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

Friday, October 30, 2015

They're getting kind of stupid out there.

While that title could relate to a lot of things going on in the world right now, I'm referring to an annual event... Okay, not really an "event" so much as a season. 

It's that time of year when young cervidae's fancy turns to lust.

Yep, the deer are entering the rut season, and with it, their intellect sinks to new lows. The bucks, anyway. It's like, between their brains and their loins, they only have enough blood to operate one at a time.

It's not unusual for me to see a few deer on my lunchtime mountain bike rides around the facility where I have my day job. Hundreds of fenced-in and wooded acres provides a nice home, and it's a rare day when I don't see at least one. Sometimes I'll see them more than once as I make multiple loops -- they don't venture far, and tend to return when they think I'm gone. But they also usually high-tail it into the woods as soon as they see me...

But not today.

Twice I had to hit the brakes to avoid hitting bucks that were staring straight at me before they would yield the double-track. Vocal warnings, which usually help them determine that I am human, were of no avail.

The first was a young buck with spike antlers no more than four inches long that stood just inside the fenceline, not 50 yards from where a school bus was letting the morning kindergarteners off. I was on a slight decline, so my speed was decent, but being on gravel, I was making a fair bit of crunchy tire noises. That did nothing more than get its attention, but it still just stood there, staring at me.

"Are you going to move or something?" I asked out loud.

Apparently not. It wasn't until I was within 20 feet and on the brakes that this fine specimen decided it would trot off into the trees. I laughed it off and kept on my way.

But the other one I wasn't so sure about.

Nearing the end of my ride time, I bypassed a new trail that a friend and I had cut just a few weeks earlier (being VERY wet) and took the service road around. It takes two small descents of just a feet, but fairly steep, before rejoining the main and more traveled dirt road back to the plant. As I crested the first drop, I could see a nice buck in the road. It saw me and quickly ran left. But then I saw the other one... Just as big, sporting a good 4-points-per-side rack, and standing proudly in the smack-dab-middle of the road. Then the doe ran into the road from the right. And the musky smell hit me.

Yep, I believe I had just interrupted the "macho brawl over a woman" of the deer world, and it's something to be very careful about. I slowed WAY down as the doe exited left, but the buck remained brazenly staring me down. I watched for any hint that he would lower his head and charge me. Those antlers are pretty darn sharp, and with a couple hundred pounds of angry deer flesh behind them, can do lethal damage. As I made it to within an easy stone's lob, however, it turned and trotted away from me, right down the very path I had intended.

I didn't quite consider myself "out of the woods" yet, so I remained in alert for the deer to turn on me. I disappeared around a corner, and as I made my way around the same corner, I heard him crash through the brush to my right.

The rest of the ride went without incident, fortunately.

It's kind of cool to see the deer on the company grounds so often. Thankfully, this season is fairly short. Within a couple weeks the hormone laden deer will be back to normal, running away from any human.


Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Oregon Handmade Bike and Beer Festival

I've had a few days to absorb the weekend, but I'm still flying high from it all. I'm sure the full impact of the two days won't be evident for quite some time. Most likely they're only a beginning launching point, a brick in the foundation on which greater things will be built.

While this wasn't the first time I had shown my handiwork to "the public", it was the first in an environment meant to showcase the specific genre of handmade bike frames. I was excited and nervous, and more than once referred to myself as the geeky freshman trying to hang out with the varsity football team. The nerd at the cool kids table.

I had attended the two previous editions of this event as a looky-loo (2013 and 2014), visually taking in some of the best builders in the Pacific Northwest (at least the Oregon chapter). I had started doing some framebuilding in 2013, and at last year's event made the goal (promise?) to attend this year as an exhibitor. It was in my thoughts all year, with each file stroke on a tube, each drop of brass added to a joint. What would I take with me? And more importantly, what would I bring back?

Two days prior my car decided to have issues with an ignition coil. A tense several hours ensued where I wasn't sure if I would be scrambling to rent a van to make the trip south. But a local repair shop had my car back on the road by noon Friday, and I had plenty of time to pack up for the early drive to Portland.

My car isn't a moving van by any means, and my original plan had to be altered due to lack of space in the vehicle. Packed in were: my road bike, fully built save pedals; the recently-finished triathlon bike in partial build (fork, wheels and handlebars); my all-road bike fully built and ready for the Sunday morning group ride (I hadn't planned to actually show this one, so I hadn't even cleaned it); and one bare frame/fork. My wife suggested late in the afternoon that maybe I should bring my daughter's kick bike, just as an interest-getter. Turns out that was a good idea.

I arrived at about 7:15, nearly the first person there. I unloaded my displays, set up, then helped others where I could. By 10:30 I was biding my time until the gates opened to the public at noon.

But when the clock struck 12, the people filtered in, and the rest of the day went by in a blur of conversations, photos and smiles. I don't think I even looked at the clock again until 4:30, half the expo time gone for the day.

I had put my all-road bike out front, with my daughter's kick bike, matching paint schemes. Best. Move. Ever. This combo caught so much attention. Many people taking photos, asking questions, a great ice-breaker. One gentleman asked me to pose with the kick bike, holding it like it were a baby. I obliged. Who knows where that picture will turn up. Late Saturday, one gentle soul came by, admitting he'd had enough beer to make him a little buzzed, and started poring over the two bikes... Tearing up, he told me, "I've got to tell you, this is just $%@&ing ART, man."

The triathlon bike also generated a lot of attention, with the seemingly long wheelbase. I explained many times that the smaller wheels made it look that way, but that it was actually fairly conventional. I explained the reasons for the design, and it was replied with nods of understanding. People realized that there's a thought process, not just a cookie cutter, behind each build.

Heading to my hotel at about 9:30, I showered and got to bed, drifting off quickly. In the morning, I realized I had not spent the night alone...

Getting to the Sunday morning group ride was an adventure in itself, as all the north/south roads were closed due to the Portland Marathon. I did finally get there, after nearly 30 minutes of wandering around, following bad directions given me by one of Portland's finest, and stumbling on a highway entrance ramp.

A beautiful tour of the Washington Park, Green Hills, and Marquam Nature Park ensued before dropping back to Goose Hollow. A very nice ride I hope to repeat. A quick load-up and dash back to Hopworks, and I was ready for the afternoon crowds.

Day two was very different -- fewer people, more mellow, music not as loud (thankfully), but just as interested. And the day rolled by fast.

By 6:30 I was loaded up and on the road headed home, having thanked those in charge for welcoming this newbie hack into their midst.

The next day I received an email from Hopworks with a link to the photo spread in the Oregonian. I had spent some time with the photographer, and it turned out that of the 80 photos in the spread, six of them were of my bikes!

Take-aways? Comments were all positive. Maybe that's just a case of "if you don't have anything nice to say...", but I think I would have heard something negative if people were finding my wares faulty. I think I should have some to show that aren't just rattle-can painted (though they looked pretty good, having a fully-dressed model catches more attention). I also got some great ideas for future displays.

I guess that means I'll be back.

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...