Thursday, May 26, 2011

Beyond Naked on Kickstarter

Back in December I blogged about riding the Seattle Randonneur's Second Annual Solstice Ride. The ride was a lot of fun and as I mentioned back then, it may (or may not) be immortalized by local documentary filmmaker, Dan McComb in a film titled Beyond Naked.

Dan is now trying to raise money for the project using Kickstarter. I'm not sure what they will be spending the money on, but I'm pretty sure it's not for costumes. I made a pledge because I'm intrigued to see how silly Randonneurs look compared to truly courageous people like those who ride in the Fremont Solstice Parade. Besides, I just love the idea of Kickstarter and how it allows us "normal" folks to help bring more art into the world.

So, if you want to support a worthy project, click on over to Kickstarter and make a pledge to Beyond Naked.

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Kindness of Strangers

The other day on my way home from work I headed out to Magnolia for a quick couple laps around one of my favorite short training routes. It was a beautiful day to be out riding. The sun was shining and I was feeling great, enjoying the view along the Magnolia bluff and the ups, downs, twists and turns of the road.

After one and a half laps, when I was as far away from home as the route gets, I heard the hiss-hiss-hiss of a tire going flat. Ordinarily not a big deal, it just adds a few minutes to the ride. ...except that, being sort of a dope, I had taken the tool bag off my bike at home for some reason and forgot to put it back on. You know, the tool bag with the spare tube and tire irons and the patch kit? With no way to fix the flat tire, I had no choice but to start walking. This still was far from disastrous since I could easily walk to a bus stop, and while I'd probably have to wait for half an hour for a bus, then change buses a time or two (waiting another half hour each time), eventually I could get myself home.

I hadn't walked more than a block when I came upon another cyclist, in full team kit with a super deluxe high-zoot bike. He was just standing astride his bike beside the road. Now, all cyclists know that the guys in full team kit with super expensive bikes are all... well you know the things that porcupines have? It's true. Anyway, I said howdy and kept walking, but Mr. Team Kit immediately asks if I need a spare tube or anything. I stopped and explained my dopey situation and said, no worries I could just catch a bus. But he persisted and insisted on giving my his spare tube. So I graciously accepted his offer. Not only did he give me his spare, but he also did most of the work fixing the flat. He was one of the quickest flat fixers I've ever seen, and I've seen some fast ones riding with Randonneurs and all. I tried to pay him for the tube but he wouldn't have it. So, I thanked him several times and wished him all the good karma he could carry and then we rode off our separate ways.

Moral: Kind strangers come in all kinds of outfits.

Friday, May 20, 2011

To My Wife

See Honey, it could be worse...

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Breaking News: Cycling Hip Like Khaki Slacks

You'd have to have been living in a house in Pakistan without a phone or internet connection for the past several years to not notice that bikes have become a fashion accessory of the hip. But today while on my bi-annual pilgrimage to The Gap to buy new underwear and socks, I ran into this (please excuse the crappy cell phone picture):

This takes it to a whole new level. When The Gap starts using bicycle parts to sell suburban leisure wear to the masses, then cycling as a fashion statement has clearly hit the mega-mainstream. Or maybe jumped the shark.

Of course this means the hipsters will have to abandon anything related to cycling and find a new non-mainstream and currently dorky fashion statement. I'm thinking maybe stamp collecting or curling will be the next big thing.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Seattle Randonneurs Baker Lake 400

This weekend I rode Seattle Randonneur's Baker Lake 400k, and while my ride was generally uneventful in the best sort of way, it was a good reminder that riding a bike on busy roads in the dark and the pouring rain, while wrung out physically and mentally can be a risky business. Even under the best of conditions, there's a lot that can go wrong on a 250 mile bike ride. I know of three people who crashed during yesterday's ride, and I wouldn't be surprised to hear about others given the conditions. Luckily, of the crashes I heard about nobody was seriously injured.

The ride didn't start out dark, wet and forbidding. It was actually looking pretty nice when we all gathered at Mark's house in Woodinville for the 6:00am start. According the forecast, we had about 12 hours before the rain would set in. For once, the forecast was dead-on accurate.

Route Map

The course covered some really beautiful roads from Woodinville, up through the cascade foothills to Baker Lake and back again. As the elevation profile shows, there was a lot of fairly flat riding on this course, but with a bump in the middle that sort of knocks the starch out of you, especially coming 115 miles into the ride.

Elevation profile

My plan was to ride with the Charly Miller team from the start, but knowing my fitness still isn't quite back to where it was, I figured I'd probably drop off when we got to the big climb up to Baker Lake. Apparently I waaay overestimated my abilities. There was a lead group of about 12, including four of the Charly Miller team that took off like carbon fiber bats out of hell from the start. They were flying. I knew I'd regret it if I tried to keep up that pace, so I dropped off the back about a half hour into the ride. I found myself in a familiar place, in the no-man's land between the lead group and everyone else.

"God light" over Snohomish

Cruising the Centennial trail

Lonesome roads with Mt. Baker in the distance

Luckily I enjoy riding alone, because I was by myself for the next 50 miles or so until a small group overtook me about half way between Arlington and Darrington.

The cavalry arrives

The group lost some members off the back, and gained a couple more that had fallen off the back of the lead group, but most of the group stayed together for the rest of the ride.

Me and Paul approaching Baker Lake

The route had a short out-and-back section from Concrete up to Baker Lake and back. As we approached Baker Lake, the lead riders were heading back the other way. I saw the Charly Miller crew about a mile from the turn-around point, so I cheered them on and tried to quickly whip out my camera before they were gone. Unfortunately this is all I got:

The Charly Miller crew riding toward Paris

Kole, Vinnie, Jennifer and some other SiR volunteers were waiting for us at the Baker Lake control with hot soup, sandwiches, boiled potatoes and a truck load of other goodies. For some strange reason boiled potatoes were the thing that most hit the spot. I ate three there and stuffed a couple more in my bag for road food.

Bikes and backhoes at the Baker Lake control

The route from Baker Lake back to the start was deeper into the foothills than the first half of the route had been. That meant two things: more hills and more likelihood of rain. But before the rain and hills started, we enjoyed a nice stretch along the Skagit River from Concrete to Clear Lake on the South Skagit Highway and even saw our shadows a couple times.

Skagit Valley Highway outside Concrete

Just before the rain started falling

Around Arlington the rain started falling steadily and it was getting dark. We only had 50 miles to go, but the last 50 miles of 250 has a way of seeming a bit longer than the first 50 miles. I read Sunday morning that it rained just under an inch at SeaTac between 7:00 pm and midnight on Saturday. I’m guessing it rained more than that where we were. It was the kind of rain that comes down in sheets and creates small rivers in the road. Amazingly I was feeling pretty good through it all. Yes, I was looking forward to being done with the ride and getting out of the rain, but I was feeling comfortable on the bike and still had some strength in my legs. So, our group rolled on through the rolling hills, darkness and sheets of rain until eventually we were climbing the final hill (a steep MF, that one) up to Mark’s house. They had the holy trinity of dry towels, hot food and cold beer waiting for us at the finish. It was 10:50 pm.

My wrist was a bit sore at times during the ride, but then I could say the same about several other parts of my body. So, it seems like my recovery from the FOOSH is coming along pretty well. The rest of my body still needs some work if I expect to rejoin the Charly Miller team in Paris. I’m looking to the Tahuya Hills 600k in three weeks as the test that tells me whether I’m back on target for that big fat goal.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Spring is for Bonking

Could it be that spring is finally coming to Seattle? I went for a 200k training ride on Saturday and was only rained on for about five minutes out of the eight hours I was out riding. I don't usually do such long training rides, but I'm still not quite as fit as I should be at this point in the season, so I decided to punish myself a little with a fast and hilly 200k. No pain, no gain, and all that, ya know.

Most of the ride went well. I felt great for the first 100k or so as I rode over some of my favorite cycling roads: up to Snohomish, Dubuque Rd, Old Pipeline Rd, Ben Howard Rd, High Bridge Rd... I hit a little slump around Carnation, but a quick stop for some real food and a cup of joe got me rolling again.

I was still maybe an hour away from home when I ate my last shot block. There were plenty of places I could have stopped to grab a candy bar or something, but even though I knew "the fuel light would be flashing" by the time I got home, I figured I could make it without food, so I kept going. Then as I rolled through Montlake, I came upon this:

It was opening day of yachting season in Seattle so the Montlake bridge was up to let the parade of yachts through. The police officers standing there said it would probably be about 20 minutes before they'd lower the bridge. It was warm and sunny and there were lots of people milling around to watch so I just sat down and waited.

When you've been riding hard for nearly eight hours straight, your body doesn't just suddenly stop burning fuel the second you get off the bike. I don't completely understand the physiology, but I know from experience that it takes at least an hour or so for your metabolism settle back to normal. I hadn't really counted on this when I did the whole flashing-fuel-light/coast-in-on-fumes calculation. So when the bridge finally opened--and I spent another ten minutes working my way through crowds of pedestrians--I started pedaling the last two or three miles for home, and suddenly I BONKED.

I thought I had experienced a bonk before. Apparently not. This was like nothing I've ever felt. I was seeing spots, I had tunnel vision, my head was spinning, my legs felt like they were made of clay... The last mile to home (all up hill of course) was at a snail's pace.

As soon as I got home, I shoveled in a huge mountain of leftover pasta and flopped on the bed. Slowly I started feeling human again. It was about 45 minutes before I had enough energy to take a shower.

While bonking isn't much fun, I think this was probably a good learning experience for me. It reminded me of an episode of Car Talk I heard a while back. One of Tom and Ray's callers explained that the first thing he does whenever he gets a new car is put a can of gas in the trunk and then go run it out of gas. This is so he knows exactly how low the gas guage goes before the car is really empty. Yes, Tom and Ray made a lot of fun of the guy.

Coming up next weekend: Baker Lake 400k. It's been a long time since I've done that kind of distance...