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

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

It's getting warm in here...

There's nothing like that feeling when everything is running smoothly, the joints are all lubed up, and the speed just seems to pile on.

Back when I was bike racing a lot (almost full-time), I found that the better shape I was in, the longer it took me to warm up. An hour of riding building to sprint speeds was common for a criterium. Only on the longest of road stages would I do very little, allowing myself the first several miles of the race to warm me up.

Lately I find myself warming up slowly again. It takes me a good 20 minutes to feel like I'm firing on all cylinders and can push the pace. Most of my lunchtime rides find me averaging about 17mph for the first 15 minutes or more, and finishing with an overall average approaching 20. As my riding goes over 12 hours a week of time in the saddle, it seems that my body has adapted to the longer rides, and says "wait" when it comes to meting out the energy to push the pedals.

I'd love to say that my speed and endurance are approaching that of my peak racing years again, that this is just a symptom of my return to the fitness I had in my late 20's and early 30's. And that I could drop into a race again and not have my posterior handed to me on a platter along side my dignity.

Alas, it's more likely just that I'm getting older, and it just takes longer to get percolating.

That's okay, though. I'll take it. That just means I'm full of surprises for any one who sizes me up in the first 20 minutes.

Friday, July 18, 2014


Life has been pretty busy in the brider home.

Little one at 11 months and counting means that plans for a big first-birthday are in the works, along with all the normal house projects that get chipped-away-at like a lazy woodpecker, carving out a moment of two for getting the in-process bike frames built (one almost done, and shuffling three more around to get to varying states of semi-assembly), and working a full-time job...

But in all of this, we recently bought a smoker. Not a high-end thing, but it is gas or briquette fired. My wife has been having a lot of fun with it. And I can't say as I'm at all disappointed.

It's been used a good twice a week since we got it. Pork and chicken have been the proteins of choice mostly, and let me tell you, the results have been DELICIOUS.

Last night was her first foray into cow. Beef brisket. And yes, it was good. I've got a couple slabs for lunch today.

Yes, it takes more time than a barbeque. But the results are SO much better.

Monday, June 30, 2014


Blue skies.


Temperatures in the 80's.

Only one layer of clothing needed.

If forecasts are to be believed (and the naive me thinks that maybe they are, you know, just this once), it would seem that summer is finally here. It's only a week or so early. Or this could be the fake-out for every one's July 4th picnic plans... Psyche!

I really do live for this weather. Sunny and warm (in the low to mid 80's works just fine for me) is my sweet spot. It's both mentally and physically refreshing. I feel better even with less sleep. I wake up looking forward to the day. And rides and runs... I just feel better. Sure, I'm drenched in sweat, but that's just part of it.

You'd think with my Norse/Celt/English blood I'd be more at home in the typical Pacific Northwest cool and wet. Nope. To quote Yoda: Depressing it is.*

Well, how far south did the Vikings go a-raiding? Maybe I'm the genetic throwback of a pillage and plunder of some quest into the Arabian desert...

My wife thinks that it's all because she set up an awning on our back deck. Now that we're ready for the rain, it won't rain.

So I'll be riding in shorts and short sleeves.

And if it rains, I'll know SOMEone washed their car. I'll hunt them down...

* Yes, I know Yoda never said that. But I think he would if he'd spent the off season (meaning late October to Late June) in these parts.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Riding in the heartland

I came back home from a short trip yesterday -- four days in Central Illinois for my mother-in-law's wedding. As I'd written here before (here and here), I'd shipped a bike out there with the idea of being able to ride the backroads in the mornings before every one was up and about. It kind of worked -- I got three rides out of four mornings of a little over an hour each, and managed to not get rained on in any of them.

But here's the funny part -- the bike I rode is old, with mid-level-for-the-day 7-speed components. In this particular area, that meant that there were only 5 cogs wasted in the rear cluster.

We're talking flat terrain. The only thing that really forced me to shift was the wind.

Also, I'm convinced that rims and brake pads essentially last forever in that area. I mean, not only are there no real descents to necessitate bringing speed in check, but the locals don't even slow down for intersections. Sure, for most of them you've got a mile of sight distance in any direction, but there's STILL a stop sign there. The legal thing to do is stop. Or at least slow down. Of the maybe 12 cyclists I saw during my rides, I never saw one even so much as move their fingers to the brake levers when approaching a 4-way.

Navigating on these roads, even though they're utterly foreign to me, was easy. Count the turns, or if the mind-numbing-ness of the flat terrain makes me lose count, just use the direction of the wind to guide my route. The entire county (I'd even venture to guess the entire region south of Chicago) is laid out in a mostly rectangular grid. Land marks like the water tower, a particular factory building, etc, are all well-seen from quite a distance. Four turns usually got me pretty close to my starting point.

Strava said that my max climbing on any of my rides there was 316 ft. Over 23 miles. By contrast, a similar ride here would net twice that. When I ride the rail-trail. Road rides start at three times that and go up from there.

It's good to be home. Where I can use the whole gear cluster.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Capitol Forest Routing

I've been a bachelor for the last nine days. My wife and young daughter proceeded me to Illinois last week visiting family.

Which left me alone (mostly -- my older daughter was with me part of the time) to do a lot of riding and building, and I took two of the days to finalize the routes for the loops I want to use for a 2-day event next summer.

In an entry last July, I lamented the trustworthiness of maps and satellite views in planning routes to ride. Paved roads are easy to find on maps. Gravel roads? Not so much. Some roads aren't marked on the map, and many that are don't actually go where the map indicates. Some peter out into nothing. Some just aren't there at all.

Last Saturday I embarked on the shorter of the two routes (planned for the second day), leaving from the Lucky Eagle Casino around 1:30 pm. With one dead-end after the main gravel section (I was expecting more), I was forced to find an additional few miles.

So on Tuesday I returned to ride the addition to the second day route and finalize the longer loop for the first day. After ten hours of driving and riding, I had it all pinned down. 63 miles for the first day with about 70% gravel roads, and about 31 for the second day with probably 30% gravel (I still need to create them as single routes in Ride with GPS -- they're logged in pieces currently).

So what's left? Picking a date, setting up the event on Facebook, and inviting the guests.

These rides will be very challenging, though not technical. Great vistas, steep climbs, remote roads (meaning little if any motor traffic), clean air, and good company.