Wednesday, January 27, 2010

One very cool T-shirt!

Hi all -

Now for the hard part. Fundraiser time. I'd love to tell you that I'm independently wealthy, whatever that means, so that I could just write a check for RAAM and be done with it.

But I'm not independently wealthy. I'm something just a little bit better than that - I'm dependently wealthy. By which I mean that I'm part of an interdependent community of folks who figure out how to get it done.

To raise funds for RAAM - mine, his, and Tim Woudenberg's - my bike sponsor, Dana Lieberman, is selling T-shirts. For $100. Yep. You got that right. A hundred bucks. One big ol' Benjamin Franklin. A good chunk of a day's wages for most of us. As much as most of us have donated toward relief in Haiti.

Here's the really nutso part - he's not even put the design on them yet. You've just gotta believe that this limited edition "supporter" tee is going to be amazing:

Or not. Even if you don't wear T shirts (and I'll bet you do, you're the casual type or you'd not be reading this) you could buy one simply because you're thinking about purchasing a new recumbent this year. Two lucky T-shirt buyers will also win a $2500 gift certificate to Bent Up Cycles. That's enough to buy a pretty nice bike outright, or to make a really good start on a Carbent.

Did I mention that Bent Up is the largest, coolest recumbent shop in Southern California? If I didn't, let me  make it clear: Bent Up Cycles is the largest, coolest recumbent shop in Southern California. OK? That means a great selection of bike brands and styles, awesome customer service, and a loyal community of customers.

Not a recumbent rider? I'll bet you could find something to spend $2500 on in Dana's shop anyway. PowerTap wheels? He's got 'em. Components? Check. Great lights and accessories - yup. Or, how about a five year's supply of Hammer Gel?

In short, if you're interested in supporting recumbent racing, this is THE shirt to have this year.

End of commercial. Thanks for listening.



Sunday, January 24, 2010

Living After Midnight

Well, not too long I posted about "Life at 26 Degrees", so today's post is about - Living After Midnight. Night riding is a big part of RAAM. No kidding. Sure, it's in June, and I will *probably* sleep through part of the dark hours - but being able to ride around the clock is what it's all about.

The Sebring 24 - coming in three weeks! - is going to be a good test. Last night's training ride was all about Sebring, really - about checking the systems that I'll need to depend on to get a good result there. Although things didn't go quite as planned, I got what I needed out of the ride, so I'm chalking it up in the "win" column.

First - lights. Wow. Overperformed. Conditions were half-moon, light, slinky overcast that came and went. I used the MiNewt on the low setting most of the time and I got nearly 5 laps of the (15-mile Coburg TT) test course before swapping out the battery pack. The Petzl headlamp was a good addition, especially in the corners. Thanks to the generosity of friends who are loaning spare MiNewt batteries - Mark and Mark - I'll have the luxury of running high beams all night, which is good - Sebring will have no moon at all.

Second - music. Rocks. I set the iPod to shuffle everything that was in there, including for some weird reason "Music Box Dancer". My guess is that it was left on the system by the previous owner of my computer, and it got imported when I sync'd for the first time. Oddly, "Music Box Dancer" is pretty decent cycling music - bops right along. I can fantasize (hallucinate?) that I'm being chased down by the ice cream truck....but mainly it was good old hard rock like the video selection below.

Exercise physiologists and armchair quarterbacks (hey - would a recumbent bike coach be an armchair quarterback?)  - here's an interesting anecdotal piece of info: when I had a (positive) emotional reaction to the music being played, there was an increase in apparent power and an objective increase in total output/speed. My subjective sense is that hamstring action was a disproportionate part of the increase. Does this make sense? Does muscle fiber type factor in to sympathetic nervous system response? Or am I just closer to redline on the quads, so the hams have more to give?

Third - Nutrition - also very good. On Friday, I schooled Dave Seybert on the evils of sports drink marketing - Sandy's stock lecture on "Why the heck would I care how long it takes a trained male cyclist to bonk after having ONE serving of Magic Drink and then starving himself while he cranks out watts?" Dave mentioned that he tends to the old school TDF ham-and-jelly sandwich trick, and when I was grocery shopping on Saturday after work, that sounded oddly appealing. I updated the recipe a little bit: Black Forest ham, cherry preserves, Nancy's Cultured cream cheese, and a few shavings of goat cheddar - because I thought that sounded interesting and yummy. Instead of normal bread, I put them on these, which I think are going to be the bomb for RAAM:

Just the right size for a "hand-me-a" sandwich, not too floppy, and they don't get soggy. Yummy! I was also going through espresso-spiked soymilk and Honey Stinger protein bars (half at a time, please! They make half-sized ones and I may have to get some). Started Red Bull therapy at midnight - yep, that system still works, too.

Dressed well for the temps - possibly a little overdressed, though the back side of the loop felt several degrees cooler. Lena Caton had warned  me about falling temps - John had just come in pretty cold from his long ride when I was getting ready to leave.

I parked at the school - my usual place - because the lighting there is really good. I was a little worried that the local authorities might wonder what I was up to, but I wasn't bothered.

Night life abounded - skunks, raccoons, slithery things in ditches. And SHEEP. Who let the sheep out? They looked like aliens on the road. Sheep eyes glow green in headlights - but dimly. Probably a measure of the underlying mental activity...literally a dim bulb. That sat me up, for sure.

Got a flat tire on the 6th loop. Didn't think much of it, found the shard of rock and replaced the tube. My current pump is losing its oomph and I should get something more substantial (perhaps a Topeak Road Morph) before Sebring, so since it was slightly shorter to return counterclockwise, that's what did. I was able to get something like 50 psi into the tire - enough to live on, but no reason to do so longer than I had to. Limped back and refilled the tire, pushed in another half Stinger, and off I went. I KNOW I only put the tire to 100 psi, but I wasn't more than a few miles down the road when I heard a BANG! and the back was flat again. Okay, last tube...I knew from the sound that I wasn't going to have to do any head-scratching about what had happened, and I was right: the tire had blown out, right through the center of the tread. Crap. Crap. Crap. Booted that with a tire patch, put the last tube in, blew it back up to 50 psi....

I decided to call it a day there. I was able to test what I needed to, felt good, and I knew that at some point the rain would be coming in (don't know when it arrived but it was definitely here when I got up at 6AM to let Cog out).

So - I get to make up the difference, metabolically, at the gym today. And I had the last ham sandwich for breakfast.

Exciting future developments: (1) The web poll closes on 1/31. Currently it's a runaway for the RAO jersey.
(2) Next Saturday, I'm watching Bicycle Dreams with some of my RAAM crew and riding buddies. I'll post a review here as soon as I can. (3) Also on Saturday I'm hoping to roll out proofs of the team jersey and hat designs.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Night Riding

I love night riding, and I don't do it nearly enough. It's one of those things, sort of like running in the rain - it's a lot of fun, really, it's just that it takes a lot more mental prodding to get out the door in the first place.

First, there's the equipment barrier. You need lights. To state the obvious, good lights are better than bad lights. Bad lights are probably worse than no lights at all - you end up putting yourself out there in harm's way.

I've GOT good equipment. I've got three NiteRider MiNewts. And two good batteries (of course I used to have three, but one wormed away somehow). They're no longer state of the art, but they're pretty good. I've ground all of the rubber O-rings that attach the lighthead to the bike to a pulp. I've resorted to Goody ponytail holders. They come 18 to a package, and in colors. I'm starting with pink.

I just picked up a Petzl headlamp - the most firepower I can reasonably get that will run all night. The kid at REI was dubious when I told him I wanted to use it for cycling. "Miss, I don't think it will work - the battery pack on the back of the helmet???".  After I gave him a very long, very blank " did you really just call me MISS????" look, I asked them if they SOLD helmets. Of course, in the bike off I marched with the demo light in tow. Works great! It's almost as bright as a MiNewt, so I've got a backup plan.

Now...let's try the headlamp at 26 degrees. Many adjustments later, I'm (mainly) not illuminating my handlebar. The trick seems to be mounting the lamp a little higher. I really like that I can light up corners and dark spots quickly.

Then, once the equipment problems are solved, there's the extra mental work to get out the door. You know. You get home, feed the dog, feed yourself,'re in your den. Hibernation time. You get this sinking feeling that you can't really make yourself do it. So you don't. That's a mental barrier that RAAM athletes have to cross. You have to get on the bike, even when life looks a lot more jolly in the van. 

I had a really nice night ride on Sunday, but it was partly unintentional. I had lunch with Mark Newsome and his wife Paula. Ironically he's also loaning me a spare MiNewt battery for the Sebring 24-hour race. I was able to put it to use. Long story short (or short story long?), we got to talking, and it was nearly dark before I left. It worked out great - I got to have a lovely ride into sunset. The thunderstorm (real lightning in the Coast foothills) and windstorm were a nice bonus. But the best part was that just when I turned onto "my" bike path in Eugene, an owl flew across my path. Not only do owls fly silently, they LOOK like they fly silently. Hard to describe, but this was a very large and silent-looking bird indeed. (No, not my photo...sadly)

Conveniently, I have to work this Saturday, and also conveniently the weather is supposed to be improving through Saturday into Sunday. So instead of wasting this opportunity, I'm going to go on a night ride Saturday night. I should have fairly dry weather - possibly even some cloud breaks - and a half moon to guide me. I'm planning to ride the Coburg TT course several times over. If you'd like to join me for an hour or so of night riding fun (each lap is 15 miles), toss me a note.

Upcoming: I'm going to watch and review Bicycle Dreams.  I've been meaning to watch this movie for a very long time. I'm frankly a little nervous about watching this movie alone, so I'll probably recruit some friends.

Tailwinds - and taillights,

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Life at 26 degrees

OK, admit it - you think I'm about to write a blog post about freezing my tookus off at 26 degrees Farenheit. Or if you're reading from foreign soil, you might think that I'm about to brag about my winter training camp in Palm Springs.

In fact - neither is true. I had a very nice ride today in 45 degree weather. Mainly dry with occasional showers.

Between now and RAAM, though, my life will exist mainly at 26 degrees - seat incline angle.
My bike seat angle is fixed at - you guessed it! - 26 degrees relative to the ground. This is a key feature of the Carbent HPV - the seat is bonded directly to the rigid rear stays and the main tube, providing a very stiff, light, efficient power platform.

Life at 26 degrees wasn't always quite as plush as it is now. It's more recline than most recumbent riders use - though not radically so - and I had the, um, advantage of not really knowing the difference (though the bike that I learned on initially was set quite a bit more upright for me).

Still - there's a learning curve. At first, all of the things that I took for granted on my diamond frame bike were seemingly impossible - especially eating and drinking. It really felt like food was not going to make it down the right hole. Grabbing a waterbottle was nerve-wracking. I couldn't see behind me. And cold starts were miserable.

After a couple months of faking it - sneaking drinks when I was stopped, and scooting around Fred-Flintstone style to get enough momentum to clip in - I had an epiphany: I'd gone through the exact same learning curve on my diamond frame. I agonized about my "drinking problem" - never thought I'd have enough muscle memory to reach down and grab the bottle off my downtube. But I did.

And it's really not any different at 26 degrees. I've adapted. Swallowing food has become second-nature. Guys with more experience (and possibly more zest for things both intestinal and gassy) tell me that I may find a need to sit up to release intestinal gas at some point - not necessarily something I'm looking forward to, but I'm sure that when the time comes everything will fall into place.

With the Bent Up Cycles team race bag, I've got my water bottles in easy reach, and I'm mastering the art of the no-look, first-try snatch and replacement.

I got a mirror. Found a great one at Coventry Cycle Works.

I've also learned a few tricks and tips that help me with starting. The first is, quite simply, confidence. I *know* that I can pedal the Carbent one-legged if I need to, so there's no doubt that I can pull my pedal off BDC and clip in.

Core strength helps, too, both with the physical ability and with the confidence. I've been inspired in this regard by Larry Graham, who is a serious recumbent rider in the heartland. He's been working on his core by - among other things - doing planks. I can't hold the position nearly as long as he can, but for the past week or so I've been hitting it hard. 2 minutes, 3 reps - the third rep wipes me out at this point, but I think I'm starting to see results.

I had a significant challenge to my core strength this morning. Between one thing and another, I ended up with a mouthful of very gritty mucous, and I needed to spit it out. At 26 degrees. Into the wind. True, I could've stopped, or coasted, or sat up; until now, that's exactly what I would have done. But I was in a "goferit" mood, so I mustered up all of my courage; failure was NOT an option. Success! A happy landing, well away from the bike. Add "spitting with great prejudice" to the things that I can do at 26 degrees. Thanks, Larry!

Riding at 26 degrees was very sweet today. I rode from home all the way to Corvallis for the club ride. The first 15 miles are flat, with a sprint (for 'no-one's-keeping- track-and-the-points-don't-matter' points) at the "stop sign ahead" sign, right before the town of Shedd. Since recumbents can't sprint, I took an early lead-out. OK- five miles was probably more than I needed, by why take chances?

We regrouped in Shedd. I mellowed out and chatted with Betty and Dan until the ride took off further east, and I headed south for Brownsville.

I stopped for some health food in Brownsville. By convention, anything with "oatmeal" in its name is health food. The fact that the second word is "fudge" is irrelevant. Although I did not specifically ask the barista to dish up the bar with the most heavily skewed fudge/oats ratio, that's exactly what she did. I can only imagine that I looked desperate.

I rode home on one of my favorite roads - Marcola. Longer and hillier than the straight and flat route, but a lot less wind and very pretty, even in the middle of a gray, misty Oregon winter.

Thursday, January 14, 2010


STUFF. 1 : materials, supplies, or equipment used in various activities: as a obsolete : military baggage

I'm doing RAAM. I need STUFF. I've been obsessing about STUFF for the past few days. So much STUFF. Lights, camera, mp3, music, team jerseys, LAUNDRY BAGS for Pete's sake!, stuff for the van, stuff for the rider, stuff for the bikes...coolers, water bottles, first aid kits, Honey Stinger protein bars...STUFF.

So – I've made a few lists. And I've despaired at their enormity. And tossed 'em out and made new ones. Still the same STUFF. Augh!

And although I need all this stuff, I really don't need...all this stuff. It's secondary. My race won't collapse if I don't thoroughly research and choose the best headlights or raingear. Really. I'll be using the van lights for night illumination; my headlight needs to be legal. I need reasonable raingear – but I don't need the best in the world. First, there's no “best” raingear – it depends on the conditions. Second, it isn't going to be raining much more than half the time. Third – I've already GOT great raingear.

So – what gives? It's not like I'm not training – really, I am! - I guess I'm just feeling a little pressed by all of the details. In a way that's a good thing, right? If I start compiling now, it's a lot less likely that I'll show up in Oceanside and discover that I've forgotten, um, water bottles. We'll ignore the fact that even if I did biff on water bottles, it's a fixable problem – it's happened before. (Note to self – you need new cleats for those new SIDIs).

Some deranged ultracycling dybbuk is wandering around in my head (shouldn't you have a headlamp for Sebring? Just in case? Well???) and compelling me to think about all sorts of esoterica. Some of it is fun – I've been meaning to put my hand to jersey design for some time, and this is a great opportunity – and some of it is clearly outside my area of expertise (and therefore a monumental waste of time) – like electronic communication (what if we got Nextel walkie talkies instead?). Nutrition questions, at least I can think about clearly (Coconut oil? Fructose? Caffeine? Corn Dogs?...) but all the thinking in the world doesn't answer the really important question (“what will be tasty in Kansas?”).

Maybe that's part of the answer, come to think of it. There's NO WAY to know what's going to be tasty in Kansas, so I'm unconsciously concentrating on little things that I can control. (Note: chances are good that if my crew doesn't come across with a breaded pork tenderloin sandwich or two, though, I'll...I'll...I'll...keep riding the bike, I guess, just a little poutier than normal.)

There's no way to know much about how I'll feel in Kansas, or Missouri, or even my home state of Indiana. Hopefully I'll feel tired, energized, sad, ecstatic, angry, delighted, sore, and incredibly lucky. I know from experience that I'll not be worried one little bit about any of the details that are in my head right now. My life will be grossly simplified: ride, eat, sleep, and a quick trip behind the privacy sheet, then back to riding. Nothing else will matter very much. And I've got to say that I'm looking forward to that – very much.

Off to the gym. Time to clear the head.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Catch and Release

Had a great training day today! I've been inching toward riding all the way to the Mid-Valley Bicycle Club (Corvallis, OR) Saturday rides. First, I drove to the ride. Then, I drove to Monroe (about halfway). This week - Harrisburg - a 25-mile "commute" to the ride start. I left Harrisburg at 7AM - plenty of time to get a flat tire and still make the 9AM ride, if not the informal coffee-and-BS at 8:30.
As a bonus for starting in Harrisburg, I got to travel one of my all-time favorite cycling roads - Peoria Road. It follows the Willamette River, winding and mainly flat, with good pavement. It was still dark, so I was riding with lights, enjoying myself, minding my own business. Maybe the lack of visual stimulus made my nose keener, or maybe it's just that good: the Country Bakery. Damn. Or, rather, "Dang" - the Country Bakery is run by Mennonite women who don't take to rough language. The Carbent turned itself into the parking lot. Obediently, I went in and picked up a tray of sour cream twists. Just in case. (If I got two flats, for example, and I was late getting to the start, I'd not be in time for an Allan Bros. scone...). They were still warm, and it was hard to not dive in right away - but I resisted. After all, I'm in training.
Of course, with the added insurance, I got in to Corvallis in very good order - for the first time in MVBC history, I was the first one to show up! I picked up a scone and coffee, and it wasn't but a minute or two before more riders started dribbling in. We were headed to Bellfountain - a great ride that starts flat and gets a little hilly in the middle.
Lots of people were admiring the Carbent. I answered a lot of questions. When the hills took off in earnest, a couple of faster riders got away from the main group. Since recumbents can't climb, I gave them a solid 200m before I gave chase. I caught at the crest of the first hill, screamed down the other side, and regrouped at Inavale school. I had plenty of time to nosh one of the sour cream twists before the main group came through.
From that point on, I did variations on "catch-and-release" (let a rider go, reel them in, and let them catch me back) and "cat-and-mouse" (catch and pass a rider, let them almost get back on, then accelerate away) for most of the rest of the ride. Great training! HUGE motivation to put out good effort, and quality recovery. I got to take some time to catch up on current events with Joe and Maria, too, which was great. Hadn't seen them in quite some time.
After we got back to Corvallis, I found a restroom, refilled the water bottles, and slipped the second sour cream twist down. I decided that it wanted some company; rather than burn the third one right away (I only had four...) I stopped at a minimart and - in honor of Joe - got a corn dog. Ah...fat, salt, protein, mustard. That should balance out the sugar bomb!

Uneventful ride down to Harrisburg. Despite a threatening weather forecast, it didn't rain, which I certainly appreciated. Just over 100 miles, felt great the whole time, looking forward to more of the same tomorrow.
Did the last two twists make it all the way home? What do you think?
Expecting to make it all the way to Corvallis from Eugene next week; that will make a 130-140 mile ride. Hopefully I can get a few more weeks of quality riding in before the gang gets too fed up with my antics.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Happy New Year

I got to spend some quality RAAM time over the New Year - went down to Arcata to visit David Bradley. He coughed up (not literally, he's the picture of health going into his surgery next week) a BUNCH of resources to make my stay a mini training camp.

We arrived bright and early on New Years' Eve day. I'd definitely count 2AM as early, and we were as bright as anyone needs to be at that hour...Thursday's workout was a 2-hour spin courtesy of Jim Kern, followed by one of my favorite RAAM activities - listening to people heatedly discuss maltodextrin. Woo-hoo!

We were festive, within the limits of our advancing ages. It's only a matter of time until the US goes to Daylight Savings Time 365 days a year, so since ultracyclists are such cutting edge innovators, we decided to officially ring in the New Year at 11PM (PST), preserving an hour of sleep for...

...Vic Armijo's 9AM spin class. We took it over and more or less turned it into a RAAM reunion ride - a bunch of obnoxious RAAMsters filling the front row and making obscure comments about Wolf Creek, Yarnell Grade, and other RAAM highlights. Surprisingly, none of the "civilians" left in disgust. Vic held David and I after class an extra hour, just to make sure I was really feeling it before we headed out for our "recovery" ride.

Arcata is a pretty wonderful place to ride, really - a lot of pretty country roads (maybe a little weather-beaten in places), bike paths, and the like. On Saturday we made it as far as Clam Beach before I weenied out - ever since the chain breakage incident the week before I'd not been able to shift the front derailleur, and I was feeling a little sheepish about it, so we turned around.

And it was a good thing, too - on two counts. First, we got to help Cody fix his flat. I don't know Cody, and no one else on the ride did, either, but he was walking a perfectly good road bike, and it was threatening rain. He didn't have his flat kit with him, so we helped him out. While my Carbent was leaning against a fence, it drew the attention of the local herd. The Carbent Race Bag is Guernsey-Approved! I didn't quite know what to do with a cow-licked waterbottle (OK, I knew what NOT to do with a cow-licked water bottle..). Second - we got home just before the rain hit in earnest.

I'd love to say that when we got back I went straight out to the garage and fixed my front derailleur. But I didn't. I took a shower, and we played cards into the wee hours.

Saturday, Bill came over for a ride at a very optimistic 9AM. David and I were ready, but there was no sign of Adrienne and Robert, so we sent Bill out for an errand while I attacked my front derailleur (oh, yeah...). After my last experience, I'd dutifully hauled along my PT-MLP-1, figuring that I'd need to adjust the number of links in the chain once I was able to upshift. The problem turned out to be quite simple! The front derailleur had slipped on its mount and was too low - it physically couldn't make the shift no matter what I did. Easily fixed! And as a bonus, my chain length was just fine as-is - no PT-MLP-1 needed. I took it with me on the ride anyway. You just never know.

We rode one of David and Bill's favorite loops. I did okay on the climb - and had an absolute blast knocking out the slightly descending rollers on the way down. I think I gave Bill a decent run for his money, but he'd know better than me how much he was sandbagging.

After the ride, a little more card-playing, Chinese food for dinner, and a lot of war stories ("let me tell you about MY heat exhaustion..."), and we were off to bed.
Sunday we left quite early and drove straight up 101 to Florence before heading east on HWY 126.

The trip home got me thinking about a potentially excellent RAAM training ride - leave Bike Friday on a Friday afternoon, ride out to the coast, and ride through the night to, say, Brookings. Have to work on those logistics!

So - a good time was had by all. Not a mega-mile weekend, but a good one nonetheless. A lot of sweat and intensity, riding next to the ocean in sunny weather, and good friends old and new. Six weeks to Sebring! I've got a lot to accomplish between now and then. I'm looking forward to it!