Saturday, December 15, 2007

Flagstaff -- Days Fork -- Reed Benson Ridge

Tour with the usual suspects this morning. Up to top of Flagstaff, down Days, up to RB ridge, down, up again (to find my lost skins), down again, up out of Days, and down the south face into Alta.

Up Flagstaff:

Main Days:

RB Ridge (look carefully and you can see my boot pack up to find my lost skins):

Technology nowadays is pretty cool. The above was done with my Garmin 305, Motion Based, and Google Earth. Here is a link to the Motion Based file -- kind of fun to play around with it on Google Earth:

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Billy Demong Gets a W

Billy, a US Ski Team member, won a world cup event in the nordic combined in Norway last weekend. That's a huge accomplishment. Story here. Billy trains in Park City and dominated the Cat 3 group this summer when he showed up. Nice job and good luck.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Day 2

Good day in the backcountry today. Avalanche danger was high, but we found some "safe" terrain. I nearly froze to death -- again -- waiting at the top of Reynolds for splitboarder Jon to get his stuff together. (Although I must admit that I'm glad to finally have an enthusiastic backcountry partner.) Once he got his board put together, the bindings fastened on the board with micro-pins, his skins off, his boots in his bindings, his poles collapsed, his goggles on and yada yada yada, he did get some nice turns in.

There was some deep snow today. I really really wish I had put the goggles in my pack and not just in the car.

We made it out in a blizzard and the dark.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Don't Make Me Do It

So I broke down this morning and rode the trainer. I had aspirations and instructions from my Secret Weapon to ride a 10 minute time trial. I was able to TT for exactly 4:38, and after 32 minutes I coudn't go any longer. The thing about trainers is that you don't go anywhere. I know, this isn't a very astute observation, but, the only reason I ride a bike is because it takes me places. That is the whole point of bike riding. I'd like to think that my love of bikes is pure and that I simply love my bikes for who/what they are. But the fact is that my love is not unconditional and is quite selective: when the bike doesn't take me places, I have no love for the two-wheeled machine. It's that simple. Riding on a trainer is nearly (and I stress "nearly") as bad as going to a gym. You probably don't want to get me started on the lameness of gyms and gym memberships, e.g., I tend to see a lot of similarities, both physical and mental, between people who go to the gym and hamsters.

I'm working on my issues with the trainer. My therapist tells me my aversion is abnormal and promises me that there is hope for me to one day have a more productive and friendly relationship with my trainer. Until then, however, I have to resort to other alternatives.

I was happy yesterday to see that the upper Millcreek road is groomed. That means, I have the skate skiing alternative.

An alternative that I have been attempting to perfect is the fat tire, singlespeed, snow machine.

It's a 29er single speed, so no snow and mud in gears. It has fat Exiwolfs on it and rolls really well in snow, slush and mud. It has a light on it so I can ride in the dark. I kind of wish it had disc brakes. In any event, it is a good alternative. Monday and Tuesday I rode up the Pipeline on it. There were certain places where I had to push the bike up the hill though, i.e., Rattlesnake Gulch and Church Fork. I simply consider that cross/strength training. And it went really fast down the groomed ski trail. Some of the skiiers were a bit perturbed about me putting a bike track down the middle of the groomed track.

Sunday, December 2, 2007


Nice job to all the CXers yesterday who braved the snow. I considered going out to the race, but I just couldn't push myself over the edge -- too unnatural, cold and miserable I thought. After some of the stories being told, I kind of wish I would have taken the plunge.

Maybe I just need to change my wiring because I don't see much unnatural about a 5:30 am dawn patrol in 4 degree weather -- definitely cold, but not miserable. It was nice to be out and see the day break. Did I mention it was cold?

Saw remnants of a slide from yesterday:

And I actually went into the backcountry with a split boarder.

I try not to discriminate. For example, as a cyclist I tolerate people with hairy legs. In fact, I am unshorn right now. Likewise, as a skier, I tolerate people who ride sideways on one ski, i.e. snowboarders, aka knuckledraggers, snurfers, lowriders, potheads. But just because I tolerate them doesn't mean I hang out with them, or like them. So, I consider it a life-moment that I actually went out with a splitboarder. In fact, I feel that was pretty darn big of me (does that not give a way my bias, because it should).

How'd it go? It went fine, which means that I didn't have to carry the split-boarder up or down the mountain. Truthfully, I was pleasantly surprised. Split-boards move decently uphill; and going down they're not bad. It almost looks fun. There still exists a debate as to whether snowboards go faster downhill and whether snowboards can do everything skis can do. And I freely admit that when the splitboarder got marooned on a rock and went arse over tea kettle down the mountain, I snickered to myself while at the same time asking, "man, are you okay"? In the end though, it was a good result. I think I've overcome my snobbery and am glad to know that I can peacefully co-exist and have a splitter as a ski touring . . . , errr, "snow touring partner." Plus, performance-wise, I fully expect the tables to be turned one day . . . but not in this lifetime.

If anyone is interested, I have some miscellaneous backcountry gear for sale:

1 pair of Scarpa T1 telemark boots -- size 9.5-10

1 pair of Rossi Big Bangs, with Hammerhead bindings -- circa 2002 or 2003, 177 cm

1 pair of Atomic rando race skis -- 160 cm

Various skins, mostly on the skinny side.

If interested, let me know.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Should I be base training?


Two reasons:

1) No time. Lately things have heated up at work. I've been working 10 hours a day (at least), and there are only 10 hours of light. And my religious beliefs forbid riding a trainer for longer than 21 minutes.

2) No fun. I sold my main road ride on ebay several weeks ago. I still have my first road bike, a 2004 Giant TCR, that will get me through the winter. But as much as I like that bike, I have to admit that the thought of going on a long road ride isn't that thrilling. The thought pinning it at a cross race and frothing at the mouth for 1 hr, however, is quite thrilling. Likewise, the MTBing this fall has been grand. Case in point: yesterday I found myself eating the dust of the likes of Sager, BZ, E. Jones, Jon, and the Bartman -- that was waaay thrilling. I didn't see those guys base training.

Life's just too short to base train. And I like to think I get some fitness benefit by CXing and MTBing.

Maybe I'll pay for it next year. In fact, just a few months ago around July, I swore to myself that I was going to get more structure in my training plan and build a good base this winter. Now that it's winter, I remember the problem with my plan: no time, no fun.

Those of you that know me know that I am deeply committed to training and therefore know that I wouldn't nonchalantly shrug off an important component of training. Inference? I'm not personally convinced that winter base training is essential. . . yet anyway. I'm not saying that it isn't useful. I'm just saying that it's not essential.

My theory on why base training is a ritual amongst serious cyclists: base training is so absolutely miserable that once you base train for 6 months in the dark and cold, you can endure anything that that regular season presents.

Am I wayward? Can anyone convince me why I should be base training?

And you base trainers out there, what kind of miles/time are you putting in?

Thursday, November 1, 2007


Dick, the French, USADA, WADA, UCI, CAS, etc. now have an airtight argument against Lance.

All people who do this are irresponsible lame-os (plural for "lame-o")
All dopers are irresponsible Lame-Os.
Lance is an irresponsible Lame-O.
Therefore, Lance must have doped.

(I'll give someone a special prize if they can identify the fallacy in this argument.)

Monday, October 29, 2007

Dumb and Dumber

Eric and I recently had a little, friendly competition: who is dumb and who is dumber? We started at 7:20 am, just before it was getting light and headed up Spiro. I was on my steel, rigid, singlespeed 29er. . . . I just went and weighed it. It weighs in at 27 lbs, including pedals and a thin coat of mud. . . . And Eric was on his 19 lb cross bike. Eric told me it was dumb to ride a heavy singlespeed, and I told him it was dumb to ride a wimpy cx bike. And thus, the Dumber Competition began. Suffice it to say, at the end of day, from my perspective, I did not have the most Dumber Points. The scoreboard looked something like this.

Climbing up the steep, switchbacking, 3 mile Spiro trail: Jared +3. I was rolling a pretty "easy" gear -- a 32x20, but there were some parts of the trail where I thought something was going to blow. I decided then and there that I'm putting my vintage anodized red bar ends on my riser bars. Eric nimbly climbed the trail, and I think he might have had to wait for me. I got a Dumber point for the number of times he had to wait. (And yes, I like to ride in my PJs sometimes.)

Cruising the buff trails: 0 points awarded. The fun factor was equal for both me and Eric. It was fun, really fun.

Riding through snow: Eric +1. Needless to say, a 2.3 inch tire rolls through the snow much better than a 32mm cross tire. There wasn't much snow though.

Amount of luggage: Jared +1. My bike is heavy. I have to carry a heavy tube and an end wrench because I have bolt on wheels. But, as was proved, sometimes heavy duty is better.

Riding through the rocks: Eric +5. Funny thing is, an hour into the ride, Eric was calling me "Dumber." So, I decided to put the hammer down. Given my ride, I have to admit that the hammer didn't really go down that far. Even so, I was laying it down through the windy sections on the trail and really liking the gyroscopic effect of the big wheels. Eric tried to keep up for like 2 minutes before he got a big fat snakebite. We fixed it. Then about 2 minutes later, he got another one. Of course, he only brought one tube, so we broke out the patch kit and went to work. It took us a couple tries, but we finally made one of his tubes hold air.

Riding back to PC on the Olympic Trail: Jared +2. I was spinning the 32x20 really fast, and got going up to 17 mph.

Eric trying to ride a 15 inch Frame: Eric +1.

In case, you're keeping score, according to my arbitrary scoring process, Eric won the Dumber Contest.

And for the record, I decided that riding a heavy rigid single speed is not that dumb at all. That's also not to say Eric didn't have fun either. I haven't had that much fun on a bike for a long long time. But, then again, I have a short memory. I wonder if a lighter 29er single speed would be funner? Hmmm. . . . .

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Thing About Cross aka CX (Part II)

Here are some things that I should have known or wished I had known when I jumped into CX racing:

Remount: Sometimes it hurts. One of the first observations/questions that newbies like me make/ask is: whoa, does the superman remount hurt? Take it from me that if someone tells you that the remount never hurts they are either: (a) a eunuch, (b) a female, or (c) lying. The idea is to land on the saddle with your inner thigh and then slide onto the saddle. But the reality is that in the heat of the moment you will likely jump too high and miss the intended target, and it will hurt. But, as the saying goes, no pain, no gain. So, my recommendation to you is to simply go for it. Sure, you might get hurt, but if you don't simply throw caution into the wind and launch like superman, you will never experience the thrill of sticking a perfect, fast remount.

Dismount: Forget the "Step Through." Fast, experienced CX'ers often talk about the "step through" dismount, a move by which the rider swings her leg over the saddle, steps through between the frame and the other leg, and then unclicks from the peddle. Confusing? That's what I thought. Add to that the furor and pandemonium of a cross race and it really gets confusing. Is it my left leg or right leg? Do I step through before or after I unclick? How do I push my leg through the small gap between my other leg and the frame when I am about to smash into the barriers? What happens if I step into my front spokes? Chances are that you will be confused on race day. That's why I suggest that you simply forget about executing the "Step Through." My advice is to simply not think about it, but to simply react. Yes, it's risky and it's a slightly Zen approach in that it is purely spontaneous, but you will be surprised at how fast your reflexes can be. I call this the "Banzai" tecnique. Most of the time, the results are surprisingly good. I'm speeding into the barrier, the leg quickly swings over, the foot unclips, the legs spring over barriers, and voila . . . success. Occasionally, I catch myself even doing the step through technique. It's all about letting the body mindlessly react. Our bodies have this built-in survival/defense mechanism, which if nurtured, will allow us to clear the barriers with ease. Maybe one of these days I may catch myself hopping the barriers ala Ali. Of course, in the interest of full disclosure, you should be aware that there will be times when the Banzai Approach turns Kamikaze and you piledrive a barrier and go down in a ball of flames, which leads me to my next point.

Crashing. I maintain that if you aren't riding on the edge of your ability, then you aren't really CX'ing and that you are depriving yourself of the fun of CX. Obviously there is a downside to this: crashing. I've tried to think of a preparation program for the inevitable crash, one that will allow me to crash, but emerge unscathed. I've taken somewhat of an old school approach to this. You know how in the old days cyclists raced into shape? Rather than doing pre-season, structured training, cyclists would go and race, and eventually, after doing many races, they would find their racing form. Applied to crashing, rather than doing exercises to prevent or mitigate crashes, I simply go race. Inevitably I crash, but after crashing several times, my "crashing form" emerges. Just like many seasoned pros report that they feel racing sensations in their legs, I often develop a sense of good crashing sensations. I can tell when I have crashing form when I am off the ground before I even realize that I was on the ground. I can tell when I have crashing form when I slide for 10 meters and emerge unscathed. I can tell when I have crashing form when someone tells me, "wow, you crashed 9 times in that race," and my response is, "really, that many? I only remember crashing once" (true story . . . almost).

The alternative to racing into "crashing form" is to simulate crashes -- like racers nowadays train under simulated race conditions. I've never attempted this, but if I were to develop such a plan, it would involve making high speed turns on an off-cambered layer of pea gravel, riding my bike straight into trees, fences, and/or small buildings, and riding through quicksand. Revel in the crashes!

Ride With Humility, but Never Give Up. Mental toughness is required in CX'ing. Likewise, humility is also required. You won't learn how to go faster if you don't keep an open mind, don't accept criticism, and are unwilling to change your ways. It's kind of a paradox: be strong and tough, but be open and willing to change.

Let me illustrate: in the recent race at Wheeler, I felt like I got a crappy start, I forgot to turn in a muddy singletrack section and went zooming into a bush, I was off the back in virtually last place, and doubt began to seep in. At one point, for some weird reason, I heard myself ask myself if I was the Rudy (not NY Rudy, but football Rudy -- the wannabe football player) of the Utah Cyclocross A Flite. I was tempted at one point to say, stuff it, I'm just not cut out for this. But I didn't. I rallied. My thought process went somehting like this:

Me: Okay, so you got a "bad" start.

Me again: But when have your really had a good start? You never get a good start so why should your "bad" start affect you now?

Me: True. I need to forget about using the bad start as an excuse and get to it. Be tougher. But it's pointless since I lost time in the bushes.

Me again: So what. Once you crashed 9 times and still had a good finish.

Me: True again. Never give up . . . never give up . . . I think I can, I think I can. But wait a minute. The simple fact is that I'm not as fast as all those guys in front of me. They have skillz. I don't.

Me again: That's not humility. That's self-pity. Get over it. This is your chance to learn to be faster. If you're not fast, or if you think you're not fast, then figure it out. Rather calling me "Rudy," focus your energy on picking the right lines and putting the power down. Dork.

Me: That's not nice.

And so the dialogue went between me and myself. . . . Eventually, I caught the group in front of me, and did not ultimately finish in last place (not that there's anything wrong with that).

Look Forward to Be Treated Like a Rockstar. One of the cool things about CX is that it is spectator and family friendly. One of the really cool things about CX is the announcers -- Gardie and Bruce. These guys are the definition of charisma. They have a knack for simultaneously calling the race and infusing the racers with energy. Part of their aura likely has to do with the fact that the populus (male and female) have determined that they are in the top 4 of Who's the Hottest Cyclist in Utah, and this list includes both males and females. To hear your name over the loudspeaker is sufficient reason to race. And if that doesn't get you there, just come to see Hot Gardie and Hot Bruce in action (not that there's anything wrong with it).

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

24 Hours of Moab Part II

Here is another picture of the Nose Dive:

In the short time I've had to think about the race, I've decided that I need to go back and do the race for the sole purpose of riding, not walking, the Nose Dive.

In that same short time, I've also decided to add some new riders to my I Want to Ride Like That List. The criteria for this list is hard to describe, partly because I use a "know it when I see it" criteria, but suffice it to say that all the people on this list are more or less locals and people I like. Bart, of course, was already on it. I'll give Jon an honorary spot -- kind of like Sandra Day O'Connor has an honorary degree from BYU, but really didn't earn it -- because he rode 5 laps. The new inductees include:
  • Jake Pantone
  • Jonny Hintze
  • The Jack Mormon Militia (all of 'em)

Jake and Jonny, fellow Biker's Edge'ers, rode Duo Pro this year and between the two of them logged 17 laps. They got third place and a big cardboard check. The Jack Mormon Militia is a bunch of single-speeders. I likely will do a whole entry sometime devoted to this phenomenon, but for now, just accept that these guys are some tuff dudes (or really dumb, depending on the way you look at it). Their bikes have one gear and totally lack any form of conventional suspension. I say "conventional" because their legs, arms, butt, back likely take the shock that your or my Fox shock takes. In any event, these guys took 1st in their single speed category and 2ND PLACE OVERALL. They routinely rode sub-1:10 laps -- again, that's without gears or conventional suspension. Chucky is my hero.

Back to the race itself . . . . One of the things I like about doing epic races or rides is that, even though I have ADD, I am thoroughly entertained for a solid week after. That's because I replay, over and over again, various things that I thought or encountered, or should have done or would do over if I had the chance (by the sound of it, I might have mild paranoia as well). Incidentally, this is also the reason I have to race every week -- to fill it back up. Several things have been replaying in my head and have kept me occupied:

The Penguin

I tried to go all out my first lap, but with 400+ people on the course, I kept getting stuck behind people. Because the course was TECHNICAL, sometimes it was hard to pass. On one occasion, I found myself stuck behind a guy with a stuffed penguin on his head. You can see it here: Penguin Head. I think his whole team had penguins on their heads. I don't know why, they just did. I came across Penguin Head right before a longish super sandy, windy decent. I made an attempt to pass Penguin Head on one of the berms, but failed, and was about to make another attempt when Penguin Head yardsaled (that's a verb) it. Luckily, I avoided the human, but sadly, the Penguin had a mean brush with my spokes. I got past without crashing though.


My first night lap was ok at 1:17. I felt like I put out a big effort though and felt that I wasted a lot of energy slamming up and down the rocks. I nearly cramped up. My second night lap didn't go so well. At exactly the same place where I nearly decapitated the Penguin and while I was kind of chuckling about it in my mind, I had my own yardsale. My front wheel dug into the sand, I launched over the bars, flipped, turned around just in time to see my bike flying through the air, and because I have Samurai reflexes, I reached up in the air and caught it! I caught the fork and the seatube, gently put it back down on the ground, did my CX mount, and I was off an running again.

When the Light Goes Out.

I saw some unfortunate souls who were struggling to make it without lights. One of the "ambulance chasers" showed some gumption when he got out a few miles, realized that his light was not going to hold out, rode all the way back to camp, got a new light, and then went and rode his lap. It kind of makes me think: does karma or the Good Samaritan Rule apply when you are racing? I mean, ethically, should I have stopped to lend a helping hand? After all, I tell my son that so long as he is not on the soccer field he has to be nice; but when he's on the soccer field, he's supposed to be mean and kick the crap out of . . . er be a good sportsman. Well, I didn't stop and help and I think I may have even given one of those lightless persons a sand rooster tail. Sorry.

Next Year, When I Do it Again.

Time's up. . . . to be continued.

Monday, October 15, 2007

24 Hours of Moab Report

I just woke up from 12 Hours of Jared, my own little event that involves me being in a sleeping coma for 12 hours straight. 10 hours into this event, my wife sent my son down (one of my little recovery secrets is that I often retire in our guest bedroom downstairs) to check on me -- "just to make sure I was still alive."

Well alive I am. I'd say I'm even more alive because right before the 12 Hours of Jared, I participated in an event called 24 Hours of Moab -- a mountain bike race that goes for 24 hours. No, I didn't ride straight for 24 hours; although several people did. I was a member of a 4 man relay team. It consisted of me, Jon (both lawyers), and two doctors. We called ourselves the "ambulance chasers" (get it?). Our team turned out to be a loose experiment that (in case you're wondering) yielded the following results:
  • Doctors are generally smarter and more spontaneous than lawyers. They can arrive at an event like 24 Hours of Moab without much training, less than 1 hour before the event is to begin, and then perform like they have been preparing for months. Lawyers, on the other hand, analyze over and over and over again what the plan is or should be, and then because they are so flustered, forget to execute. Note to self: remember where you put your bike so you don't run around in several circles while you're supposed to be racing it.
  • Doctors function much better when normal people (like lawyers) are usually asleep. Lawyers tend to oversleep . . . ahem . . . Jon.
  • Lawyers are more cynical than doctors and accordingly often underestimate what humans, i.e. doctors, can really do. Case in point: "Oh, he won't be able to do it in 1.5 hours. . . . Holy crap! That's Mitch," says Jon as he grabs his bike and races to the start tent.
  • Lawyers ride their bikes faster than doctors. Obviously, that's a function of the fact that lawyers have more spare time than doctors. But doctors are able to recover much faster than lawyers.
  • Lawyers are more likely to ride with reckless abandon knowing that they have doctors on their team that can perform anesthesia and knee surgery.
  • Doctors should be more likely to ride with reckless abandon knowing that they have lawyers that can sue on their behalf, but choose to ride in control given (a) the general (and possibly justified) distrust for lawyers, and (b) the fact that when the blood is gushing a lawyer really isn't worth much.
  • The price of a doctor's or a lawyer's bike is not a function of how much money they make, but very well could be an indication of the size of their ego.

None of the ambulance chasers had ever participated in the event before, but we were lucky enough to be mentored and supported by team "Why Try," a group that has participated in the event for several years. Why Try had it down. Why Try shows up to the venue several days before it begins and stakes out their territory. Keep in mind that during the event more than 2000 people are camped out in the middle of the desert. Why Try's territory is optimally placed -- a few hundred yards from the start tent and right next to the trail. Great for racing and great for spectating. On their territory, they park 3 trailers/motorhomes, in the shape of a "U." Inside the U, there were propane heaters, halogen worklights, bike stands and tools, chairs, hammocks, a giant love sak, food, motorcycles, etc. . . The best part about team Why Try was the support crew who fed us, cleaned bikes, ushered us to and from the start and finish line, encouraged us, and listened to the same stories lap after lap after lap. Rumor had it, that Why Try's camp was the Four Seasons of the Moab camp. I believe it. I even got my very own puffy plush complimentary bathrobe and slippers.

Regarding the event itself, most of you who read this know that I'm a roadie and am getting into CX. Jon is too. That's why we were encouraged when people told us that the Moab 24 course wasn't that technical, "lots of double track . . . it's just a jeep road." It's not that I dislike the technical aspect of mountain biking, it's just that I'm a bit challenged. Let me just say that if the law requiring disclosure of certain facts when selling securities were to be applied to discussions about the Moab 24 course, I would be a very rich person and several people would be in jail. To all those who told me not to worry and that Moab was not technical and was pretty easy, WHATEVER. In the words of Jason Hendrickson, another fellow roadie, No Freaking Way (sorry Jason, but I had to censor). Is this your idea of easy?

(Photo pirated from Jeff.)

The picture above is a picture of spot called "Nose Dive." The tire tracks on the rock are from jeeps and the like trying to climb or descend it; some of those black marks may also belong to unsuspecting cyclists -- they actually park an ambulance at the Nose Dive during the event; some of them might belong to crazies like Bart who actually ride it. In fact, Jon said the most spectacular moment of the whole race was when he was tip-toeing down the Nose Dive, delicately trying to pick his line on foot, and the Bartman came flying over the rim, and with a bouncity bounce and a hoppity hop, ripped the Nose Dive with nary a touch of the brakes. Jon was equally impressed with Bart's sprint out of the Nose Dive.

Because people told us the course wasn't technical and was just a double-track jeep track through the desert, Jon and I were a bit over-confident about our expected lap times. Even so, we both put in some respectable times (for us) and had a bunch of fun doing it. After a Le Mans start, involving several hundred bike racers stampeding through the desert on foot, Jon put in a 1:18 lap and had four more solid laps after that. He was the only one on the "ambulance chasers" team to put in 5 laps.

My first lap was decent at 1:12 -- 1:11:53 to be exact. Both my second and third laps were in the dark.


Sunday, October 7, 2007

Check This Out

I wasn't convinced that jumping barriers is actually faster, but after I pulled my groin midway through the race, I sure wished I could do the hop. Plus, it sure is impressive. In fact it was because I was running the barriers that I pulled the groin. I think that the barriers this year are higher. I'm considering bringing a lawsuit against Utah Cyclocross for discrimination against short people. I'm sure I could turn it into a Title VII action by alleging that the high barriers discriminate against "my" people, who are height challenged. Hopefully the groin strain will heal quickly. I've tried to hasten the process by using an ice pack, but due to proximity issues, it requires temperance.

Actually, the race was really fun. I've never raced in mud like that before. It's yet another aspect and skill in CX'ing.

I've learned a lot by racing with the fast guys. There's an upside to getting lapped by Bart and Ali -- for a couple of minutes, you can follow them, watch their lines, and observe what you didn't know what was possible. It wasn't until I saw Ali ripping through the mud that I figured out the "fast" way of getting through it. I still can't figure out how they get through those hair pin turns so fast. I negotiate them like I'm driving an 18 wheeler. It's a mystery . . .

I still think CX is weird, but I can't deny that I have the bug.

Credits for the pics go to Stupidbike.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

The Thing About Cyclocross aka "CX" (PART I)

I'm a relative newbie on the cycling scene. I just finished my third year of road racing; I raced my first real mountain bike race this summer; and I am launching into my second season of cycloross. My newbie status qualifies me to offer, perhaps, a fresh perspective on what CX (note that I am sufficiently educated to refer to "cyclocross" as "CX"; that is because I am innately hip) is and how to ride a CX race. Arguably, my "fresh" perspective differs and, depending on which way you look at it, is a bit more informative than one who is established and entrenched in the CX tradition. You can think of me as a John Calvin of CX, and think of Bart or Ali as the Pope. (BTW, Ali, are you muslim or are you related to that boxer whose name was Ali? Just wondering. And Bart, was Bart Simpson named after you or the other way around? Again, just wondering.)

Most of the time I try to be politically correct. I'm relatively conservative though I tend to lean toward the green (the trees, not the money). So although it pains me to say this, there's really no way of avoiding saying that CX is the mongrel bastard child of cycling. It's a "cross" between the elegant form of road racing and the highly efficient form of mountain biking -- mountain biking's achievement is taking the cyclist over mountains that used to require walking, which cyclists are adverse to, or horses, which cyclists . . . actually, no comment. For those CX purists, I know that cross existed before MTB and there is the argument that CX was quite possibly was the first form of RR, but this is my analogy and I believe that it is quite illustrative -- to a Newbie anyway. And the analogy actually furthers my argument that CX is a mongrel bastard. I ask you, if RR is CX's father, then why the knobby tires, and why the ugliness and messiness? If MTB is CX's father, then why the drop bars and why the skinny tires? Hah!! Clearly CX was abandoned in its youth by its father and was denied "proper" nurturing. By way of another analogy, CX is like the child of burly Alaskan husky and a sleak Greyhound. That's right, eeewe. . . .

Just because CX is the mongrel bastard doesn't mean that there are not compelling reasons to try it or that you shouldn't try it. After all, there is a lot of hype around CX. It is being heralded as the fastest growing niche in bike racing. Soon, any noteworthy stable will include a road bike, mtn. bike, and a cross bike. Of course, you don't want to own a CX bike just because it's hip, which leads me to an astute question: what is my cross bike good for?

What is my cross bike good for?

Any CX apologist, which I declare that I am, must be able to address this question. After all, face it, a CX bike can't keep pace with a road bike on the road or with a mtn. bike on the trails. A shallow-sighted roadie or mtb'er might immediately write off CX bikes as being "slow." Fair enough, but what if you want to ride the pavement AND the dirt? In a sense, only the pure cyclist will understand the value of a CX bike because the pure cyclist will be driven to explore and ride all roads and trails, whether paved or dirt. The value of the CX bike is that you can effectively ride the road and a lot of dirt in one ride.

I have to acknowledge, that in SLC, there aren't a lot of unpaved roads, and that the trails in the mountains are generally unsuitable for CX bikes. There are exceptions though. For example, I don't like to drive anywhere. So, it's convenient for me to be able to ride my bike up Millcreek Canyon, hit some of the mellow trails, and ride home. If you're inclined to ride from Jeremy Ranch to East Canyon, a CX bike can come in handy. However, if you live in a non-urban environment, I daresay that the CX bike is the ultimate machine. For example, I grew up in a rural town in central Utah where the only paved road was Main Street (if anyone from Gunnison reads this, you know this is an exaggeration and hyperbole on my part). If you were lucky, you could find a rough, pot-holed chip seal road, but usually, you were relegated to hard-packed gravel dirt roads. And in rural towns like Gunnison, there are endless dirt roads through the hills, linking other towns, mountains, and canyons. The possibilities are endless and all of these roads are suited to a CX bike. Of course, a mountain bike works, but in many cases, I think it is overkill -- a CX bike is actually faster. In fact, I dream of a road-style race on a CX bike on rural dirt roads. Maybe one day I'll try to make that happen.

I've postponed the obvious: perhaps the single, independent reason to own a CX bike is so you can race it.

What is a CX Race?

CX races, like CX bikes, are the mongrel, bastard child of road and mtb. races. If you think about it, cyclocross courses are comical. That's because everything in CX is a paradox -- yet people, for some weird reason participate. In a CX race, the sprint comes at the beginning of the race, not the end; skinny, but knobby tires are used; parts of the courses are on pavement, other parts are on dirt, other parts are on grass; mud and single track is involved, yet road racing tactics sometimes come into play; good CX'ers use lots of fast twitch muscles and sprint several times a lap, but competitive CX'ing requires major slow twitch endurance; and then there are the barriers. Who the heck invented barriers? Barriers are, in and of themselves, paradoxes; is CX's father a horse? I mean, horses jump barriers, but why cyclists? Perhaps this is what happens when a bunch of drunk Belgians on bikes get together in the off-season. "Hey, let's ride our bikes through the mud in the park. . . . Bet you can't ride your bike over that barrier. . . ." Note that I've refrained from even mentioning sandy run-ups. All these characteristics, and many more, combine to make cyclocross so comical, so gruelling, and so paradoxical that doing it is actually fun. To the dude whose idea of fun is a bag of chips and Sportcenter, whatever . . .

How do I prepare for my first cross race?


Friday, September 21, 2007

Some Fall Chillin'

Jon and I had grand plans for a ride at Snowbird. So, we started at the Tram, rode up the frontside, and through the tunnel:

FYI, the tunnel is closed during the week, but we were lucky enough to run into Tunnel Guy who let us through. The tunnel puts you in Mineral Basin; coming out of the tunnel,

you are rewarded with some sweet views:

We rode a bit down into Mineral Basin:

And back up to Alta:

The views on top were sweet. Timp loomed in the background. Who needs to go to the Tetons?

At the top, we met some ATV'ers.

ATV Dude took our photo in Black and White:

Then we dropped back down into Alta:

and we rode up to Germania to ponder the lines on Mt. Superior. It doesn't look so steep when you're skiing down.

Jon guessed we had ridden 26 miles.

Even though we had grand plans for today's ride, our total miles after 3 hours of "riding" was 13. That's because it was simply a fall chillin' day. Do I look fat?


Friday, September 14, 2007

Sure, Why Not?

We're doing the 24 Hrs of Moab in style -- two motor homes, from what I've been told. Looking forward to the "off" season . . . cyclocross, trail running, mtn. biking, nordic skiing, bc skiing . . . and, depending whether Cousin Chris is successful or not, there might be a possible goose hunt or fly fishing trip worked in somewhere. I'm going to have to retire from the "off" season in order to recover for the "on" season.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Two Days After LOTOJA

And I'm drawing a total blank when it comes to thinking of reasons why to do LOTOJA again next year. That's because I fought the hard fight, got dropped, and DNF'd. I have some serious respect for Mark Z., Al Thresher, Ian Tuttle, Taylor Hansen, and Robert Bennion. Nice job guys.

For the record, by the time the Cat 3s started up Strawberry, we were mixed in with 1, 2, 4, 5, Masters 35, Masters 45, Tandem, and some guy riding with a big Garfield stuffed animal taped to the back of his bike. We went up Strawberry pretty fast. Right before Montpelier, Mark Z and Schaffer attacked the mob and never looked back. That took some serious gumption and strength.

After Montpelier, a Cat 3 (Al) got away in a split that formed after the feedzone. We cruised up Geneva at a brisk pace and going down, Nate Page and Sam Krieg put out some serious watts to bring the split back. But as soon as we hit the back of the split, another group broke free containing 4 Cat 3s (Al, Robert, Ian, and Taylor). And those guys ended up rallying all the way to the end.

Robert and Taylor: I doubt you read this, but I think everyone thought that you'd blow up since you were riding so hard. You proved everyone wrong and proved that you have the stuff.

To Ben and Clint: what the hell were we thinking? Seriously. . . .

Friday, September 7, 2007

The Day Before LOTOJA

The last two posts on this blog have been negative. That's because I think I spent most of my summer in an overtrained slump and was generally in a bad mood. Things are better now though.

Tomorrow is LOTOJA. I've told friends that I look forward to the second Saturday in September more than any other day of the year. It represents the end of a season and, hopefully, a pinnacle of achievement. It represents a culmination of a full year's worth of training and practice. It presents an opportunity to learn about myself (and others) and perhaps to prove something to myself (and others); it also presents a risk of disappointment, e.g. hypothermia at LOTOJA 2005. I suppose it represents a tangible point in time where I get to experience all the reasons I am a cyclist.

1. The People: Starting in a few minutes, I will see and socialize with my training partners and reunite with people I haven't seen for a long time. It's enjoyable to be friends with people who share common interests and have common goals.

2. The Preparation: Training for LOTOJA begins the day after LOTOJA. From the day after LOTOJA, my mind refocuses on next year. New commitments and goals are made. New strategies are formed. It's like being born anew and given a new life. Though it sounds somewhat pathetic, the day after LOTOJA, I have a new purpose in life.

3. The Pain: Pain is supposed to be good for you. I suppose it is. I can guarantee that tomorrow, when I am in pain -- when my legs are filled with lactic acid, when my feet hurt, when I'm dehydrated and on the verge of cramping -- I may ask myself what the point of it all is. And I will tell myself that the point of it all is that I am able to endure it. One of the reasons I like cycling is that -- like life -- it presents a challenge to push through and to endure. You have to figure out creative ways to "get through it." Like life, sometimes you have to rely on others to get you through it. And like all achievements, once you get through it, you not only feel a sense of satisfaction, but you learn something about yourself. That something often can be drawn upon to get you through the next challenge -- whether it is on or off the bike.

I need to go and pack now, but I wanted to put something positive up -- just in case I return from LOTOJA in a bad mood. Perhaps when I return I may have additional reasons for why I like LOTOJA and why I keep coming back.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Left for Dead

I'm back. Sadly, the season is almost over. In fact, a few weeks ago, after some disappointing finishes at Wolf Creek and Huntsville, I had declared that I was retired -- for good. I went into retirement for about 6 days, but got bored, so decided to come out of retirement with the goal of doing a decent LOTOJA. So, last Saturday, I rode the Snowbird Hillclimb. The day after that I rode from my house, up Big Cottonwood, up Guardsman's, down to Park City, to Jeremy Ranch, to East Canyon Resort, up Big Mountain, down Emmigration, and back home. The day after that, on Monday, I rode from my house to Provo, up the Alpine Loop, over Suncrest, and back home. I rested on Tuesday, and on Wednesday on somewhat of a whim, I rode the DMV. Surprisingly, at the DMV, I had a fair amount of energy and felt ok. That's what retirement will do I guess.

The last little block of my out-of-retirement/LOTOJA prep was the Sanpete Classic, a 100 mile road race. The course doesn't suit me, but it holds a special place in my heart since I grew up in Sanpete County. In fact the pictures below of Ethan and the fish were taken at our cabin, which is close to Spring City, the start and finish of the Sanpete Classic.

The Sanpete Classic starts out with a guy yelling, "fire in the hole" and lighting off what looks to be a civil war era canon. I don't know how it got to Spring City. In any event, the canon adds to the character of the race and is something my kids look forward to. In contrast with last year when the Cat 3s raced with the Pro/1/2 group, this year we started out fairly civil. Team Vanguard was there en masse and looked strong, and I quickly understood that I would either be in a break with a Vanguard guy, or be in the field dragging some Vanguard guys around Sanpete County. So, just after Milburn, and after a Vanguard guy had been brought back, I made an acceleration and got a small gap. That didn't last long. I sat at the front for a couple minutes, and went again, knowing that there was a small climb ahead. Todd (Vanguard) and Nate came with me, and the group let us go. A few miles later, two Porcupine guys joined us, and the winning break was formed.

Since I was just coming out of retirement and had put in a hard week, I was pleasantly surprised that I was in the break. We worked well together and by 70ish miles into the race had a 5+ minute gap. I was happy and began thinking of possible ways I could get to the line before my breakaway companions. Unfortunately, things didn't play out as I hoped.

As we came into the Moroni feedzone for a second time, I grabbed a musette bag from Karen. It had two bottles and a Coke in it. I put the bag around my neck and, riding without hands, began pulling out the bottles. As I pulled out the first bottle, I saw an orange flash. Just as I saw the orange flash, I heard my bike slam into what turned out to be an orange construction barrel, and then I felt myself flying over the bars and onto the ground. After I hit the ground, I lay there for a few seconds, a bit stunned. One of my breakaway companions said my musette bag was on my face and that he thought I was unconsious. But after a few seconds, I realized that I wasn't hurt all that bad -- just a few scrapes and a bit of road rash. I hopped on the bike and started chasing after my breakaway companions. My front wheel was a bit wobbly, but as I rode, I opened up my front brake and loosened the brake cable.

I never caught my breakaway companions. And I have to admit that I was a bit bothered that they decided not to wait for me after our wheel support guy told them I was 30 seconds back and the group was over 5 minutes back. But in the end, I don't blame them and only hold a small grudge. :) I mean if a guy isn't smart enough to avoid pile-driving an orange barrel while riding a bike with no hands going 18 miles an hour, does he really deserve to be in the break? After a futile chase, I joined up with what was left of the main field and they pulled me back to the finish. Nice job to all those who were there. It was fun.

And so I'm out of retirement and looking forward to another LOTOJA. Bring out the mallet. . .

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Burn out?

I like to ride my bicycle, but lately I've been a bit bored on the road bike. Maybe it's the heat. Or maybe I'm suffering from burn out. Just recently I built up a single speed 29er. So, this weekend I put the road bike aside, packed my family, flyrod, and the single speed into the Subie, and headed for our family cabin in central Utah.

Riding around the mountains on a heavy rigid steel single speed (with too high of a gear ratio) in civilian shorts (not lycra) with a backpack and a flyrod on my back not caring about watts or avg. speed was a nice, welcome change of pace. Maybe I should do it more often. Fishing with the kids was fun. Definitely need to do that more often.

Oh yeah, 29er wheels are kind of cool. They're heavy, but they do roll well. The fat 2.3 balloon tires help also. I'm going to have to attempt Dog Lake or the Crest on it one of these days.

Friday, June 15, 2007

You Mean I Can't Ride the Tour de France?

So I visited Steve Mannebach in the pulmonary lab at the University Hospital for a VO2 Max test. I had never done one, but have always wanted to. And I'm glad I did. The results will be invaluable for future training. The results also give me a baseline to see how I stack up.

So how do I stack up? Let's just say that you probably won't see me in the Tour de France. Let's just also say that I might have been able to take Lance -- right after he had just gone through chemo and while he was still bald.

To ride the Tour de France, they say you need to have a VO2 Max of at least 70 ml/kg/min. Lance had a VO2 Max of 85 ml/kg/min in his prime. Right after chemo, he had a VO2 Max of 66 ml/kg/min. The average norm for men is 40-42 ml/kg/min. "Excellent" is >56 ml/kg/min. Elite cyclists are said to have VO2 Max values between 70 and 80 ml/kg/min. The highest recorded value belongs to a nordic skier who checked in at 93 ml/kg/min. VO2 Max values can vary depending on altitude, whether the test was administered running or cycling, calibration of the machine, and whether the subject took the right dose of EPO prior to the test.

Moving on to what's really important, VO2 Max values do not necessarily dictate performance, but are very very useful. For example, it's said that Abraham Olano, a world class pro, never measured above 70 ml/kg/min, but yet had several impressive wins. Apparently there is an inverse relationship between VO2 Max and riding efficiency. Even if a person's VO2 Max is relatively low, by developing an efficient pedal stroke and by training the body to be more efficient, a person can easily compete with someone with a higher VO2 Max. Furthermore, I've heard that by increasing pedaling efficiency, one can actually increase VO2 max. The theory being that it takes additional muscles to become more efficient and if more muscles are being employed the oxygen uptake is increased. If knowing is half the battle, knowing one's VO2 Max can be useful in measuring and training one's strengths and weaknesses, i.e. becoming more efficient.

Furthermore, since it's not possible to ride at 100% of VO2 Max, performance is often dicated by the percentage of VO2 Max that is sustainable for a long period of time, i.e. LT Threshold. For some, their LT Threshold may be 90% of VO2 Max. For others, it may be 75%. Through a VO2 Max test, one can precisely determine where his LT Threshold is, which is highly trainable. Knowing where that threshold is, I will be able to focus on increasing it with the goal of increasing the maxium sustainable wattage.

Regarding the test itself, except for the Darth Vadar mask with an integrated snorkel, it's not that bad. Essentially, you pedal for between 10 and 15 minutes. Every minute or so, the machine increases the load, thus increasing your wattage, heartrate, and oxygen uptake. The test ends when you can pedal no more. In my case, when my HR hit 198, I was done.

I'm glad I took the test and would recommend to any person looking to improve their performance to take one. If you're interested in having it done at the University Hospital, you can contact Steve at 581-2240. Cost is somewhere around a well-spent $80. That cost also gets you the sweet wife-beater tank top pictured above.

PS -- The above picture kicks off the official Tan Line Contest. If you're tan line is as good (or as bad) as mine, let's see it!!

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Bear Lake RR: Some Comments

Last week I made a personal resolve to stop being a whiner. So when the Bear Lake results came out and I quickly saw that on a scale of 1 to 10 -- with 1 being "Slightly Off" and 10 being "What Are You Freakin' Kidding Me?-Off" -- the so-called "results" were a perfect 10, my instinct was to be totally Zen and to not whine. After seeing the results, I quickly assumed the lotus position and began meditating, focusing on breathing, and detaching myself from the impulse to whine. Although not really Zen, I even applied positive thinking techniques like, this is just bike riding. It's a game, it's relatively unimportant in the grand scheme of things, there are kids starving in China, and so on and so forth. My non-Zen, self-affirmation techniques even extended to me standing in front of a mirror and saying, "I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and gosh darn it, people like me." These techniques were quite effective with disposing of certain thoughts, which, if entertained, would surely lead to whining. Using my Zen-Stuart Smalley techniques, I disposed of thoughts like, I paid $35, raced my guts out for 100 miles, finished in or very near the top 10, but was given 26th place. I told myself that UCA points don't define my capabilities as a rider, and that it doesn't matter that forever and ever as long as the World Wide Web and the Logan Race Club Website exist that people will think I finished in 26th place at the Bear Lake Classic. I refused to criticize the race directors and the officials and told myself that they weren't incompetent, but just challenged. And I didn't give the time of day to thoughts like man, with the gazillion Asian dudes hanging around the finish, you'd think that the techy equipment would be functioning right (ok ok, look at the title of this Blog and look at the color of my hair and note that I can get away with that -- you can't). Given my personal resolve, I resolved that I wouldn't whine.

A few hours after Zenning away all my whining propensities, I made the mistake of looking at the "results" again. Let me just say that the Cat 3 results are way off, and not even close to being accurate. Being the loop-hole-finder-hair-splitter that I normally get paid to be, I convinced myself that my resolve only applies to self-centered whining and that it doesn't preclude me for whining on behalf of others. Problem solved.

So, on behalf of the many Cat 3 riders that got shafted in the so-called "results," let me officially whine. Take Connor O'Leary for example. Connor is 16 years old. He is the current Cat III UCA leader and he raced hard on Saturday. I'm sure that UCA points mean something to him. Even though Connor finished somewhere around the top 10, he was given 22nd place. If UCA points are assigned using the "results," then Connor will miss out on points that were legitimately his, and others will illegitimately get points they don't deserve. I'm certain that Connor finished well ahead of some of the people in the top 10 and nearly all the people in places 11-20.

Take Bill DeMong and Ian Tuttle as other examples. It's an honor for me to race with someone like Bill DeMong who is a three-time Olympian and who is a world class athlete. I want to keep Bill coming to the races and he should be treated right. Bill raced hard all day, doing a substantial portion of the work in reeling the break in. Likewise, Ian Tuttle was a major contributor. Both Ian and Bill weren't even given placings. They appear at the bottom with the placing "999." Nice. I know for a fact that Ian finished in or near the top 10. I was on his wheel.

I wouldn't whine without a purpose. My purpose for whining is to express first of all that the results are egregiously inaccurate. I understand that often there are relatively small errors in the results, but in the Bear Lake case, the errors in the Cat 3 placings are anything but small. At best, they represent a random attempt to assign riders placings, based on a few officials' observations and notes as 40 riders came flying across the line at 30 mph. Sure, the results for the top 5 might be correct, but what about the rest of the 40+ riders? Which brings me to my second point.

My second point is that because the errors in the "results" are so large -- because the "results" really aren't the true results -- it would be unfair for the UCA to award points based on the inaccurate "results." Advocating this may very well get me attacked at the next shootout (actually, that happens anyway), but face it, it's simply not fair to give points to undeserving riders and deprive deserving riders of their hard-earned points. Yes, it's unfortunate that the top 5 riders may be deprived of their points, but it is equally unfortunate that people like Connor, Ian, and Bill will be deprived of their points. It simply would be irresponsible for the UCA to award points based on results that may well have been obtained by using a powerball machine. Perhaps the best the UCA can do is award everyone some "participation points." And since the UCA bylaws don't address this issue, the UCA should consider including a rule like this: if the results suck, no UCA points can be given. Didn't that happen with the Sundance Hillclimb last year?

My third and final point is that the UCA should not award points based on the faulty "results" because to do so would condone and turn a blind eye to the recurring results problem. It would be to essentially make a statement that it's ok for race promoters and race officials to take racers' money, encourage participation in the race, promise prizes, but then utterly fail to have the procedures in place to insure accurate results. To be dramatic (think the last scene of Braveheart), the UCA should use the day that riders raced for 100 miles but were deprived of accurate results to promote and insure accurate results in the future. The sting of racing 100 miles and not getting UCA points will be enough that promoters who must ultimately answer to the UCA and the riders will take special care to have the right people and equipment at the finish line. And to be majorly dramatic, here's to hoping that the day that racers raced for 100 miles but were deprived of results and the fame and glory attendant with such results will be remembered as the last day of its kind.

(And for the record, none of the Zen/Stewart Smalley stuff really happened. Give me some credit, I'm not that lame.)

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Tour of the Gila

It's been awhile. Over the last few weeks I've been busy training for the Tour of the Gila, a five day stage race. I put in a pretty hard month leading up to the Gila. Since I had never done a 5 day stage race, I didn't know quite what to expect. I asked people (like Rob) who had done it before and they gave me helpful pointers, like ride lots of hills. So I rode lots of hills. But even though I built up some decent fitness, I wasn't prepared for the Gila.

My next statement should be tempered by the fact that I've only been seriously road racing for a little over two years. The Statement: the Tour of the Gila was by far the hardest race I've ever done. Of course, it was probably the most rewarding race I've done -- simply because I finished. Some of the highlights underlying the Statement are as follows:

Highlight 1: The TT

Day 1 was a 16 mile TT with "hills." The first 3-4 miles were a steady uphill climb, steepening toward the top. Since the Pros went off first, we positioned ourselves at the top of the first climb and watched the likes of Moninger, Baldwin, O'Neil, Bajadali, Swindlehurst, Creed big-ring it up the climb, even the steep part. Note that because of the fast downhill finish, most everyone was using a 55 or a 56 tooth ring.

I started my TT with a big ring. I figured that if the Pros need to big ring it to get as fast time, that's what I needed to do. So I big ringed it up the climb -- actually not all the way up. At about mile 3 or 4, as I was beginning to bog and as my HR was about to touch 190, I had a revelation: I am not a Pro. Quickly, I shifted down to my 39 ring and tried to go hard and recover at the same time, which is somewhat like smiling and frowning at the same time.

When you are suffering during an all-out 40 minute effort, all of the sudden you have odd regrets, like man I wish I wouldn't have eaten that bag of Hot Tamales yesterday, OR I should have shaved my legs -- how much time am I giving up by having stubble? OR I should have covered the valve hole on my disc wheel. You also make odd committments, some of which included, I am never going to eat sugar again and am going to lose 30 pounds, OR I'm going get a coach, OR I'm never going to get on the bike again.

One of the cool things about the Gila is that in a couple stages you ride the same course as the Pros. One of the not so cool things about the Gila is that you get to compare your times to the best. As a point of reference, Nathan O'Neil's (the Aussie TT Champ) TT time was about 33 minutes. My time, ahem, was about 42 minutes.

Highlight 2: The Climbs

Every stage, including the TT and Crit stages, had hills in them. The road race stages had some pretty serious climbs in them. After the beating I took in the TT, I resolved that I would give it everything I had on Day 2, which had a steep uphill 5 mile finish. On Day 2, I conserved until the end and as soon as we hit the steep climb, launched an attack. This was, perhaps, the most beautiful moment of the whole race because for a few seconds I was off the front, away from the pack, and I had an open road in front of me. It's just too bad that this moment only lasted a few seconds. Shortly after my Valverde-like attack, a group of 10 or 15 riders bridged up. At this point, the moment was still beautiful because there was a small group of us that had cleared the peloton. Things got a bit uglier after that. You can only ride in the red so long, and I learned that my red was only several of the riders' green. As I rode the longest mile of my life, I helplessly watched as other riders rode ahead of me to the finish. I finished 21st that day.

Day 3 and Day 5 also had large climbs in them. Day 3 came as the biggest surprise. It is called the "Inner Loop" race and because it doesn't have an uphill finish or isn't named the "Gila Monster," I didn't give it the respect it deserved. Day 3's race opened up with a very serious climb, one that I was not prepared for. At one point, we were going up a 5% grade going over 20 miles an hour. We had been going all-out for a solid half hour and there were probably only 30 of us left. About this point, I had a full-scale mental meltdown. As we were flying up the grade, I looked at my HR, which read 186 bpm. I thought, wow, I don't know if I can sustain this any longer. Then I looked up and saw a sign that said "1 mile to go to Feed Zone." I thought, 1 mile? And then I remembered yesterday's long mile and my confidence began to crumble. Then I looked over at someone's speedometer, and I think I saw "23 mph." Whether I saw that or not, didn't matter, because since that's what I thought I saw, I thought that's too fast, I definitely can't sustain this. And then I looked ahead and the road steepened. At that point, I crumbled and shot straight out the back. On refelection, I don't know how much was physical or mental -- probably both -- but I'd like to have that moment back to see whether I could hold on.

The consequences of the Meltdown were severe. Since the climb came in the first 20 miles of the race and the race was 70+ miles, that meant that I was off the back, chasing for 30-40 miles. The chase hurt. In fact, it made Day 3 the hardest race I'd ever done. To top things off, after chasing for a solid two hours, I finally caught back on to the group. Just as I began to bask in the comfort of the peloton (about 2 minutes), we hit a climb with a brutal headwind. Since the chase had taken its toll, I went straight out the back again, and had to ride the last 20 miles, which was comprised of three climbs, into a brutal headwind.

Un-Highlight 3: Allergies

On Day 2, I had a weird allergic reaction. Since I had similar reactions living in Las Vegas, I wondered if I am allergic to something in the Southwest desert. In any event, my allergies made things miserable. I took three kinds of antihistamines and after Day 2 had to lie in bed the rest of the day with tissue stuck up my nose. The days after that were complicated by the allergies, and during several parts of the races, I was racing on one nostril. Luckily though, when the adrenaline level my my heartrate picked up, the allergic symptoms would subside so that they were tolerable. My solution to the allergies: ride hard.

Highlight 4: The Crashes

I saw (and experienced) several crashes throughout the week. Perhaps the most unfortunate one was experienced by Matt, who I rode down and roomed with, on Day 2. The guys in front of him weren't paying attention, crossed wheels and caused a pile-up. I watched one rider ride straight into the pile up and launch Superman-style right over the handlebars. I suspect that rider's bike was stopped by one of Matt's body parts.

Because of the wicked climbs in the Gila, there are also wicked descents. I lost my nerve a couple times and was unable to take the switchbacks at speed. On one switchback on the final stage, I completely lost it. I had just attacked a group of 10 riders, had bridged up to a group of 2 riders, and we were working hard to stay away from the group behind us. Going around a switchback, I took a turn too wide and too fast. There came a point where I had 1 of 2 options. Option 1 was to try to turn the bike, but risk sliding out and laying the bike and me down. Didn't want to do that. Option 2 was to take a straight line and hope that I could keep the bike up. I took Option 2, and took a straight line off the edge of the road, fully locked up my brakes, careening through the gravel and bushes, and came to a rest in front of a large boulder. As I came to a stop, I unclipped, lifted my bike over my head, climbed up the enbankment, just in time to join the group of 10 that I had just attacked. I don't know if they were happy, but they surely were amused to see me.

In conclusion, I was thrilled just to have finished the race. I ended up 32nd on GC (out of 75 who started). During the race I swore that I would never do it or anything like it again. . . . I'm already planning for next year.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

White Rim, Part II

Chapter 6: Murphy's Hogsback

There are three major climbs on the White Rim Trail. The first comes at about 50 miles and is called Murphy's Hogsback. And yes, it really is as steep as it looks (see pic above). I was a bit startled by the climb. After cruising for miles and miles on flat road, all of the sudden I looked up, and there was this road leading into the sky. I kind of chuckled at the sight of it. My amusement was quickly diffused by the necessity of shifting into the granny and figuring out a way to make it up the climb. For some reason, I was driven to clean the hill -- to ride it without unclipping. And although at one point I think I was perpendicular to the hill, I rode it clean. I think I even saw a heartrate of 190. For a moment, I also thought I saw a unicorn. Lucky for us, we had lunch waiting for us at the top.

Chapter 7: My Hero

While we were eating lunch, we were overtaken by a solo, self-supported rider on a fully rigid single speed. Granted his bike was light, was titanium, was a 29er, and was pimped out, it was still a single speed (34x19). Single speed guy started with 170 ounces of water, took very few stops, and ended up riding the trail in 9 hours and 40 minutes. Tough.

Chapter 8: Riding Next to the Green

After descending the Hogsback, we rode for several miles next to the Green River. Unlike the first 50 miles during which we made frequent stops to see the sights, we rode the last 50 miles like we were on a mission. We lined it up and pacelined it on the trail. It was almost surreal as we cruised over slickrock and sand against the redrock backdrop, along the White Rim, which often dropped off several hundred feet, in view of the snow-capped Lasal Mountains, and next to the seemingly placid Green River. The scenery almost overshadowed the twinges of fatigue.

Chapter 9: The Death March

At about mile 90, the epicness and scenic-ness of the ride had nearly worn off and I had been lulled into grinding out the miles. I was shaken out of this mode when, again, for the third time, I looked up and was shocked to see the road climbing up a sheer redrock wall. At Hogsback, I chuckled. This time, I nearly laughed aloud. We had been riding for over seven hours, we were all fatigued, and now, awaiting us was a steep climb that switchbacked up a cliff of over 1000 feet. Again, I shifted into granny, and spun to survive. Again, lucky for us, at the top was a cooler full of soda and Gatorade. After a nice little break, we saddled up for the last time for the last leg to the cars. The last leg is a graded 15 mile dirt road that was surprisingly challenging, made so by the long miles we had put in that day. I'm not ashamed to admit that when the cars came into view, I raised my hands, pretending I had just won a Pro Tour race. I think I saw Jon shed a tear.

Chapter 10: Is a Bun a Given?

On the way home to SLC, we stopped at Wendy's. For some reason, the employees at this particular Wendy's were challenged. Aside from ignoring us, ignoring sanitary standards, overcharging us, and being unable to fulfill our order on the third try, we learned that getting a bun with your sandwich is not a given. While waiting in line, a fellow strolled in, walked up to the counter and handed the cashier a foil-wrapped sandwich, stating that it was not what he ordered. "What did you order?" the cashier asked. Fellow: "Meat, cheese, and ketchup, not a chicken sandwich" he said, exposing the chicken breast for the cashier to see. A few minutes later, the cashier handed a foil-wrapped package to the fellow, who took it, opened it, and promptly returned. "What's wrong now?" the cashier asked. "Well, there's just meat, cheese, and ketchup, and no bun." "Isn't that what you ordered? Meat, cheese, and ketchup?" Response: "I thought the bun was a given." "Oh," said the cashier, as she again reached for the foil-wrapped, bun-less package.


Several times this week I have had flashbacks of the White Rim ride (no unicorns though). It was undoubtedly one of the top 3 rides of my life. Many thanks to my fellow riders.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

White Rim (in one day) = Epic

"To fully appreciate the White Rim Trial means embarking on a three- to four-day trip with stays in designated camping areas along the way. Some elite bikers are quick to boast of knocking of the White Rim in a single day, but they are missing the point. A White Rim trip is more than pounding out an off-road century; you can do that anywhere. You'll want the extra time to bond with the desert, to feel its pulse, and revere its wonderment. . . . [A] single-day trip is an incomprehensible feat for the average biker and one that shatters the difficulty scale."

-- Greg Bromka, Mountain Biking Utah

A bunch of us headed down south to "pound out an off-road century" -- the White Rim. Photos of our ride can be found and, if wanted, downloaded by clicking on the pic below. (Best to simply click on "Slideshow.")

April 1, 2007 -- White Rim

I'm pretty sure that all of us would agree that even though we did it in a single day, we bonded with the desert, felt its pulse, and revered its wonderment. It was nothing less than epic. It was epic in length, epic in scenery, epic in difficulty, and epic in good times. Of course, an epic ride is only so because of its epic chapters. Here are a few:

Chapter 1: The Difference Between DHL and Penske
On the drive down, we stopped at a convenience store. The store clerk and a loiterer were having a friendly conversation. Looking out the window at a large yellow truck, the clerk asked, "is that a DHL truck?" A third person quipped, "nope, it's a Penske truck." Clerk asks, "what's the difference between DHL and Penske?" Loiterer, as authoritative as Dick Cheney, says, "the diffence between DHL and Penske is that DHL is a business and Penske is a delivery company." Satisfied, the clerk said, "Oh."

Chapter 2: Three Guys Two Beds
I was somewhat of a late edition and Dave and Jon graciously offered me a place in their room, a room with two beds. Like any good friend, Jon went beyond the call of duty and offered me a place in his bed. Like any macho guy, I declined, even though the bed looked much more comfortable than my Thermarest on the floor. At 3:30 am, I tossed and turned and rearranged my sleeping bag. At 4:30 am, the bed looked pretty inviting. At 5:30 am, it was time to ride. Note to self: for rest's sake, it might make sense to double up.

Chapter 3: Shafer Trail to Musselman Arch
We rode the White Rim Trail in a counter-clockwise direction. This meant a short road ride to the Shafer Trailhead. The start was cold. I was in full on raingear. To stay warm, we set a fast pace. Ted was obviously prepared with two bananas strapped tightly to his Camelback. Jockstrap Dave (Dave earned this nickname when he told us about how he rode from SLC to Lake Powell wearing a jockstrap. He says he still has scars.), Jon, and I were in tow. The descent down Shafer to the rim was about 1000 feet. A wrong move would have meant a long tumble, and in several places, a long free fall. The picture above is the vista that greets you as you ride to the Rim.

Chapter 4: The Stunt
Musselman Arch is a natural arch that connects two cliffs on the Rim. The arch is about 10 feet across and a few hundred feet long. The arch is suspended above the ground several hundred feet. Walking across the arch gave me vertigo. I wanted to get down on my stomach and crawl across the arch. On a dare, Jon mustered up the courage to ride across the arch. Although it took a few minutes of tense dialogue between Jon and Dave, who discouraged the stunt, Jon went for it when he heard someone say that he didn't dare. A video of Jon riding across the arch is embedded in the photo album referenced above.

Chapter 5: Double Paceline on the Dirt
Most of the guys on the trip are roadies. True to our nature, we rode as such. For miles and miles, we lined it up and, as in the picture above, rode a double paceline. Although it provided shelter from the wind, I learned that dirt pacelining presents certain challenges. Mountain bike tires flip up all kinds of stuff. After getting rocks spit into my chest and sand rooster tailed into my hair, I was forced to give up some of the draft and keep my distance. Another challenge is that in a dirt paceline, it's hard to see what's in front of you. Road etiquette requires that you point out obstacles or road irregularities. This isn't possible on a bumpy technical road. I received many rock, drop off, and sand surprises.

Chapter 6: Murphy's Hogsback

To be continued . . . .