Wednesday, January 31, 2007

One Month Down

Home Made Pork Tacos Makes Me Strong

Not only was this the first month of the year it was the first month of my 18 months of preparation for the GDR. If I tell myself that the race is a year and a half away I am not too worried about my present state of fitness. If I tell myself that one of my eighteen months of lead in has vanished without noticeable differences in my strength, endurance or weight, I get pretty scared.
This month I rode a paltry 420 miles and 34.5 hours. Most of that was on my SS 29er and mostly on cold snowy streets. I did a good job of riding frequently, I probably had 4 days when I didn't touch a bike, but I only got two long rides in; both around 5 hours long. getting 80 to 100 miles in on my monday makes it easy to pad my mileage but it also does a lot for my motivation. When I start off my week with a five hour ride I feel I have momentum, I am eager to keep things rolling and almost always put in a couple of solid rides back to back following it. With the exception of President's Day when my daughter and I will be hanging out, February holds the promise of completing more long Monday rides.
I have been adjusting my diet of recent. First step was to get some good food in me. Now I need to stop eating so much of the bad food or food at the wrong time. I know enough about my body to have realized that I shouldn't be a grazer. That theory that we would all be better off with 5-6 small meals instead of three big ones does not work for me. My best days are when I eat my basic breakfast of goat's milk yogurt, blueberries and walnuts and then spend the next 4 or 5 hours in physical activity. A good lunch with some meat, some fruit and some sweets followed by more activity and a dinner with more meat, vegetables and some sweets. It is best if I stop eating by 4 or 5 o'clock at the latest. The closer to bedtime I eat, the worse I feel when I wake up.
None of this diet applies to long bike rides though. I eat 200-400 calories hourly as long as I am biking. I always wait until at least 40 minutes into a ride to start with the food. There seems to be a point at which my body says, "looks like were going to need a lot of wood for the fire today" and it opens the way for me to eat whatever I want in profuse amounts. It is one of the best things about cycling.

Technology Debate

Best Bike Ever...and Fully Rigid

Things have been heating up at the GDR forum. One of the latest hot topics is regarding single speed and rigid forks. The question of the day is how much slower is it? I know that there are road tires that say they will cut x amount of time off of a 40km time trial but this is a little different. When I switched to single speed I had routes that I did faster based solely on the fact that I could not grind up hills in the granny gear, I had to charge at the slope and bust it over the top. The GDR has plenty of climbing and plenty of paved road, both favor different gearing and thus any gear ratio choice will be a penalty. I could go on with some mathematical evaluation of the single speed but it isn't necessary.
The only thing that matters for me is that I probably wouldn't do long events with gears. I just plain don't like them. I need simplicity. I would spend more time rigid if it wasn't for some issues I have with my hands and my thumbs in particular. Perhaps my custom frame will alleviate those problems enough that I can spend more time fully rigid. I have only had two bikes with suspension so I am far from a techno-weannie for my recent use of front shocks.
As for the online discussion, whenever the chatter takes this turn I keep going back to what Mike Curiak has said, "Most people doing this event are doing it for themselves" It is a personal challenge. It is personal discovery. In some ways everyone has to do the race differently because we have our own operating systems. Not only do I not have the physical ability to ride the course in 16 days I don't have the right wiring in my brain for that level.
Perhaps, when I finish the route my time will fall below an arbitrary line that separates racing from touring but that wouldn't matter to me. The first rule of the adventure is to finish, everything else minutiae.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Sponsorship: Homely Girl Seeks LTR

I once offered Gary Fisher a one year supply of home made cookies if he would loan me a bike for a 24 hour race. I later made the same offer to the guys at Surly. Gary never got back to me. Surly kindly explained that the size of their company prevented them from getting involved in this kind of "sponsorship". When turning me down they showed a genuine interest in my endeavors and I have the utmost respect for that.
At the restaurant, we get dozens of requests for donations to every charity, private school and softball team. In the end the only thing that we can do is set a budget and try and pinpoint those events or people that we have the most connection to. It is all about community.
I can only imagine what it is like for the people who have the task of sorting through the sponsorship requests for companies like Gary Fisher. Every Sport level rider with a Norba license and an email account must be taking a stab at the schwag wagon.
" Dude, I have been tearing up the local wednesday night races and I am getting set to do some big races next year. It would be totally sweet if you could hook me up 'cuz when I start bagging those podiums I could be representin' y'all. "
Reading enough of those would make you feel a certain disdain for everyone with their greedy little grease stained hands outstretched. Aside from the above mentioned occasions I have avoided the whole sponsorship thing for fear of being part of the problem. With the Great Divide Project underway I have decided to give my position another look.
A friend of mine who has spent a lifetime in the bike industry has been supportive of my situation by telling a few of his friends that they should help me out. I feel a little like a homely girl with a good personality getting set up on a date. As much as I may want the end result I don't feel great about the position it puts me in. I know that there is free stuff out there and if it doesn't go to me it will go to somebody else. I just feel disconnected from the whole process.
I commute by bike, I race bikes, I have organized rides/races, I vacation on bikes, I support my Local Bike Shop, I always give a nod or wave to other cyclists on the road; but I feel like a lurker in the bike community. I ride alone, I bike at odd hours, I have never belonged to a club or team. This has mostly been a by-product of my work schedule and my interest in doing types of rides other people aren't interested in. I have a feeling things are changing for me. I have been meeting new bike people, people who don't scoff at Carhart shorts, fenders or day long rides on dirt roads.
I would like to gain the perks of being part of the bike community through a natural process. Without having to be pushy. I am going to make some attempts to break out of my shell by connecting with companies that I feel some connection to. I don't want to take the goods and run, I want to feel that something can be gained for everyone involved.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

The Bike Build Begins

I had my first conversation with Doug Curtiss From Curtlo Cycles and it went very well. I have done enough research to know that the single most important element in having a frame custom made is good communication with the builder. I was worried that I did not know enough about the math behind my riding to convey what he needed to know. I am not the kind of person who pays attention to top tube length, head tube angle or chainstay length. If anything I have prided myself on my ability to get on just about any bike and ride without over thinking it. The only "rules" I have followed when it comes to fit is put a longer stem on the bike and push the seat back as far as it will go. I have less legs and more torso than is optimum on a bike and these modifications have been the steps I have used to compensate.
While talking with Doug he spent a good amount of time walking me through the process which was both fascinating and comforting. The comfort came from an impression that he was not in a hurry and that he had all the time in the world to build my bike. It is a real skill to do this when I know that he has multiple projects at various stages of completion going at the same time and more coming down the pike. I have a personality that when work piles up, the faster I go. I talk faster, I walk faster, I eat faster. It is controlled panic. I could not do what Doug does because I could not convey that sense of singular purpose.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Miles From Nowhere

Click picture to zoom

Sometimes I notice things converging in my life in that seem to be on the weird end of coincidence. Here is the latest. A week ago, on my long ride, I was listening to the NPR Shuffle podcast which featured an interview with Yusef Islam (Cat Stevens). He played a couple of songs and talked about religion, politics and how his son's interest in music spurred his first album in decades. It was an interesting interview and brought back memories of listening to "Tea For The Tillerman" over and over again during the last months of my Senior year of high school. Then a friend loaned me the first season DVD of Ricky Gervais' "Extras" which has one of my favorite tracks from the Tillerman album as it's theme song. It was good to hear it again so I decided to throw some Cat Stevens on my iPod. Today while riding along the country roads of Peone Prairie at the base of the Selkirk Foothills, the song "Miles From Nowhere" came on just as I was looking up at snow covered Mount Spokane, the areas tallest peak and one of my favorite training grounds.
I had been thinking about overnight rides on the the extensive trail system that will be the foundation of my summer training program. The song was the perfect soundtrack to my inner dialogue.

Miles From Nowhere- Cat Stevens (Yusef Islam)

Miles from nowhere
I guess Ill take my time
Oh yeah, to reach there

Look up at the mountain
I have to climb
Oh yeah, to reach there.

Lord my body has been a good friend
But I wont need it when I reach the end

Miles from nowhere
Guess Ill take my time
Oh yeah, to reach there

I creep through the valleys
And I grope through the woods
cause I know when I find it my honey
Its gonna make me feel good

I love everything
So dont it make you feel sad
cause Ill drink to you, my baby
Ill think to that, Ill think to that.

Miles from nowhere
Not a soul in sight
Oh yeah, but its alright

I have my freedom
I can make my own rules
Oh yeah, the ones that I choose

Lord my body has been a good friend
But I wont need it when I reach the end

Miles from nowhere
Guess Ill take my time
Oh yeah, to reach there.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Those Silly Cars

Snow storm in Portland makes bad things happen. leaves me wondering why in such a bike friendly town with lots of public transportation options (bus, lightrail, trolleys) would people even think of trying to drive in these conditions.

Snow Going

Yesterday I did some riding through the snow. We have had single digit temperatures for awhile so the snow was white and squeeky and now there is some fresh stuff on top. The snow was brought to us by the convergence of that arctic air that has been freezing my nose hairs and some warm, moist air from the South Pacific. By this afternoon the temperatures will be up above freezing. This is the scenario I fear most. Above freezing during the day and below at night. Snow turns to slush, slush turns to impassable seas of ice that look like they were applied with the machine that makes "popcorn ceilings".
I may look back on yesterday as the last good day of riding for a while.

Thursday, January 18, 2007


It is inevitable that the "why" question would pop up. It doesn't get asked as much as you would think. It seems that the people who know me have reached a deep level of understanding my core psyche or they have tired of my verbose responses to the simplest of questions. Now with my foray into bigger and stupider things I feel the need to explore the question for my own sake.
When allotting untold financial resources and robbing myself of precious personal time with my wife and daughter, there should be an obligation to justify the sacrifice. So, like the foreign policy spin doctors, I am going to go back and look for the events and decisions that have brought me here.
When I was growing up I was compelled to be different. My brother was artistic so I wanted to be athletic, when the weather was bad I wanted to be outside and when good sense said to turn back I was drawn to the allure of what might be around the next turn in the road. I was intrigued with foreign terrain beyond my block, then beyond my neighborhood and then into the undeveloped lands at the fringe of suburbia. I would make mini campfires in band-aid tins, eat Beanie-Weenies out of the can and spend a whole afternoon building a lean-to knowing that tomorrow I would do it all over again.
My relationship with bikes did not start off good. I had a poor success record with things like wheelies, bunny hops and most of all jumps. In an attempt to avoid further trips to the emergency room my parents bought me a Nishiki touring bike with foam grips, skinny tires and a total weight to insure that I would never be airborne again. I would never realize my dream of having a chromed out Hutch BMX bike or doing one-handed tabletop jumps, but I quickly discovered how gears and big wheels could take me places beyond the familiar. I was so excited about that bike that I broke it in with a ten mile ride in heavy rain before school. I was chastised by Mrs. McInerney for arriving at school wet and covered and road grime. It only cemented my belief that this was the perfect way to distance myself from others both literally and figuratively. Don't get me wrong, I like people but self-discovery for me has always been a solo activity.
Looking back, I am astonished at what I did with that tank of a bike. Without water bottles, spare tubes, pump, helmet, sunglasses or suitable riding attire I was taking the back roads through the farmland on 40-50 mile excursions. I did not know enough about what could go wrong. My ignorance made it possible.
I am not going to recount my entire cycling history because I don't think the rest of it matters. When it comes to the question of why I want to do a 2500 mile long mountain bike race, the answer is contained within the phenomenology of those childhood adventures. There is a magic feeling that transcends the mundane routine of life. We all get addicted to that feeling and we all find different ways to get it.
My twelve year old self is my hero. Fearless adventurer with an ability to ignore the intellect and enjoy the moment for what it was. 25 years later I am still trying to accomplish what came natural to me then.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Training Journal

Since 2002 I have been using to keep track of my training. I only ever used it when I was training for a 24 hour race. I have always been told about the importance of keeping a training diary but it has never been explained exactly why. I have found out for myself what it is good for and what it isn't. Personally, the most useful part of having a this record is being able to compare statistics from previous years of training. I use it as a measuring stick from year to year. This is helpful only because I have a tendency to miss a few days of riding and feel like everything is falling apart. My bike journal reassures me with the knowledge that my training falls apart every year and I still manage to accomplish what I want.
This last point has lead me to use my the journal tool less. I have matured to the point that I have given up on actual training (Intervals, strength training, hill repeats, etc.). Instead I have certain rides that I do at certain times of the year. If I feel good I ride longer or faster. If I feel bad I stop and get coffee.
Realizing that The Great Divide race is a different monster than a 24 hour race I have come back to the ebb and flow of self-confidence regarding my preparation. I have starting keeping track of my mileage and I have started comparing my monthly totals to other long distance riders. This is a bad idea. I know that everyone is different. Peter Bassinger (ultra endurance biking madman with the second fastest time on the GDR) claims to do no formalized training and rides little more than 12 hours a week.
I am no Pete, but I don't think that I necessarily benefit from mega-mileage. I always feel my best when I am getting between 10 and 15 hours a week with five of that being a long road ride. I know that my body likes at least two days off a week (not counting my short bike commute or errands). I have some new ideas on how to adapt my traditional unstructured training to the new mutli-day racing format but I imagine that there will be some trial and error, some self-doubt and some coffee stops. I have 18 months stretched out in front of me but relying on the advantage of time has a way of biting me in the ass. If for nothing else, my training journal will be a reminder that I have moved one day closer to the race.

Monday, January 15, 2007

The To-Do List

Besides ramping up my mileage base, the big things on my to-do list right now involve getting a new bike. It is such a big thing because for the first time I am spec'ing all new parts on a custom frame. In the past I have done a lot of cannibalizing to build frames up. More recently I have taken to buying mid-priced bikes, riding them into the ground, selling them and starting over. While I have been doing the disposable thing with my mtn bikes, I have stayed true to my 10 year old Ibis Hakkalugi single speed conversion. It is such a great bike that I will never part with it. My dream is to build the off-road equivalent of the 'lugi. A 29 inch single speed mountain bike with quality parts that hold longevity and reliability as the highest virtues.
I am not a gear junkie, I like good stuff but when I find something that works for me I stop looking. As I research parts I have discovered that I know less about bikes now than I did five years ago. Outboard Bottom Bracket bearings? I just learned about Isis BBs and now those are old school. I have spent a lot of time at I will be buying my parts from one of my Local Bike Shops but Speedgoat's user friendly site and enormous inventory has been a great help in my research.
After the Parts list gets somewhat settled I will begin talking to Doug Curtis at Curtlo Cycles about getting a frame built. Local Builder (Winthrop is part of my 250 mile neighborhood), steel frames and experience building 29 inch Single Speed frames, Curtlo was the obvious choice.
Beyond the bike build, this spring will begin the process of choosing the non-bike equipment (sleeping, bag, bivy, clothing, etc). I am not going to worry about the bike weight (reliability and longevity are husky virtues) but I will be thinking about the ounces where I can. I didn't know my sleeping bag was heavy until I looked at a 1 pound 5 ounce Mountain Hardwear Phantom 32 degree bag. I can save a pound there for a lot less money than I could with bike parts.
As for this site, I hope to begin listing all of the related resources that I have been accumulating. There is a surprising amount of material on the web so it may take a while to become complete. I have done enough talking for the day time to do some riding.

It Starts In The Cold Of Winter