26 June, 2010

WinterPark's XC Super Loop (w/Kenny's Garmin info)

Our bikes are parked in front of a Starbucks and a vendor selling doughnuts (not pictured) at the village

Took off again with longtime teammate/complicitor Kenny L. to do the the second XC race in the WinterPark series this morning after downing one and one-third buckwheat pancakes and two espressos.
Kenny's Garmin said it was 19.9 mile endeavor and the race description said 1,883' of climbing. A devastating urge to pee didn't wreck my start/stage time today! Nosirree! A shared, cycling idiosyncrasy with Kenny and I is that we find wearing Camelbacks an annoyance in XC events less than 2 hours long. There's nothing more cumbersome than racing with three pounds of water, fabric blocking the back's potential evaporative cooling surfaces on a hot day, and a securing chest strap to keep your breathing restricted and binding your shoulders adding to the onerosity your brain has to deal with on top of racing. For today's contest we carry our pump(s) and food in our jersey pockets with both water bottle cages mounted and full (for me: one, water only; the other, Cliff electrolyte drink); thereby looking less Dromedarian and more tetrapod in spandex. Speaking of which the course was randomly littered with ejected water bottles on the terminal velocity downhill sections.
Unlike road staging events my stomach's not all full of butterflies but a habit I picked up (from road staging) is to count the peeps in my category to distract my mind. There's quite a bit of new bodies today as well as three or four racers I recognize from last week's event. From my rudimentary counting system (with my shoes on) I estimated 40+ bipeds. Ite den. Time to show 'em how Natural Grocers roll (don't get too excited)! The announcer counts us down from 5 seconds...4...3...2...1...BLAM! Up we go, marching the middle chainring, momentarily on the fire road, sharing the same route as last week's hillclimbing event. Ahhh the pain of pushing it at altitude and the not-so-fresh feeling of doing the hillclimb route brings about Déjà vu (why, "Hello dere."). Once we roll onto the singletrack it brings in a case of Jédà vu (a strange feeling that his has never happened before). I pass three other people on the climb to the top of this particular stretch of the course then the screaming, somewhat rooty/rocky downhill begins. I'm at a disadvantage here because four people pass me back on their dual suspension rigs. What I remembered from this course three years ago is that there's a couple of flat, long sections where packs can form and can cruise into the (sometimes vicious) headwinds. If you're solo your screwed. There was a creek crossing before the flats where I fell victim of a classic case of "monkey see, monkey do". The person I was tailgating rammed it through the taller-than-bottom-bracket-height waters and biffed it. I did a copycat biff too and had to bust out my left hand, tripod style to prevent my upper body from getting soaked as well. Nothing like the feeling of ice-cold run-off water from melting snowpack completely soaking your chamois and the contents it's supporting. Mmmm,mmmm good y'all. Woke me up. When that water touched my junk it made me wanna sing The Hills Are Alive (from the Sound of Music-great movie) in falsetto.
Fast forward to the flats and I see our the tailgunners of our lead pack rolling some 100 meters or so ahead of us. So the trio I'm-feeling our sense of urgency to catch 'em-start a rotating paceline. Well until a doofus in our group attacks us disrupting our flow (he'd punch it, get a 10m lead, die in the headwind and sit back in!). After another of his attacks, I motioned to the guy behind me to let doofus extraordinaire go. He built up a 20 meter gap and the picosecond he faded, I punched it with the other guy in tow and we slingshotted past him on the opposite side of the fire road in such a way that he would have to sprint like Djamolidine Abdoujaparov to get in our slipstream. Later beeeyatch. After a while, I noticed my fellow escapee wasn't coming around me anymore to trade leads so--it is a race afterall--I accelerated in a way that it would be uncomfortable for him to half-wheel me in this headwind but also not putting me too far into the red. This allowed me to hopscotch solo to the next group of 4 (a mish-mash of other categories). As we got closer, the remnants of the lead group still dangling in front of us started attacking each other (damn roadies, oh wait, I'm one too!). No one in the lead group could ever break clear and in fact they rolled with even more ferocity once they were done attacking each other. Like my last trio, this group of four (plus me) weren't taking turns up front except for a rider I'll describe as stout, and me. After we traded pulls we simultaneously get the idea that these three are dead weight. At the slightest downhill part of the fireroad, he beats me to the punch, and accelerates after slapping his chain on the large(st chaingring)/small (cogset). I copy his gear ratio but I have to stand on my Times with all my weight to catch his draft. He's rolling Jan Ullrich-like, turbo dieseling, picking up more speed. He and I trade pulls but alas our speeding leaders are out of sight and diving back into the downhill singletrack for the return trip.
The last section has an annoying little climb and I pass people again but at this point I don't care what category they're in as evidenced by their calf markings (S44=sport 44 year-old). Although it does stroke my ego when I pass a young 'un (10+ years younger than me).
I know I'm at least mid-pack in my category. Again in the slamming downhill I get passed by 4 dual boingers (different categories) before the last singletrack to the finish line. This section's pretty rocky and rollercoaster-like and the dualboingers are pedaling where I have to stand and push down on my legs and arms to keep the momentum/inertia flowing, uninterrupted by braking. I dig my hardtail even though it has its limitations...I keep this position because I can't even outsprint anybody because the next guy's 30 seconds ahead. There's no one behind me to ninja past me, no need to sprint to the line. After repeated looks behind me to know it's safe, like a poseur, I zip up my jersey and coast in.
I took 14th out of 49 in mine (no money...again!). I do believe my legs are feeling the signs of aging (negative rationalizing).
Whereas my homey, Kenny he took 4th out of 32 in his category (money...again!). First time this season my glutes actually had some pain (did a buttload of sitting--no pun intended--while climbing).
With all this self-inflicted pain (lower back, triceps, quads/hammies...etc.) from the minimalistic hardtail resulting in endorphin release and quasi self-actualization on a bike, I feel like a cycling ascetic. In Lotus position: "Ommmmmmmmmm....."

Kenny's Garmin updates:
- 18.36 miles (30 km)
- 2,321 ' of climbing (707 m)
- painful

24 June, 2010

It is health that is real wealth and not pieces of gold and silver.-Gandhi (a.k.a the prosaicness of the 24th of June!)

Not to contradict the great Gandhi but if I had a couple'a mil on hand it might just be the source of my (good) health.

Last night we ate something that didn't agree with our tummies. Fortunately, Melissa, Maricel and I didn't get it but Mason and Maura have a wee bit of an affliction/malaise. Bear with me here...

Supervising a puppy's like supervising an infant or someone who's criminally insane. They always have to be in front of you so you know exactly what's going on (i.e. not eating poop, shredding a newspaper, not excreting the elimination of waste products on the couch or floor or the bed...etc.) During the weekdays, that's usually me so I get up when he barks (be it 3, 4, or 5 a.m.) so they can do their thing outdoors. Two nights ago, our neighbor across the way's dog started to bark at 3 a.m., which got Charlie-our newest Mequi member-fired up. When I let 'em outside (Addy too) I saw what our neighbor's dog was barking at: a mountain lion. Addy wanted to chase so I called her back and physically restrained Charlie (scooped him up) as I held a snow shovel with the other hand to use improvisational-ninja-attack style just in case good kitty goes bad...

What this means, coupled with Maura's on and off again feelings of malaise, is an accumulation of some pretty serious stretches of interrupted sleep. Which, I'm feeling this morning. Although I did get a bit of reprieve this morning because Maricel got up early to supervise the puppy (and I'm--we're all--gonna bust a nap later).

So, this morning it's another beautiful day in Colorado. The temperature's 75°F (24°C), Maricel and I in feeling the effects of interrupted sleep, we still throw the frisbee while we wait for the puppy to extrude some brown, self-serve soft ice cream in the front yard. Maura's on the bed and Mason's up playing with his cars. Very lazy, sunny start to the 24th of June. After Charlie assumes the position, we go inside and it's pancake making/eating time. We're about to go on a holiday so we need to finish up as many perishables in the fridge as possible. First consumable to go? Maple syrup.

So what does the title quote have to do with any of this? I have my health, not all of us are sick, and it's a downright gorgeous, lazy Colorado summer day y'all (AND, we're fixin' to eat some buckwheat pancakes). Take that malaise!

19 June, 2010

WinterPark Hillclimb Series: Race #1

The (tiny picture of the) course profile. Starts at 9,000 feet (2743 meters) and ends 11,220 feet (3420 meters) some 5.5 miles later (Kenny's GPS begs to differ).

Teammates L-R, Kenny L, moi, and Ben

Carpooled in the Tundra with old friend/teammate Kenny L. and new friend/teammate Ben to do the inaugural event of the WinterPark mountain biking series. It's a hillclimb and to this day I still wonder why I do hillclimbs? It's painful, it's at altitude, and people cheat by using their cyclocross bikes for this particular event...I guess a race is a race and even though I'm to the left of the bell curve of fitness it satisfies my urge as a competitor.
Ben had no warmup as we got to his staging event with less than 30 minutes before his start. We all dressed quickly and got to his stage. Ben races singlespeed. His steed's a Spot. It's a belt driven, ninja quiet ride. Singlespeeders are kinda hardcore in a non-technical, purist, (non-sexual) masochistic sort-of-way because they race on one gear (not a fixie mind you) on all manner of topography and can put the beat down on some geared riders (for example, I got passed by one). Ben's warmup was when the announcer counted down his elite category to race. Kenny, who races a Gary Fisher Superfly (2.0), started before me and he lined up and took off like a scalded cat when the announcer counted them down. As an interesting sidebar, there were a boat load of Gary Fisher Superfly 100s on the course today (a $6000 ride). Me, on the other hand, had to pee something fierce and missed my stage. They didn't put too much significant time on me because after some labored sprinting (on front fork lockout on my seven year-old Yeti hardtail) I was able to catch the tailgunners in my category in less than 10 or so minutes. That sprinting though put me quickly into oxygen debt at this altitude (9,000 feet) and I had to settle down and get my breathing back. Once my heart descended from my throat, back into my thoracic cavity I slowly started to pick off riders in my group. I was able to hang with a small-ish pack that was right at my ability level, always climbing mind you, and this allowed me to mentally rest and get my heart rate just below cardiac arrest.
Once my immediate pack was starting to fade I went around them and started applying more watts to my pedals. On the last half of the course all manner of other competitors groups were in front of me (the event sponsors mark each competitors' calves with their age and their category so you can eyeball your competition). Passed some expert women, some younger sport riders (I was getting past too by some older sport riders) and it was getting pretty congested. I've done this race before and it seems every time I saw a right hand sweeper I always thought the last kicker of the hill would be right around the corner. So after a couple of anxiety attacks when it never appeared, I mentally chilled and prepared myself to not get gassed at the end.
Once I start hearing the cowbells I know the end is near. People who do this race on cyclocross bikes, I believe, are cheaters. So whenever I saw a cyclocrosser I'd do my darndest to pass them. I passed one at the beginning of the final kick and one passed me. Bummer.
When the three of us regroup near the summit we were yelling at the other competitors to pass people before they finished. We also waited for another one of our teammates, Jeff, to finish. The four of us then went down on some choice singletrack back to the base of WinterPark where we snarfed down some free food and Gatorade-type drinks. Nice touch sponsors.
Anyhoo, with missing my stage, I managed to finish 11th out of 36 hominids. Kenny finished third in his group (money) and Ben 4th but listed as sixth because an event sponsor can't count integers properly (but I won't hold that against them because it's such a great series). My fastest time doing this hillclimb was 45 mins back in 2007 and my slowest was the following year at 49 mins.
Afterwards we ride some of the legendary WinterPark ski area singletrack for some post-racing, cool down action. First time in a long time I've only ridden with riders on hardtails. Kinda cool like that...
Be all you can be... A "Most Difficult" rating

What I have to show for all this riding are a groovy watch tan...

...and a farmer's tan that a true hillbilly would envy!

As concluding evidence to another beautiful Colorado day, I present (to) you my backyard, pre-crepuscule.

Next week's the Point to Point XC event (50% committed). Yikes...

08 June, 2010

Deep In the Heart O' (North) Tejas

My li'brah Neil arrived at the airport so we head off to Whole Foods for some typical, Mequi barbecuing fare: Watermelon, Portobello mushrooms (Agaricus bisporus), corn, Belgian ale, Shiner Smokehouse beer, Salmon steak, and Prime cut beef (for everybody else, Team M are vegetarians/pescatarians and sheeyat).
Purchased mesquite/charcoal-esque briskets for the grill and got her up to ramming speed and grilled it up like Idi Amin at a daycare. Portobello mushroom burgers were Neil's idea and not only was it gastronomically righteous for a lazy, hot, bright, insouciant Sunday early evening sipping beers while involuntarily basking in ungodly heat but they also contain excellent mycochemicals and antioxidants to boot. I believe most everybody got a some sort of food/beer souvenir on their shirt/blouse while eating.

Woke up early and fired off a 38 miler, big chainring spin-ride before the kids woke up. Did the tour of Hayseeds: Murphy, Sachse, Parker, Wylie and Princeton in no certain order. Damn the hillbillies that live out here. Back in the day, riding on the frontage road and/or the farm to market (F.M.) was safe but now it's like riding your bike on a NASCAR track filled with dualies and I'm not talking fully suspended mountain bikes either. Once I started losing my nerve as well as my homeostatic thermal regulation, I pulled a you-ee to head back home in the already sweltering humidity. Said, "howdy" to an early morning jogger and she nearly peed her pants. Guess I should've announced myself better but after her initial jolt she replied, "morning" too. Trying to be a good cycling representative whilst flying the Natural Grocer's colors.


Woke up early to do another early morning, easy spin and the cassette body was howling! I was hoping the (ratchet and) pawl mechanism wasn't the cause of the noise making. Initially, I thought it was the frame pump rattling but alas it was the cassette body. Went to my old cycling sponsor in Plano and their mechanic hooked me up for free. The verdict? A loose cassette. Several hours later it was time to stage for the Tuesday Night Dallas Crit Series. 62 people showed up for my event. To warm up, I cycled to the course which was three miles from my Mom and Dad's. The local, summertime south winds were in full effect (gusts up to 25 mph) here in North Texas and I started making mental notes to myself on where to be in the (race) peloton to be sheltered from the head and sidewinds during certain sections of the rectangular course. As our category warms up I experiment with half-wheeling positions either behind them left or right.

I always get a bit anxious when my field stages before the gun goes off. I don't make small talk with racers I don't know and I see my li'brah on the sidelines watching and the spectators starting to line up and I need to mentally shut it down and I stare at my top tube and cycling computer with blinders on.
We're off! and I know it's going to be a long day when I think we're more than halfway done but only fifteen minutes have gone by when I look at my computer. Damn. If I could hang with the pain of the protracted accelerations and fighting for shelter from the head and sidewinds in sauna-like conditions, the attrition would manage the number of competitors. Sure enough, the pace eased a bit after we lost half the pack and I was able to recover for the remainder of the event (and now we were eyeballing each other to see who would have best legs for the final push). Before the numbers dwindled, we were diving four deep into corners going 35 miles an hour with a tailwind assist. Crazy! Like all Cat III racing nobody ever wants to start a second echelon so again I had to queue up top dozen so I could feel the effects of the pack while the last half of our peloton was riding gutters. One lap I mentally slipped and it found me on the tail end of the pack/beginning of gutter row. I was riding the curb so hard that the tall weeds were slapping my shins. I was on the curb part of the concrete where the rain gutters where instead of on the concrete part of the roadway. Now that's being guttered. Again another mental note, insert your a$$ top dozen next time. With four laps remaining a group of 4 got off and nobody chased. At that point I was conserving my energy for the final push. With one remaining we hit the after burners and I lined up seventh in the group when we hit the finish line. Awesome. It pays off to drink two liters of water along with a quality warmup. I felt satisfied with my efforts and my lack of training. I felt like quitting several times during the event along with the building up of anxiety when my thermostat couldn't regulate itself fast enough for my liking due to this nutty, N. Texas weather. Would've felt foolish though had I quit because my little brah was watching and I would've felt more disappointed than he.

In the evening, my brah, Momma, and my daughters went and saw Iron Man 2, Imax version. We all stayed up past 1:30 partying like rock stars but isn't that what vacation's supposed to be for? Yeah, dat's right. Jeez Louise those IMAX theatres are super loud (what?)!

Went and hung out with Plano Schwinn teammate and homeboy of several years in lower Greenville to watch Colin do a solo acoustic gig. It was a nice night listening to Colin play while we drank a pitcher of Shiner Bock, a fermented remnant of my former Austin undergraduate life. We did some catching up/gossiping of our peers and the trajectories life has taken them. Beforehand, my awesome folks bought my chilluns some summer clothes and shoes when we went shopping as a pod. I love my parents. Incidentally, North Texas is home to a whole lot of world class shopping. I tried to rendezvous with some other friends too at Colin's gig but it proved to be fruitless. It was excellent hanging out with Brian and witnessing how successful and seemingly happy he is at this point in his life as a professional and family guy. On the way back he showed me a really cool residential area of Dallas on Historical, Swiss Avenue where the neighborhood was truly a class act. Big trees, representative architectures of varying styles, with a wide tree lined median dividing the streets. Very cool. Very elegant.

Did the PBA ride with the temps at 97°F and 76% humidity. I remember last year I was dying in the heat, barely finishing-let alone surviving-with the lead group. This time I hung with the lead group and dished out a serving of $hit-on-your-neighbor on the thinned out pack on the way back to the finish. Great ride in the sweltering heat. All these neighborhoods that sprung up while I was living in Colorado made this ride a protracted, stop sign/stop light interval session. You get a rhythm going, a rotating paceline, some attacks off the front and a splitting of riders only for the flotsam to catch up to y'all when the light turns red. Oh well, intervals are good for the body. The heat just takes me to redline quicker so I need to make sure I can recover-even at racepace-by forcing myself into a group so I can take advantage of the draft and to force myself to decrease my heart rate by concentrating on my breathing and cadence so mentally I can go again should an attack come or to launch one myself on a particularly long, uninterrupted (by stop lights/signs) stretch of road.


We all road tripped to Austin to get some Longhorn threads and to start my girls early on the way of the U of T. It was a great trip because being in the car that long you converse with everybody. I mean when was the last time you spent six quality hours in one room/cabin with family? That's how we roll: literally and figuratively I guess. In the evening I hung out with my boy Jimmy (and Colin's band's friends) to listen to Colin's electric band. Colin and his fine band busted out their version of "Voodoo Chile" and it was amazing. Colin showed 'em not only can he sing but when needed he'll bust out his axe (a Fender Telecaster) on you! Obzeets-where they played-is an odd combination of restaurant, bar, and furniture dealer that packs it in on a Friday night. Again: cervezas, old and new friends, and rock-n-roll make for a quality Friday night.


After our slightly morose goodbyes--I mean we spent quality time with Grandma and Grandpa, my daughters were mostly well behaved, and really it was kicka$$ hanging out with them--we head on back to Colorado. One of the things I find myself doing as I drive back from such a great trip is I have to mentally decompress/debrief by going through a mental rewind of the events of the vacation. This helps me put things into perspective as I mentally insert the appropriately shaped geometric blocks into their cut-out shapes on the tablet. So I guess I need to set the mental mood and this is accomplished by the road tripping music. This and the impending severe thunderstorms surrounding us made for good audio-visual mental decompression.
The music playing on the way back was: M. Ward's Transistor Radio; Ben Fold's University A Capella!; Miles Davis' (a Rudy van Gelder edition) Volume 1; and Bon Iver's For Emma, Forever Ago. What broke the mood momentarily was stopping for a pee break in south Wichita Falls. What an armpit for the N. Texas area (my impression at least)! There was a sign on a decrepit looking house-as we were searching for a gas station-that read (and I'm paraphrasing here), "this is no longer a crack house." No joke. Scary but slightly humorous in a bizarre sort-of-way. We stay in Amarillo at America's Best Value Inn and once we get inside our room we think they should change their name to (Hillbilly) America's Best Facsimile of a Ghetto. Damn, I guess that's the trade-off between price and quality.

We're back. It's 40°F, foggy, and raining. It's so cold in fact, that I start a fire for dinner time. Two weather extremes serving as bookends to one excellent vacation. The WinterPark mountain bike series kicks off with a hillclimb next week...