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

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Friday Tidbits

Yes, I know it's not really Friday. But it's MY Friday. I have tomorrow off.

So there.

* We've been a one-car family since last Saturday, when we sold my wife's car. That means I've been riding to work (bike or motorcycle) the past four -- okay, three and a half so far -- days. And being January, that means it's been raining. Last week was nice... At least it hasn't rained in the morning. My wife has been good about offering to drive me, but I'm not keen on having her get up when she doesn't need to, waking up the baby and all, just to trundle me off to work. Besides, Rule #5 and all.

* I'm about to order up the tubes for my first two solo bike builds. One for my wife, an all-road model built on 24" wheels (507mm for those who speak ETRTO), disc brakes, and 1x10 gearing. The other is a push bike for my young daughter, for when she's big enough to straddle the thing. Just a couple more tools and I'll be ready. Exciting times...

* Taxes are already filed with the IRS. I have to adjust my deductions for 2014, so I don't give so much money for the government to make interest on all year. Sure, it's nice to get a financial shot-in-the-arm, but that could have been used for other purposes throughout the year as well.

* Less than two months until the Elbe Multi-Strada Loop ride. I'll be going out to do a recon on the dirt roads soon. I'm pretty excited to see how this ride goes, as I've got more planned for next year, with some exciting possibilities that could include some national attention. 

* Lastly, I want to give a shout out to my nephew who's going through a rough patch now. Chin up, man. It gets better. Take a ride in the mountains, see the vastness of the world. Great things will come out of it all.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Interview: Leslie Collins Barber -- Northwest Triathlete, Cyclist, Wonder Woman

First of it's kind here on the blog. I've known Leslie for a few years. Always upbeat, always got something happening. Lots of irons in the fire, as the saying goes. We keep in touch through BeginnerTriathlete, and meet up at various events around the area. For a glimpse into her life, read on.
Brider's Place: First off, let's get an idea of your background. Were you a track star in high school?
Leslie Barber: Yes, I was a track star, basketball star and volleyball star.  All-league and varsity for 4 years.  My tagline "I am faster than I look" comes from way back then since I have always been big, strong AND fast!  I also ski raced, rowed, lifted a lot of weights and worked with my dad's triathlon company as a race director in my late teens.  I opted not to pursue my scholarship offers in my all-star sports, but instead chose to row crew at the UW.  Unfortunately I was injured my first season and that was that.
B P: How long have you been cycling? What was your initial draw?
L B: I commuted to work off and on over the years on a crappy mountain bike, but I always enjoyed riding.  I didn't get "serious" about biking until 2007 when I decided to try a tri.  I bought my first bike a couple of months before my first triathlon, and my first bike shoes with cleats, as well.  The draw to biking, hmmm....probably the freedom and the speed.  I like to go fast.
B P: We first met at the Tour de Pierce in 2008, I think it was. You were an active triathlete by then. How has your training and racing balance changed over the years between the three triathlon disciplines?  
L B: We actually met at the Mt Rainier Duathlon, when you gave me your entry and then drove me around the course to give me some tips.  
I used to follow a plan from BT [] pretty closely every season, selecting A, B and C races etc.  After a few years I got a little more lax in that and used the plans more as a general guideline.  I've realized that my first love is cycling and have done a lot of that over the years.  I upgraded my bike in 2011 and that was the impetus to add more long, challenging rides to my season.  I keep on running a lot, and I try to maintain a level of fitness that allows me to run a half marathon whenever I get the chance--I am working my way back to that right now.  I find that swimming is not a natural workout for me and I have to really force myself to get that done.  I do enjoy open water swimming, but I do not love going to the pool, therefore my swimming is a bit slow at the moment.  I will be getting in the pool starting in February, though.  
B P: You did the Stinky Spoke yesterday in Redmond, WA, a mixed-surface ride to benefit Little Bit. How did you hear about this event?
L B: I think I originally heard about it on the first year, 2008, through LUNA, but I didn't participate until 2009.  I have done it most years since unless I was injured.  I actually used to volunteer at Little Bit in the late 1980s!
B P: You pre-rode the course for this event, and found some challenges. How would you describe them? How did they change your outlook for the day of the event?
L B: There weren't too many major challengers--there were some trees down on the course which have since been removed, and some bumps and ruts that I tried to avoid this time--mostly successful on that.  I managed to ride a lot more during the event than I did on the pre-ride -- perhaps it was the adrenalin and the competition.
B P: Was the ride everything you expected? Did you make it up Heartbreak Hill?
L B: The ride was fantastic -- the weather was amazing this year (unlike 2012 when it snowed and froze and was sooooooo cold!).  No, I didn't make it up Heartbreak Hill.  I rode my cyclocross bike and just don't have the gears for that.  I did, however, make it up the rest of the hills, even though at times I didn't really feel like I was going to make it.  I am thankful for muscle memory!  I've only ridden outside twice this year, both this week....
B P: You also started some track racing. How different of a discipline did you find that relative to other riding, and especially triathlon?
L B: I actually started track in 2011, bought my first bike in 2012 and did a few races that year.  In the fall of 2012 I got in a really bad bike accident and didn't get back onto the track in 2013 due to multiple issues, fear being one of them.  I am working through it and hope to get back out there this season.  It is very different than endurance sports....the heart rate is in zone 5 from the get-go and it is about strength.  In triathlon or biking or running, my weight can be a factor, but on the track, I have an advantage by being very strong.  It has helped me learn to have a much smoother cycle stroke.
B P: From your Facebook posts, I see you've been doing a lot of hiking this fall and winter. Is that normal for you, or something new? A personal challenge?
L B: I started adding hiking as cross training a couple of years ago, as well as snowshoeing.  This past fall I had a breast reduction, so I had a lot of restrictions as far as exercise.  Once I was able to do some exercise I was out on the trails as much as I could be. I have found that I crave the challenge of hiking now and so I try to do it every week if possible.  I think it helps me stay healthy physically and mentally.

B P: I remember the first couple times I did RAMROD (back in the dark ages), and the first food stop was just inside Mt Rainier Park. Now it's at Wildwood, a rental cabin that your family owns. Can you tell me about the cabin, and how it became the food stop?
L B: Wildwood is the cabin.  It was the home where my mom was born and raised.  After her parents died, she and her sister fixed it up as a rental property.  The RAMROD people were seeking a better food stop and contacted her and the rest is history. I have worked at the food stop a few times over the years, and I think it is great, a perfect location.  It is also my favorite place in the world.

B P:  You started an event promotion company a couple years ago -- Northwest Sweat. How has that been going?
L B: I have actually put the business on hiatus for the time being.  Life has gotten extremely busy and my sister's involvement was not there, which was the main reason we started the company--to do this together. I hope that it will get re-energized in the future, as I think there is a lot of potential.
B P: So with all the riding and racing, along with event promotion, you are also a super-mom and wife. How do you balance it all?
L B: I am glad you think that I balance it all!  It's a matter or priorities, for sure.  Luckily my spouse supports my activities and doesn't begrudge me (too much) when I go on long runs, rides and races, plus I don't have a full time job, which is handy.  I am VP of fundraising for PTSA and have rejoined LUNA Chix, so this year is going to be a bit intense.  I do let some things go....I will be the first to tell you that I am not cut out for housework or laundry.  I somehow just get it all done, not really through much planning but more through luck and taking advantage of a big pool of training partners with lots of fun stuff always available to participate in.

B P: How did wearing the Wonder Woman costume start?
L B: Costumes are a hobby of mine--I own around 50 wigs, not to mention a ton of costumes and a lot of accessories, and have some experience in theatrical makeup.  Basically any time I get the chance, I dress up, and if it is a race, even better.  I have often been compared to WW so I finally added the costume to my collection and started making public appearances just for fun.  I haven't been out in it that many times, but the photos get a lot of traffic on Facebook.  
B P: What else do you have planned for 2014?
L B: I am still working on the plan for this year--I am nearly done with my post-surgical healing, so once that is completely done, the sky is the limit.  I am considering a 25 k trail run later in the year, as well as a lot of other running races, possibly a marathon if the legs hold up.  I want to get back to the velodrome.  I am contemplating STP in one day.  I have some tris I am thinking about doing and some more duathlons...maybe even one next weekend if the weather cooperates.  One thing I am doing is casually "competing" with my workout friends to conquer as many hills in the area as we can.  Tomorrow begins my attempt at the list, with Hollywood Hill and Norway Hill on the docket.  I have a few races listed on my BT page for now, although they are mostly tentative.  I like to do a lot of different things to keep it interesting, that is my happy space.
B P: Any parting comments for the readers?
L B: I hope you haven't become bored from this! 

Thursday, January 16, 2014

TMI? Or just cringe-worthy?

* Warning -- the truly squeamish may squeam a bit when reading this post.

I've been off the bike since Sunday. The weather is toying with my sanity, surely.

You see, my elder daughter turned 13, and my younger hit 5 months. Two days later I was saying auf wiedersehn to any future possible progeny.

Yep, Monday was V-day.

Wait! you say. You're a month-and-a-day early for Valentine's Day!

I wish.

Not Valentine's, or even victory. The snip-snip. Shooting blanks.


Just the word, or even the implication, will send most men cringing while cupping their manhood protectively. Or at least that's what's going through their heads.

As avid cyclists, the first thought is somewhat different.

When searching for some anecdotes a couple days before about how much time I'd be off the bike, I ran across a funny story posted by pdxharth on the Velocipede Salon forum:

So yesterday I got snipped. But - and this is the unfortunate part - I also had to have some other work done with the plumbing, so I had to go under general anesthesia. When I woke up, I asked the doc how it went and about recovery. He responded bluntly, "No sex for a month and no riding for at least three weeks." 

"THREE WEEKS?!" I yelped. But as I looked at him, I could tell he was looking at Kate, who was sitting on the other side of me. So I looked over and there she sat, shaking her head, which was bowed down with her hand on her face, her eyes rolling.

It took me less than a second to get it, but that one response is going to haunt me for the rest of my days.

But it's time. I'm not getting any younger, and really don't need to have any surprises down the road. Don't get me wrong at all -- my young daughter was planned and wanted. We're just done. My wife and I both agree -- neither one of us wants her pregnant again.

So I worked a half day on Monday, then came home and we all took the trip to the doctor's office for "the procedure". 

The humorous moment of the day was when the nurse took me into the "procedure room", and pointed to a small brown paper bag sitting on the table. "Is that what I get to carry my balls home in?" I asked.

She then pointed to two small specimen jars sitting next to the bag. "Nope, that's what those are for."

Outpatient surgery with a local anesthetic.

I'm a fan of general anesthetic. I think at least something a little more would have been good. Maybe not totally knock me out, but something to take the edge off, maybe give me a little bit of "don't give a crap". As it was, by far the worst part of the whole thing was the injection of the lidocaine. Well, that and being able to feel the vibrations of the scalpel cutting the vas deferens on the left side (the first side). That wasn't painful, but it was a little freaky.

Anyway, things went smoothly, I did a lot of sweating and yoga breathing, and then we went home.

Tylenol PM has been my friend. That and my Speedo (much to my wife's chagrin).

I'm almost feeling normal today. Not riding-normal yet. But walking around is mostly a non-event. I may try the trainer on Sunday, just to test things out.

Was it a big deal? The whole surgery was over in less than an hour. The recovery to at least "normal" functional levels has been pretty fast, and within a couple weeks it'll be like it had never happened. As least that's what I'm hoping.

And no, there are NO pictures.

Monday, January 6, 2014

The New and Improved MTB

Back in December I wrote about finding a set of brake levers buried in my parts bin, forgotten, and how they triggered a thought to rebuild my MTB (which I usually keep at work for lunchtime rides) into what amounts to a single-speed monster-cross bike.

I had planned to upgrade the bike anyway, with a new fork, wheels, and disc brakes which would do several things:

Warning Will Robinson!
* Tame down the steering. When I bought this frame on the cheap, I just swapped everything over from a cracked frame onto this one, which included a dirt-cheap fork I'd bought from eBay for $12. It "fit" in that it had the appropriate diameter steerer tube. Everything else about it was wrong -- short for current mountain bikes, and a lot of rake. The outcome was very short trail that created scary handling.

* Improve the braking. I don't hide my disdain for cantilever brakes. It was the main reason I sold the Surly Crosscheck last year after owning it for a total of 4 months. Especially off-road, I hate the sound of hearing my rims grind away to sludge on any wet ride, and I hate having to clean the rims of the black dust (which makes for messy tube changes). And I hate, HATE I TELL YOU, the performance of cantilever brakes. Or lack thereof.

FSA Pig headset installed.
So it was a bit of a cascading effect -- upgrading to disc brakes required a new fork and wheelset, the disc brake calipers I had were actually for a road application (the real difference being the amount of cable pull required for actuation), so I didn't need to use MTB brake levers, and I've never really been comfortable on flat bars (I just end up carrying too much tension in my arms and shoulders due to elbow position).

I found a Salsa 29'er fork with a good A-C length (axle-to-crown), which boosted the head tube up and made for a slacker head tube angle, and with only 43mm rake, it drew the trail out to a nicely tame dimension. And the black color is MUCH more appropriate than the 80's purple of the previous.

A set of SRAM X7 hubs laced to WTB Laserdisc Trail rims (the same wheels I have on my gravel bike) and a new FSA headset completed the needed equipment, and I'm off to the races (okay, the work stand).

The headset went on/in smoothly, if not easily. The wheels required the use of Stan's rim tape, another easy install. Setting up the brakes was straightforward. New cables for the brakes... It went together in a short time, though I needed to trim the fork steerer long and install the star-nut and tension bolt to get the headset snugged enough to ride (sometimes I can just press it all together enough by hand to tighten down the stem and do some short test rides).
Disc good.

Plenty of clearance, Clarence.
Position-wise I had it initially set up with the same saddle-to-handlebar drop and reach as my gravel bike. I'll have to check, but along with the slacker head tube angle comes an equally slacker seat tube angle (not really a bad thing), and coupled with the 175mm cranks, it closes up my hip angle a bit. I'll raise the bars a bit and see how that goes.

Taking it out on the trail... Revelation! My upper body is a LOT more relaxed, not just from the hand position (more like reaching out to shake someone's hand) allowing me to drop my elbows, but also from how tame the front-end manners are now. Much like my gravel bike, I can ride no-handed at almost any speed, and the bike stays on line without having to muscle it.

In the wild...
The brakes still need some bedding-in, which will improve their response, but the amount of hand-force needed is drastically reduced. Long descents will now be a one-finger affair than the forearm-pumping ordeal of before.

Downside? Hmm... Haven't come up against any yet, in the five hours or so I've put on it since the conversion. In fact, I find that I'm no longer just getting on the bike because I need to get a ride in, need the exercise and it's the only opportunity in the day, but I'm wanting to ride it because I like the ride.

Happy trails.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Let the anti-hoarding begin!

My mother has moved into a new apartment.

One might say that's no big deal, right? Well, at 84 years old, she isn't able to get around so well, which means it was left to her local children (my sister and I, plus our families) to actually move things. As a Depression Era child, she is even more loathe to pay some one else to do something she (okay, WE) can do than I am. And also as a Depression Era child, she is a little bit of a hoarder.

Now let's set the rest of the stage: The place she was moving into is about half the size of the living space she had previously, and didn't include the one-stall garage that she also had. You'd think that might trigger a bit of an off-loading mentality, right?

Nope. Not only did she NOT want to get rid of anything (which necessitated renting a storage space), but the few things she DID allow us to get rid of were mercilessly pawned on her children. In some cases we acquiesced simply to get it out of her house, and it has since found its way to other end-of-the-road destinations (landfill, Goodwill).

Also, since she'd known for weeks, even months, that she was going to be moving (she was adamant that she couldn't afford to stay in the place in which she'd been living), you'd think some preparation would be made in the way of packing.

Again, nope. All of 10 boxes had been packed when I arrived to move things. What should have taken a day at most took three plus some that my sister took over. And really, with the storage space, it's not finished until that thing is cleared out -- which, realistically, may never happen.

All this has triggered an environment of downsizing in my house. As we were loading box after box into two trucks, I promised my 12-year-old daughter that I'd never do this to her. She sighed and said she appreciated it.

So all this brings me to my real point (yeah, about time, eh?) -- I made a promise to my wife on our anniversary (which was New Year's Eve) that I would get rid of something every day throughout 2014, whether it was discarded, sold, given away, donated, or recycled. Three hundred sixty five somethings out of the house in the year. And no, that doesn't include taking out the garbage...

As I told my wife, I'm married to her, not the stuff around us.

Yesterday started off with a pile of old video tapes and a VCR that hasn't so much as been turned on in over a year. Today it's an old cracked bike frame that I'll cut apart and put into the recycle bin. And so it will continue all year.

I can't take credit for the idea -- it's something that I read on a blog some time last year. But I've implemented into my life. At some point I'll have to slow down the off-load, though being brutally honest, that could be years down the line.

It's said that the richest person is not the one who has the most, but who needs the least.

Who knows, maybe I'll get rich along the way.