24 June, 2012

The Lycra Brother (and Sister) hood.

I rode my hardest ride of 2012 during the hottest part of 2012 (at least until that record is broken, which will probably be today).  Our Natural Grocers team leader and general good guy, Kenny L. picked a ride from Strava.  Strava, loosely, is a social networking gig where competitive people or competitively voyeuristic people who want some anonymity can check other people's timed events.  These events can either be segments of road or off-road courses or anything GPS can track.  Obviously if you're running in mine shafts GPS can't track you.  Kenny picked Taylor Phinney's "medium" ride for our poison (aka transcendental therapy session) yesterday.

Cycling friendships are a little more special than non-cycling friendships (my opinion) because they have an added bonus of this:  everybody-your cycling brahs and sissies-embraces suffering in one form or another (i.e. more layers of the onion, peeled away).  This embracing of suffering isn't temporary; in fact, your friendships become more entwined because we frequently inflict-and expect-this collective suffering upon each other.  Bike geeks (racers, bike marathoners, RAAMers, mileage junkies...I'm sure I'm missing another specialty of two-wheeledness-recumbent riders are just plain weird) can suffer more than the self-perceived bike geek who rode to 7-11 and got caught in the rain ONCE and thought, "Wow!  That was a Marlboro Man experience!  I probably can do the Tour de France now." It's this common denominator (and general aiming, through digital manipulation of self-propelled mucoid substances while riding) that binds us; probably complimenting the friendship that precedes the commonality of suffering.  It's like, "Yeah, they're all nice guys and none have been convicted of any felonies (in Kenny's case, he was acquitted);" but, when experiences of universal bike race suffering (we're all from difference necks of the woods) occur before meeting each other, there's a kindred spirituality that makes that person even more likable.   
Now if it's just you suffering on a constructive training ride, the fact that it wasn't shared-in my humble opinion-kept that cosmic energy expenditure of positivity bottled and resonated only with you.  It's like having an out-of-body experience that nobody else was there to witness (it's like cosmic validation but truly it's you who has to be convinced) that experience.  You add another (or several) bipedal hominid(s) on a modified penny farthing (today's bike silly!) and you get the racer's phenomena of what I call collective suffering.  

Collective suffering is akin to hive mentality via resonance.  Take the sleestak example of Land Of The Lost fame.  They were a collective and before Marshall, Will, and Holly tore the fabric of space/time to drop in on them-while still on their kayaks nonetheless-like uninvited guests (through no fault of their own).  Before that happened the sleestaks were happy keeping their hive in order, tending to their young, flinging poop out of the hive for cleanliness sake, and hatching out of eggs.  Probably had a caste system too.  When the humans came something clicked in their collective brain.  An abstraction that led them to a higher purpose, which was:  let's kill da human beeches foo's (or more likely this: aasdienbqpzvcmxiweytnxalki!)!  This abstraction resonated with all the individuals in the clutch (you can't resonate with one-but you can originate the impulse), the hive, the collective or whatever word or phrase you wanna use like E pluribus unum (in Latin, it translates roughly to E pluribus unum).  So this reptilian homeboy/girl society was further galvanized, with more purpose because pre-humans they were bored, now they banded together with their toe-up bows and arrows (and couldn't shoot their way out of a paper bag) to kill the humans.  Incidentally, if you were at point blank range from a sleestak you'd have a better chance of living than if you were equidistant from a highly used kitty litter box ripe with Toxoplasma gondii protozoans.  Hell you could probably fire off six or seven fierce, highly accurate kara-te kicks to that sleestak's groin before it fired off that arrow in your general direction (don't forget to kiai!). 

Our peloton yesterday of six behaved like a hive.  Instead of clearly defined castes though, we had roles of I'ma-inflict-this-specific-type-o'pain-on-yo-arse.  For example, roles like:  the billy goat, the descend-like-Satan-descender, the flat terrain human diesel motor, the sprinter...etc.  When the topographically-dependent situation distilled that role from an individual in the hive-the roles can switch-we got down to bidness (i.e. the buzzing in the beehive).  Our transcendental plane destination was suffering; and to get there mentally you have to bring your admission ticket of resonance.  When riding, sometimes there's talking, sometimes it's church mouse quiet and the only thing you hear is the gravel crunching underneath the skinny tires, or the whir of our drivetrains as our 12 wheeled hive rolled along on all manner of rode surfaces as the Sol blasted us with unadulterated UVA, UVB, and UVC radiation.  The gravelly part SUCKED!  In fact, my damn Speedplay's came loose with all that shaking going on (I had to bum a screw in Ward at a store to refasten my cleat!).  Five hours later, with close to 9000' (2743 m) of climbing, in 99° F (37°C) of heat, mentally ensconced in our suffer-fest bubble we arrive to our parking lot (and our cars didn't get towed!  Boulder is parking nazi central).  You'da thunk it was Christmas (or fill-in whatever joyous event comes into your mellon) by the expressions on our faces resulting from our collective suffering via resonance.  Racing amplifies this abstraction.  So the next time you see a bee or a sleestak for that matter, know that there's a lot going on in their neural networks (and run from the sleestak).  Furthermore, the next time you see members of the Vitamin Cottage/Natural Grocers Racing Team riding as a collective, pass 'em with at least three feet of space because it's Colorado law (and buy more vitamins and cottages please)!

It doesn't matter what gender you are to achieve this type of enlightenment (brothers and sisters!); but it has to be greater than one to make it logarithmically mo' bettah.  Because (and remember-say, remember like Mufasa) the whole (collective) is greater than the sum of the (individual) parts my grasshoppers.

Ruminate on that...

22 June, 2012

'Tis Hot

that's 36° Celsius for you metric losers (just joshing).
After an enlightening ride with my Natural Grocers Dirt Team (Kenny, Tim X2, and Brian)-in which we all are doing the Firecracker 50- last week preparing for said race, I rode on with Dr. Tim.  Not only does he play one on T.V. but he is one, so when it comes to training advice, I'll listen.  Even though we didn't get in our planned 50 mile mix of on and off roading due to some fierce looking storm clouds rolling in, the training gist I got out of one of our many conversations was the magic number of 4.  He said there's really no need in training more than 4 hours off-road to prepare so that's what I've been doing.  Been coming close.  After that day the most I got was 3.5h with Billy and who did I see on the trail yesterday?  Tim (again).  He's rocking.  He saw me at hour 3.25 and my tongue was draggin'!  On a related note, I was the receiver of two pinch flats as I was riding my old 29er.  My Guardian's tubeless so I guess I ride sloppier than I thought.  I try to pick the sweet line being that both my 29ers are hardtails.
a more dialed-in cockpit version 2.0
This was yesterday, now I'm rocking the new and more dialed-in Airborne Guardian.  Put a narrower, riser handlebar with a 0° rise, 120mm stem and much longer seat post to get a more aggressive stance when I turn into an XC racer wannabee (I actually have a USAC license and actually race, not last place mind you, but one DNF on the first race of the season).
It was HOT!  So I wanted to do Mt Falcon-Parmalee loop-Lair O' The Bear as a big circuit.  Probably 24 miles with about a smidge less than 3000' of climbing I'm guessing.  As I'm climbing-in Colorado if you mountain bike you start either climbing or descending-the very first part of Falcon some iPod wearing pedestrian warns me, "There's a rattler a'ways from you on the trail."  Not only is it hot and I'm sweating like an obese man at a buffet at Sizzler, but now I'm hyper-aware and hyper-sensitive that all tree roots that I see are indeed roots.  It reminded me of the days I lifeguarded at the YMCA, especially my shift during the toddler learn to swim sessions.  I'd be a scanning fiend looking for any toddler drinking an inordinate amount of pool water (I actually pulled three kids total who tried to daredevil it and got too far from the edge and I yanked their thrashing bodies back onto the ledge).
So not only was I overheating but I was also like Nightrider's LED on the front of that Firebird (yes I'm dating myself) scanning and listening to the pre-strike rattler sound.  Of course when I free-wheeled (as opposed to free-balling) that sound too sounded like the rattler (coincidentally, free-balling makes no sound-or a slight swooshy sound?) so I had to keep on pedaling.  After what seemed like an eternity, I saw no rattler so I hunkered down and focused on the hot-arsed, exposed ascent.  You know what I'm going to do next time to jack with a hiker?  I'ma say, "Rogue Ninjas ahead and they're out for blood especially when you rest."  I will punctuate my sentence with "foo' (fool)" so 1:  they'll think it's normal mountain bike vernacular and not heed my warning; or 2:  there really might be ninjas and to continue might be a foolhardy test of living.  Get it?
albeit the commute was hellish, the scenery was lovely and I'd take mountains over beach anytime.
At the top of Parmalee you can see highway 285 as a road in-between the valley.  I used to travel that road daily when I lived in these foothills.  It was a 106 mile round trip excursion, more if you added miles as me being a soccer dad and even more hours during torrential snowstorms.  What prompted me to stick to that hellish commute?  It was a mountainous Garden of Eden though on the weekends looking out over our 5 acres at 8,600'.  Now I'm a divorced, single Dad living less than six minutes away from work.  Quite a trade-off I'd say.  There's more trade-offs too numerous to mention on this particular blog.   Maybe another time...
The effort at White Ranch with Billy the other day coupled with the heat really took a lot out of my legs and it showed in my efforts today but I was still determined to finish my predetermined route. Why?  Because my other ninja, Eric (no relation to rogue, trail ninjas), had this lovely aphorism on a nice piece of vinyl that I proudly display on my top tube where it meets the steerer tube.  "Fly or Die." 
because, "Harden the Fuc* Up" took too much space.
I don't wanna die, nor is man capable of self-sustaining, no-simple-machines flight.  It's an enigma don't you think?  Eric is an enigma too (wrapped in a riddle-I heard that somewhere so sue my plagiarizing arse). On Parmalee, after you climb out of the blast furnace, the single track is fast, sandy, and underneath the canopy of evergreens.  The nice dessert after a main course of Hot (with seconds).
Nice singletrack under the canopy don't you think?
After I climb out of the upper Mt. Falcon parking lot,  I have to hit the roads to get to the trailhead of LOTB.  I turn into road-geek and try to rest the legs on the nice, smoov, asphalt as I soft pedal  through the small town of Indian Hills.  LOTB is more roller coastery with a net downhill.  Most of it too is shaded.  There are a couple of technical parts.  Here's me...

What's wrong with this picture?  Leave a comment if you got it.
attempting this...
I can clear it.  Don't believe me?  Ride with me then (and can you bring your cute sister?  thanks).
Here's another rocky uphill.  I can make it all the way to that darn tree.  Then rogue ninjas come out and punch me in the bread basket and taunt me asking rhetorical questions like, "Why do you, grown man, wear spandex?" then laugh, and then I look like a fish out of water, holding my break basket.  Damn you trail ninjas!!

Named after Doors singer...NOT!
After a nice, twisty, singletrack downhill, I hit the road again (Highway 74) to take me back to the beginning where I parked in Morrison. 

Morrison is kind of a touristy mecca but bikers and rock climbers flock to this place as well and it's not that far from Red Rocks amphitheatre (as opposed to the extinct Red Rocks amphibian).   I need to train wisely so at my truck, there's a cooler with a recovery drink for me.  At home I have another recovery drink and it's this (it is summer after all)...
and yes I did graduate from Texas.  Hook 'em!

15 June, 2012

Cleansing, Self-inflicted Pain

If you squint really hard you can see Denver in background.  This is Kev.
The last ride I did was with Kevin.  Kevin plus myself make 2/3rds of the homey trinity(definition:  it's like three peeps who are homeys, c'mon, work with me here).  Where?  You ask is the third?  Good question.  He was doing work stuff.  Yuck!  But he is Teacher of the Year 2012 at RHS so I will not disparage my brother on this blog (maybe the next one though).  That last ride was before my vacation to southern California to visit me Mum (yes, I'm English, Southern English that's why I have this tan) and li'brah and sweet sis in-law.  It was amazingly cool and I learned two things.  One, the sweet tooth my mother has is genetic; and two, I can honestly say I don't like sitting around on a beach (not conducive to my ADD) and the hotel pool's just fine!  The only beaches I gravitate to are the rugged Oregon or Washington coasts where you can hike and decompress looking at some magnificent, water sculpted shorelines.  
The first thing I learned added girth to my waistline.  My Mum loves DQ desserts (really who doesn't).  So whenever there was DQ around we bust out a Blizzard, a dipped cone, a Caramel Shake, French Fries-and that was just for me!  Do that habitually on vacation and you end up with some sweet potential energy in the form of adipose tissue 'round yo middle.  Being a cyclist-and if you've spent quality time with cyclists-means I'm hypersensitive about my weight.  Call it vanity but you can't have extraneous girth when you're busting an uphill move or in an 80 mile race where thin=proficient, efficient use of transporting and burning crucial kilocalories.  Anyhoo it was my plan to store this potential energy and to transform it into kinetic energy as soon as I returned to Colorful Colorado (not really, I just have no self-discipline).  Today was that day peeps.
Kevin and I did a looped ride called Mt. Falcon to Lair O' the Bear.  I wanted to do the climb up Mount Falcon twice, so the plan was after the big loop, I'd just climb to the top of Falcon again and descend to get ready for the protracted pain threshold I will suffer through doing the Firecracker 50.  My new toy's Airborne Bike's Guardian 29er spec'd with the Goblin's components.  I just added my CrossMax wheelset that I'm running tubeless.  Penelope, after I did my pre-flight ritual of airing the + and - air chambers (10 pounds higher than manufacturer's recommendation), pumping tubeless tires to 40 psi (I know it's high), nighttime soak of chain lube (not me silly, the bike), was raring to go.  Once you've gotten over where the bike's center of gravity is, it's just a matter of expectations of what the bike's capable of doing and the driver's abilities (now I ain't saying she's a gold digger, but she ain't going for no broke...).  So-and I've been racing for a while-my expectation was for Penelope to deliver me a predictable, high performance translation of my pedaling and body english, to speed on the ground and to confidently track on the hardpack...which she did.  The big wheels coupled with the tubeless setup has a characteristic of beach cruiser wheels.  Kinda bubbly and bouncy but extra force dissipation (as oppposed to those forces dissipating via your spinal cord) is a plus.  When I lean to corner, the squish goes away and it tracks confidently (wish they made a UST version of the Small Block Eights). 
Here's why predictable ride quality is important.  Once the bike does what you ask for and you are intimately educated about how to get every nuance of performance out of her, the racer mind kicks in and you can get in the zone-the trance.  Once you're in the zone all the energy is spent on where your focusing your eyes (in tandem with:  setting up the body english, using arms and legs as shock absorbers, and visualizing) towards your desired path (obstacles or not).  It's like skiing moguls as fast as you can, except when you crash at speed in an XC race there's no snow to break your fall.  You worry about equipment (or your equipment flat out sucks), you lose that edge and focus and probably some time.  So thanks Airborne for spec'ing Penelope better than ite. 
Quasi big rocks, at speed mind you, needs a float like water stance and approach once you hit it.  It doesn't look pretty here but that's what I'm doing.
Approach, setting up the english...
Not particularly floating either but the big wheels have inertia baby!

Lair O'The Bear is roller coastery singletrack with these big-ish rocks as either uphill or down hill obstacles.  Another advantage of big wheels is one of my pedal strokes means my wheel will cover more distance than a 26er.  It's like disc wheels, you need leg strength to get the rolling inertia going.  If you have it, you win; if you don't, it's a waste of energy.  They also have rocks strategically placed where you have to thread the needle or else Mr. Rock will shear off your rear derailleur (Moab did that to my Yeti) or shred a sidewall (my tubeless tires are expensive!).  Either way it's not fun...
Kev threadin' the needle...
...me threadin' the needle.
Punctuating LOTB is a rocky, stair-steppy path.  'Tis better to descent it than ascend it so that's what we do...

This is actually pretty steep!
Almost done!
Back at the cars, Kevin gives me the remainder of his Cliff-Bloks and I still have some more potential energy hanging around.  Better do that second climb up Mt. Falcon.  Saturday's going to be an off-road Natural Grocers Dirt Team ride at White Ranch-a bunch of grown men sporting Halloween's colors wearing spandex.  Funny if you think about it.  If Penelope's going to be this confidence inspiring I await her debute at the first WinterPark XC race June 30th 'til then it's self-inflicted pain mixed with spiritual cleansing after epic rides setting up for the Firecracker 50 (guess the date).