Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Random Bits

Thanks to everyone who showed up for the 4th Annual Midnight Century. As always it gave me the opportunity to ride with a great group of guys. As always it made me ride faster that I would have without the speedy company.

The IF frame arrives today which means I can no longer put off making the final decision on my parts list.

I have received some encouraging emails from people I don't even know. It seems that things are balancing out.

Stretching is good.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Shut Up And Ride

The Great Divide Resources sidebar on the left side of this page is evidence that the internet plays a fairly large role in the Great Divide Race. Many people have selflessly provided route beta, shared gear lists and posted complete ride reports detailing the ins and outs of the race. I know that I have already benefited from this open sharing of information and because of that I chose to chronicle my GDR experience from the decision to participate through the last day of riding.
I have never spent any time on internet forums of any kind before I started monitoring the GDR threads. Sometimes there is genuinely useful information but a good amount of the time it is just boring and some of the time it delves into the kind of argumentativeness that I have no interest in. It is easy enough to not participate and skip over the animosity but when it ends up in my email inbox it is hard not to be taken back.
For reasons that are not worth going over, someone decided that it was necessary to tell me that I have a low level of intelligence. Furthermore, I lack the needed qualifications to speak about the GDR and was potentially degrading the event with my appallingly put together comments.
I wished that it did not bother me but I am not used to confronting this kind of vitriol. It was especially shocking because it came from someone that I had looked at with a high level of respect because of his exemplary attitude leading up to and during the race. I was blind-sided. After several days of mulling it over I still come back to the feeling that perhaps there is no benefit in participating in the virtual GDR community that exists. I would not make any decisions based on one persons harsh criticism but it has given me pause to think about whether this web project and the GDR forums are a benefit to my goal or just another distraction from the things that are truly important.
When the discussions turn ugly in cycling forums, inevitably someone throws out the "Shut Up and Ride." line. This line is meant to be an insult cast against a foe amidst an argument but I am going to turn it inward, regard it as a mantra and try as I can to live it.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Meeting Kent Peterson

While chronicling the year long lead up to the race I am sure that yesterday is going to be a red letter day. What could be better than meeting Kent Peterson? Kent is the first and only single speed finisher of the race so far. His resume that precedes the GDR is so impressive that I could not see how anyone would have doubted his success despite the lack of mtn bike experience and luddite choice of equipment.
Local cycling mover and shaker John Speare was playing host to Kent as he biked through Spokane as part of a statewide tour promoting cycling as transportation. John was nice enough to arrange a coffee klatch for Kent and I.
Kent was as friendly as you would guess from his internet writings. We spent nearly two hours on the subject of the great divide and his information will undoubtedly be useful. Of particular interest was his opinion about which section is the most difficult and what he would do different if he ever did it again.
I don't think I will changing much of my game plan after our talk (my extensive research plucked much of his wisdom from his lengthy ride report of the race already) but he did strengthen my understanding of the improvisational attitude that is necessary to do the race. This spirit was exemplified this year by Nathan Bay's use of a wood stick to solve the problem of a broken seatpost. It seems that during the 2500 bumpy miles things are going to go wrong. Everything comes down to how you handle calamities.
I thought it was interesting that Kent's only question for me was why I am doing the GDR. In the end that may be the only question worth asking. Finishing time goals, equipment choices or previous experience have a way of becoming irrelevant under circumstances as difficult as the Divide Route. After some babbling I zero'd in the core reason: without a doubt if I don't do it I will spend my life regretting the missed opportunity.
There are other big adventures that fascinate me like the iditabike but I recognize that a 350 mile bike races in the middle of the Alaskan winter is not for me. The great Divide on the other hand plays to my interests in so many ways. If it followed the Appalachian Trail I wouldn't be interested. If it had a two man team format I would pass on it. If it was divided into stages it would not hold my attention. Send me out alone on a bicycle to traverse the Western Untied States with the notion that I am going to try and accomplish something beyond my proven abilities; this is readymade for me.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Moon Tan Time

July's heat wave continues. I have shortened the duration of my rides, increased my intensity as well as doing more stretching and strength exercises. Today's 62 miler was the hilly last half of the Midnight Century.
The midnight century is less than two weeks away and I plan on stretching that to a dbl century ride on the fixed gear. The climbs are going to make me suffer with that 49x16 gearing. I want to keep my level of endurance high so that when I get the new Indy Fab put together (late August?) I can break it in proper.
I am considering a trip over to Montana in September for a test ride on the GDMBR section from Canada to Whitefish. If my pre-riding of sections is going to be limited than it might make more sense to ride a section of the route with trickier navigation and/or more climbing. Perhaps the infamous fleecer ridge.
I have begun deconstructing the "Cycling The Great Divide" book by Michael McCoy. My plan is to create a spreadsheet with all the relevant information displayed in linear fashion. Logistical information such as Campsites, food and water availability as well as strategic data like "four mile climb" or "28 miles of pavement". Basically anything that could be helpful when trying to make decisions along the route. After inputing the information from the book I will then cross check it against some ride reports I have been collecting. Eventually it will all get folded into the route directions that come with the ACA maps. It is a heap of data so getting a good start on it is imperative.
As soon as the Midnight Century passes I will post info about the first ever "Hangover Hundred". What could be better than starting off the new year with a winter century ride?

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The Race Is Over, A new Frame Begins

The Tour de France 1933

The Great Divide Race 2007 is over no racers remain on the course. Of the three singlespeeders none finished in regulation time but Nathan Bay managed to complete the course in 25 days and 8 hours. I am noticing a trend of repeat racers. Mostly people who pulled the plug early and come back for another go. Based on the increasing interest in the race coupled with a good number of return racers what am I to expect from 2008. 35 starters? 50 starters? I hope not. I think that 10-15 racers would be ideal.
In other news I have pulled the plug on my frame build from the company i will no longer mention. I am now getting a frame built by Independent Fabrication. IF has always been my dream bike and after dealing with the last custom frame builder I am quite resigned to paying the extra money to have the process handled quickly and professionally.
My experience with IF has been amazing so far. I had a bike design with CAD drawings in under 24 hours. There are invoices and clear production schedules. These things seem so rudimentary but I went 7 months with the last frame builder without drawings, phone calls or a realistic time estimate (10 weeks was the original quote back in january. I received one email in April suggesting that he might start my bike the next week but it looks like that did not happen.
I will be more than happy to forget the whole thing happened as soon as I get my deposit back. I WILL get my deposit back or this will get ugly.
Training wise, I feel some snappiness in the legs after taking it easy for a week. I am trying to emphasize hard rides with high cardio versus the endurance based riding of early summer. I am getting a new wheel built up for the mtn bike so hopefully I can get back over to the CDA forest for an 80 miler. I am not in too much of a hurry because the temps are over 100 degrees every day. North Division Bikes is doing the wheel build. I have always liked the shop but since it isn't the most convenient shop to my house I never go there.I also dropped of my parts list for the frame. Two days later no word back. I am developing a theory that bike shops don't call people. They are more than content to wait for you to come back in. As much as LBS talk about the threat of internet sales they don't act like they are afraid of losing anyones business. I am not ruling out sourcing the parts myself. Hopefully North Division will come through and it won't come to that.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Stage Racing At The GDR?

As the final riders are making their last push for Antelope Wells, I have been thinking a lot about some of the things that have been different about this years GDR and what it means for next year and beyond. A comment was made that this year more people were treating it like a stage race. They stayed in big groups through out the day and shared motel rooms at night. This style of riding is not what I expect my experience to be like next year nor would I want it to be. But it brings another wrinkle into the question of what this race is supposed to be about and what things could deteriorate that ethos.
Now that we see many of those group riders finishing I think that it is apparent that the stage race theory does not help anyone finish quickly. Most racers will be sneaking in under the 25 day cut off. The argument against group riding would carry more weight if it appeared that it was an effective way to cut days off of your time.
Going back to John Stamsted's ride that established a record for the course, this event is an individual time trial. Stamsted's ride and the record breaking ride by Mike Curiak created an inspiring memory for many people and that inspiration is now drawing new racers to the solo, unsupported world. I have no interest in changing the GDR because I want to experience it the way John and Mike did. Talk of Satellite Phone GPS tracking and team tactics may capture the fascination of people but I would not apply them to this event.
I suspect that all of the scuttlebutt will eventually lead to a splintering of this splinter sect of cycling's small enduro mountain bike community. I just hope that the accelerated pace of change doesn't alter the purity of this solo, individual challenge before I can experience it.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

June Review

June broke the 1000 mile mark but did so with just 16 training rides. There was a good 60 mile mountain bike ride and of course the dbl century road ride. The biggest difference for the month was more time on the fixie. The big gear on that bike makes for some good workouts even if I am just riding home from work. Though there is nothing spectacular about June's training, both the 60 mile mtn ride and the 200 mile day are good markers to my fitness. Neither one of those rides bothered me at all and I was able to ride normally after them.
I have mapped out the next three months and the big change will be more overnighters. In August I will be doing some two and a half day fast mini tours. I think that multiple days of hard riding is really what I need now. One barrier I am coming up against is the maintenance of my bikes. There will be no more mtn bike rides until I get a new wheel built for the gary fisher. I am ready to get back up into the CDA NF and extend my 100 mile route out to Chilco Mountain but that will have to wait.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Tour of Pain 200 miler Ride Report

The pre-dawn scene at the Steam Plant parking lot was the familiar awkwardness of people preparing to embark on a journey that will inevitably be uncomfortable and potentially regrettable. People in full racing kits with fancy schmancy bikes give me a quick glance and throw me into the "just trying to finish" category in the same way they would write off someone showing up with running shoes and toe straps.
The fact that my bike has one gear is not what inspires this because if I was riding a gleaming $5000 custom single speed road machine with 24 spoke wheels they would recognize that I am a real cyclist and might be intrigued enough to give me a nod of acknowledgment.
My mismatched tires, zip tie chain tensioner, knickers and dog eaten gloves paint a picture that seemed accurate enough as the pack of 25 riders took off down 3rd avenue. With the first downhill I spun out as they all slipped into a 52x12 and motored away in one efficient group. Within ten minutes of the start I was on a country road with just the morning songbirds to keep me company. Gino was running sweep and for lack of better things to do would drive up and harass me. After 15 miles, I made a turn and noticed that my front tire was soft. After inflating my front tire, my speed jumped by 2 mph and I had a laugh about this handicap.
Just before reaching the town of Plaza, a hawk was sitting on a road sign and stayed there until I was right next to him. As I pedaled he flew, no more than 10-15 feet away, side by side. The experience gave me chills. I thanked the hawk and considered this experience to be a good omen,
An hour later I got to the first food stop. There was a rider lingering. This was the first rider I had seen since the start. I had already made the plan to keep my off bike time short so I filled my bottles and kept moving. I was no longer carrying the lanterne rouge. Another hour later I caught up to two more riders. A couple of more just after that. This how my day would go.
I felt great all day but I do not like the hour after hour of high cadence riding. My legs don't like it and my mind really doesn't like it. Give me a long grinding hill instead. I really do find it much more enjoyable. The section between Harrison and CDA is 40 miles with almost all of the climbing for the whole route. I loved it. I felt better in CDA than when I left Harrison.
After CDA it is 40 miles of flat high cadence riding again (damn that low gearing). I finished with an official time of 12:30 with a total riding time of 11:49. Some of the 40 minutes was ordering and eating some french fries and pepsi at the CDA brewery. They made me happier than all the hammer products I had been living off of all day.
Finishing with a 17 mph average on a 39x17 gear after 200 miles is a successful ride for me. The best part about it was when I reached the magic point in the day when I switch over from every day riding to that special feeling. The special feeling is when my body gives into the notion that this is no ordinary training ride. My focus tightens and my minor aches and pains are numbed. At that point I feel like I can go as long as I need to. After 6-7 hours the only thing I have to worry about is keeping the calories coming and staying positive. That special feeling is why I do this.