Perfect weather for a bike ride . . .

May 31, 2006

Catching up again

It's been a while since my last post, so I figured it'd be a good time to get myself back up to speed. In more ways than one, it seems, actually.
I don't even think I wrote much about the Lone Star century, which was like two weeks ago!
Wow -- I need to get back on the horse here... but that just shows you how busy life has been lately.

Anyways -- the Lone Star Century went REALLY well, considering the tumble and roll that spring has been to date. It turns out that, yes - even if you're just slogging along on a century back in April, you DO get something out of it, if you rest up. Rest I did, and I came back a little stronger. Started out simply enough, with a ride over to Ort's place to meet up, and then we both departed for the ride start a few miles away. The parking lot was CHOKED with riders, and the registration line was long -- a good sign for the club! I renewed my membership right there at the stand, while I was at it!

A quick reveiw of the map saw some interesting changes to the route, but nothing any worse than what I'd ridden before. Saw K-man, Atul, and Akil in the crowd, a lot of familiar faces, shook a few hands, and shortly after that we were off and riding! The sky was grim looking, but compared to last year I don't think anyone was complaining -- it was nearly 90º at the ride start last year!!! THIS was gonna be MUCH better already!

Ort and I hooked up, and started our assault. This was training - nothing more. For some reason, tho, our legs and spirits didn't get the message -- speeds were already up, and we felt surprisingly comfortable doing it --- the tailwind was helping, of course, but even a tailwind is useless if you don't have the push in your legs.

Motoring along, remembering and promising against the events of last year's ride, Ort and I spun the cranks and enjoyed the scenery, climbing a few hills and spinning out the long stretch of 151st Street near New Century Air Center, watching the marathon runners run their race. It was a rare day - the legs feeling fresh, the air fresher, and the skies opening up to a crystiline blue hue. Awesome time to be a on a bike.

A quick stop at Vinland after some more miles and some amazing vistas in the clear air, we were off again, this time into uncharted territory - the new part of the route! That hill to the west of Vinland is just as long and steep as it looks! Yeesh. It seriously reminded me of Colorado, and as I was recalling those days in 2002 climbing some mountain pass, I shifted and found myself out of gears! Dang.... spin! Spin! You have gears -- use them! It's hard to get out of "single-speed" mode, sometimes, but the recent conversion BACK to gears was beginning to pay off.
Up and over, I was actually enjoying the hills again, and revelling in the chance to enjoy the other side of them as well, with a nice rest and a little coasting.
I may not be as pure as the purest purist, but I'm enjoying my riding again - and that's all that matters!

After a few, maybe five, miles on US-59 highway (yeah..... THAT one) we finally turned onto the continuation of DG460 toward Clinton Lake -- this is a great piece of road here, but it's frequented by many cars, and it seems that in the only third year of riding this ride, the traffic count has gone WAY up out here. Frustrating, but understandable, as not just people on bicycles have cabin fever this time of year. After a few more miles, Ort and I pulled into the Clinton Lake SAG for another break. Stiffness was setting in, and my previously 'favorite' new saddle was beginning to give me some issues. Hmmm. The good news, I was finally learning from all of those past lessons, and was drinking PLENTY of water, supplemented with electrolytes. Further, a return to a successful formula always throws hindsight in my face. Fig Netwons? Well, they work great on brevet, but today my old friend Sustained Energy was along for the ride, and I felt AWESOME.

After our break, we were off again, this time to the splendorific hilliness of the Lone Star Lake area, about a dozen miles to the west. This, last year, was the deciding point --- there is something about popping, bursting, bonking, simply reaching a point of absolute fatigue that is quite dramatic when viewed from the outside. Not unlike a supernova in deep space, something that should burn steadily and brightly suddenly runs out of fuel, and several chain reactions begin to collapse. When this occurs, a rapid outward expansion of gasses causes the dying star to burn even brighter for a short time, before the conversion is finally complete and the giant globe of gas simply explodes. This is pretty much what happened to me last year -- I had a miracle moment on some of the hills leading up to Lone Star park, leading a strong pack for a few miles at a terrific pace, and shortly after I collapsed into my saddle a heap of gribbling goo - staying pretty much that way until the end of the ride, 50 miles later.

This year was quite different. Instead of imploding, I was actually feeling quite good, using the gears, using my breathing, feeling the terrain and calling on cardio to take up what the legs would normally be doing ALL of on a fixxie. With Ort close by, we traversed a few hills, and slowly made our way up,up,up to the entrance to Lone Star lake, and my favorite downhill -- and my least favorite stop sign -- in the whole of Douglas County. After climbing for nearly 15 minutes, it seems, this is the first major downhill and a good chance to rest, but resters beware of the T intersection with stop sign and blind run-ups at the bottom! Making matters worse, even if you are lucky enough NOTt to encounter crosstraffic, there is that ever-present patch of sand at the corner. Ugh. It's a 40+ MPH downhill, and a slam-on-the-brakes stop at the bottom!

After that, we're inside the park! Like every lake-park around here, it's HILLY. Seven or Eight good rollers later, we're at the rest stop, perched at the top of a big hill. Thanks! :)
In keeping with our solid schedule, I was ready to work at a little refuel, micturation, and a quick return to the highway to keep the legs fresh. My saddle wasn't feeling as good as it probably should, but I was ready to get back to work! Part of my problem was the deadline I had set for myself, which was providing a good motivation -- last year I would have been calling for a ride at this point!

Almost 15 minutes to the nose, Ort annouced his readiness, and we mounted back up and headed out.
It was gonna be a long slog back into a steady, but thankfully light, headwind - but I was still feeling fresh and strong (for once) and the water bottles were now filled with a fresh, cold dose of Sustained Energy in one, Carboplex in the other. I was ready to work, and for the first time in a long time, my body was ready, too.

Pulling into the wind - another first in a while - I led Ort and myself back east on a quest for steady and controlled speed -- speed being relative, as I still managed to get swept up by quite a few small pacelines with hard-core equipment and riders in them. Still, I was not concerned, because compared to where I was only a couple weeks eariler attempting the 400K, this was a HUGE improvement. Much like the long slow bloom of spring occuring around me, I felt like I was finally coming to life again. The push was there when I needed it, my HR was controlled, and my legs felt just a steady burn from the effort. It was starting to feel like old times again, as the miles ticked by and the pace remained fairly constant - all the way up to US-59 again.

At some point along the way, I had lost track of Ort, but I was not really wanting the feeling to drop, so I motored on, uphill, into the wind, back up the long downhill that I'd flown down about 90 minutes earlier. Steep, but not unmanagable, I chose my gearing and started to turn it over. A little ego hit, a fast paceline passed by on the left, making me long for a lighter bike, lighter body, DC motor, something... but I was managing okay. Eventually, the hill crested, and the rather dangerous intersection of US-59 and DG458 was upon me. I'm certain many people wrote letters of disdain about this particular part of the ride -- this is a dangerous turn to attempt in a CAR - bicycles are legal here, but I've never seen anyone attempt it, and now, here I was. Just like anything else - be calm, be predictable, and make your turn quickly and safely. BE SEEN. If you don't think they see you, they DON'T.

Turn completed -- whew....

Back towards Vinland, at last, and down the Colorado hill into the Vinland Valley below, I managed to catch up to a guy on .... I can't remember ... some race bike or another, with newer components, who was kind enough to exchange a few pulls with me here and there, but then turned up the heat right at the end near the rest stop -- I was feeling pretty good, but not nearly good enough to pull off a mock sprint to the SAG. Maybe in a few months. Yeesh... another stop to release some toxins, and refill bottles -- the hydration was finally becoming second nature, and it was making a difference in everything - energy, outlook on the ride, etc.

A quick scan of the horizon for Ort, and I was off again - under the clock again. Time to try and work it out.
Back in very-familiar terrority of eastern Douglas and western Johnson County, it was time to possibly cut this thing short and make that deadline -- after all, I was not terribly concerned with the landmark of the start/finish line, and I was getting a century-plus either way -- chomping up the last of 458, and even getting a little rainfall, the big steel steed and I made it to 151st Street, and then cut off near New Century Air Center, to 159th Street via the north loop road or the airport, and back east until I was home again, with about 15 minutes to spare! Most notable, the finishing push was not - again, for the first time in a LONG time - a death march. I felt a push all the way into the driveway, and was even off my bike and ready to put things away quickly, grab a recovery drink - instead of just laying prone on the garage floor, wondering when my heartrate was going to come back down. A welcome change, and definitely a feeling that I'm starting to catch up to the rider I was only a few years earlier.

It's official -- it's gonna be a GREAT summer!

Next steps: rest off the 111 miles from the Lone Star, start the commuter platform on gears and get more cadence training, and begin the ramp up for Tinbutt in July.

May 19, 2006

Ready to get serious again

Finally, the temptations from the garage are gone - the swapmeet went quite well, and all of the toys and distractions from the garage are gone to good homes. Whew.

Now I can just RIDE what I have left, and enjoy it.

A recent conversation revealed, and I kinda knew it from the start of all this, that I had it right the first time - my stable has evolved a LOT over the last year. Only a year ago I realized the Trek 720 was too small, and off it went to Acme -- and I recently saw it built-up beautifully as a single-speed with sharp and purposeful-looking gear -- made me smile. Someone loves it again!

After that, a whirlwind of shop activity in my garage saw a Schwinn World Sport float in and out again, a Free Spirit fixxie came and went, I sold the old Schwinn Passage off, the Univega went bye-bye, the Bianchi was built-up and torn-down at least four seperate times, A Surly Cross-Check came in, and then left.. a Specialized Hard Rock came in, got a quick 1200 miles on it, and left again -- the Steamroller was back, gone, back, gones, and is now back AGAIN. And finally this last weekend all of the rest of the stragglers went to new homes. Holy mackeral.

Bike nut? Indeed.

But now, FINALLY, I've settled down again. And, I'm back to exactly what I had last year.

The Kogswell took the place of the Bianchi AND the Trek, and the Steamroller takes the beater-role. I'm back to square one.

I guess it took a full year of this activity to help me realize that, yeah, everything WAS fine. What, was I SO out of it that I kept wanting to tweak, recycle, and find that perfect combination of I don't know what that I completely let my fitness go. It had nothing to do with the bikes, or the gearing or lack of gearing they had -- I simply was spending too much time in the garage, and not enough time training. I mean, spending weeks at a time off the bike because of ALL THE BIKES you had, not ONE of them was rideable for a couple weeks? What's wrong with that??? Combined with the burnout of last season, no wonder I feel like I'm starting over again.

I've started up the research, the reading, the planning, however.
It's time for the slow march back to competitiveness. I mean - back in 2003 - the year I KEEP referring to - it really didn't matter what I was riding, because I only had two bikes. I had the Schwinn Passage, which was race-ready, and I had the Trek. I commuted on the Trek, and I "went fast" on the Schwinn. Period. Back then, keeping THAT formula simple made it easier to concentrate on ME, and what I wanted to achieve ON those bikes.

Now, I've let things get far too muddy. YES - the aluminum construction of the Schwinn was making the longer rides a comfort challenge, which is what justified that sale. The Bianchi solved that issue, but what, REALLY, was wrong with the Trek? Nothing. I think I just got bored, and somewhere along the way it became more about the bikes than about ME. Displacement, redirection of blame, etc. Call it what you want - looking back now, it's clear.
I didn't want to own the fact that it was ME slipping - not the bikes holding me back.

So, lesson learned, I have a bike now that is very versatile, and every bit as light (unloaded and un-fendered) as the Schwinn was - and far more comfortable. Not a true race pedigree... but neither am I, and neither is the type of riding that I do the most of. It drives home the point:

When the fitness is there, it won't matter what is underneath you.

Refer to UMCA article on a girl that finished Furnace Creek 508 on a fixed gear - the frame was a 1976 Raliegh.

THE BIKE DON'T MATTER, MAN.

A 2006 Trek Madone 5.9 with a 30-speed Dura-Ace triple set-up would've done JUST as well -- but if you don't have enough of yourself to finish the 508, IT DON'T MATTER.

So, since I obviously like to wrench, I can keep that outlet alive AND have the bike that I deem appropriate for whatever I'm setting out to do. The Kogswell without fenders, without bag, without lights, doesn't weigh much more than a full-on race bike with aero-bars and deep-dish wheels. I no longer have a beef about this -- I might get equipment envy now and again, but it won't change the fact that I know it won't make a lick of difference.

The Steamroller just needs to exist. That's it. It's the commuter - nothing more.
If I decide to do a few competitive events or rides on it - no problem.

JUST RIDE.


So, today, as I hydrate every 5 minutes and polish off a few more carbs, I look forward to Phase One, which starts tomorrow.

Goals:
- Lose 15-20 lbs by October, without sacrificing strength.
- Train carefully on the weekends, and ensure REST is a priority.
- Get 200 miles at Tinbutt. No reason not to. (Think 2003, 4th day lap.)
- Get at least a century per month, and train for a PR at the MS-150 to bolster the Tejas goal.
- Finish Tejas; nothing more. Just FINISH.
- Rest, recover, and begin winter cross-training one month after Tejas to begin 2007 campaign as a more complete athlete. Get the break in Nov/Dec, INSTEAD of Feb/Mar like I did THIS year.


Ok -- there ya go .... let's go get some.

Go Go Go Go!!!

WEll, I said I'd do this daily, but I skipped a day -- so what, right? AIEEIEE!!!

Anyways, the Bike Commuter Challenge is almost history - and history making it was -- I logged in this morning, and there were 303 participants! That's AWESOME, seriously!
It's been a good week, and I survived it again - with no less than two major equipment failures in the process. Thankfully, I think those problems are behind me now, and I can just ride and enjoy the benefits. The weight has started to come back off, slowly, and the fitness is coming back, too.

I've also made a commitment to myself to be smarter about this kind of thing, and that shows today -- I didn't ride to work today. "WHAaaaTTT????"

I know, I can hear the entire city revolting now. As opposed to year's past where I'd just ride myself stupid, I know that I have the Lone Star Century tomorrow - and I know that 100 miles is nothing to be cavalier about - and I know that looking at the horrid performance that went down LAST year, and the full week of brutal commutes that led up to it, well - you get the idea...

I decided to take on a smarter approach this year -- I'll still get a small amount of mileage today, but certainly not as many as in days past - and hopefully that will translate into a well-rested me for tommorow's 100-miler. That puts the cap on a solid 200 mile week!

Of course, the verdict is still out -- part of me wonders if I could just take one for the team, and get to work and home again without expending a whole lot of energy -- and then the realist chimes in and tells me I'll regret it if I try. The time to learn these lessons the hard way needs to stop -- if I think I know better, I'm probably right!

In fact, I think I'll actually take advantage of the system, and rent one of the "green bikes" today, and ride to lunch -- YEAH .... that might be a better idea. A few miles for the team, but not enough to sabatoge me for tomorrow.

Also, I'm thinking forward to Tinbutt -- I got the mailer in the post today, and I'm very excited about it already -- it's a mere 57 days away! Training for it officially starts tomorrow, that's for certain. Not sure if I can lose all the weight I want to in that time frame, but at least half of it should be gone before the starting gun fires. Keeping in mind that it has very little to do with the bike, I know that if I drop at least 10-15 lbs, I'll feel like I did a couple years ago - and that should help me get back my competitive edge. It doesn't matter what I'm riding - it matters more the condition of WHO is riding it. That WHO is me, and if me ain't in shape, the bikes fault it is not. Slimey? My home this is!

Whatever.

Ok - so, a lunch run - just to say I did - and then rest for tomorrow's century -- which should be AWESOME. Looking forward to it -- again, not a PR attempt time time -- just good solid training to bank on in July.


The ultra-guy is emerging....

May 16, 2006

Snap, POW - AHHHHIEEEEE!!!!

Day one of the KC Bike Commuter Challenge is in the bag -- and WHAT A DAY it was, at least for me. Note to self: It's perfectly okay to have a front brake on a fixxie, even if you don't plan to use it.

Sometimes I know not what I be thinking. (good grammar)

So, I rode the brakeless fixxie to work yesterday, (mistake number one) and it felt great - totally manageable gearing, and a few semi-close calls saw me skidding to a well controlled and quite-quick stop. No problems. Until I went looking for food over my lunch break, that is.
Thankfully, all of this happened within the controlled confines of a nearly traffic-free corporate campus setting. If it'd happened anywhere else, I'd probably be typing this from a hospital room!

Things seemed okay for the first 1,000 yards or so, as I rolled up my sleeves and pant legs and trolled out of the parking garage onto the corporate parkway. Happily spinning along, I resist brake at a few crosswalks and wow the crowds with my track-stand skills. (Jedi skills, lightsaber skills...you know... skills. Girls like guys with skills.)
Anyways... something in the back end 'gives' a little, it seems -- feels like the axle pulling in the forkends, ya know? I look down and back, and everything looks fine... carry on. (mistake number two)

A few hundred yards later, the road pitches downhill and I approach a 4-way stop. This is probably my favorite part of the campus, excellent for skidding. I engage said skid.... and then it happens:

PING! skeee skeee skeee.... clang clang clang!!!! "uhhhhhh....... crap?"

Indeed. The pressure and force of simply stopping the rear wheel while in forward motion puts a TON of strain on cog, chain, lockring - basically everything. It's a complete attempt to halt all physical momentum, and every part (as basic as a fixed gear bike can be) has to share the loads and allow the bike ( and, ultimately, the rider) to survive the stop. The simplest of things, like threads on a hub, become super important. When designed correctly and out of the right materials, you just never have to think about these things. So, I don't. I respect and understand them - but the whole point is not to have to think about them.

Today, however - something gave way rather catastrophically, and I found myself completely UN-connected from the bike -- I zipped silently through the four-way stop, and continued down the grade on the other side. I can't say I was completely panicked... I mean, I looked back, and there was the cog, resting and rattling on the axle - the chain was still on it. Hmmmm. The cranks just spun freely, and there I was - totally under the control of gravity and momentum, flying headlong down corporate way -- It was exciting and freaking scary all at once.

Give Fate an inch, however... and she'll throw you over the hood of an SUV.

"... okay, this is really not safe at all, dude..."

The chances of successfully navitaging an asteroid field are approximately 512,345,000 to 1 (or something.... never tell me the odds!

Ok, Han Solo I'm NOT... and, thankfully, I wasn't being pursued by any dark lords of sith - so I elected to stop this crazy thing. Fred Flintstone style.

So, 1/8" of shoe rubber later, I came to an un-easy halt at the curb, to the confusion and stares of a few passers-by. Just as confused, I stooped down and examined the damage -- little threads of aluminum frayed out from the now dislodged lock-ring told the tale - stripped hub.

Wow -- I trashed something. Cool.

I was partly miffed, but partly amused at myself -- bad quality control or cheap parts notwithstanding, I managed to trash something. I freaking rode the threads off of a hub. Awesome... (insert Beavis-style chuckles). Cool.

Now the pennance -- I have to get rolling again, which usually equals money. Ugh.

EXTREME FIXXERS, UNITE! (we're all knuckle-dragging morons) -- Confidence only goes as far as equipment quality can take you, and as I find out 24 hours later after searching the web and reading forum posts from around the globe, the hub I was running was basically crap.

I've got a much better hub now, and a matched lockring and cog -- and I can FEEL the difference. I've got a front brake mounted now, too.

I don't plan on learning any lessons from the back of an ambulance, so even though I don't HAVE to use it - it's there -- just in case.

I may be crazy sometimes -- but I sure can act stupid, too.
Don't try this at home, kids! We're what you'd call, 'experts' --

Experts at WHAT, I can't quite say.

May 15, 2006

The weekend du jour.

Ok, that title really doesn't make any sense, but it works for me.
It's a senseless Monday!
Yea! Starting off the senselessness is my transportation of choice this week, so far.
After a rousing week of commutes last week on the Kogswell, I've officially decided that I - being paranoid to a scary degree - simply can't fathom having that gem locked up outside all day long while I work. It's a great bike, but I can't be putting my good gear at risk like that every day, and consequently, this was I'll have lower maintenance costs because I'll not be logging tons of miles on one mount. It was time to return to the heady days of Sputnik and Yuri Gegarin....
I mean, the heady days of beaterdom.

The FIX IS BACK. (oh, crud -- here we go again.)

...oh, you got THAT right. Here we go again, indeed.

Fortunately, after a great swap meet on Saturday up at Acme, I amassed enough spare parts to get the Steamroller back into action, $5.00 at a time. I love swap meets.
UNfortunately, however, I forgot one minor detail. A front brake.
How can one so paranoid as to justify building up a beater again to save his good gear also justify riding a brakeless fixxie in Johnson County traffic. If this isn't a bizarre insight to how my mind works (or doesn't), I dunno WHAT is.

A crash-course in skidding, and 10-miles later, I made it to work in one piece -- but I think I might have pulled one of my SPD cleats out of my sandals. Uh-oh.
Ok, maybe a cheap front brake and an interrupter lever are in order after all?

Let's go backwards a step. It's a dual purpose "need" -- I was 'thirsty' this weekend, and riding the Kogswell to the adult beverage store seemed a little, oh I dunno - kinda like driving a Jaguar to the thrift store. So, donning the messenger bag and a cheap lock, I mounted up - and it felt right.

Let's forget for a second that only a couple blog entries before this one, I was complaining about a lack of fitness, and I was blaming it on spending too much time on a single-cog platform, right?
After reconsideration of that notion, it came to me that it wasn't the fact that I had only ONE gear, it was the fact that I had one really BIG gear. Because of the terrain around here, fixxie riding is not always pleasant - yeah, it's eastern Kansas, and we can all get ready for the flat-as-a-(insert something flat here) jokes -- but again, this is EASTERN Kansas. We're basically parked between the Flint Hills and the western foothills of what is the oldest 'mountain' range in the nation, the Ozark Mountains -- millenia of geologic activity has pretty much wiped these mountains off the map, but the hills are still very much there, and ANY cyclist around here can attest to it. Add in the bluffs and valleys from all the area creeks and rivers, and you have a terrain that is ANYTHING but flat. To combat the "spinning out" thing, I ended up riding a 42x15 gear which is like 75 inches. It's fine, and it's manageable on the uphills, and comfortable on the steep downhills, too.... but THAT gear ratio was what was sapping my top-end and ability to spin. If I was to ride NOTHING but fixed, it would have been fine -- but the results of that gear were very apparent on a bike with gears. Cut to today, I roll 42x18 -- which is more like 60 inches, and it's FAR more manageable on the uphills, and allows (forces) a higher cadence. So, I still am able to 'train' effectively. Instead of hammering at 50 RPM and getting to work in 40 minutes, I am now spinning to work and arriving in 45 minutes. That's into a headwind, so I can't balk at that time at all. Yes, the downhills are a little crazy -- but not unmanageable. YEs, I probably can't keep up with the pack on the flats -- but is that what fixed riding is about anyways? No.

So it goes, as I travel through myself on the long road of cycling life that I end up basically right back where I was before, with different frames. I cut to yester-year when I had the Trek 720, and IT WAS GEARED 42x18. Man, if I'd had this blog BACK THEN, I might have saved myself some hassle, eh??? Back then, the good bike was safe in the garage - the Bianchi. Gee-whiz....isn't that where the Kogswell is now? Hmmmmm.... smart.

Ok -- enough about that crud --- we back, and we happy.

The next big thing on the horizon is the Lone Star Century, and a year's worth of redemption ready to be dished out.
I'm really looking forward to riding with Ort again, and quite possibly a few others from the team, too -- but more importantly, I regard this as a first step towards the 12-hour race in July. This is good training, not a PR attempt or anything like that -- but if we happen to have a brisk west wind in the afternoon, that might be up for discussion. The temperatures should be much much cooler than they were last year, and in sharpest contrast are my feelings heading into the event. I feel rested, my legs don't feel like lead weights, and my resolve is strong.
My weight is about on-par, as well, with last year, and I'm not thrilled about that fact, but there is nothing I can do that will change that by this weekend -- but there is a lot of season left to do something about it. Moderation, dude --- moderation.

Full ride report will be coming, however, hopefully with some pictures if I can manage it.

Thanks for reading!

oh yeah --- it's BIKE COMMUTER CHALLENGE this week, and to celebrate, document, and exercise self-ridicule, I'll be logging in daily to give a short update.
You pretty much know how day one went, so far ... and if I don't log in tomorrow, you'll all pretty much know that you should NEVER ride a brakeless fixxie in Johnson County on a weekday afternoon. (knocking on wood RIGHT NOW) -- the key: don't be in a hurry.

Check ya later.

May 9, 2006

Flap envy.

Ahhh, the splash-guard. Unsung hero of the wet commute. Those in the know, know that fenders are seldom "enough" - only a good set of flaps can truly transform a sloppy commute into an enjoyable one.

Last night, rummaging thru the garage I came across a horribly under-used hammer hanger. This clever device is designed to loop thru a workman or lineman belt, allowing the user to drop a standard claw hammer into the attached metal loop, keeping it handy but out of the way as they shimmy up a utility pole. Not being a workman or a lineman, I've naturally seldom used this to its potential. I think at one point I imagined using this while working on the gutters around the house - but there it had sat in its box for who-knows-how-long. Well made and sturdy, it was a shame to see it going to waste.

After a wet ride this last weekend, I found myself having "flap-envy" - a friend has a gorgeous new Rivendell replete with SKS fenders and handsome leather splash flaps, front and rear. Seeing this in my head as I held the hammer hanger in my hands, I took up some utility scissors.
Trimming a long section from its middle, I began to see my vision take shape. Some careful trimming, a few new holes drilled in the end of the front fender, and a little digging thru the hardware drawer - and viola: Yeah, it's missing the Brooks logo, or the GB logo - but it works, and it's far prettier than the hacked water bottle that was previously doing the job.

A little mink oil, a little drying overnight in the garage, and nature's perfect timing this morning - a cold front pushes thru, and rain begins. Perfect!

The flap does, as expected, wonderfully - and my trusty Kogswell gets a little nudge up the "classy" ladder. You never know what you'll find in the garage, and how it might elevate your ride.

Enjoy, tinkerers!

May 8, 2006

Video experimentation

A mistake on the road with the digital camera results in our first video experiment. Realizing I had some low-end software available, I played and tweaked a little, and found it to be very entertaining. This is a work in progress, a rough-draft of things to come. Enjoy...an epic saga of caffeine, cycling, and bad camera angles:

video

May 4, 2006

Coffee/Coffee!

One of our own is leaving for the left-coast, so it's time to give a proper send-off.

CommuterDude's Coffee/Coffee Ride returns!
Back in October of 2004, a small group of riders rolled out of Mildred's Coffee House, and straight into the history books.

Ok, maybe not...

But anyways, we did roll out of Mildred's Coffee House, and up to Westport and back.
So, come joins us for a reprise of this fabled ride --

Sunday, May 7th, 8:00AM start -
Mildred's Coffee House, DTOP, btwn 79th and 80th on Santa Fe.
30 miles total - nice, easy, coffee-ride pace. Bring cash.
(the ride is free, but the coffee is not)

Hope to see you there! It's how we roll.

May 2, 2006

The rain fell, like so many hopes.

The term “epic” is so often mentioned at the end of a long ride. Especially hilly rides usually get this overused moniker, and those that simply drag out for hours on end, with flats, mechanicals, and general woe tend to get the tag, too. “Epic” – I’ve only had a couple REAL epic rides – as this is generally a term that I hear SO much, that I tend to be particularly careful when applying it to anything.

The 2nd day of the 2001 MS-150 was borderline “epic”.
Day three of Ride the Rockies 2002 was “epic”.
The 2003 300K that I DNF’d was absolutely “EPIC”.

The 2006 400K would have been epic, had I completed it.

Last season, and if you read anything on the old webpage, you’d know, was epic in the sense that I had a TON of mileage, and burned-out completely no less than three times. The evil opposite of that is true this year – and looking back at the average speeds and weekend activities, it’s true. I’m epically UNDER-trained now, due to my gun-shyness for OVER-training.

This clown can’t win. Is this the same person that rode so well in 2003? Is this the former KCCC bronze medalist? Is this the guy that brought Reliable Automotive two consecutive gold medals in the KCCC Team Time Trail at Shawnee Mission Park? UNDER TRAINED???

Yup. And 20 lbs heavier, to boot.

You heard it from my lips first: the Dude is slippin’.

So laid out and burnt out was I that sometime back in December or January I decided that I was going to ride LESS in 2006. Less is more, right? Well – not 80% less, apparently. Less, as it turns out, is LESS if it’s the wrong KIND of “less”. What I should have been doing was (and boring as this is gonna get, one has to remember that this blog has a certain kind of self-therapy factor – let this be a lesson to you all) practicing more FOCUS, instead of just simply doing LESS. The only saving grace: there is a LOT of 2006 left.


The first 200K of the year saw a return to gears, and the beginnings of a new philosophy. As suspected, that ride was not a record-breaker – the only records broken were the temperatures that day. Slogging along in “no-man’s land” heart rate zone, I finished the day without any major hardships.

The second 200K went roughly the same way. Not chasing anyone down, I managed to finish only slightly in-step with previous years attempts at the same course up northwest of Liberty. Not bad… but not really too good, either, considering the plans I had laid.

Medical reasons in the family kept me home for the 300K – and I have zero qualms about it – but a month later it was clear that I should have made that mileage up SOMEWHERE. Instead, a hearty Cidermill ride saw me taking in more calories that I probably burned – not stressing too much, I again didn’t ride too slow, and didn’t ride too fast. Mo improvements, no desire TO improve. Nice and cozy, I stayed exactly as fast and as slow as before. I had a nicer bicycle under me, however.

The 400K loomed. I was “READY”, I thought… and then the forecast changed, dramatically. It was the evil opposite of the typical winter-time forecast in Kansas City…

“It’s gonna snow THREE FEET!!!” they’d proclaim, days in advance on TV – the teasers would have us all guessing about our doom, and the lines at the grocery store would lengthen in anticipation of “the storm of the decade”…..

Seventy-two hours later, a dusting – which would melt away completely in the following 12 hours.

This time, the tables were turned…

“ a beautiful week in store, and an even BETTER weekend,” they boasted, channel to channel. That was Monday…Tuesday, the same.
Wednesday, suddenly, and quietly, a 30% chance of rain snuck into the forecast… then it was 50% -- then,

“holy mackerel it’s going to RAIN UNTIL YOU DIE! THIS WEEKEND! Tune in at ten, OR ELSE!!!”

Perfect.

For once, however, I was calm, collected, and PREPARED. If I give myself nothing else this season, thus far, I have been PREPARED, boy.

Fenders – FULL fenders, with flaps, even. An excellent, and field-proven rain jacket. Wool gloves and cap. Plastic baggies for EVERYTHING, a good seat-bag – but not TOO big. Spare batteries, because the taillights were gonna be on ALL day this time. The lessons of all the previous ill equipped debacles of the past were finally all lock-safe in my preparatory vault, and I was putting it all to practice. I was at ease, steady – and in a sick way almost looking forward to nearly 21 hours and 252 miles in the heaviest rainfall the area had seen in months.

It was not to be.

Somewhere in the vault of preparedness was missing a key ingredient called FITNESS, second only to the coriander, the cumin, nay!… the freaking kosher salt of the randonneuring recipe: endurance. DEEEE-UUUUHHHH!!!

That, and maybe an obsessive-compulsive alarm setting exercise.

Cutting to the chase, I was good for only about 200K – all of it solo, trying desperately to catch up to the hearty group that was nearly an hour ahead of me on the road at one point. Holy crud – even with my “brutally efficient” fixed gear arrangement, I was brutally, pathetically, mind-bogglingly SLOW. Even the weather improved dramatically after the first hour and a half or so, but it was no magic bullet. The glory that was to be another shining example of my fabled “less is more” programme was dead in a ditch somewhere, sucking on the remains of a gel packet from last season.

I slogged over hill and dale – past the Lake and Dale – and over the river, past the woods, past someone’s grandmother’s house, no doubt and into Linn County, Kansas… all the while wondering where that magic “push” was. I even broke down and used Sustained Energy for this ride, to give myself an “edge” – thank goodness. That edge was probably the only consistently good thing happening, and if not for that steady stream of good calories entering my craw, I’d certainly had cashed it in at Spring Hill.

Ahhhh…Spring Hill…it’s only like 4,000 miles behind me now.

A gigantic hill or two later (somehow much steeper than I’d remembered them), I was decending into Linn Valley, approaching the Marias Des LaCygne River, and the Casey’s there. I stopped. For at least an hour.

Self-check… wow. And I mean WOW.

Press on, man… things might improve…

WHAT WAS I TALKING ABOUT?

Able to step outside myself and assess, instead of complaining to no-one and wondering how I could get a ride home, I took account of the situation. I was BEAT. I was wishing I could coast. The “push” wasn’t there – and there was a good chance that it wasn’t going to show up. The pack I had been trying to catch was LONG gone. Probably already to Butler. At least.

Was this worth it?

Uh, no. Not this time. As I pedaled along, the big reservoir at the power plant humming in the backdrop, I dug deep, and found nothing but the wisdom to recognize futility.

I stopped and put both feet down for a moment, checked my six, then made a careful U-turn, and headed back for the Casey’s in La Cygne. From there, it was a long slog that got progressively worse and worse – not painful, simply draining. Eventually, I made it home – not back to Grandview, but just straight home. There was no way I was passing by 199th and Ridgeview, and NOT turning north. Not today. Each hill was gargantuan – and it was a different feeling than last year – not the spikey heart-rate, lethargic, near-bonk over-trained feeling – but a simply not-having-it feeling. It felt like 1998 again.

I was D O N E.

I won’t go into much detail this time on equipment, or strategy, because today, it was all me. I had the desire, and was fully prepared GEAR-wise – but the fitness and endurance is simply not there yet. The byproduct of a season turned bad LAST year has swung the pendulum of training the OTHER way, and I see the results as clearly as the sun – which finally came out today – as I write this.

Gears, no gears – it doesn’t matter – just be prepared 100%. Never take for granted the ride, the distance, the terrain… whether you have done it before or not. A good friend said once, “you could fall down and do 300K”… but so far this year I’ve just been falling down.

Rather… perhaps the falling down came late last year… and I simply haven’t yet stood back up.



Once again, there is a LOT of 2006 left, and I know exactly what I need to do.

Yes – the goals will have to be altered slightly – maybe.
I know I have them up on Bike Journal, and no --- I’m not going to modify them just yet.

I’ve done two 200Ks… and I’m quite certain there are other 300 and 400K rides I can do, later in the season – same with the 600K, perhaps.

For now, I start the routine: the successful template of years past, with a careful gauge on over-training – but a working knowledge that “less” can sometimes be worse than “too much”.


A few days later, I’ve looked back on this – and have learned.
Time, once again, to move forward.