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

Monday, December 23, 2013

The last day of work...

Things are pretty quiet on the day job today, though I am actually getting something constructive done (for which they pay me, not just doing my last-minute online shopping). Of the few people that even showed up today, and the fewer still that are hanging around at lunchtime, most are just biding their time until the boss does the annual tour-of-shaking-hands to wish us a "happy holidays" (another soap-box rant). They then ignore the sound of beating feet towards the door as soon as they turn their backs.

I do have some other things I want to do today. And some other things I need to do today.

I think what I miss most about my younger days (college) is the week or so BEFORE Christmas, when the last final exam was completed -- the stress was off, I could do all my shopping in a day, and then just chill and mentally/spiritually prepare. Trying to fit all that into the cracks of life is a drain, and really I tend to just do what's necessary, waiting until it's finally over to be able to enjoy myself a bit.

Kinda sad, really.

But my new daughter gets to celebrate her first Christmas, even if she'll have absolutely no idea what's happening. That's okay, there will be plenty of pictures with which to embarrass her later.

Yesterday, my family and Eric's family (the guy I do a lot of riding and running with) went into Seattle for the gingerbread house display, dinner at Gordon Biersch, and some shopping while waiting for the "indoor snow" and a Santa appearance. While waiting, Eric's daughter mentioned about how "Santa isn't real."

Ah... Time for me to step in. At 12 years old, she was mature enough to understand.

"What do you mean, 'Santa isn't real'? Don't you believe in magic?"

Blank stare. I don't think she expected anyone to challenge that thought. Least of all the engineer.

"Tell me something -- how do you feel when you give someone something?"

Another blank stare. She was trying to figure out how to answer the NEXT question without answering THIS one. I persisted.

"When you give something to someone, how does that make you feel? Do you feel good about it?"

Subtle nod with a cautious, "Yeeeeaaaaahhhh?"

"That's Santa! The spirit of giving! When you're 2 years old, you have no way to understand that, so you need something magical, some one to BE that spirit until you can understand the feeling yourself. But by the time you're old enough to figure out that the big guy in the red suit really DOESN'T come down the chimney, you're also old enough to understand the real magic. When you give someone something because you care, that's the magic, that's Santa."

She smiled and nodded.

Happy Christmas, or however you celebrate, to all.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Three-up Riding

I've never had a great sprint on the bike. I did okay in high school track and even in the 5K distance in college, where I at least wouldn't get left behind. But on the bike, I've just never had that big snap, the acceleration to come around some one at the end of a race.

I can't tell you how many races I've ended up third in a 3-man break away. I'm very good at creating a break away, and keeping them going to stay away from the group, but when it comes to the finish line, I'm the caboose.

One particular race stands out in my mind, mainly because I had a comfortable solo lead going over the last (huge) mountain, but was caught by two on the descent, and when the final sprint was there, I was third.

This brings me to yesterday's shop group ride. Nyer, the owner of Inspired Ride Bicycles, wasn't going to make it, and I was working the day, so I got there early and settled in, prepping everything. When ride time came, there was that familiar number -- three.

It's usually a non-competitive ride, somewhat social but still scooting along. Sometimes if the group is larger, it'll break up into two groups, one going faster, and maybe longer than the normal loop. With the small numbers, and me having to be back to open the shop doors, the normal loop was the call of the day.

We set out, and I led through the first few miles where we wind through a park, and made our way through some busier roads before crossing Meridian, the major north/south arterial, and onto the chip-sealed back roads. I didn't want things to get too pedestrian, so I kept the pace on the high side for the group.

Once into the open road in Sunrise, an out-of-place four lane road, the other two finally came to the front and pressed things. A nice downhill, and then they started flagging on the gentle incline on the other side. This is where I usually start pulling the group apart if there's going to be a split. We stayed together, but I was pushing it. Heading west into the sun, one right-hander, another downhill, and the biggest hill of the ride.

As some one who's always been a pretty good climber, I can usually leave most people behind here. Not today, though. Those two stayed on my wheel, and I could already envision the familiar third-place finish as they sling-shot around me for the "win".

When it came, I was already settle with it. My place as lead-out man was secure, as was my normal role in criteriums and flat road races.

And so this ride ended as most of my three-up rides do -- I finish third when the last sprint comes.

Me came in first, with Myself a close second, and I followed in with a smile.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Winter in the Pacific Northwest

It’s amazing what a difference a day (and about 20 degrees) makes.

I’ve been mostly enjoying the lunchtime mountain bike rides this past couple weeks, when the temperatures haven’t ventured above freezing, and some mornings have ventured into the mid-West BRRRR territory. Sure, there’s a little bit of ice to deal with, but that’s easily avoided or coasted over. The ground, though, has been consistent, hard-packed (okay, frozen), and in some cases smoother than many of the PAVED roads I ride on. The frost heaves had proved to be strong enough to float my 155 lbs (hey, it’s after Thanksgiving) and bike.

Until today.

It was 45 degrees when I left for work at Oh-Dark-Thirty this morning, with a light drizzle. All those nicely hard-packed dirt roads that I’ve enjoyed these last couple weeks have turned into the natural equivalent of mashed potatoes. The security trucks that make the daily rounds back in the woods have left the frost heaves a rutted random washboard, punctuated with abrupt fall-through of two inches – kind of exciting mid-corner.

I liked riding in the cold. As much as I had to bundle up, I could hang up the clothes overnight to dry and take them out the next day. 

This time, not gonna happen. I looked like a Warrior Dash finisher by the end of an hour-long ride. The clothes will HAVE to be washed before their next outing. The pile of grit I left on the locker room floor would have made a good place to plant early corn. And I had to blow it out of my nose…
Winter in the Pacific Northwest.

I wouldn’t live anywhere else.

Okay, except maybe someplace that has real winter. Or endless summer.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Buried treasure -- rummaging through the parts bin

Every once in a while I dig into the parts bin. Seems every cyclist who's been riding for more than 5 years has one -- that tub/box/area of parts that were taken off a bike for upgrades, or a broken frame, or somehow just accumulate.

Maybe they're breeding when the garage lights are turned off.

I'll admit that I've got some OLD stuff in my garage. I've culled it down significantly in the last few years, casting off pieces that would clearly see no road time on my bikes. And even at that, I've built up more than one bike from a bare frame just by raiding the parts bin. I've resuscitated many other's bikes as well with choice pieces from the archives.

Sometimes the impetus behind digging into the bin has nothing to do with cycling. Like when my wife declared that "the only thing I want for Christmas is to park my car in the garage." Well, clearly she didn't mean the ONLY thing. But I digress. That one triggered a depth of offload never before seen in my cycling life.

Of course it wasn't very long before I was looking for some of the things that were thrown out...

ANYway... Where was I going with all this?

Oh, yeah... In getting my garage (okay, my HALF of the garage) ready to build bike frames, I ran across a set of Ultegra brake levers. Not brake/shift levers. Brake levers. Vintage. Before brake/shift levers even existed. From when 7-speed clusters were the Big Thing, and rear dropouts were spaced at 126mm for road bikes. Now they'd be called single-speed brake levers.

And as I was riding my trainer this weekend, early in the morning because I was otherwise spending any daylight hours helping my mom move to a new and smaller apartment (which in itself triggered a desire to pare down the house), and because it was officially COLD out (14-16 degrees F, well beyond chilly for the Pacific Northwest), my mind wandered to my mountain bike, the one I keep at work, with which I'm still not completely happy about the handlebar configuration.

The SINGLE SPEED mountain bike.


I've got a selection of stems, which were collected in a spasm of thinking towards getting a fit studio going in the bike shop where I work, and I've got a compact drop bar that's awaiting a rebuild of the Barkley Softride (converting to disc brakes and upgrading the fork from the 1" standard, which I've realized is a long ways off, if it happens at all). I've got a set of road-pull disc brakes that were awaiting the same rebuild, or the upgrade of the MTB fork (and a new set of wheels, but that's peripheral).

Why not convert the MTB to drop bars? I've ridden drops off-road before, and it worked pretty well. Essentially I'd be making the MTB into a single-speed monster cross bike. I was putting off getting a fork because I figured I would MAKE one (I've got 20 sets of fork blades in a box that I picked up for a song, just waiting for my torch skills to catch up). Again, that's out somewhere in the future of who-knows-when. I could pick one up for around $60... yeah, looks kind of stupid in that light, eh?

So the final switch that brought that whole idea to fruition was the finding of those brake levers. Which are probably 20 or more years old. And working fine.

Treasure buried in the parts bin.