Choices, choices

So, I have an issue. Trans Iowa is April 28th, and the Zane Grey 50 miler is the same day. Iowa is 20 hours away, the start of the Zane is 1 hour. Both courses seem excellent. I wouldn’t feel at all bad bowing out of TI, as everyone who tried got in anyway. The Zane has a fee, but plenty of openings (I think). Both are very inspiring goals, I’d say roughly of the same magnitude. I think I’ll keep up the training schedule until March, then see what’s happening.

I’ve also managed to track down (or have Speedgoat track down for me) a nice fat alloy bash ring from Blackspire, old stock made specifically for the funny Sugino 94 bcd with one bolt behind the crankarm. 34t. Excellent. Julie will be sprouting a few more speeds, with the old Dura-ace barend shifter (best shifter ever), ancient Shimano road derailleur, and a 25t Endless cog to go with the Surly 16 and 20. In the end, singlespeed is not the most versitile rig around. I want to be able to commute to work without dying on the hills, and ride pavement on a singletrack ride without uselessly coasting. The only thing I don’t like is having to put on some sort of guard on the chainstay.

The kiddies are watching an episode of The West Wing today. It’s great classroom fodder for many reasons: It’s smart TV, and pushes almost all my students’ analytical abilities. It makes civic lessons intense, personal, and realistic. It deals with visceral and contemporary issues in a fair and realtively complete manner. And television is something the sub-generation a decade younger than I is predisposed to be very, very open with. I feel cheap using it sometimes, but TV works. The West Wing is also sufficiently intellectual and boring that my formidible and grouchy reputation remains intact.

Running this afternoon?

Perfection

Is almost.

We had fog this morning, and swirling snow above 5k early this afternoon so I thought I’d be wearing goggles riding this afternoon. Not so. It stopped snowing, then 15 minutes into the ride the sun came out and I was down to long sleeves and wishing for spring-weight gloves. Tacky trail, bits of snow in the shadows, and a pack of javelinas. I also had a great snap in my legs, hard hills felt easy, and I cleaned two I’ve never managed before. The only thing that prevented a perfect run of 305 was one hill I decided to walk (one I can clean at will), just because it wasn’t in the cards to jack the heart rate up that high.

Silly, yes. Yet encouraging. Progress is indeed being made, though I still have some junk in my legs from the weekend, and sore knees. These things can be fixed; long term life is as it should be: I’m getting stronger, M is taking classes, work is productive (I had multiple students say that my profligate essay assigning helped them pass the AIMS test). And 305 will be there next week, or tomorrow.

I’m also finding it somewhat problematic to write what I want to, after all the purpose of this is to help ME (and perhaps entertain some of you). Therefore, I should only bother writing when I actually have something to say. Which is somewhat true today.

Though, work and the rest of life going well also means being busy, and being busy at this point in the day means being tired. So, I’m out.

Midwest weather

40 degrees and rainy this afternoon, with a 3-500 foot ceiling, twas a good afternoon to do some work, which is what happened. Most of a week’s worth of prep and organizing in fact, so I’m pleased. I may or may not go for a ride after the news this evening; focus is fine tuning for the Red Hot, so I’m not feeling too anxious to get out and be purposive.

M is on the other side of the mountain at a welding class, so I’m chillin’ and drinking the last of the beer in the house.

Pika


Used to be my favorite animal when I was little, and still an object of fascination. This shot must have been taken with a huge lens to be so close. Tomorrow’s class lesson, Pika distribution in the mountain ranges of the continental US and the research being done therein on genetic drift. Since the last ice age, Pika’s have become progessively more isolated in mountain regions, as metabolically they can’t live below 8 or 9k. Ergo, a unique research opportunity.

M also wants to trap one and keep it in the fridge.

Some brief technical notes

Set out to augment the narrative below.

The bike setup for yesterday was ideal. 30:20 was perfect, not too much for the climbing, able to hang with the gearies in the harder singletrack, and didn’t spin out too bad on the brief pavement (much of which was still uphill). Cockpit is ideal, Midges give great leverage for climbing. Hands got a bit beat up, but no soreness today. Weirwolf’s hook up well in the dry and rocky, provide cush and roll well. 20 front, 25 rear. And the frame kicks it, rides like a bike.

My only concern is the Swift. I want to sit too far back (almost on the frame), and am worried that this might mean its too narrow. No saddle soreness, not that I was sitting for much of the day. Jury still out.

Epic

Cliche yes, but so is “ships passing in the night” until you’ve been on one. Yesterday was epic, not in the sense that anything went wrong, but in the mental sense. We all got pushed, some more than others, and to quote Seb Grieve “its all in the mind.”

I went down to Phoenix early, to get a big sample of the riding, see people new and old, and kick my own ass. All were accomplished, but first I had to get to the beginning; which I did half an hour early. 30 minutes I could’ve been sleeping if I’d done the math. Phoenix (in the large sense) is enormous, and I was able to scoot around it on the loop interstate without dealing with traffic or route finding.

I got there, and people just kept coming. I never got a good count, but total numbers were certainly in the mid to high 30’s, probably twice as many people as I’ve ever ridden with (RAGBRAI) excluded. Quite a peloton on the road.

It being a group ride, we got strung out quick. I was not the only one on a rigid bike; two guys on matching Gunnar 29″ SS’s with pace forks and huge gears (32:18 and 19, respectively) were in attendence, and we three were soon off the front. Halfway up the 5+ mile initial climb I backed off, peeled layers and let some of gearies go by, I really didn’t want to kill myself so early in the day. The rest of the climb proceeded as an archetype for what was to come, long rocky grinds; nothing super steep or technical, but very sustained. A good hour of climbing got me to the saddle in what would become my standard position for the day: yo-yoing off the front of the second group. The views were awesome, a good breeze kept the temps very reasonable, and the two aforementioned SSers pulled out one of the four Coors oil cans they were hauling, one for each pass. Coors never tasted better, certainly at 10am.

The rest of the morning fell into a good pace, climbing and descending another pass before beginning the traverse south to Sunrise. Great variety again, with very cool twisted and rocky singletrack, in and out of washes and even under and through a rock strew culvert. I managed to crash in the silliest way, washing out in the gravel and tumbling into the rocks. Julie (my bike’s name, more in the next paragraph) lost some paint and I lost some skin. No dents, and very little blood, the benefit of riding a tank (as she was called many times).

Soon we were at the base of Sunrise. The whole area reminds me of Death Valley, in the huge litoral fans spreading out below the steeper cliffs and slopes. This is the fun of Sunrise, several miles of slow grind before the switchbacks begin. Again, I paced myself, one technique for which is following a geared rider. 30 rpm becomes normal. Eventually things steepened and I made a run for it, cranking most of the switchbacks and the steep climb above the false summit. While drinking tang I decided that Sunrise is a truly great trail. Minutes later, cranking out another gradual slope, I decided my bike would be called Julie. Julie Brooks was who I had a crush on in second grade, my prime target for snowballs and bark chips at recess. She was scary, though when I got to know her in high school I realized she was just dull. Anyway, I have a Brooks saddle now, and biking is both dull, scary, and mysterious. So, Julie it is. It made perfect sense at the time.

Down the back side, through the ritzy faux-western subdivision, onto the fire road. I actually enjoyed the chossy fire road climb, though lots of others (especially Walt) looked to be suffering. It was getting hot in the early afternoon, and I was reaping the benefits of eating and drinking enough early on. We crested out, and made a drop in of questionable legality through the future sites of million-dollar homes, to a trailhead building and our food drop. Pat, a nearby resident, had hooked up up with a huge cooler of gatorade, Paydays, pb and j, and other good stuff. I was good to go food wise, but salt and calories and hanging out on the curb were just fine. The herd had thinned to 9 by now, with inpatience and planned and unplanned exhaustion. In total a flat or two and a bent derailleur hanger, shockingly few mechanicals.

It was diffcult getting moving after such an extended and food-heavy break, but the single track on Dixie Mine was excellent. Certain steep hills I didn’t even bother with, and I managed to fall over clipped in trying to clean a rock garden. Walt was having issues with cramps, and everyone had the look of knowing they would make it but struggling with the pain of doing so. To skip the drama, the last climb was done with, the last descent beat the shit out of my hands (which had been totally fine all day, the last descent was the longest and by far the rockiest), and we were back.

Exhaulted, tired, pleased. I lingered saying goodbye, then found In n’ Out and gorged on two Double-doubles with grilled onions. Yum. Now the quick drive home was a blessing, and the episode was done.

These are the days we live for.

Quick

Cuz I need to go to sleep! Below is a great photo of me assuming the position of the day.


I forgot to set my altimeter log, but I think we logged around 6k of up in over 30 miles and 8ish hours. Gorgeous, gorgeous, fantastic riding.

My hydration and nutrition was ideal, body felt good, bike was perfect. My hands took a beating on the 5 mile rocky descent at the end of the day, to be expected. Great riding, great weather, great people, great day.

The fly in the ointment is that my parents old pug, Perky, was put down this afternoon. We got her from friends the summer after my dad died, and she was a large-hearted and wonderful creature for many years, even as she grew increasingly deaf and arthritic these last years. She would wake herself up snoring, and in her old age stare up at you with benign impatience waiting to be picked up and carried down the stairs. RIP.

Bits and pieces


Small version of tomorrows ride, courtesy of Dale (epicrider). Good stuff.

2.5 hours skiing today, trails icy from the last week’s freeze-thaw, but beautiful and a good workout.

“Found” a new and much faster way to Flag courtesy of M and mapquest last night. Yeah, it’s been that obvious for the last 6 months. Dumb.

Still contemplating messing with the bike. No action to be taken for a while, patience is not something I’m good at.

And for this evening, nothing at all.

On a technical note, I did take at look at WTB’s Mountain Road drop bars (two in stock at Absolute Bikes), their new take on the classic dirt drop.


As you can see in the above photo, they’ve got a weird pseudo-ergo bend near the end of the drops. It seemed to me, holding them, that this would put pressure on the heel of your hands while in the drops (ie while braking). Also, the far end of this bend seems too short to be that useful by itself. A pity, as the bar solves the only complaint I have about Midge bars, that the hooks are too short. Currently I have chair plugs extending mine .3″, covered in Oury’s they provide fine support, but the short hook slims down the huge advantage of being able to shift your grip around. I’m very satisfied with the plugs, but I don’t have very large hands.

The example I saw was also a 31.8 clamp, which for this application seems pointless.

Yes, Midge bars really are all that. Aside from the aforementioned, I can’t think of anything I’d alter. They’ve exceeded my expectations in every riding situation.

English NOT the National Language

I am in the midst of the good ole News Hour, and a story on the Voice of America and it using English, or not. A commentator lamenting English not basking in exclusivity, comparing it to Radio Moscow not using Russian, Radio France not French, etc, etc.

We are America, and it might be a good thing for it to be said that our colonialist past should be cast aside. Let’s start including people and saying things, rather than being zenophobic and being preoccupied with how we say it.

Yes, I feel foolish living in this state and not knowing Spanish.