Description

An admitted shoe geek waxes philosophical about running, triathlon, and life in general.
Comments welcome!


Tuesday, May 22, 2018

It's SNOWING! In MAY!

Well, not really. But it kind of looks like it's snowing. 

Little white things floating around in the air, settling on the sides of the road, like cold dry snow, drifting, stirring up by passing vehicles.

Yes, there are places in the world where it actually does snow this time of year. Far from here, in the southern hemisphere, where they are in late fall and approaching winter. It doesn't snow here in May.

It's the annual cottonwood seed crop.

Yesterday was bad. Today was even worse.

At 10 am, the grassy areas were still wet. And then the cottonwood seeds would accumulate in the bare areas. My tires would get caked with wet white stuff, and then fling it all over on the descents.

I felt like I was slowly accumulating a white ghillie suit. Ready for sniper duty on planet Hoth!

Cottonwoods are such horrible trees. Truly weeds of the forest. Dropping limbs in even light winds, breaking apart when you try to fell them... And burning the wood is best left to fully enclosed wood stoves, as it smells terrible.

And the seed crop.

Hopefully it'll be over with quickly.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Elbe Multi-Strada Loop Ride, 2018 edition

It was a dark and stormy night... The eve of the 2018 running of the Elbe Multi-Strada Loop Ride saw the postponement of a family photo session due to torrential rains that parked over the area for a few hours. But the forecast said it was supposed to improve overnight and be "nice" all day Sunday.

This was the fifth year for this event, more loosely organized group ride than anything else.

Attendance has varied over the years, with a high of 17 to a low of 4, mostly weather dependent. The course has been steady since the 2015 event, so returning riders generally know what's in store (at least the parts that the brain doesn't lock away due to painful memories).

I drove out early to place the water stop cooler and to post the KOM/QOM prize (FREE BURGERS!). I had decided to do something a little different than the Strava segment this time, hammering a stake along the side of the road at a semi-random location with a paper plate sporting the ride emblem (a John Henry I'd used in the first two years) with tags stapled to the back -- in order to win, you had to be the first person by that sign to see it and stop to get the tag. I put it near the top of the last climb... yep, ON the hill. I'm cruel like that.

The riders started to roll in about 8:40 for the 9 am start. We rolled out 5 strong to tackle the hills and gravel.

This ride is "only" 47 miles, roughly. But included in that is 19 miles of gravel roads by the original route. With the addition of the Bud Blancher trail bypassing the run in to Eatonville, it adds more. I'm thinking I'll just make that the official route in future events, and forego the water cooler in town. Anyway, those gravel roads are where the really nasty stuff happens -- the real elevation gain, and one particularly heinous stretch of self-flagellation that tests traction and will. And that is thrown into the middle of the longest climb. Part of the post-ride conversation always includes the question of "did you ride the whole thing?" This year, I can humbly say I did not, as I walked the last 50 yards or so, not able to turn the pedals over any more. I tell everyone before the ride starts, there's no shame in walking that one. Frankly, it's not that much slower, either.

Vistas were fairly shrouded in fog on this day, but on a clear day you can see... quite a long ways.

The final roll back into Elbe is a gentle descent along the Mountain Highway, making you feel heroic from the high speeds after all that abuse. A quick change at the car, and then it's all about the BURGERS!

The Elbe Bar and Grill serves up the best post-ride refueling. On any other day it might be too much, but after a ride like this, it's perfect. And this year the free burger went to Nick Koops, who selected the Boiker (famous for the inclusion of peanut butter).

Much conversation about future events, trails, and hidden gems in the Pacific NW.

So... with the 2018 running of the Elbe Multi-Strada Loop Ride in the books, look for the Lucky Masochist's Gravel Deuce in July, and the return of the Elbe ride next May.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Catching up

Sometimes you meet up with some one you haven't seen in a long time, and it seems like it was only yesterday that you last saw them.

So it was this past weekend, meeting up with Shane.

My daughter-the-elder is beginning her college search, being a high school junior, and Whitworth University (Spokane, WA) was holding their "Pirate Preview" weekend May 6-7. One of my old riding and racing friends also lives in Spokane, and so I contacted him for a riding route suggestion. He did far better -- he invited me to his house, just a few minutes from the university, for a ride together.

I showed up at about 5 pm, and after the handshake-hug, re-introductions and such, readied quickly and we were off to his guided tour of the Spokane River.

Dropping back into the valley, we hit a horrendous headwind, and my thoughts went toward "this could really suck". But we got to a more protected area and the wind settled down some.

Talk ranged over reminiscing on past rides and races, family, moves, careers, injuries, aging, and a lot of talk of spiritual things. Life views, parenting, past mistakes... Catching up, to where it was like no time had passed since we last rode together. But we did the math, and figured out that 24 years have gone by. Neither of us had children at the time, and now we've goth got girls in late high school, and he has one late in college.

The route along the Spokane River wound around quiet roads and walking/cycling paths, through a pine forest. Rolling hills throughout made for difficulty finding a rhythm, but also made for a challenging ride. Several deer, a few geese, and my first-ever wild turkey sighting.


At the dam, the spillway was flowing deep and fast, the river swollen from the months of rain. We stopped for photos, then got back on for the return ride on the opposite side of the river.

Shane is a really strong rider. Always has been. I tell him that he's always been able to ride away from me at will, and it's still true. Especially late in the ride when the long morning drive was catching up to me that I found myself truly trying to catch up with him on the hills. Yes, I did drop my chain twice, and that did force a stop, but that wasn't really why I was flagging. I was glad that he'd had a long and hard ride the day before.


We ended the ride just shy of two hours, my fastest ride this year (and I think last year as well). We sat for a while, more conversation. Brothers from another family, seemingly.


Catching up, in so many ways. May it not be so long til the next time.


Wednesday, May 2, 2018

A Blessed Event (BuDu Racing Mt Rainier Duathlon)

No, not a birth. Sorry, no cute pink-n-wrinkly newborn pictures.

This is about an event, a race, the BuDu Racing Mt Rainier Duathlon, which was this past Sunday in Enumclaw, WA.

I've participated in this event in various capacities over the years, as a racer in its first few years, to volunteering in positions of traffic control, timing chip retrieval, and motor support (lead-out and draft marshaling), and now as one of the multi-sport series sponsors (this is my third year giving a custom bike frame and fork to one of the athletes that does at least three of the six multi-sport events that BuDu Racing promotes and executes).

And in all my time at this race, set against the entrance to the Cascade mountains, I've never been rained on during the event.

These guys are somehow blessed when it comes to this race.

This is in Washington, the Pacific north-wet (no, that's not a typo). It rains here. A lot. Especially at the Cascade foothills where the moist ocean air unloads itself to make it over the mountains. Timed in the spring at Beltane (April 30th for those not aware of a Pagan calendar -- and no, I'm not Pagan), the odds are good that an odd rainfall or ten would deluge the race right off the road. And I understand one year there was a pretty good hailstorm, but I was elsewhere on the course at the time and (thankfully) missed out. I've had the rain chase me home after the race a couple times, this past Sunday being one of those. We were just getting everything into the BuDu trailers when the skies opened up. 

I'd like to know what anti-rain dance they're doing!

But for the Regional Long-course Duathlon Championships, BuDu again put on a flawless race, with great support all around. And they even had the race results posted online before everything was packed up. First-class event organizers, these folks.


Oh, and they do a load of other races with timing and course set-up. 

I'll be at their June 9th event in Moses Lake as well, delivering the bike that was awarded last season's lucky winner. I hope she likes it.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Daffodil Classic Ride, 60 miles in the mist

I'd been waffling for over a week on this ride, keeping an eye on the weather forecast.

Rain. Rain and drizzle. Cloudy and rain possible. Cloudy with a touch of rain.

At that point I figured I'd survive and most likely even enjoy the ride, so I kind of committed to showing up by telling my day-job boss that I would be there if the forecast stayed that way or better. The final weather outlook said "cloudy with rain possible" on the morning, with temps in the low 40's, and I loaded up the car and headed out a little early.

I had originally hoped to use the newly-revised road bike for this ride, having moved the (corroded) top tube cable stops and added a pump peg. I ended up with the gravel bike, opting for the larger tires and less care about grime, adding the rear clip-on fender from my wife's mountain bike to protect the Kinekt seatpost mechanisms from gritty road spray. That turned out to be the right call for the day, about the only improvement would have been a full front fender.

I got to the ride site, a small-town middle school, with plenty of time to spare. I lounged around a bit, finally paid my fee and got my number, then back to my car for the final prep of pinning it on, and piling on the layers.

I hooked up with my boss and four other riding buddies of his, and we headed out into the falling mist. At least there wasn't any wind.

I led out the train, as I was very familiar with the ride course. The pace was easy, and the group stayed loosely tied together through the first few miles. I drifted back to chat a bit, then saw that two of the riders were up the road a little. I chased in, and the three of us rotated a bit...

One dropped back, and I though he was going to pull in behind me. When I looked, he was nowhere to be seen. I continued on with the other rider. Once the road tilted up, he started down-shifting, and just before it leveled off he pulled left. Again, I thought he would slip in behind me. But instead he dropped back entirely, a huge gap opening within a few yards.

At that point I knew it would be a long and possibly frustrating ride if I stayed back, so I continued on. That's the last I saw of them for the day, just 5 miles into 60.

The rest of the ride was a solo effort punctuated with overtaking riders in ones and twos. It's not that I was really pressing the pace, but I didn't dally by any means. At the 25 mile mark I abandoned the glasses, as the mist and road spray had rendered them a detriment, and I had nothing dry or particularly clean to utilize for wiping. The stretch along Mountain Highway is 10 miles straight south, and seems a lot longer than it is. Finally we get to turn off the main road and onto the chip-selaed backroads. Definitely the roughest stretches of the entire 60 miles. Between the rear clip-on fender and the Kinekt seatpost, they quite literally saved my backside.

From the 35 mile mark to the second food stop at 40 the road has a steady incline, and this stretch tests my mental fortitude every time. To put it bluntly, it sucks. But like all the other miles of road, it passes, and after a few minutes to fill a bottle and grab some snacks in Eatonville, I was on intimately familiar roads again and knew at any moment just how far I had to go to the final incline, and the finish.

The final downhill is a thrill. The rains had stopped some time prior, and though the roads weren't dry, there wasn't standing water. On previous iterations of this event I've had to hold up for traffic on this descent, but not this time. I could completely open up and fly. It makes all the miles before worth the effort.

The only picture I got for the day before my phone
decided to shut down.
Cruising the last two miles to the school again, I looked forward to dry clothes and strawberry shortcake. Got the Strava tracking saved (whew!), snapped this picture, and then my phone decided to self-terminate (shut itself off, despite the 26% charge remaining).

I took my time changing, waited around a little, had my shortcake, but finally headed back home. Tired, definitely. Glad I did the ride, even if it was mostly a solo effort.

A couple hours later I got a text from my boss: "How long have you been home?"