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

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Frederickson Fun Ride

After putting myself into the "event coordinator" role for a few mixed-surface rides, when my place of (daytime) employment was looking for people to help organize a cycling event, my friend threw me under the bus and suggested I would be a good resource.

It turned out to be a good thing. Not that it wasn't without some time commitment, but having myself and another racing cyclist helping out made the entire event come off smoothly. The folks who were initially putting on the event had big ambitions -- I told them that it would be a miracle if they got 25 riders on this first-time event.

My main duties (along with Russell Clark, who put on the CL100CXTTWC last December) were to scout out a route (that's poetry, by the way), suggest signage, and note where it would be good to have volunteers. Also, we secured a shop to come out for assistance on bike support.

Russ and I are both very familiar with the service road network on the company property, and we arranged a 7.5 mile route within the confines of the outer fences, minimizing the amount of two-way traffic. Sure, there are a couple challenging spots where some folks may have to get off and walk, but this isn't a race, and there are no ego points on the line. It is for the most part beginner-friendly as long as one is not trying to break any speed records.

Just a few weeks before event day we had a storm blow through, which dropped several trees across our chosen path. Where these trees fell across the fences, the maintenance crews were very quick to clear them. But there were a couple that fell on less-well-used dirt roads. I volunteered to come out on my own time and cut them out, but I think that violated several company policies and a few union rules, and my request for permission quickly elevated to high levels of management. Our contracted grounds crews must have been on it post-haste, because my recon ride two days before the event revealed a completely clear path.

One wrinkle came up the day before the ride, when the "leadership team" announced a barbeque for several work groups RIGHT on top of the time slot for the ride. This is the same "leadership team" that was supposedly pressed by the upper management to support this ride. Of course, since that very same upper management couldn't make it to the ride, it should come as no surprise that none of the other leadership would be there. As of 2 days prior, we were at a total of 15 for the daytime slot.

The morning of the ride came, and was spent marking the course and placing signs. Rain had fallen overnight, but not enough to make the wetter areas of the backwoods muddy yet. It looked like things would actually come together.There were a few challenges with some painted arrows being driven over, and thus disappearing, but some extra color kept things well marked.

We had a dozen riders show up, and I followed the last riders through the loop. Yes, it was slow going, and several times I tested my track standing. But no one got lost, no one got hurt, and the reports I've received so far say that everyone had fun.

That makes it all worth while.

Who knows, I might just do it again.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

The passing of an icon

Photo by DBC Photography,
lifted from the Jerry Baker is Everywhere Facebook Page.

Some people are major forces in a community, and you never even know it.

Some people influence your life and you don't even realize it until they're gone, and you look back and see the fingerprints.

The Pacific Northwest cycling community lost one of those types of people today in the person of Jerry Baker.

I first met Jerry as the owner of the Baleno clothing company, a Seattle-based maker of cycling togs that also sponsored the Puget Sound Cycling Club, the racing club whose major sponsor was Gregg's Cycles. Our team meetings took place in the printing and cutting room of Baleno every month. That was in about 1990. He was kind of goofy, but always upbeat, always smiling, and always supportive. I had no idea at the time just the amount of effort he put into the racing and riding scene.

He is, as I've read, the only person to ride every Seattle-to-Portland Classic to date, even winning the first edition (back when it was actually considered a race) in 1979. He raised the initial funding for the Marymoor Park Velodrome in Redmond. He was a tireless supporter and advocate of racing, and was the man driving the development of the local cyclocross culture surrounding Seattle.
These are all things I came to know over the years of being around him occasionally, attending the annual New Year's Day ride from Bellevue, and seeing his face at so many races throughout the years.

But here's the funny thing -- for all his tireless support and energy, he was the man so few people even knew about. He was just that way. Sure, when talked to, he would be gregarious and always had a good story to share, but he was also very content to just do his thing behind the scenes and watch the community benefit. Or at least that's the way he always seemed to me. And quite frankly I had no idea he was 73 years old -- he always struck me as much younger, such was his constant energy and enthusiasm. 

There's a life lesson in that.

As a cyclist in the area, and past racer, you look back on all that and see his influence on your life, the opportunities he created for so many people, and realize that it shaped you in ways hadn't even noticed.

One man with energy. Not even caring who got the credit.

Rest well, Jerry. You will be missed.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Missing a traditional event...

This coming Saturday is the Bonney Lake Labor of Love Triathlon, the 7th year the race has been run.

And it's also the first year that I won't be doing the race. As one of only a few who have done each edition of this race, it's kind of sad to miss it this year. A streak broken. And in fact it's the first year since 2007 that I haven't done any triathlons at all.

The reason I'm not doing the race has nothing to do with the fact that I haven't done any running or swimming since... well, since the last time I did the race. I could still do the bike leg of a relay. Though it wouldn't be my best ride. 

And it has nothing to do with needing time in the shop to finish up things for the Oregon Handmade Bike and Beer Fest, where I'm exhibiting for the first time.

No, the reason I won't be doing the race is because I've been battling some lower-back issues since just a few days after the Capital Forest ride, now over a month past. I believe that ride set me up for the injury, one of those "how could that hurt me so badly" kind of things that just seems stupid, but nonetheless puts me on the sidelines. This one was just hanging on. I can still ride, but every time I get into a good race position and push it, everything starts tightening up.

So I sought the intervention of a chiropractor.

I've seen one locally a few times when I've been feeling it. Within a couple adjustments things cleared up. Maybe they would have done so on their own anyway. This time, though, I wasn't seeing any progress, and the chiropractor was hesitant to take x-rays to see what was going on. I could FEEL the vertebrae out of place.

I defected to another chiropractor, and now a week later I'm doing MUCH better. X-rays showed that I wasn't imagining things -- a sideways angle at L-4 to L-5, and a forward displacement below L-5 said a thousand words of "ouch" in two pictures. 

Aggressive treatment is what I was after, and that's just what I got. Without 15 minutes of talk about how the chiropractor wanted to expand the clinic.

Anyway, I may still show up at the event if I can get on the road early enough, just to say a quick pre-race "hi" to the RockSteady kids. Maybe passing along a lesson in making the wiser choice...

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Mixed-surface madness

Last night I dropped in on the local Kermesse Cup series for a flogging. This particular edition was the Buckley Slough Kermesse.

What is a kermesse, you ask? Well, a thorough description of the European standard would be found here, but for the purposes of this local series, it's a short loop bicycle road race that is partially on dirt/gravel roads. The format is a point-a-lap sprint at a designated location on each lap, with a neutral after to regroup.

The entrance into the gravel
section (and where the
real racing started) to the right
(photo by Alfredo Rmz)
Last night's edition was on a basically flat 5K loop course, just over 1 mile of which was on a canal trail service road, with the sprint near the end of the gravel double-track.

I transferred over my 28mm road tires to a new set of wheels I'd built up a while back, and they now measured out to 30mm (WTB I-19 Team rims), and I figured I was as ready as I ever would be.

My warm-up was interrupted by volunteering to retrieve another rider who had flatted at the farthest point on the course, so when we all started into the gravel section right from the opening whistle, I wasn't ready for the first-lap-of-the-criterium mad pace. I barely hung on, and was the last to catch onto the group during the neutral. But it got better. I had to remind myself that I was going up against guys that were still racing on a regular basis, and I hadn't done anything like this in close to 10 years. [yeah, yeah, I know... "excuses excuses"]

Promoter and winner
Michael Pruitt in background,
second place Alfredo Rmz in
foreground (photo by Alfredo Rmz)
On subsequent laps, I became more active in the mix-up, taking my share of dust and pulls, chasing down early flyers, and having a great time. My lines through the rougher stuff got better, getting my "land legs" in the gravel at speed. Something I'm not used to, even with all the gravel riding I've done.

On the fourth lap, just as the final sprint lead-out was winding up, I gave a good push to hang on, and my back tweaked on me. I've had some issues with my back since a few days after the Capitol Forest ride, and up to that point it felt best when I was riding. This was a definite and very abrupt giving out, and I backed off and just soft-pedaled to the regroup. I let them know I was done, and hung it up when we got back to the start area.

Sure, my fun was over for the night, and it made for a very restless and painful night of barely-any-sleep (and a visit to the chiropractor this afternoon), but I think I did okay, all things considered. Met some new friends, got a good, if short workout, and had fun.

Would I do it again? Maybe, but if I do I'll stick with my normal gravel road set-up of 38mm rubbers and leave the road tires at home. And go in with a healthy back.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Lucky Deuce Gravel Crusher

It’s been four days since the end of the Lucky Deuce Gravel Crusher, and I’m still shaking off the effects of the ride(s). In fact, just yesterday a little in-home project had me sitting on the floor for a bit, which led to my back seizing up for the rest of the day. It’s still sore today.

So how was the ride? Let’s start with day 1…

In a word, brutal. And I was the one that mapped it all out. Okay, I’ll admit that event day was the first time I had strung it all together into a single ride. And in fact the first time I’d actually ridden some of the course (I had driven it, but that’s not the same thing). Not only does time dull the pain, but not doing the whole course at once gives one a skewed idea of just how hard it is… So I was going into it maybe just a little less blind than my ride mates.

In any case, after a dozen miles lulling us into a false sense of security, the climbing start in earnest. And that in steep grades. I had a 34/32 low gear, and was unceremoniously dumped into it early. Let the grinding begin. And then, once you think you’ve hit the top (at 15 miles, with a short downhill to seal the illusion), we take a sharp right and hit the REAL climb. A cruel pitch even longer than the one on the Elbe ride, and just as steep. I ended up walking a portion of it, and have no shame in saying so.

But the views from the top (at 22 miles) and along the long descent were fantastic. It’s funny how dropping altitude, and the attention it requires, makes one wish for flat ground, or even a little uphill. Relief comes at 32 miles, and more when we hit pavement again at 34.

The stop in the raging metropolis of Malone, at the “post office” (an outdoor drop box and PO Boxes against the side of a mom-and-pop shop) allowed for restocking the water and fuel stores, then we were off again along Highway 12, being buzzed by every truck in the county. Yes, Russ, there IS a law that every truck must haul a trailer, apparently.

And then the precip started. A drizzle that quickly became a vision-sapping heavy rain, and almost obscured the left turn back into Capitol Forest (39 miles). Let the climbing re-commence.

Insult on top of injury. This climb was long. And steep. And long and steep. With occasional respites of less steep. One seeming top-out at 44 miles, and then another onslaught at 45, with the actual summit at 48. That’s right, 9 miles (give or take, mostly take) of ascent. But what goes up must come down, and the next 8 miles was a series of drops and declines that had me on the brakes or letting it fly. Once again, by the time I hit the base of the gravel and onto pavement, it was a massive relief. Funny how we come to a ride like this for the gravel, and then feel so relieved to be off it. Two more miles of paved descent and back to the highway.

Turning off the highway at mile 60 and onto the backroads seriously decreased the baud rate of input, and a sigh of relief was audible. Little to no traffic, no terrain to deal with, an easy cruise to the end. Beer and snacks followed. Glorious.

After chillin’ away the evening and as good a night’s sleep as I could muster in unfamiliar surroundings, I arose for day two.

Though I was a little more familiar with the route and terrain for this ride, I had never done any of the spur out to the Brooklyn Tavern. I told myself that if I were the only one riding, or if every one else who showed up was tired or not up to it, I’d skip the spur and do the shorter route. Turns out I was the only one to show. But I was prepared for the full meal deal anyway.

Similar to day one, there’s a good 10 miles of pavement to warm up on before the first gravel sector. But this time there was more paved climbing, hitting at just over 8 miles in.  A nice, freshly graveled road awaited, with a closed gate (so no danger of motor vehicles). But up it went right away. Not as long, but every bit as steep, followed by some gentle rolling, and then a long descent to 12.5 miles. I hit rain (or it hit me) just as I approached the final uphill, put on my arm warmers and vest for the descent, and eventually sought shelter under a tree to wait out the worst of the rain.

Actually, the worst of it was all the tall grass that was bent over the sides of the gravel road soaking me as I rode through it. Close to the pavement, I came up behind two riders on horseback, and they showed signs of skittishness as I approached. I stopped, said a hello, waited for the horses to calm down, then walked my bike past. They, too, had gotten caught in the rain. We wished each other well and went on our own paths. By the time I reached the pavement, the rain had quit, and warm temperatures returned rapidly.

A short paved section brought me to the second gravel sector, with much more climbing in three stages, but also more pleasant gentle rises and falls over the six miles. This road was also gated, as the winter past had required ditching across the lane to prevent washouts – peaceful, nice surfaces. Four short get-offs for the ditching and the final short rise back to pavement had me back in civilization. Though this was an eight mile stretch of off-tarmac, it went by quickly.

While I didn’t go out to the Brooklyn Tavern, I did go out the spur part way, a couple miles to where the route departed the main roads, about 13 miles short of the Brooklyn. I felt guilty for not making the full trek out to the destination, but also knew that to do so would have meant at least another 2 hours of riding, and likely 3 hours or more total. I made the decision to turn back there and get to the end of the ride, paved the whole way.

The finish of day two follows much the same path as the final miles of day one, so familiar landmarks goaded me to push it in to the end.

Thinking ahead to next year, I see no reason to change the routes at all. Yes, they were hard (more so on day one), harder than even I expected, and harder than I had characterized in my info to other riders. But with some more accurate advertising, I think that more crazies would be attracted to make the event next year.