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

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Random Tidbits

  • My wife and I will be at the Mr Crampy's tent on Saturday for the Issaquah Triathlon, working bike support along with Justin. Given my last post, this should be interesting.
  • May is just about over (just a matter of a few hours now). Weather has been the normal mix in the Northwest -- teaser warm (and in a couple cases, hot) days, days where we got our full-measure of our 20% chance of rain, and days where it just couldn't make up its mind. But we're three weeks away from the official start of summer. But still almost six weeks away from when the weather gets reliably warmer and dryer. It always seems like the sun stays kind of shy until a week after July 4th. I remember one summer just a few years ago where it stopped raining in mid-June, and stayed dry until after Labor Day. We even had one day at 108 degrees... Riding my motorcycle, it was actually cooler standing still than moving.
  • Over the last few months, Skechers has sent me several test shoe models, and I can't wait to be able to tell you about them.  Good stuff coming out of their labs. The whole process of working with them has a small-company feel to it -- nimble, open to feedback, conversations going both ways. Given the size of Skechers as a company, this is very refreshing. It's not often that one gets an email from a VP of a company.
  • Things are coming together for the Joe Matava Memorial Classic Criterium on July 4th in Burien, put on by Lucky Cause Sports and Wheelsport Cycling Team.

Monday, May 21, 2012


I've noticed something about the difference between cyclists and triathletes: Expectations.

The shop I work at as a mechanic serves mostly triathletes. I was a triathlete before I considered myself a cyclist, competing in my first race in 1984. I've also been around racing cyclists for many years, traveling all over Washington and into Oregon and Idaho as part of a roving caravan of gear-heads that hit the race scene every weekend from March to September (along with various weekday races along the way).

I really noticed it this past weekend with the bikes that came in the door for servicing, every one of them tri bikes -- triathletes expect their bikes to work mindlessly.

In spite of the rules of triathlon that state the athlete is to be self-sufficient, cyclists, at least racing cyclists, tend to be a more cerebral lot in the way they interact with their bikes. Finessing a shift is almost second nature to a cyclist. Reaching down to open up the brake calipers when a spoke breaks to prevent it from rubbing on every wheel revolution? No problem. Stop to give the barrel-adjuster on the derailleur a tweak to stop that chain rattle? Yup, a simple on-the-road feat accomplished in a few seconds.

Triathletes, on the other hand, are a spoon-fed breed prone to whining about the least of inconveniences. The bike must work with the minimum of effort and mind-space dedication, making no noise and shifting performed by intention alone. Have to use a little extra pressure on the shifter to get the chain onto the next cog? Take it to the shop -- it's not working right. 

The smallest of things will cause the supposedly hardy and solo athlete to seek outside aid at the shop. Maybe it's the cost of the machine (though I've seen road bikes that cost every bit as much as the highest-priced tri bikes). Maybe it's the oxygen deprivation of too much chlorine. Maybe it's that biking is less a passion and more just one of three disciplines to get through.

I don't get it.

A co-worker brought a bike to me to work on -- it needed some work to overcome 20 years of sitting in a garage. When I saw the bike, I was taken back some 29 years to the first bike I ever bought from a shop... It's a 1983 Trek 560, in purple and yellow, with Suntour Cyclone components. The exact same bike I bought, right down to the color scheme (UW Husky's colors). Working on that bike was a refreshing break -- no indexing, loads of brake clearance... Simple.

And he won't expect it to work flawlessly.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Slow, relentless progress

I realized something on my run yesterday: I've progressed.

Not just that I'm running longer now than I was a month ago. That was always the plan. Of course my first recovery plan had me running farther and more often than I am now, but full healing has been slower than planned (can I really be so old that my recovery is slowing down?).

But I realized yesterday that I've hit a bit of a milestone -- my runs are to the point where they can stand alone on the training log.

Let me explain.

I've been putting in a lot of bike miles. Part of that is pointing toward RAMROD (154 miles with 10,000 feet of climbing in July), and part of that is taking the mental pressure off my goals to progress the running to make a couple of half-marathons. So my runs have been short, and if I didn't make a run on a scheduled, I didn't worry about it -- there was a ride scheduled later that day.

But yesterday I realized that I DIDN'T have a ride scheduled later, and I was okay with that. The run was long enough to scratch the workout itch for the day and stand alone.

Progress. Slow, but progress nonetheless.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

It's the little things...

Yesterday's ride was one of the most uncomfortable ever.

It isn't often that I just wish a ride were over, even when I'm doing what would be considered well over the mileage to which I've adapted. Yesterday was one of those days, though.

And it wasn't even saddle sores. In fact, that was probably the one area that DIDN'T hurt.

So let's back up a bit. I worked on Saturday, so my only workout of the day was one hour on trainer before riding the motorcycle an hour to get up to Redmond. Sunday was a day of no workout, though I spend several hours on the motorcycle doing lead-motor duties for the Mt Rainer Duathlon in Enumclaw. Oh, but we had a little family push-up challenge...

My wife convinced me to take yesterday off work (sometimes called "eye trouble" -- I can't see coming in to work on such a nice day -- or "calling in stupid") so I could do a long ride. It took all of maybe 30 seconds deliberation to decided to do it. Projected highs were set to be in the low 70's with clear skies, so it was going to be a perfect day. I got out the door at about 12:15, and headed out toward the ranger station on the Carbon River (Mt Rainier National Park).

Within a few miles, I could tell things weren't perfect.

I had made a little adjustment to my saddle angle a little over a week ago, and while it was comfy for the rides I did in Richland, with a max of 40 miles, it wasn't going to work for 80-plus. I was sliding forward on the saddle, and then pushing myself backwards with my arms and legs. Did I mention the push-up contest? Yeah, sore triceps. And pushing back with my legs got my ITB flared up a bit in my right leg, which only showed up when I stood up out of the saddle.

With 20 miles to go, I was done. Triceps were locking up, ITB was stabbing me any time I tried to stand, I was constantly trying to push myself back, so the traps were starting to complain, low back was sore from trying to arch, and the gloves were pushing into the spaces between my fingers (from pushing backwards).

And all that from just a little adjustment of the saddle. Little things can make such a HUGE difference.

I'll be tipping the nose back up, and sliding it back a tad.

And everything is sore today. Except my taint.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Taper Tantrums?

I've got one of those jobs where I have to wear a badge. It's got my picture on it (from a time when, as Billy Joel said, I wore a younger man's clothes), and the company logo, along with a "smart chip" that's supposed to carry all kinds of secret information. [Insert Big Brother comments here.]

But when I take that badge off at 3:00, most of the time I take the job off as well. I forget about being an enginerd when I pass through the guard gate to make my nightly escape, not thinking about the stupid things that happened all day, all the red tape and hoops I had to jump through. I'm in a different environment, and what I am at work has no place there.

Similarly, when I put on a pair of shoes to go for a run, or cap my head with a helmet to go on a ride, I leave everything else behind for the duration of the movement. Stresses and cares don't have any place here. Like Sylvester Stallon's character in Over the Top, when he turns his hat around, "I become a machine."

And the funny thing is that when I come back from that movement, and I re-enter the world of those stresses and cares, they always seem a little less.

But I realized something this week, when my wife was thinking I was pushing myself too hard -- I was carrying them with me into the rides and runs, and I was still fuming about work when I got home.


And I think I found at least part of the answer.

Taper Tantrums.

It's that phenomenon that you see in Ironman athletes and marathon runners the week or two before the event where they're tapering down their training to rest and fully recover prior to race day. Something about those weeks just sets the mental and emotional horizons at partial tilt, and everything is a little off.

And I'm not even racing!

But things this past week have just been a little different than normal, between schedules, a weekend trip to Washington wine country for a Barrel Festival (lots of wine tasting), bad weather this week, things at my daughter's school... I've been ramping up the mileage on the bike over the last several weeks, and the last two weeks have been lower volume (along with no long ride).

So I think that's a major component.

Which means that I need to get back on the mileage!

A good problem to have, I guess.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Time dulls the pain

This past weekend, my wife and I spent the weekend in Benton City, WA, for the Yakima Valley Wine Barrel Festival, along with four other couples. And the place we stayed just happened to be a mile from two routes from races I rode in long ago: The Horse Heaven Hills Road Race, and the Jacob's Loop Road Race. As you can imagine, I brought my bike.

I guess in some ways it's amazing I could remember the routes (though they're not all that complex). But it HAS been some 15 years since I last raced those courses, even if I raced them almost 10 times each.

Eric brought his bike as well, and we rode both Saturday and Sunday mornings, one course each day.

I was surprised at a couple things, and I think they both have their root in the same phenomenon.

One, the climb up Clodfelter Road on the Horse Heaven Hills course wasn't as harsh as I remember. Even though the road was closed before the summit (which has a steep downhill just before a last, cruelly steep uphill grade), and we had a fairly steady headwind on the way up, the hill itself wasn't draining me as I expected it would. I remember feeling like the hill was just long and steep when I raced on it many moons ago. Maybe the difference is that when in a pack and every one is wanting to shed as many people as possible before the final selection at the summit, the pace stays high, making it feel worse than it is.

I remember the first time I raced this course, just barely missing the lead pack up that final steep grade, and watching it disappear into the distance. And also the wind whipping up the dust from the bare fields lining the road, making it disappear as well at times.

Two, the hills on Jacob's Loop were harder than I remember. The mental pictures I have of this route from when I raced it made it seem pretty flat. Compared to the route from the previous day, it is -- there really are no sustained climbs. But there are a few hills, and they're not just little sprinters grades. Thankfully the ever-present wind of Tri-Cities (I've never been here when the wind isn't blowing hard) was less today. Or it just hadn't woken up yet.

I related to Eric a time on this course when racing years ago, how I'd just drifted off the front of the pack, and later had a team mate join me (which was amazing -- rarely will a pack ever let two team mates get a gap on the field). We started a two-man rotation and gained a good cushion, but with 40 miles still to go, we looked at each other and thought at the same moment, "Do we REALLY want to do this for another 3 laps?"

Interesting, though, those two contrasting surprises -- one course seemed easier, the other harder, than what I remember.

Time does dull the pain. Or maybe it makes it sharper. And memories are not static things. Perceptions change over time. Not the "the older I get the better I was" kind of perceptions, but situations are colored by many factors at the moment they're stored away.

I'm glad I got a chance to ride these courses again. Brought back a lot of old memories. And brushed them up a bit.