Monday, November 21, 2011

It's not easy being cheezy!

I am not sure I have recovered from last week yet.  The travel, lack of sleep, and crazy work stuff has left my head spinning.  Add to that the fact that it seems I brought dreary weather back to Socal with me when I returned from Chicago and I feel like curling into a ball and taking a nap (the lack of pictures due to atmospheric moisture is sure to impact my crappy blog!).  Hibernation anyone?

Allison's rightfully neurotic obsession with her foot in cold and wet weather makes planning and executing rides more of a chore than ever before.  I am feeling the pressure too, she turns to me for guidance as if I know what she should and should not do.  How the heck am I supposed to know?  The best doctors that we can't afford are unable to give us any indication of how to deal with Black Death Foot.  These doctors pocket more money per quarter than we make combined in a year.  Surely they should know something I don't, but they are useless!  We are further confounded by the fact that despite our best efforts we have thus far been unable to locate a pair of Specialized Defroster shoes for Allison.  You would think that maybe someone somewhere could help, but so far it seems we are shit outta luck.  At least the $200 "hot socks" seem to be doing a sufficient job so far, but I have my doubts about their effectiveness when the rides shift to longer duration.  Insulation will become more important in my opinion.  Don't come at me with suggestions, we have tried them all from wrapping her foot with space blankets, wool socks, booties, aluminum foil, plastic bags...

It is easy to come up with suggestions and say, "Try this..."  The problem with everything is that if the suggestion fails Allison loses 3 months of her life.  It is like playing Russian Roulette only the gun is pointed at her foot instead of her head.  Think about it, if your foot gets cold it dies and now you have a terrible injury from NOTHING that takes 3 months to heal.  Oh by the way, your foot getting cold is only a hypothesis.  It has happened twice before and only two things that seem to be common between the two occurrences, riding bikes and cold weather.

Okay enough of that rant.  Despite all this we had a decent weekend of training.

Saturday we headed up Indian Truck Trail with the goal of riding Trabuco and Holy Jim.  We got up to Main Divide and it was cold.  I could hear the cylinder snap shut on the revolver and the hammer pull back, the gun is pointed at Allison's right foot.  I pulled the plug.  We headed back down Indian Truck Fail and then drove to Vail Lake to finish her specified volume at lower elevation and without extended descents.  My left Achilles tendon had started to hurt earlier in the day and at the completion of the three hours it was excruciating.  I loaded up on Vitamin I.  (Inside joke for Ibuprofen)

Sunday we had learned our lesson and knew we were going to have to keep training on the down low, the lower the better.  Reluctantly Allison agreed to spend three hours looping through Daley Ranch.  I had a good ride, she struggled I think.  Either way it was much better than having to deal with icy cold wind and rain!  We got a little wet in the last 10 minutes or so of the ride, but not enough to short out her "hot socks" thankfully!

Sunday night was the Velosport Team Banquet so we drove over to Rancho Santa Margarita.  After helping to set up the banquet hall we feasted on pizza and cupcakes.  It was nice to see some of our racing buddies that don't show up to 'Cross races!  Huge congratulations to Clint and Marco for winning the coveted "Rider of the Year" award.  It is nice to see people recognized for their hard work, likable personalities, and good attitudes!

It was nice racing with one of the largest club teams in the USA (approx. 600 members), but I look forward to next year racing on the new Bikes 4 Boobs / Rock N' Road Cyclery team.  I think it will be great to sport new colors and to work for something bigger than a "trophy".  Helping to detect cancer early for people who can't afford screenings is certainly a worthy cause!  I ride with purpose.  Save a pair, save a life!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Getting back to life after busin-ass travel...

Putting things in perspective, it was a great experience to be selected to attend a corporate wide technology expo.  The major drawback is that traveling destroys my ability to exercise restraint on my dietary intake and then creates a perfect fat-storm because I wind up with no time to work out at all.  The trip itself was extremely demanding though, arriving in Chicago at 1 AM, didn't get to hotel and bed till 2:30.  Up Monday at 6:15 AM and then spent all day at the symposium (3.75hrs sleep).  Monday evening I met with a vendor and didn't get back to the hotel and bed until 1:30 AM.  Tuesday I was up at 6 AM and working the poster presentations all day (4.5hrs sleep).  Despite my lack of sleep I spent Tuesday night with a co-worker in Downtown Chicago (pics below) and then got about 2 hours of sleep before heading to the airport to catch my 5 AM flight.  Total sleep for three days around 10hrs.  Huge quantities of crappy coffee were consumed to accomplish this schedule.  If it weren't for Kim I would have been sulking the entire time from missing my wife and bikes!

Arriving near downtown we parked and then grabbed the train.

There was a really nice sunset during our train ride towards Millenium Park.

I snapped a few photos of the Millenium Bean, this one was my favorite.

We walked down to the statue of Marilyn Monroe.

A couple of shots off the bridge of the river.

Some weirdos were posing between her legs and snapping pictures of her undies!

The Wrigley Building.

Figured Allison would dig the Leg Lamp!

She has one of her own...

In any case, I am super thankful to be home again and looking forward to shredding some sweet trails this weekend with my beautiful wife.

Loving life!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Some things that DON'T suck.

This post was supposed to be posted on Monday but was delayed due to a crazy few days of busin-ass travel.  I appreciate your patience during this time of technical difficulty...  :)

1) Riding bikes with my wife and friends.

2) Road trips with said people.

3) Sushi that I cannot afford.

4) Utah landscapes.

I am sure I had more items on that list as I piloted the Black Max across the desert Saturday night.  Right now though those are on the forefront of my mind.  The last four days were stellar.

It is easy to identify and list things that don't suck when immediately juxtaposed with something that does.  Air travel is certainly on the list of things that do.  As I write this I am sitting in the bar at the airport sipping a glass of overly expensive red wine waiting for my flight.

I was determined to not let a business trip rob me of a weekend day, I desperately wanted to race Cyclocross today but despite my best efforts it just wasn't to be.  Between a ticketing SNAFU and trying to unpack from one trip, pack for another, and sleep a little,  all I was able to manage was a 1 hour ride with my wife before reluctantly driving off to the airport.

Rewinding a bit, I took three days of vacation to properly execute a plan for Allison's birthday that had been hatched four years earlier while sipping beers in the parking lot of Bootleg Canyon after a full day of shuttles and giant grin inducing shreddage on big DH bikes.

Interesting how one road trip in 2007 birthed another in 2011.  We were sharing a Stone Brewery 11th Anniversary and Stone's Vertical Epic series spurred some discussion about Allison's birthday in 2011 being a unique opportunity to do something cool.  11.11.11 with an 11th Anniversary @ 11,000 feet of elevation was born.

Wednesday, the first day of the vacation, we lazed a bit in the morning before a nice ride around Lake Elsinore.  This is a main staple of winter base training for us as it has a very flat profile.  Post ride nutrition out of the way we packed up the truck and headed 4 hours north to Las Vegas where we would rendezvous with Jeff, one of the original instigators of the trip.  After picking Jeff up at the airport we headed for The Hard Rock Hotel where we first enjoyed a cervesa at the Pink Taco, and then Steph and Dan joined us for an incredible sashimi dinner at Nobu.  Now that we had the full compliment of friends and our tanks topped off, the five of us sped late into the night arriving on a nearly full moon lit Gooseberry Mesa in the early hours of Thursday.

An all too brief night's sleep yielded a great deal of excitement around Thursday morning's french press coffee from the Jet Boils.

After sufficient caffienation and a hearty bowl of oats I revelled in introducing three of my closest friends to slick rock riding on The Goose.  We spent the better part of the day playing connect the dots, steep ups and downs, fast single track, techie fun heavenly riding with spectacular vistas of Zion and Little Creek Mesa and massive vertical drops to the desert below.

By the time we were loading the bikes back on the cars for the evening jaunt to Hillsdale every one of us had smiled, laughed, hooted with joy, and were ready for food and rest.  At the little house beside the road a roaring fire in the potbelly stove kept us warm, a delicious dinner of steak and vegetables satiated our appetites, and sweet sleep fell on our weary eyes (after some libations and clowning around of course).

Friday, 11.11.11, four years in the making.

A ride on Thunder Mountain was the order of the day.  Conditions were uncertain as there was some patchy snow still on the ground in the valley from the previous week's storms.  As our group pedaled up the bike path the snow became more and more dense, eventually shrouding the path entirely.

Our mountain bike tires groaned and hissed as they pressed their way up through untracked snow.  Turning right onto the dirt road the snow only got deeper and before reaching the single track the snow was several inches deep.  I have to admit that at this point I was a little worried.  Between Allison's Black Death Foot and navigating the trail with 4 inches of snow covering it, it was going to be a long and fairly stressful day.

Fortunately it takes a bit more than some frozen precipitation to dampen the spirits of our little crew and we proceeded to shred snow covered trail with reckless abandon.  Traction was hard to come by and the riding experience was a polar opposite to the previous day's slick rock.  The views again did not disappoint, snow provided jaw dropping contrast amongst the red rocks, ancient gnarled pines, and hoodoos.

Unfortunately the next activity of the day was cut short by the white winter decorations.  The road to Brianhead Peak was not passable in our truck and Allison deemed it too far to hike.  Night had fallen and our energy levels were depleted.  We did our best but came up 560 feet short, enjoying the aged 11th Anniversary at 10,420 feet.

Our failure to summit was not without celebration though as the duo-MC set about making snow angels and writing giant birthday wishes while Allison tilted back the brew.

Back at the cabin the evening's feast consisted of Mann-style grilled pork chops and S-Mac's magical vegetables, followed by Reese's Peanut Butter Cup encrusted brownies with 31 candles alight.  Surely it didn't measure up to Allison's mom's famous Boston Cream Pie birthday cakes, but it was quite tasty.

Sometimes the drive home can be a drag after such a fabulous few days of adventure with friends, a sensation of crashing down off an amazing high.  This trip however brought us back from the high nice and slow.  After winterizing the house and bidding farewell to Dan and Steph MC who were headed home through picturesque Zion National Park, Allison, Jeff, and I drove through Toquerville for a blissfull trip on the flowy serpentine single track above the cliffs of Hurricane (always pronounced Hurkin in these parts).

Even a violent looking crash by Allison did not derail the pleasure train on this day as our slightly smaller group of mountain bikers flew through the desert landscape on perfect buff one track.

Dinner consisted of the highly touted Cafe Rio in St. George followed by a "Concrete" (think DQ Blizzard but made from frozen custard) at Nielson's.

Sitting here on an Airbus, flying to Chicago, these memories warm my heart and bring a massive smile to my face.  I close my eyes and it isn't just the turbulence that moves me.  I can hear my friends brapping  and shouting and laughing as we ride.  This is the reason mountain biking is so important to me.  It is the polar opposite of suck.  It has brought us great friends that will travel from far and wide to full fill a crazy whimsical idea for my beloved wife's birthday celebration.  I love riding and I love these people.

Till the next time, may your adventure be full of joy and love...

Monday, November 7, 2011

Fat on Saturday, skinnier on Sunday

"Fat on Saturday, skinnier on Sunday."  Tires that is.  Certainly our recent over-indulgence isn't going to provide me any weight loss!!!  Sorry in advance for the distinct lack of photos, I will try to get more snaps for the next one...

Saturday we rode the mountain bikes on San Juan Trail.  Conditions were primo because of rain on Friday.  The ride was made even sweeter by the fact that we got to ride with Ben Jones, Brent Prenzlow, and Chtistina P. Turner!  Perfect single track shreddage and a veritable who's who of cycling in So. Cal. made for an exceptional day.

On the climb Ben Jones was riding in front which made for a nice change of pace.  I am usually playing 5mph bumper for Allison but on this day Ben took the onslaught of shuttle riders and DH rippers.  Our pace was fairly moderate which was good because my legs were quite sore from running 4 miles in 30 minutes on Friday.

When we arrived at Bluejay Campground where we usually refuel I discoverd that my rear tire was leaking down and Allison declared that she was going to give in to her training OCD with a 10 minute low cadence climb up "Pain Divide".  Nobody thought that sounded even remotely like a good time so our little party of five broke up.  I put some air in my tire and hoped it would seal but it didn't.  I then figured I would tube it while Allison was flogging herself on the fire road climb but that didn't quite work out as my spare tube had a hole in it.  When Allison came back down I decided to milk the tire as far as I could which wasn't very far.  I hate having to put a tube into a tubeless setup!

The rest of the ride was fairly uneventful.  I slowed my pace to stay close to Allison and to ensure I didn't pinch flat the tube.  With the conditions so perfect there were a lot of people climbing the trail late in the day so it was a good thing I wasn't really letting it rip.  I love to open it up and blast that descent but on day's like that when other trails are too wet to ride San Juan is amazing so there is always a ton of traffic.

Saturday night I BBQ'd dinner at my father-in-laws house as an early birthday celebration for Allison.  As is customary for us we ate too much and drank too much and generally had a great time.  We both paid for it on Sunday!

Sunday we awoke to rain.  It seems some people get really excited for "real 'cross weather", but Allison just gets super freaked out about keeping her foot warm.  I have tried to explain to her that I don't think that less than 1 hour is enough to cause Black Death Foot, but it is a huge deal and we really don't know for sure exactly what the limits of her condition are.  If finding the limit means another three months off the bike and another wasted season I say we stay well on the safe side!

When we got to the park it was pouring rain so I set up the canopy and the trainer and then set about getting dressed.  I layered up and jumped on the rollers.  Riding rollers in the rain on a CX bike with 35psi in the tires is tricky to say the least!  My legs were feeling pretty sore and beat down though so it was nice to spin on the rollers for a few.  I didn't get to ride a full lap of the course before my race as the lap times were fairly long and I needed to strip all my warmup layers off.  I had another iffy start as you can see in the video (4th or 5th wheel), but I really didn't want to be on the front as I hadn't ridden a full lap and figured it might help to have someone in front of me for the first lap to keep me from blowing corners or crashing.

The first lap I didn't feel terrible.  I was easily holding position in third place.  The course was very slick in places and I was being a bit conservative.  I was third wheel going onto a high speed sidewalk section when both of the riders in front of me splattered.  It looked terrible, but I think they were both okay. I snuck around unscathed only to get passed in the next corner by Brent Prenslow!  I didn't know he was racing with us but I sort of hoped he would be just cruising so I could hold his wheel.  I figure I have a lot to learn and staying with a guy that wins at the Elite level locally might help, especially seeing his lines on the rest of the course that I had not pre-ridden.

Well it didn't last long.  My legs just didn't have the extra gear to hang with BP.  I really tried, but it wasn't to be.  He quickly opened a gap and I found myself battling with another rider for 2nd.  The other rider seemed to have better power than me but was struggling a bit in the mud so I tried to help him out.  "Stay centered on the bike, lean it under you, don't get inside the bottom bracket."  I don't know if I helped him, but I tried. Soon after that I got a gap on him and was pulling away.

On the last lap it looked like I was going to take second place with a good margin to BP in first and about the same gap back to third.  There was a slippy muddy section leading onto a tarmac straight.  Unfortunately as I was speeding through the mud my bike started to skate around, I wasn't well balanced as I came up on the transition to asphalt and couldn't un-weight the bike properly bashing my front wheel on the lip.  That horrible swish-swish-swish sound of my front tire going down sent a feeling of panic through me!  I need points!  I tried to stay on the gas and found out going into the high speed corner at the end of the tarmac that although a tubular tire will stay on the rim, it doesn't afford any real traction or predictability on the mud.  I face planted.

I struggled, riding the rest of the lap on the flat front tire.  It was pretty terrible.  I managed to cross the line in 9th.  I felt crappy about the whole thing even though the course was tremendous fun and the mud was a very welcome challenge.  Two flats in two days, and this one was my first time flatting a tubular.

So a flat tubular comes at about the worst possible time.  My mom had a tumor and her thyroid gland removed from her neck last week and it turns out it was malignant.  My mom means a lot to me and she is strong, if anyone can beat cancer it is her.  It still scares the shit out of me that she has to fight it though.  On top of that we will be leaving for Allison's birthday celebration this week.  Four years in the making, 11/11/11 will be epic but it leaves me zero chance to strip off a dead soldier and glue a freshie.  Oh well, everyone keeps reminding me that "it is just cyclocross."  I fly out to Chicago on Sunday afternoon for work so maybe I will skip the CX race altogether.  Maybe I will have time to update the blog, but it may be a while...

Till next time, hold it WFO and rubber side down!  BRAAAAAP!

Update:  Robert Plumb uploaded this pic of me to Facebook, I thought it was cool as I think it shows how much concentration goes into riding the slick mud sections.