December 31, 2007

Plans to Action

Well, here it is -- in little more than an hours time, the new year will be upon us all.
Officially, I raise a glass to friends and family, and wish you all the best in the new year - good health, happiness, prosperity, and fortitiude to handle lifes many challenges.
My only regret at this writing is that I don't have the "new" Trek ready to ride just yet. At this writing I have amassed caliper brakes, brake levers, the stem, the seatpost, shifters, rear derailleur, front derailleur - anything not mentioned I already had in my possesion. In fact, the ONLY pieces missing are the bottom-bracket and crankset, and some incidentals; chain and brake cables. I have three permanent routes submitted to RUSA, and all three have come back as pending, with a few minor modifications needed here and there. As soon as I have a permanent number for any one of them, I'm riding a 200K! Very excited!
2008 should be a fantastic year -- and it's good to put this trying 2007 behind me. I'll likely remember it with the same reverence I remember 2003, honestly. It is the hardest times that make us stronger, and ultimately who we are. In that vein, 2008 should be my strongest year to date. So, as the northwest winds howl outside my window tonite, and the cold Canadian air filters in for a low temperature of +6ºF overnight, I can't think of a more fitting way to start off this new year; from the bottom, looking up - and full of hope.

December 21, 2007

New Years Resolutions?

Nah. Why bother? HAHAHA!!! I'm kidding.

To resolve, to fix, to remedy.... so for me, resolutions this year are simple. Consistency.
I already consider 2007 to be over, cycling-wise. Yeah, I only commuted once this month -- and that feels pretty crappy to me. I've really lost consistency - but, it's been THAT kind of year - and I'm okay with it -- REALLY. The trails are getting better, but I need to find an overland route to home and work - one that won't get me killed, basically. After attempting the trail last week, and ending up being about 45 minutes late to work for it, a reroute until spring is neccesary. It's hard to get back on the road after enjoying the seclusion of the trail, the protection. But, in years past I'd commuted in all weather on all roads - so I just have to get back into that mindset if I want to get the consistency back. Yeah, the studded tires and pull-behind plows are a great idea, but MAN -- I'd have to work on 7-miles of trail, and get there before anyone else does. What awaited me this week was rutted ice, filled with "pot-holes" from foot traffic by hearty dog walkers and hikers -- and the result, well I don't even think studs would have helped that. Still I did make it work work, but it was slow going. That afternoon, I took 143rd Street primarily, now that it's open again - not my first choice as an east/west route, mainly because it's not completely redone yet: there are new areas that have four lanes and a good shoulder, but there are still the old sections between Switzer and Pflumm that are two-lane country road with no shoulder. Traffic was understanding, my lights were more than effective, so it was fine --- but it's a dice roll on those narrower sections, close to dusk in winter-time, and I'm not really anxious to play the odds. So, a little creative zig-zagging might be in order, and that's fun - exploring a little on the way home to find that perfect bypass. I'll get on that next week. But as far as frequency, I'm not going to stress myself or kill the mood by trying to do too much. I'm not putting a number to it.

Resolutions..... hmmmm.... fixing stuff.....

Well, one of my goals for sure is to NOT get so worked up about stuff in 2008.
I'm still flying under the RADAR -- actually, I fancy myself in spy-place fashion, flying WAY
above the RADAR at Mach 4+.... classified, of course --- but either way, cropdusting or star skipping, I'm not planning on anything big-deal for 2008 - and if I DO, I'm sure not announcing anything until I'm darn good n' ready to. And darn good n'ready to succeed at whatever I choose. That's not to say that I'm not going to challenge myself and take a risk or two -- if we DON'T challenge ourselves, well, you get the idea... I just don't need the extra pressure if something changes, because life is unpredictable. I'm a Dad and husband first, and if that means that I'm not going to announce "ok, here we go, I'm gonna do the Badwater race in 2009", so be it -- because I have to live life one week at a time now, as far as cycling goes.
I'll still commute, and I'll still randonneur -- THAT is who I am. Can't change it. Can't bust it.
Rando FOREVER. But rando will always be there. Kids? You get the idea... So, there -- that'll keep ya'll guessing. If you're all worried that I'm not setting any goals, you're reading this blog for the wrong reasons and you need to get out there and set some goals of your own. I ain't no hero -- knock it off. Go root for Lon Haldeman or Sam Baugh or someone like that, seriously. Those are the cats I look up to -- I may have knocked off a 600K, but *MAN*.... I ain't even in their class, no way, no how. Would I LIKE to be? Heck yes. But it's gonna take work.

...And that leads me to my next resolution. WORK.
There are things that I complained about in 2007, like my weight. In reality, I could be a lot worse. Now, THAT sounds like a big cop-out.... but it's really not. Because when I say to myself "you could be a LOT worse off", what that really means deep down is that I could have like 200 lbs to lose or something. THAT would be BAD. In reality, I'd only LIKE to lose 30 lbs. That's DO-ABLE... so what's the freaking problem? JUST WORK AT IT. I wasn't working at it in 2007. I was eating anything I liked, as much and as often as I liked. The fact that I managed to finish the longest brevet I've attempted to date, and still manage more than a double century at Tejas is amazing to me considering how much I've let myself slip. I have simply NOT been taking care of myself the way a cyclist should. The fact is, it's NEVER too late to change a behavior, and I simply got complacent and lazy. Boo hoo... move on down the road, and get to WORK. Over the last two weeks I've lost 8 lbs., and the initial tummy grumbling and hunger pangs have subsided. I already feel better, and I'm starting to regain touch with the guy that was determined to lose the weight and be successful on the bike in the first place, back a few years ago. Yeah, it's only 8 lbs., but it's a start. Next week, it'll be ten, and the week after that it'll be 12, then 14... and so on. When the brevets start up in March, no-one is gonna want to draft me anymore, and some of my favorite old jerseys will fit again. It just takes work, and I'm finally ready to DO IT.

I'm pretty much on a "not" kick for 2008, as far as resolutions go beyond the stuff I've already mentioned. NOT be lazy. NOT set ridiculous goals. NOT run. NOT enter any "races". NOT treat my body like crap. It's easy to say I want to ride XXXX number of miles in 2008, or I want to weigh XXX, and I want to compete in X -- but what I really need to be doing is setting goals that will get me those things by consequence. If I do NOTHING else, I'll have lost some weight and will be healthier for it.

Finally, I owe a great deal of thanks to my dearest friends that have listened to me rant and vent over these past six months, and helped to point me back in the correct direction. While these aforementioned ideas and goals are my own, the tools that helped forge them were placed into my hands by people who cared enough to see that which I was blind to, and for that I am eternally grateful. You know who you are.

Other projects? I have three RUSA permanents entered into the pipeline, and I'm anxiously awaiting approval so I can get some focused training started. Training for what? I dunno. Wait and see. I have my own ideas that I'm kicking around. But, it'll be nice to support a REAL route, something on the books somewhere that people can take part in for their goals, and something I can use for myself also. If you are interested, punch up, see about membership, check out the links, and see if randonneuring is for you. If it IS, then riding a RUSA permanent is a great way to get started. Life begins at 200km!

Will brevets and perms be the ONLY rides I'll do? Good grief NO. I can't wait to hit Longview Lake again for the big group ride! I can't wait to get a clear weekend and try out the new Olathe Saturday AM ride that leaves from Bike America's new location! I want to try out the Kill Creek ride next Spring! The Spring Classic (if it doesn't fall on a brevet weekend, like it always seems to, that is.) I can't wait to finally hit Tour De Shawnee again next summer! And whatever impromptu rides come up between now and then, I'm probably game, too! There are a lot of fine, fine folks that I haven't seen in months, and I ache for a good ride with them -- again, you know who you are. Day or night, if the conditions are right let's hit the bricks for cryin' out loud! It doesn't have to be a group of 25 riders for it to be fun; I've finally let go of that "super ride organizer" mode I was trying to get in. Yeah, I love makin' maps, and gathering people -- but you know, it started getting in the way of the ride ITSELF. Heck, I don't want to take over the world, or even the city... I just wanna ride.

That's my 2008 preview.

Happy Holidays, ya'll!

December 12, 2007

Countdown to a better road

Welp, the ice storm came, and went --- it was rough, but it wasn't 2002 -- or even 1996. But it was interesting! I still haven't been back on the roads since the freezing rain began, but I've thought about it and tried. I still can't justify studded tires, nor could I even FIT them under my fenders on the current bike. I might have to start dumpster diving for another mountain bike that will fit fenders and studded tires, a bike that I can grab at a moment's notice and brave the nasty elements with -- single speed, yeah -- something ridiculously low, like a 36x18 gear. Nokian Extreme 296's, fenders, bright LED light.... yummy.
Of course, as soon as I FIND one of these bikes, the ice will be gone - so maybe it's okay to just take a few days off and save my money! The cash to drop on a pair of Nokians will buy a lot of bus passes! Still, it would be nice to be totally self-sufficient that way, but I might wait until next season, summer-time, to build it -- something to build AFTER I finish the Trek 450.
Above-freezing temps in the forecast for tomorrow -- maybe today it will dry out a bit. I'm ready to suit up and enjoy some winter riding!

December 6, 2007

Holiday Haze

It's been a while since I posted last -- life has been plenty busy, but unfortunately not so much in the bike game. That's okay -- I HAVE managed to ride at least once a week, so that is a plus - and more consistent that I have been in recent months, so I'll take it. The riding, however, has been limited to commuting only -- this coming weekend marks the FOURTH weekend in a row with the words "freezing rain" in the forecast somewhere - this time for nearly all 48 hours of the weekend. Yeesh. This is a problem.

<-- This is Kansas.

Texas calls.

I'm awash with geographic jealousy for Ort and his warmer climes only a few hundred miles south of here. Deep in the grip of a North-Central Texas winter, they've played with the lower 40's.

Ooooooo, scary.

Up here, we might see out first brush with the teens in the next 72 hours, as seriously cold air settles in just north of us. I feel daunted, and small in it's looming shadow. Around me, other riders that have not had quite as challenging an annum as I have are headed a little bit farther south for a brevet around Springfield, MO -- others still are braving the nasty conditions even farther north that I am. I ache for fitness, weight loss results, and just a little dry weather to test my wings. This is all good - because I haven't ached for a ride like this in quite a LONG time! Keeping that want occupied in the gym, however, is kind ... well, sucky. Weights class, rowing machines, stair-masters, and dumbbells are doing their jobs for me, and yoga is calming the soul and clearing the mind -- but I really REALLY want to feel that fine Italia leather under me, the feedback from the road, and the rush of air around the face. The dangling carrot of an extra permanent route card has been dangled in my face, so to speak -- and part of me really wants to jump. Then, of course, there is Texas in January ---- my RUSA breatheren.... they are always there to help, and encourage. I appreaciate that a lot. While I don't feel strong enough, I hear things like "It'll be a slow ride...", and "plenty of people to ride with" -- along with "just do it". A smile and good conversation await, and the commonality of the bike. I'm tempted in a lot of ways...

I've been keeping myself occupied, one way or another, though - the time is not wasted. Plenty of good kid-time, playing, reading, goofin' around. Good wife time, too -- TV, talks, etc. A little "me" time in the garage with the Trek 450 - which is shaping up nicely. It's getting too cold in the garage lately to keep the touch-up paint sticking, so the rest of the refinish and touch-up may have to wait until spring - but most of the bigger spots are faded in to the rest of the paint. It's THICK factory paint, too. Good stuff. I only have a handful of items left on the purchase-list, too - but I'm still not in too much of a hurry. I actually found a clamp-on Shimano 105 front derailluer (FD-5500) with the CORRECT clamp size of 28.6mm - which is harder to find than I though it would be. It's lighter than the stock Shimano 60 model, and the spring action is lighter - for smoother shifts. Plus, it's a good shiny silver color to match the rest of the components. I chose 105 for the front derailluer, mainly because this is the one place on a bike where it almost DOESN'T matter that much. There's simply not much you can do to it to make it better than itself - and the only difference between the 105 front D and the Dura-Ace front D is weight. The shaping of the cage, the spring, the adjusters - it's all the same. So, a little de-stickering, and it's nice and generic looking, but appropriate for the bike - and a perfect fit, with no weird aftermarket clamps or adapters or reducers. The Dura-Ace rear D cleaned up nicely, and is awaiting service. The Dura-Ace downtube shifters, indexed 9-speed, will solve the old auto-shift issues the old friction Shimano 600's were having, and they look REALLY sharp. The de-logo-ed MAvic Ksyrium wheels look awesome, too. The new stem is top-shelf Nitto -- very slick. The only thing left are bigger items - the bottom bracket and crankset, namely - and a good handlebar. Plus, sadly, probably a new seatpost -- I swapped in my Thomson Elite seatpost, which is probably the best seatpost available - I'm glad I kept it. With my older Selle Italia Flite T/A saddle on it, it's my perfect package. Only problem is, it's black -- it was originally purchased to match the Cannondale. Ugh. I didn't think it would matter to me, but honestly I'm taking the time to do this bicycle RIGHT, and with all the shiny silver components already installed against that gorgeous red paint, the black seatpost looks out of place. So, I've added that to the list of "nice to haves" --- the current one will allow me to ride it, so it'll work - but it won't last long, I'm sure. Same goes for the brakes. I found a set of close-out Tektro 420 road brakes - short-reach, which this bike takes, silver, so they match - but they are heavy, and sorta clunky looking in a way. The price was right. The take advantage of the Cane Creek SCR-5 brake levers, however, in that the brake calipers themselves don't have quick releases on them. The CAne Creek levers, however, DO, so I'd still be able to get the wheels out without issues -- but they just look odd. It's a Campy thing, having the brake release in the lever, but these are certainly not Campy-quality calipers. So, that might ALSO be on my list for aesthetic reasons alone. Tektro makes a FINE brake, and these dual-pivot, modern clampers will be a LOT stronger and more reliable than the old Dia-Compes they replaced. Still, they are kinda low-ball, component-wise - something that would come stock on a lower-end road bike today. Not sure if I want to call that "good enough" for this steed. We'll see. If my goal is to have her ready for a 200K by the end of March, then she'll be ready --- but maybe just not "perfect".
There's always time for upgrades...

The holiday haze, aside from the good points above, has got me shaken up a little, tho. It's hard to stick to the diet, stay in the gym, and put up with the ride-cancelling weather. I suppose it could be a lot worse - but it's hard to not just collapse on the couch with a plate of cookies sometimes. Now, I have not done that - and don't plan to - ecause I FINALLY feel GOOD -- REALLY GOOD -- for the first time in months. My system is clear of excess sugars, and I know it sounds weird, but I feel better. Spring-ier. Does that make sense? It feels good to take care of myself -- because I hadn't been for about a year. Maybe a 200K is exactly what I need...
Still thinking about it. Only a few short months, and this whole "winter" thing will be behind me. But, I'm defintely taking a jaunt south to LSR-Land early next year --- I just HAVE to get a break from this scenery, and feel some mid-60's weather again, now that I'm really itching to ride!

Stay tuned!