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

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Oregon Handmade Bicycle Show

My wife surprised me on Thursday.

A while back I had thrown out the idea of going to the Oregon Handmade Bicycle Show in Portland this weekend. Problem was, with the little one, plus having my older daughter (12 year old) this weekend, I didn't think it was the best idea.

Well, on Thursday she suggested that I take my older daughter on a road trip and do the show.

We talked about it. Negotiated... I also have a first-cousin-once-removed who just had a baby in July and lives in Portland, and she and my wife have struck up a bit of a friendship over the last year. A visit with her and her son sealed the deal, and we all took the drive south yesterday morning.

The drive itself was harrowing -- Biblical-flood-like rains falling made the highway speeds slow, with visibility dancing between poor to downright dangerous. But we made it just fine.

A stop at the Lighthouse Inn in Linnton for a lunch of burgers and onion rings (the best I've ever had, worth the side trip), then back into town. I was dropped off at the show, while they headed to Powell Books.

I've been getting my welding gear together since March, when I took a 3-day one-on-one session with Dave Levy of Ti Cycles to build my gravel bike (the best-riding bike I've ever been on), and want to be building bikes by the end of the year, so seeing nothing but hand-made bikes and talking with the builders on various topics could easily fill the better part of an afternoon. I would consider it research. And maybe a little bit of obsession.

I found myself looking less at the bikes, and more at the details of construction and design. The "signature" parts, the things that, even if the frame were repainted without logos, some one could look at and say, "Hey, I know who made that bike."

Some of the things that stood out to me:

* Ti Cycles is now offering smoothed welds on their titanium frames. I know how much hand work it takes to finish a fillet brazed frame (I think 2.5 of the three days building my bike was finishing the joints), I can't imagine doing that on Ti. They were beautiful.

* Ti Cycles also had a full-suspension fat bike, and the rear suspension had no rear pivot -- it relies on the flex of a titanium plate aft of the bottom bracket.

* Pioneer Bicycle Co, a new builder, had some beautiful and smooth brazing. Talking with the owner, I found out he's pretty new -- he's only been building since January. Hm... Maybe I could be there next year. Only I don't live in Oregon.

* Strawberry Bicycle had some interesting wishbone stay work on display, and I really liked the Lan71 lug. Also, Andy Newlands brazes with propane, so I picked his brain a bit on set-ups and processes.

* Vendetta had a unique treatment on their seatstays -- a fastback design that is also capped like many wrapped stays.

* Igleheart had some of the tightest brazes I've ever seen. Very clean.

* Contes Engineering's 4-wheeled bike looked like it could go ANYwhere.

* Cielo Bikes had a road bike on display where the welds and paint made it look like liquid metal. Beautiful.

* Cielo also had a really nice disc cross race bike on display.

* Winter Bicycles had a matte-finished cross bike with un-finished brazes. These things were so clean they didn't need any finish work.

* North St had an ingenious tool bag that was also a top tube pad, which they called the Salmon Roll. For any bike that doesn't have top tube cables, this would be an awesome way to carry the tools.

Ti Cycles offers smoothed welds
Ti Cycles' FS fat bike.

Pioneer's clean fast back stay set-up
Ti Cycles' pivotless rear suspension

Lan71 wishbone lug
Strawberry's wishbone assembly

Igleheart's tight brazing
Vendetta's unique stays

Contes Engineering quad bike
Cielo's liquid metal

Winter's unfinished brazing.
Doesn't NEED finishing.
North St's Salmon Roll

 There were also a couple of vendor booths that left me wondering just what they were doing there. Finish work was poorly done, brazes were sloppy, and in one case not only were the bikes dirty and beaten, but the person manning the booth was clearly drunk. To be fair, beer was being served (though not free), and many were partaking. 

But it was a great time. I learned some things, learned that I need to learn a lot more, and left richer for the experience.

Another drive through torrential downpours (I think I saw animals lining up by two's in Olympia) got us home late, ready for a long sleep.

This morning has me thinking of filing tubes and burning some propane...

Friday, September 27, 2013

By the pricking of my thumb...

...something wicked this way comes.

Well, it's not coming. Yet. But it could.

Last year, on the last day of the Georgia state legislative session, HB 689 was introduced.

This is nothing more than an anti-cycling rewrite of the licensing and traffic code.

Now this isn't the first time that licensing of bicycles has been proposed, and I'm not really opposed to the idea. It might help deter bike theft, and in some kind of dream world might even help with theft recovery.

In a truly dream-induced state of lunacy, it might even tilt motorists to a feeling of one-ness with cyclists, or at least apathy rather than outright hostility.

Yeah, as if.

Anyway, as I said, I'm not opposed to registering and licensing bikes. But... As it's written, is it anything more than a state-sponsored money-grab? An annual license fee, along with transfer fees when a bike is sold or even given away?

In Washington, when a used motor vehicle is sold, the state gets to charge SALES TAX on the PRIVATE sale! And how do they do this? Well, you have to transfer the title. They'll hold it until the tax is paid. And what if the vehicle is GIVEN away? They'll charge the tax based on the Kelly Blue Book value instead of the sales price. They will even check the actual sales price against Blue Book, and if it's too far out of line, guess what -- KBB value regardless.

You think Georgia would pass up something like that?

Now let's get to the real anti-bike portion of this legislative proposal. Check out page 6.

(c) Persons riding bicycles upon a roadway shall not ride more than two abreast ride single file except on bicycle paths, bicycle lanes, parts of roadways set aside for the exclusive use of bicycles, or when a special event permit issued by a local governing authority permits riding more than two abreast single file. Persons riding bicycles upon a roadway shall ride no more than four riders per single file line, and at least four feet shall separate each bicycle. At least 50 feet shall be maintained between each line of four riders at all times
So, did you get that? Pacelines? Things of the past. Can't draft, and if you do, you can't drop back from the front (you'd me more than single file), and can't have more than 4 per line. So much for the centuries and charity rides, unless they're all staged on bike-only roads, or pay yet another fee for a special permit.

Here's another gem on the same page.
(e) When a roadway is part of the state highway system, the Department of Transportation may restrict persons from riding bicycles on the roadway or designate certain times when bicycle riding is permissible. When a roadway is part of a local road system, a local governing authority may restrict persons from riding bicycles on the roadway or designate certain times when bicycle riding is permissible.

Ever read the comments on any cycling-related accident article online? They all include comments to the effect that bikes shouldn't be on "their" roads, and if they get hit, they deserve it. If faced with complaints from constituents, what do you think local politicians are going to do? Yep, close the local roads to cycling. Open times? Sure. And I've got a bridge to sell, cheap.

It amounts to nothing more than open-season on cycling rights.

The second amendment was written all about keeping government from over-running the people. Our government is supposed to be by the people and for the people. Our rights as cyclists are being threatened constantly because we ride on "their" roads.

Do I think this legislation will pass? Not really. But the fact that it was even proposed troubles me. It's one more high-lob against bikes, and if it takes a foothold anywhere, I can see other states adopting similar anti-bike revisions just due to the money-grab aspect. 

We need to be vigilant.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Monday, September 16, 2013

A triathlon 50 years in the making

It's amazing the things that cross one's mind during long training sessions.

I started off this epic at 8:30 at Five Mile Lake, which I'm very familiar with and where I've done most of my open water swim workouts. The fog was just at the top of the trees as I waded out into the water. Driving to the lake I had envisioned being socked in at the center of the water... "MARCO!"

I quickly settled into a sustainable rhythm, relaxed, just ticking off the yards.Several times my goggles played tricks on me, making me think I was seeing blue skies opening up along the horizon. Nope. But it was just the water on the lens coupled with some color distortion from the light tint.

By the end of my first lap (of three) I could feel a spot on the back of my neck feeling hot. Uh oh. Wetsuit hickey! Lesson learned: When you think you've applied enough Bodyglide, put on a little more. Nothing to do for it at that point but just to keep going.

My mind wandered, Things I don't even remember, some I do -- like thinking it would be good to have a waterproof dict-a-phone so I could capture these fleeting thoughts... I knew I wouldn't remember them all. My pace was steady through the first two laps, but my speed dropped on the third, adding a couple minutes to my expected time.

I also remember thinking that it's good to be able to pop off an Ironman distance swim on almost no swim training.

I took my time with the transition from swim to bike. Full clothing change, making sure my feet were clean, walking to the car and getting the bike together and all my gear and food in my jersey pockets. My wife clicking off a couple pictures as I pedaled off into the slight mist.

I've said many times that your body essentially forgets the swim by the time you're on the bike for a couple miles. And for the most part that's true. But with such a long swim, you've dipped into your energy systems already and need to start refilling the tank almost immediately. I kept pulling on the water bottle, and was eating by 5 miles.
I'd put my lighter wheels for the day, wheels which I haven't ridden on since RAMROD last year. They do behave a little differently than the bomb-proof wheels and wide tires I ride on most days. The bike felt like a completely different animal, more lively, more responsive. Not in a bad way, but it took a few miles to settle into the feeling.

My chosen route was a double loop so that I could stop by home to refill water bottles, restock food, and take a little break. Add a PB&J, and in 15 minutes or so, I was back on the road for the second half of the ride.

There's a pug along the route that will come out and chase me. Oh, and it's on an uphill section of this route. And he's pretty fast, staying up with me into the low 20's for at least a little while. Usually it's not such a big deal to just jump out of the saddle and get past him. But I haven't seen him in a while. I thought maybe he'd moved, or been hit by a car. Well, he's fine and in full-speed health. On my first lap he ran out as normal, and I got past. But on the second lap he must have heard me early, because he ran out well before I even got to that house. And he brought a friend. I didn't want to sprint again, because I didn't want to dig into that well with so far to go still, so I just stopped -- "Dude, REALLY?!?! I'm not in the mood. Go home."  He didn't know what to do. He just stared at me. I started out again slowly, and he let me go.

The last bank-reader-board temperature I saw said 64 degrees. And it was still cloudy with occasional mist dropping on me. So much for the nice weather forecast of 80!

I'll admit that I did a little bit of chasing a round-number average speed on the bike, and finished at 18.0 mph for the rolling average.

Another easy transition at home, putting the bike away, another full wardrobe change, and I set out to the cheers of my wife and daughter.

On the run, I was starting tired, but still feeling pretty good. Smiling, at least. I kept my stride even and easy, not pushing hard with the calves (I've had issues with my calves running off the bike before). I ran the first two-plus miles non-stop, then started taking some walk breaks. Even then, I was running more than not.

Coming to the half-way point, my water bottle was near empty, so I stopped at the medical center there and refilled. Later, I figured out that it was past the half-way point, and when I got to eight miles, it kind of crept up on me. As tired as I was, though, when I put an intermediate goal of "run to that fence/telephone pole/fire hydrant, I didn't walk until I reached it. THAT is a victory.

The final hill just short of my house was a sweet success. And I walked into the driveway with the only fanfare playing in my head, no cheering crowds, no finish banner, no volunteer kids draping a finisher's medal around my neck.

In the end, I was very tired, but not so exhausted that I couldn't keep moving. And of course with having started out with the IM distance swim, and the overall effort being longer than a half-Ironman, there is the thought that maybe, with some more training, I could possibly do a full Ironman distance event. I mean, I did the swim with basically no swim training. Could I add another 31 miles to the bike leg? Sure. Could I add another 16 miles to the run? Uh... no. And I'm okay with that. Could I decrease the swim by 50%, the bike by 25 miles, and add 3 to the run? Sure. But then again, I don't really want to. I'm quite happy with the longer rides and shorter runs.

The tale of the tape is this:
Swim time - 1:19:26
T1 time -- 22:56
Ride time -- 4:56:19 (including all stops)
T2 time -- 20:50
Run time -- 1:45:46
Total time -- 8:45:19

I had done what I set out to do, a challenge I'd laid out for myself almost a year ago. I never geared my training for this day, I just wanted to throw myself at the distance with whatever I had from my daily regimen.

Saturday morning I went to the Inspired Ride Bicycles for the weekly group ride. The shop owner asked me why I did this personal triathlon. I've determined that, for any one asking that question, no answer will satisfy them. It's something that you kind of either understand or don't. For those that do, they don't need to ask.

So what was the day about? A large bit of self-affirmation, a piece of meeting a challenge I knew I wasn't fully prepared for, and a healthy dose of gut-check.

Besides, as mid-life crises go, putting in a long day isn't so bad.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Friday the 13th will be a very lucky day

About a year ago, just after I passed my final 40-something birthday, I put out a challenge to myself.

A sprint tri for every decade. 750m swim, 15 mile bike, and 5K run, times five. Comes out to a 2.4 mile swim, and I fiddled with the distances (moving some miles from the run to the bike) to get to an 81 mile bike ride, and a 10 mile run. Overall, a fair bit more than a half-Ironman triathlon.


My plan was to do this on one of the days over a long weekend near my birthday, which just happens to be next Thursday. I've been watching the weather forecasts, and while that particular day looks decent, it's only one day in the middle of a week-long cloudy-with-a-high-chance-of-deluge. And this IS the Pacific Northwest, which usually means that the one nice day will crap out nicely when it arrives.

But the weather THIS week is fantastic. It hit 90 yesterday, which is really warm. Not just really warm for this area, but really, REALLY warm for the middle of September.

I like it.

So yesterday my wife suggested that I do the long tri day on Friday. Well now... Since I already have the day off work due to a flexed schedule, I figured, why not?

But wait, it's Friday the 13th!

I'm professing it now -- it's going to be a very lucky day.

This isn't a race, or even a fast training day. It'll be a long haul*. Stops for food are okay. I'm sure there will be at least one.

And then I'll be able to settle in for the long winter's nap.

Or at least long enough to wake up for the party on Saturday.

* Note: I haven't trained for any long distances for swim or run. This should be interesting.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Kids vs the coach

So as you know, I did a sprint triathlon last Saturday, the Bonney Lake Labor of Love triathlon in Bonney Lake (duh). I'd put out a challenge to the entire RockSteady Junior Triathlon team (which I help coach on a volunteer basis) for this event, saying that any of the kids that beat me in the sprint would get something "pretty cool". One guy asked me if it was a car... "Not that cool."

I know there are at least two of the boys who would hand my backside to me. And there's one of the girls who, if she's anywhere near my in the second transition, could very well take me on the run.

Add on the fact that I was "aging up" this year to the 50-54 division, and I was wanting to set a new standard there...

No pressure, right?

This is my fifth time doing this event, and with the exception of one year, I've done the sprint course each time. I'm pretty familiar with the course, though each year there are small differences in road surfaces (one year had a LOT of fresh chip-seal to deal with), weather, and water chop. Turns out that this is the fifth edition of this race as well, so it feels good to have support a race in every year of its running.

My swim training is meager, at best. Aside from the tri I did in June, I think I've put in 4 total swims, all in open water. At least this swim is short, so I wouldn't lose too much time to the kids.

I was using my full-on tri bike, race wheels and all, but with one exception -- no bike computer. I had no idea how fast I was going at any time. I was going into the bike leg with only one thought, "ride faster". Much like Greg Lemond in the 1989 Tour final time trial, I didn't want any feedback, I just wanted to concentrate of riding as fast as I could.

Race morning dawned warm and clear, unusual for this time of year. I got to the race site just as first light was showing on the horizon, and was the third bike into the transition area. Got the end spot on the assigned rack, set up a few things, and then milled around, chatting with the kids, getting the day's vibe and putting my game face on.

It was kind of funny when the head coach asked if I would take the kids on their warm up run. I politely declined, saying that I really do very little in the way of warm up for races. So that left him, who has done very little running, and always declines when I invite him to stick around for the Monday run workouts (he's a swimmer by background).

Anyway, the kids disappear, and I take one more cruise around the area, checking the transition zone one more time, before putting on my wetsuit and heading over to the lake shore.

The lake temperature was comfortable, and we were headed almost directly into the sun for the turn-around buoy. I started out relaxed, and had to remind myself several times to glide more and flail less... I'm not the best swimmer, but I do okay. The turn around buoy arrived much sooner than I expected (later, looking at the swim times, it seems the swim course was a little shorter than years past), and even on the return, things went faster than "normal".

Exiting the water, heading to the transition zone, peeling off the seal skin, putting on the helmet and shoes, then grabbing the bike. NOW I'm in familiar territory.

I'm used to passing people on the bike leg. Having a relatively weak swim compared to the bike and run, it's normal for me to click off competition once I get out of the water. Today was a little different, though -- I got passed. Sure, I passed several people, but I got the feeling that I was being passed more this year. At one point (about 4 miles into the 12 mile leg), I felt like I bogged down some, and clicked down a gear to get a little break. Still keeping the cadence up, but without the speed number to tell me whether I was still going quickly, I was starting to get that sinking feeling that it was going to be a long day.

After another mile, however, the course took a little downhill, and I was back on top of everything. Only rising out of my aero position for the sharp corners, I pushed through. There is one hill that is a bit of a surprise, as it comes right after a corner -- you don't see it coming, and so can get caught in too high a gear. I did bog down a little bit there, and had to stand up to keep on top of the gear.

Coming into the transition area again, as every year there are MANY people warning of the upcoming turn and dismount, imploring me to slow down. Hey, I'll slow down when I need to, okay? My brakes work just fine and I don't need a quarter mile to do it! Anyway, I jumped off the bike (at least it felt that way -- it probably looked more like I was falling off), ran to my rack, hung the bike and helmet, swapped shoes, and hit the road for the 5K run.

And immediately my calves started to lock up. Three times in the first quarter mile I almost face-planted because my calves were cramping. Did I mention this run course is full of short, steep hills in the first half? Oh, this was going to be fun...

It took a while, but by the time I got a mile out, my calves were fine, and I could really hit my stride. I was passed by several runners, none of which were in my age group, but also some of them peeled off to the Olympic run course. Phew!

At the highest point of the run course, I had that puke feeling. Like I was gonna hurl. It had been HOURS since I'd eaten anything besides the gel about 15 minutes before the start, so I knew there wasn't anything to actually empty out. Didn't make me feel any better.

But I've always said you know when you're going hard enough in a sprint tri: You can taste it. And there I was. I pushed on, and the feeling eased somewhat. Final two rises, then the long gentle downhill to the finish, no one around me. I kept having the feeling like some one was gaining on my going down that last stretch, but the next person behind me was some 30 seconds back. Ghosts, I guess. At least it kept me pushing all the way to the finish line.

My final time was almost two and a half minutes faster than my previous best on this course, some attributed to an average speed on the bike .7mph faster, and a run leg 4 seconds per mile faster. I finished first in the 50-54 age group by a good two minutes, though my 11th place overall was two back from last year. I guess more fast guys showed up this year. Good stuff. Especially for an old man.

And the kids? One of them was ahead of me the whole way. On a road bike. He's an awesome kid with a LOT of talent, and if he sticks with it, he could really go places in this sport. His reward? I offered him the choice of $100 cash or a pizza feed for him and three friends, as well as an aero fit to help him dial in his tri position. He chose the cash to help him buy race wheels, and we're working on arranging the fitting.

Maybe next year I'll have to step up to the Olympic distance again.