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

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.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Striving for Strava

I've seen on the forums that there's a subset of the cycling world that attaches some sense of self-worth to their list of Strava KOMs (KOM = King of the Mountain). It can become a bit of a battle of egos to get, and keep, the top position of some arbitrary piece of road (or trail) that some one has designated as a "segment" that gets tracked across all log-inners.

And there are some that practice Strava "poaching", planning routes specifically to post top times over special segments.

In the saddest commentary on the state of our society, there are even those who will employ "instant EPO" to their data that will boost their speed some percentage in an attempt to digitally drug themselves into faster speeds. Or carry their phone in a pocket while driving...

Okay, that's not what this post is about... Sorry for the digression.

I'm not one to go Strava poaching. In fact, I just turn it on when I start a ride, put my phone in my pocket, and don't look at it again until I'm finished with the ride. I do it as a back-up to my cyclometer so I have results of distance and speed should the normal on-board data fail. Yes, there are some segments on my normal routes. I didn't create them (I don't even know how). There are several where I'm in the top 10, several more where I'm top 40, and many more where I'm mired somewhere in the middle of seemingly every rider to ever set tires to pavement.

Well, this week I specifically pushed it on two segments in an attempt to get the top time, but I didn't go out of my way to ride those sections of road -- they were just on my already-planned route for the day.

This morning was the second. Yesterday on the normal LBS group ride, I looked afterwards and saw that my time over a specific hill was only 7 seconds off the top spot. And that wasn't even my best time. On the way out the door today, I wondered if I had those 7 seconds in me.

I rode mostly easy for a good 10 miles, but still at a good clip, and when I turned the corner I poured it on. A small downhill to get the speed going, and then pushing it through the short flat, the slope slowly rises, getting steeper as you go. I clicked down a gear, then another, then another, stood up and gave it a hard push. Since I wasn't exactly sure where the segment ended, I kept the effort up until the next intersection. I was breathing hard, but not completely spent... I just continued on with the ride, not knowing whether I'd accomplished my goal.

It wasn't until a good half hour after I got home that I even looked at the results.

Not only did I have the 7 seconds in me, but I had 7 more.

I kind of got a little boost out of that.

Sad, I know. Competing against a bunch of people who don't even know it's a race...

The kid who had the KOM... The last time I bested one of his efforts, he went out and reclaimed it the next day. So I figure this one might last until Tuesday.

Maybe some day I'll actually meet this kid, and we can go head to head on the road.