, like all the good karma he had in those 7 tours having great teams around him and surviving without any major mishaps has caught up with him. Who knows. In any case, it makes him appear more human and will be interesting to see him once again ride in support of another teammate, but this time I really do think he wants Levi to do well. Can't say this was the case last year, though Lance & Alberto were both on team Astana then. Today's stage & climb up the Madeleine was painful to watch - the images of a struggling Cadel Evans in the maillot jeune, the face of Jens Voigt contorted in pain, the cool, calm and collected face of Alberto Contador, and the slight grimace on the face of Andy Schleck are the ones I remember most. Yet I saw an interview with Chris Horner in which he just laughed at how brutal it was, talked about how much he suffered, and will be there tomorrow for more of the same. He gave a somewhat emotional interview on Sunday saying that he'd ride for Lance any time and that he's "a legend". That kind of loyalty is pure as this sport can be. You don't see that in the NFL or NBA, do you? I'm not so sure. But nothing can compare with the brutality of the Tour de France, the sheer and absolute lunacy of riding a bicycle around France.

While I'm ranting, can I say a few words about ugly kits? I can't even remember who I mentioned last year but come on AG2R, brown bibs? Really? And what is with the Footon- Sevetto team? Couldn't they at least come up with a better design or some better colors besides brown and brownish? If you want to send a guy in the break for some quality camera time, don't you think they'd consider having something a bit more pleasing on the eyes?

Speaking of pleasing, I sure loved seeing Fabian Cancellara in yellow. His dimpled smiles on the podium as he dons the yellow jersey brighten up even the gloomiest of days. And I have to admit that I yelled at my TV as if it would help Mark Renshaw and the rest of the Columbia HTC leadout train deliver Mark Cavendish to his 2 stage wins. I actually cried when I saw his emotions burst forth as he stood on top of the podium, not able to hold back the tears as he finally regained lost confidence, paid back his team for their hard work with a well-deserved win, and hopefully silenced his critics. He's been under a lot of pressure, and coming off such a phenomenal 2009 season he had a lot to prove.

There's still a lot of Tour left. I can't even make any predicions right now but I would absolutely LOVE to see Levi Leipheimer on the podium. Everyone is ruling out Cadel after his admission today that he's riding with a fractured elbow. I see no cracks in the armor of either Schleck or Contador, both of whom have strong teams around them. I'd rather see Andy Schleck win, which I can only justify by saying he seems more humble to me, and more appreciative of his team than Contador was of his Astana teammates last year. I also have more faith in Saxo Bank to deliver Andy to the Champs Elysses than I do of Astana to deliver Alberto. But, we shall see....

So when I'm not watching the Tour, or reading about the Tour, or thinking about the Tour, or talking about the Tour, I'm riding my bike. I put in 180 miles last week!

Oh. I just remembered, I have a full time job. Back to work.

Monday, July 5, 2010

A very crashy Tour

A 3-day weekend of riding and waking up early to watch the Tour de France reminds me that it's time for my annual Tour post. After all the hype & endless repeating of the Lance vs. Contador feud from the 2009 Tour, July 2010 is finally here. On Saturday the Prologue began in Rotterdam, proving to be no surprise that world champion time trialist (and hot Swiss guy) Fabian Cancellara needed no motor in his bike to crush everyone's time. Resplendent in yellow, and congratulated by Eddy Merckx, Fabian and the rest of the field rolled out today on Stage 2. But wait! I forgot all about Stage 1. What a mess. As all the teams fought to get their leadout men to bring their sprinters to the front, the twisty turns to the finish resulted in total chaos. First Adam Hansen and Mark Cavendish were caught up in a crash on a sweeping right turn, and then as everyone wound up within 1k of the finish, a massive pileup ensued. Caught up in the melee was well, pretty much the entire peloton. Poor Tyler Farrar had his rear derailleur torn off by locking up with the bike of an AG2R rider, who did not seem happy about that at all. A stage win by an American sprinter on the fourth of July would have been sweet. I'm sure Tyler could have achieved that goal had it not been for the craziness resulting in the massive crash. As it turns out, once again Alessandro Petacchi emerged from the chaos unscathed to storm across the line, much the same way he did in the Tour de Suisse when Cavendish and Haussler were caught up in a crash.

Anyway back to stage 2, Brussels to Spa. What seemed like a decent entry to the Ardennes ended up being absolute carnage. I've read the tweets, the blogs, and the articles, seen the videos, and watched the coverage on Versus. Apparently a moto crashed trying to avoid a fallen rider, and resulted in oil being spilled all over the road. This turned the descent of the Stockeu until "complete and utter chaos" with riders all over the road. Seeing the pictures of torn jerseys, bloodied faces, elbows and legs, just makes me ache. These guys, at least the ones who have not had positive x-rays for broken bones (Christian Vandevelde has 2 broken ribs and is out of the Tour) will be at the starting line tomorrow. Even Lance has road rash from a crash. Most of the GC guys hit the deck today at least once.

So I'm basically just rehashing everything that has already been broadcast and written. And there are some saying that this type of course should be reserved for the Spring classics and has no place in the Tour (Chris Horner, for one). I would have to agree. The Tour is difficult enough every year, why make it even more treacherous than it already is? These guys are away from their families, train for years to be there, spend every night in hotels, ride over 100 miles a day and burn thousands of calories. I for one don't want to see them bloodied and injured on the roads, that doesn't make it more exciting. What makes it more exciting is the suffering sure - but suffering like seeing a break that actually makes it to the finish, like Sylvain Chavanel's courageous ride today. That man deserves to be inyellow. Suffering like the contorted face of Jens Voight fighting to bring his teammates back to the main group after the crash. Suffering like the consecutive leadout men who pull off when their job is done and hope their sprinter is the first across the line.

I will get up at 5:30am to watch the Tour each day, then read about it on Twitter and all the internet articles, then watch it again in the evening. I'll talk about it with anyone who knows enough about cycling but I won't tolerate anyone who thinks that the Tour is easy. It's a pure sufferfest.

It sure makes it hard to predict any winners from the GC contenders with this type of start to the Tour. I do think that Lance will do well on the Pave' tomorrow, as will all the teams whose main guys ride the Spring classics. I wish Tom Boonen was there, as he'd really love it, even after his losses to Cancellara in both Flanders and Roubaix this year. He's Belgian, he lives for the cobbles. Contador may dance on his pedals and fly up the climbs but I don't see him doing well on the bone-jarring cobbles. I hope to hell it doesn't rain though, or it will be a total mess.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010


Some blue skies would be nice! Maybe a few puffy clouds thrown in just for texture?

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

New Zealand

I am planning to go in October, no matter what - but at this point I don't believe the minimum of 10 needed for the group rates on the trip have signed up. Details of the trip are here - have a look.

I know it's expensive, and it's a big commitment which is exactly why I'm planning to go. I need something big, something HUGE, something totally out of reach and seemingly impossible to prove to myself that I can do it - save the money, make the sacrifices, do the training, do the planning, take the time off and travel halfway around the world, to another timezone, another day, and enjoy the culture of another country. So, I'm in.

Are you?

Thursday, May 13, 2010

my version of spring fever

Really, pro cycling? The Giro d'Italia and Tour of California both in May? How can you do this to me? I knew this would happen when I heard about it last year, but I didn't realize how much it would wreak havoc on my attention span. In previous years, it was all about catching whatever news I could find about the Giro, but now it's everywhere - live feed, recorded stages on the DVR, blogs, and Twitter. I can barely keep up. It's not so much about watching the day's stage as reading the entertaining blog updates (such as the one @BikesnobNYC is writing for Universal Sports). So, after the ToC officially begins, will sleep really be necessary? I may have to re-prioritize. It's only May.

It's these 70+ degree days that make me wish I wasn't indoors at the office or inside a car on the way to & from work, but rather navigating stoplights, train tracks and car traffic commuting to work. On weekends, I enjoy the long rides on west side country roads, but during the late Spring and Summer, I feel guilty sometimes commuting by car. But people typically understand why I don't do it very often when I admit that I live in Hillsboro and work on the east side, and the one way ride, while not even 20 miles, takes over an hour. And I frequently have errands to run, meetings to attend, or somewhere to go after work, which require a car. So, there you have it. Convenient, yet sensible excuses. Right?

I do look forward to being able to plan ahead, organize my schedule, and hop on the Max in the morning, work my (+/-)8 hours, and then hop on the bike for a leisurely ride home in the evening. I'll gladly ride up Washington Park and beside the zoo, along 26, and mostly downhill through Beaverton neighborhoods to get home, where I can relax and enjoy the rest of the evening.


Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Is it just me, or does it feel like Fall?

Been a while since I posted anything. Haven't been riding much outdoors, so I guess that's why. Other than a few sunny Saturdays, I have lacked motivation, or time, or both. So I'm now going to "ride with power" computrainer class on Wed. evenings. It's a good workout, much better than the one I'd do at home on the couch. I have every intention of riding either my newly-purchased CycleOps Comp 200e or my own bike on rollers (like I did while watching the Tour of Flanders last Sunday), but I don't. Not sure why. Doesn't make sense to complain about my lack of fitness and then go home and practice my couch luge form, does it?

Speaking of the Ronde van Vlaanderen (Flanders), what an amazing explosive acceleration by the Fabulous Fabian (aka "Spartacus") Cancellara on the Muur to splinter the legs of Tom Boonen. Fabian didn't even get up out of the saddle. Fireworks on the Muur.

At least I managed to clean the rest of the Kruger-mud off my mountain bike, clean the chain and put new pedals on, and put the new Selle san Marco saddle on my road bike. But did I ride? Umm....

It just feels like fall to me. It was Spring, briefly, and the clouds gave way to sunny weather, but now they are back. I am chilled more often than not, and wearing sweaters & cords to work, wearing fleece around the house. But it's April! I should know, having lived in Oregon for so many years, that Spring weather can be unpredictable and cannot be blamed for anything, nor can it be used as an excuse for mood fluctuations. I don't like to complain about the weather, but I can observe what effect it has on my moods.

I need goals. I still haven't thought much about PIR, don't feel like I'm all that enthused about it. I have to find some way to gain confidence, something to work towards that is more specific than "get into better shape" or "not be overweight and unhappy". Riding on Saturdays is clearly not enough.

There are a few rides on the calendar that I'd like to do. Coming up: Monster Cookie metric on April 26, always a fun (though flat) ride, the first organized one of the season (since I usually skip the Worst Day ride). Talking to my friends in Bend about doing the PPP (Pole Pedal Paddle) May 15, which would mean skipping Reach the Beach. Then there's a few centuries here & there, maybe the Pioneer, since I haven't ridden that in a few years. The Portland Century is a tough one! Maybe Crater Lake again, since I bought a new tent.

Cycle Oregon is up in the air at this point. I've already paid & registered, so I'd lose $100 if I cancelled before the end of August. But - there might be a more exciting trip in the plans. TWO WEEKS IN NEW ZEALAND. In October. That's SPRING cycling. Organized by none other than Heidi Swift.

The planning has begun. I'm already scheming on what I can sell and how to save up enough money for this trip. I need a goal.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Rite of passage

IMG00568 I went for a ride with Ken Lee after skating practice yesterday.  We took our usual route out towards Camas and around Lacamas Lake.  It was an incredibly clear, even warm, but windy day, and felt like Spring.

Saturday was the same type of weather, and the planned route included climbs up Mason Hill & Dorland to Skyline.  On Helvetia I was already feeling sluggish and didn't have the energy to catch the group as they surged ahead while I stopped at West Union.  John Elrod waited for me, and after riding up Jackson Quarry, we met up with a smaller group that turned left on Mason Hill, skipping the tough climb, which seemed okay with me.  I need the challenge, but just wasn’t feeling it, and I’m sure there will be more opportunities to ride those hills throughout the summer.  We had enough of a challenge riding into the wind on the way back.

With the way I felt on Saturday's ride, I was glad Ken was on his fixed gear yesterday, since earlier in the week he had mentioned bringing a bike with more than one gear and doing some climbing.  To me, the route is challenging enough, with rollers and a few short, but steep, hills that get my heart rate up and usually have me out of the saddle.  It gets easier each time though, and I’m feeling stronger.

I don’t pay attention to the street names, but just follow Ken’s wheel, though the route is becoming more familiar so I can anticipate when we’re going to turn as I recognize the familiar landmarks.   I have no idea which road we were on, but it’s just after a left turn onto a short hill, then it curves around, and all of a sudden I look down and there’s a white dog chasing me and barking.  I’m not afraid of the dog biting me, I just don’t want the dog to cause me to crash & take Ken out.  I can’t even think about pulling out my water bottle to squirt the dog, and I don’t have my small pump with me, not that I could bring myself to hit the dog.  I imagine I can feel the dog’s teeth on my shoes and before I know what I’m doing, I yell “DOG! DOG! DOG!” and sprint past Ken to lose the dog.  There’s a car behind us, and no shoulder, and I’m grateful that the car doesn’t try to pass.  Without turning to look back, I hope the driver sees the dog and is patient enough to wait until we continue on and the dog goes back to his yard.  Then at the very next house, I see another dog, a small brown one, start to run towards the road.  Ken and I simultaneously yell at the dog as loud as we can and I believe it stops him in his tracks.  I continue around the road as it curves, relieved, adrenaline pumping.

Finally we get to a place where we can ride side by side, and I say to Ken, “please tell me the white dog didn’t get hit by the car.”  He says no, and then remarks “I didn’t know you could sprint!”

Hah.  I guess I can if I have to.

When we got back around the lake and on flatter roads again, thinking of outsprinting the dog made me smile and I decided I needed to document this milestone.  So I took out my camera and took a picture of Ken.  I wasn’t too far back but slowed down a bit to take the photo.  I was super grateful to be on his wheel when we were in the wind.

As I thought about it, I commented to Ken that this is like one of those rites of passage that were listed in Bicycling Magazine a few issues back.  Like your first saddle sore, first bonk, first century.  First time chased by a dog .  Rite of passage.  I outsprinted the dog.  Crisis averted.  Whew.  WIN!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Surviving strength training

The late fall-early winter doldrums had arrived. Working too late most nights, not having the time or energy to plan healthy meals, time in front of the TV, and dark mornings with no energy to drag out the rollers resulted in lethargy, weight gain, and general malaise. Does this sound familiar, or is it just me?

I can’t remember what I initially thought when I saw the information about Upper Echelon’s strength training classes. I read about it on the website, talked to people I knew had taken the classes last year, and procrastinated. I knew I had to commit to something, because the old routine wasn’t working. My biggest fear: making it blatantly obvious how out of shape I really am by demonstrating that I don’t belong in a class full of bike racers. My biggest worry: what to wear? After all, the class involves both gym work and on-the-bike training. I had to get organized.

I tried not to think about it. I told Russell Cree that I was pretty sure I would die in the class, even though he had no idea what I was talking about. He just said I’d be fine. But I was dreading that first night, Monday December 7th. I thought of what could go wrong. I planned how to make sure I had enough time to get ready after work including time to grab a quick dinner.
I showed up. After all, 99% of the challenge is showing up. Right, Einar?

I immediately liked Lara Brown, the coach, and tried to put out of my mind what I imagined she was thinking when I introduced myself. Generally I don’t care about making an impression or what people think of me (those of you who know me will agree) but I would bet she was wondering what I was doing there, with my $129 set of Advance Minoura rollers, shebeest knickers and slightly worn North Wave shoes. Most everyone else had on their team jerseys, brought trainers and looked like they belonged. I chatted a bit with Lara, who reminds me a lot of a friend of mine who was once on the National Cycling team and came very close to qualifying for the 2006 short track speedskating Olympic team. I got on my bike and managed to stay upright on the rollers for the warmup, thanks to the strategically placed table (for my towel & water bottle).

Warmup over, time to do some “dynamic strength work”. This consisted of light jogging & doing various warmup exercises in laps across the room – knee-ups, lunges, etc. Then, the coordination drills. Lara lays out a “ladder” on the floor and shows us the hop-scotch-like drills. At first it’s easy, just run with knees up, one foot in each square, like football players running in tires. Then it becomes more complicated, this is where the “coordination” (or in my case, lack thereof) comes into play. Lara hops lightly and effortlessly as she demonstrates each combination drill. Javad quickly imitates precisely what she has demonstrated, and everyone else follows. Then I attempt the drill, and sometimes can’t get my brain to stop the negative “you can do this, klutz!” thoughts so that my legs & body can actually perform. At least I try, and hope nobody is laughing, but I am amused at my own clumsiness. So be it.

Time to get on the bike. Lara brings out a chart which I can’t read, because I am so focused on staying upright on my rollers that I don’t dare look up. At the beginning of class during warmup she had us introduce ourselves and I did so without looking up, but managed to shoot a quick frightened glance at Lara, and heard a few chuckles. I paid my money like everyone else, and I need to be here, I thought. I am out of shape, so what if I’ve got 10 or 20 years on these “real” racers. I just want to ride my bike and not die.

Back to the chart. I can’t focus on it, but Lara is saying something about “power 1” and “power 2”. I interpret this to mean “pedal hard” and “try not to puke”. These are my goals. I manage to accomplish both, for the most part, though Lara does have to say “get your cadence up there, Linda” quite a few times. I try not to watch the clock. Lara says “throw your knees up over the handlebars” and I picture parking my bike somewhere and just reclining with my legs draped over the bike. Not exactly what she meant. I realized that the coordination and warmup drills are intended to simulate the pedaling motion (at least the running knee-ups, anyway) so I find that if I just concentrate on pretending there are wires on the ceiling attached to my kneecaps, they will pull them up repeatedly, allowing me to somewhat resemble an actual cyclist on rollers.

I survived the first class. Even though I ate before the workout, I was ravenously hungry when I got home at 9pm. Note to self to bring snacks for the ½ hour drive home. I even went back for 2 more classes in December. Then the holidays came. I had to work up my courage all over again to return to class on January 13th. In place of Lara, who is out of town, Chris put the three of us through a similar warmup and more core workout, which I badly need. The spinning portion of the class was much harder – 120 rpms? Are you kidding me?
I’ll get there. I may not ever be an actual road racer, but I am determined to regain the fitness I’ve lost, be able to pedal more efficiently, not get dropped on rides, and most importantly, fit into my jeans.