Sunday, December 30, 2007

Cold feet ?

Sunday, 30 December
Happy Birthday, Old as Dirt !

[warning: unsolicited product endorsement follows]

One of the biggest challenges for me of winter training is keeping my hands and feet warm on cold, sometimes wet, rides. I've been doing pretty well with heavy fleece socks and two pairs of booties, but I just added something new to my arsenal: Toasty Feet.

I bought these from Sahalie mainly as a way to inflate the value of my Christmas order to the minimum for free shipping. I forgot about them when the box arrived until it was time to wrap the gift inside. They went for their first bike rides this weekend.

They are inserts that replace the liners that came with your cycling shoes; they probably won't work if you have special orthotics, although the packaging says you can just put them on top of whatever you're currently using. They have a rubber layer that faces out (down) and a waffly "nanoporous" layer that keeps your body heat next to your foot. "NASA space-age insulation," "microscopic air pockets," blah blah blah. I was dubious but always eager for warmer extremities.

On Saturday's 5-hour ride, I wore them with two pairs of booties, and sometimes my feet were almost too warm. Not like overheated on a long, hot climb in the middle of July when the hotspots pop up in odd places on your feet, but just really toasty and a little sweaty. The temperature was about 37 degrees for most of the ride. Today's ride was shorter (4 hours) and marginally warmer, and I only wore one pair of booties. I could feel that the insoles warmed the bottoms of my feet while the mesh in my shoes was creating a colder draft across the tops of my feet. Microclimates, indeed. But wiggling my toes every once in a while seemed to redistribute the warmth and banish the cold.

These things are going to stay in my training shoes for the rest of the winter. At $15, they're better than buying toe warmer packets that go into the trash. I'll be curious to see how they do on a wet ride. Maybe we won't have any more of those this winter? Yeah, right! :)

Monday, December 24, 2007

Enjoying the weather ?

Friday, 28 December

I was born a short ferry ride from Seattle (not short enough for a woman in labor) and moved to the city when I was about a year old. With that Northwest Native upbringing, I'm not affected in the least by seasonal affective disorder. I almost enjoy this weather. It's soothing. It makes you enjoy things like hot spiced wine and fireplace fires and snuggly sweaters. It's how winter here is supposed to be. It's like prozac that evens out the more exciting--good and bad--weather patterns we get in Seattle. It's dreary to some but comforting to me.

I was thinking of this on a cold, wet 4-hour ride last Sunday, enjoying the subtle palette of colors in the Snohomish valley. The first few words of a Christmas carol I never learned kept popping to mind, so I went home and looked them up. They really seem to describe winter here, except that some of the layers of snow might be replaced by puddles of water.

In the bleak midwinter, frost wind made moan,
earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;
snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow,
in the bleak midwinter, long ago.

And really it only looks bleak if you're grumpy and think it's monochromatic and are looking for something to complain about. On a short lunchtime walk yesterday, I found bursts of color breaking up the endless shades of grey.

Lest you try to read between the lines, I assure you that I don't find riding my bike in this particularly comforting or soothing or enjoyable. But those glorious days of summer would be so much less remarkable if we didn't have bleak midwinter days for contrast.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Congrats to the happy couple !

Sunday, 23 December

Another holiday party last night.
Not the usual fare, though.
Nuptials (a surprise!) between courses.
Even the groom shed a tear.
Twas touching and exciting and beautiful.
Two special people whose lives are now joined in a new way.
Everyone should be so lucky.

A few guests knew the purpose of the occasion, but
No one gave it away to those of us in the dark.
Did I say they picked their date just six days ago?

Kisses abounded.
Embraces were warm.
None of the candles outshone the bride's beautiful glow.
No one was more sincere than the groom with his vows.
You two are now one--it's official.

Congratulations! 22 December 2007

Friday, December 21, 2007

Ho ho ho

it's still Friday, 21 December

This was a new venture for me: I've never put a pompon (no, that's not a typo--google it) on a hat before. They're a lot of work, but a necessity for this item!
On this, the longest night of the year, I made fudge, biscotti, gingerbread, dinner, glog (hot spiced wine), and soup for post-ride lunch tomorrow. And a Santa hat. Ho ho ho!


Friday, 21 December

* Too Much Excitement.

Very few people in my building came to work today, and things have been quiet--with notable exceptions. During the lunch hour, a group of brass players gathered outside the building next door for their annual holiday serenade and commenced to play their way through just about every carol in the repertory. The weird thing was that it seemed they had never heard the music before. The lead trumpet player was particularly prone to clams, and accidentals in the music usually went unobserved (even when the verse was repeated). Still, in an oddly festive sort of way, it was "real" music and almost better than having, say, the Canadian Brass playing a live Christmas concert outside your office window. I look forward to this performance every year.

My listening experience was rudely interrupted, however. Yesterday was the annual test of the building's fire alarm system. We were advised to turn off our computers (because of the switch to emergency power--you never know what might happen) but got to stay in our offices to endure the fire alarm and "this is only a test" PA announcements for a few minutes. So when the alarm went off today, the first thought was "oh, they forgot to do something yesterday." A head check out my door, though, revealed that others were being good citizens and leaving the building. I grabbed all my worldly goods (it might be hours before we get back in) and joined the group in front of our building. Turned out that somebody overcooked something in the microwave. No fire in the building, but so much smoke still in the air that I think I might have to leave early. :) We tried not to laugh when six firefighters in full gear showed up for a microwave meltdown; some of them were pretty serious but the last ones to leave were laughing with us. The offending pile of melted plastic and food has been ceremoniously placed atop the pedestal that used to house a bust of the building's namesake. No one has come forward as the offending chef.

I'm hoping my holiday baking at home tonight is not nearly as exciting.

Buses, cereal, and hats

Friday, 21 December

Today was the first bus day of the season. This morning our driveway twinkled and the street was a sheet of black ice with little rock nubbins poking out, so no bike commute for me. The bus schedule had changed since last year (imagine that!), so I was rather later to work than I expected. But nobody else was here when I got in!

Yesterday morning I got a funny surprise in my cereal box. I didn't even notice when I bought the box, but it contained a small children's book ("collect all six!"). I had a good laugh when I pulled this out. The first page says "Do YOU have a hat? Something fuzzy, warm, and red, to keep the snowflakes off your head?" Indeed, I've been working on this fuzzy one that I'll give away today, and also a red (Santa) one that gets given away tomorrow.

Happy winter solstice tomorrow! Stay warm!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Sweets and shopping

Tuesday, 18 December (again)

I did some more Christmas baking today, this time meringues to go along with the chocolate raspberry torte for Christmas dinner. They are sweet but light--just egg whites and sugar, plus orange zest in some and coffee powder in others. The orange ones are best. They might not last til Christmas. :) Instead of making freeform blobs with teaspoons, I used my pastry bag and a rosette, and they look pretty fancy!

I also made another visit to A New Yarn and really stocked up. I need to make a couple of hats this week for Christmas. The shop has a big basket of yarn that's been donated, and they give you a plastic grocery bag, you fill it up (!), and it costs $3 for the whole lot. So in addition to 4 skeins of yarn for the aforementioned hats, I got some beautiful blue Icelandic wool, some stretchy brown stuff that has inch-long wormy bits sticking out all over (it'll make great hat trim), and gobs of baby yarn. If we have any snow days, I am set!

Rejoice !

Tuesday, 18 December

Sunset today is later than it was yesterday!! That's the first step toward days getting longer. The winter solstice is this Saturday; a few days after that, sunrise will start getting earlier. You'll be able to shelve all your bike lights before you know it...well....soonish....

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Out-of-town riding

Sunday, December 16
(tomorrow is Beethoven's birthday!)

Today was the long-appointed day for a FRM women's team ride in the hometown that claims the largest number of our riders: Bainbridge Island. Last night, the weather forecast was ugly, but there was not a speck of rain today until I got in the car after the ferry ride back to Seattle. We had some blue sky, some great views of sunshine on the Olympics, and a mid-Sound treat of unrestricted views of snowclad Rainier and Baker.

Sometimes I knew where I was, mostly I didn't. We stopped for shots (espresso with milk and a tad bit of sugar) in Port Gamble, we bypassed downtown Poulsbo by riding through the parking lot next to the marina, and we had a scenic tour along Lemolo Road. We also did some of those vicious, short, steep hills that Bainbridge is famous for. It was a terrific ride with good company--and local knowledge of a super coffee shop to finish off a great day while we waited for our ship to come in.

Total miles today were 47. After yesterday's low psi ride plus a trip to the gym to lift weights yesterday afternoon, 47 was plenty. And my legs are looking forward to just sitting in my chair at work tomorrow!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

50 psi x 28 mm = not so fast

Saturday, Ides of December

I think my rear tire has a super slow leak. My team ride had to wait for me, like, 30 times today. I got dropped going down a 3% untechnical hill with a tailwind--and I was working hard. The tire was a little bouncy sometimes, although I never thought it was flat and it didn't seem to get worse. I did seem to get slower, though. :) Still, my average speed was over 15 mph for 81 miles with something like a thick layer of, well, cookie dough for a rear tire (as opposed to the spare tire of cookie dough accumulating on me!). Maybe this will make my workout on my race bike on the CycleU computrainer this week seem effortless?

Bad day for crashes. Best wishes to Richard and Andrew for speedy recoveries!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Another good cause

Tuesday, 11 December

Short version: Lisa and Friends will be signing copies of their calendar to raise funds for breast cancer charities at Third Place Books (which shares space with the Honey Bear Bakery) in Lake Forest Park shopping center (about a mile from Log Boom Park) this Friday, December 14, at 6:30. The calendar features beautiful photography and would make a great present for some on your holiday list.

Longer version: "13 women, including several who are either fighting, or have survived breast cancer, have posed nude for a calendar celebrating both women's vulnerability and strength in the face of this disease." One of those calendar girls is my teammate, Lisa Lund. "Sales of the calendar have raised about $22,000 for charity so far -- money Lund has earmarked to help pay for mammograms for uninsured, or underinsured women." More information on the calendar, the women it features, and how cycling helped Lisa get through her cancer treatment is in an article in last week's Post-Intelligencer:

Also see the photographer's website for some of the incredible images in this calendar:

I hope to see you at Third Place Books on Friday evening! (And if you didn't already sign the petition to preserve libraries in our schools, read and follow up on the posting below.)

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Save school libraries

Sunday, 9 December (another snow day)

I work in higher education and am proud to say I frequently use the biggest library in the State of Washington and rely on the expertise of its professional librarians. Unfortunately, there's a move afoot to cut libraries and librarians in our public schools, which will reduce information literacy among students and cut access to information technology for those who don't have those resources at home.

Please take a few minutes to sign a petition supporting school libraries in Washington State. The petition was started by a parent in the Spokane Schools who has witnessed how the district has cut library programs over the past few years and decided to try to change the tide. Join the over 300 Washingtonians in asking for funding for school libraries across the state. Here is what Lisa, the petition's founder, says:

"Can you take a moment to sign a petition that advocates for WA school libraries and information technology? Cuts have occurred around the state: libraries sit dark sometimes up to 3 days out of the week and new proposals for further reductions in the next school year are already emerging. A state-wide petition has been launched. It is our hope that as many WA residents as possible sign to send the message that we do not want our school libraries and information literacy compromised. This is where you come in. Can you please sign the petition and forward to as many people and organizations as possible?

"We have a chance for Washington to take a stand on what is happening around the country. Tucson's school district has just proposed eliminating librarians and replacing them with aides beginning the next school year. We are optimistic that, if this campaign is successful, WA school libraries and their programs will no longer be at risk and we can inspire other states to take a stand as well."

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

We broke it !

Wednesday, 5 December

About 3/10 of a mile from the finish of my 10K TT (how's that for mixing units of measure?) at CycleU tonight, the CompuTrainer system broke. The clock kept running, but the program stopped measuring distance, watts, and other critical data. O.A.D. and one other guy had finished; the rest of us, of course, were on pace for PR times--and you'll never be able to disprove that! :)

Before our little spin at Sand Point, I did my first holiday "baking" of the season. I'm not sure it's baking when the only thing that happened in the oven was toasting the almonds. But the end result is luscious: chocolate almond toffee. It's further proof that you can combine butter and sugar with most anything (chocolate and almonds, in this case) and have a tasty result. This is reserved for "hostess gifts" for the holiday season (not everybody gets hats!), so we definitely have to keep our hands out of the cookie tin (as if 3/4 of a pound of butter wasn't reason enough)!

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Unboring weather

Tuesday, 4 December

We've had pretty extreme weather in these parts since last Saturday, with unpleasant consequences for some. But I looked out my window at work today in one of those gully-washer showers and saw this. Almost as good as the snow scenes over the weekend.

The list of roads closed in King and Snohomish counties reads like a list of where we ride every weekend. Hopefully things will dry up a little by Saturday!

Saturday, December 01, 2007

A New Yarn

Saturday, 1 December

After what was a great ride for the first day of December, in Seattle (no ice, no rain, a little sunshine), I first visited a local indulgerie (yes, it's a bakery/coffee shop, but not as, um, industrial as Starbucks and way tastier--and hence probably way more indulgent). Then, since I had put on so many clothes for the bike ride that I was not frozen despite 3+ hours on the bike in sub-40-degree temps, I decided to check out a yarn shop with a mission that I didn't even know was in my neighborhood. I hope the feature in this morning's paper brings them a lot of crafters and stitchers from north Seattle:

It's a small shop with big windows on one whole side and a big table for socializing while working on your latest project. They carry a lot of the yarns I use for hats, so I will be going back. They teased me when I said I didn't "need" any more yarn right now: yarn is sort of like bikes--never too much or too many. They had some great cotton yarn in Christmas colors, but the only thing I know how to knit with cotton is dish cloths, and who really wants a Christmas dish cloth?

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Teammates--or, cross training

Thursday, 29 November

I have some amazingly strong teammates. One of 'em suggests stand-up paddle surfing for your next core workout! I guess it can't be much colder or wetter than riding a bike in 38 degrees and rain....

Tuesday, November 27, 2007


Tuesday, 27 November

You gotta read this:

LFG Adrian is in Nice, training to race at Mason Lake, in shorts, in the sleety rain/snow mix. Well, that's one way to read it, anyway. The pictures hurt, but the prose is great.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Accidental bike fit

Sunday, 25 November

For about 2 months, the saddle on my rain bike has made annoying, squeaking, creaking sounds. Not-so-subtle hints to my live-in mechanic brought no results, so finally last night I took matters into my own hands. I had realized that I was beginning to dread long rides because after 40-50 miles, sitting on the saddle and pedaling was agony. It occurred to me that maybe the saddle was done and needed to be retired, although there wasn't all that much deflection when I pushed down on it. My plan was to borrow my saddle off the tandem (since I need my race bike intact for CycleU TTs) and replace the hand-me-down on the rain bike.

Turns out the squeaking was for good reason: one of the two bolts holding the saddle on the seatpost clamp was gone. Said mechanic said no, we don't have any of those bolts, but here's another saddle and a new seatpost (I can't find a zip tie on his workbench, but he can locate a saddle and a seatpost--go figure!). So with a new hand-me-down saddle and a brand new seatpost, I was good to go for today's ride.

Genius here remembered to measure saddle height before the new installation, and she got out the spirit level to make sure it wasn't cock-eyed, but she forgot about the distance from saddle to bars. 20 feet down the driveway and I knew my position was different. But it didn't seem bad, and I was late, so I kept going. And after 60 miles today, my back and other body parts were so much happier than yesterday.

No, it didn't help me overcome the lethargy of the 28mm armadillo rear tire, but sometimes you just know things aren't right when it hurts to ride your bike, even at the risk of sounding like a princess with a pea. And this one was even a pretty quick fix. Now I've got to go straighten out my stem and see if that takes out the kink I've had in my neck since I started riding the rain bike back in September....

Friday, November 23, 2007

Another day of thanks

Friday, 23 November

Ever have one of those great rides where you're just happy to be out on your (heavy, slow) bike, looking at snow-capped mountains all around, blue sky and sunshine, pastures full of cows, empty roads, and a pastry case in the bakery that has too many choices? So much to be thankful for....

Tuesday, November 20, 2007


Tuesday, 20 November

19 hours door to door today from Dublin to home. Here are some of the photos I couldn't post while I was away.

I stopped in my tracks when I saw this shirt (and a sweatshirt with a big purple W) in a sports shop in Co Wicklow. This is Adidas clothing, and last time I checked Nike was the Huskies' official clothing company. The only other U.S. team on any clothing in this shop was the Yankees, so I am still puzzling about how the Dawgs got there.

I think this "morning coffee" set us back about $18.

I found a great running loop on this trip in one of Dublin's nicer suburbs (near a horse race track, past a golf course, past the Egyptian ambassador's house, and past a HUGE park). Most of it had some sort of sidewalk (sometimes all of 18 inches wide)--this was the only dodgy bit.

Compulsory visit to Grafton Street, the famous pedestrian-only shopping street at the center of Dublin. All decked out for Christmas, of course. The shop windows at Brown Thomas had amazing holiday scenes!

This is Terminal 4 at Heathrow Airport in London. I decided today that globalization is just a big word for same-ization. Even the furniture and the milk pitchers were exactly the same as they are in the Starbucks that's 1/4 mile from my house. But hey, in London they gave me 55 cents off for using my own mug (instead of the 10 cents I save here).

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Emerald isle

Monday, 19 November

Ireland is called the Emerald Isle. It stays green because it rains so much (less than it does in Seattle, actually, but nobody here believes that). They have a lovely phrase for gentle mist: "soft rain." It soaks you in about 15 minutes on the bike, but otherwise it's not so bad. However, what we've been in for here this time is "lashing rain." The kind that soaks you in a 30-second walk from the car to the door, the kind that beats on the skylights at 1:53 a.m. and keeps me awake and forces me to blog. Here are some other observations about things and how they happen here.

Fat. We took O.A.D.'s mother to lunch on Sunday. The man at the table next to us had a whole plate of pate for his first course, then proceeded to a main course of steak plus at least a litre by volume of chips (french fries) and an equal amount of onion rings. We left before he got dessert. In the supermarket yesterday morning, I was trying to find some low-fat yogurt and I always read yogurt labels anyway to make sure I'm not getting any gelatin (mad cow). The first stuff I picked up had not only whole milk, but whipping cream! I'm sure it was yummy....

Being green. We saw an ad on TV that reminded us that one recycled aluminum can saves enough electricity to keep your TV running for 3 hours. We are reminded to conserve water, although I'm not sure why (see first paragraph above). To recycle glass, you have to take it to a special bottle bank (usually in public car parks), but most everything else is picked up kerbside. An English brand of smoothies available in Ireland, Innocent, comes in a bottle that looks like plastic but the label proudly states that it's made from corn and completely compostable.

Prices. Muffins in bakeries are usually $3-4--and muffins have a short tradition here, so I'm not sure they're anything like worth that much. Bananas work out to about the same price as at home. The organic low-fat yogurt I bought yesterday was only slightly more expensive (and tastier, and localer) than what I get at home. Chocolate in good Euro brands (Lindt, Green and Black) is less expensive but so far I have resisted. Nutella is lots cheaper and, as Nathan pointed out, has no trans fats, unlike the same brand sold in the U.S. But taking the cake so far was a pair of pajamas I bought for 4.50 euro, or about $6.75. They were probably made by child slave labor in Asia (or eastern Europe). The fabric alone would easily cost $20 in Seattle. That allows nothing for labor, transport, or middle-man mark-up. Boggled my mind, so I had to buy a pair.

Yarn and coffee are on the agenda for today (after it stops raining enough to sleep). The Irish yarn shop that's first on everyone's list is on a famous (but tiny) street in the heart of Dublin; I can't imagine there are any bargains there, but I hope there's some nice Irish wool that will keep Dwan's head warm in his battle with cancer. Also on the agenda may be coffee at Bewley's, which has been a coffee shop in Dublin for probably a century longer than Starbucks has been around. Of course, if we stumble upon a Starbucks, we might have to go in and inspect the premises for Zana. To get into town, we'll ride the Luas, Dublin's second commuter rail system.

Hope to see you on O.A.D.'s Thanksgiving ride to benefit Northwest Harvest (scroll down this page in the News & Distractions sidebar for more info).

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Your personal postcard

Saturday, 17 November

Greetings from Dublin, and I don't mean Ohio or California! I've been taking pictures to post here, but I'm a "guest" on this computer and it won't open or upload anything off the camera. Weather's been great so far...well, dry anyway. No bikes this trip, so I've been running each morning to offset the substantial amount of eating that happens during the rest of the day. This morning I found the residence of the Egyptian ambassador. You can be sure there were a lot of cameras and lights and locks on the gates on that driveway!

The highlight planned for yesterday's agenda was visiting one of the best yarn shops in Ireland (there aren't very many). Sadly, the business had closed (so much for Google searches). But we did get in a wonderful walk on the beach (did anybody ever tell you that Ireland has some of the best beaches in the world?). One of the pictures I took yesterday was of the tray with our morning coffee/lunch. 18 euro/$27 for 2 cups of coffee and sweet stuff.

In all the shopping I did yesterday, the most interesting thing was finding a bargain on peanut butter. I have yet to meet anyone here who likes the stuff (O.A.D. has been converted by living with me), yet there in the health food store was a one-kilo tub of pure ground peanuts (no added oil or salt or sugar) for about $9. While there's lots of organic food available here, being a "locavore" or considering the carbon impact of your food purchases hasn't caught on. That same health food store sold a lot of honey--from New Zealand. Thanks to greenhouses, though, you can buy fresh Irish strawberries in the supermarket right now.

The big excitement is that Bill's in town for a fundraiser for Hillary. Due to U.S. campaign laws, only U.S. citizens are allowed to pay for the tickets (because they amount to a campaign contribution). We haven't quite figured out who's going--a bunch of U.S. expats? Not us; we're headed down to Wexford this afternoon to visit family who live next door to the John F. Kennedy Arboretum.

Happy riding this weekend. For all of you who think I never take rest weeks or time off the bike, this is my second consecutive weekend sans bicycle. At least here (unlike CO Springs) there's enough oxygen to breathe to making running a viable alternative! Gotta run--I need a refill on my Christmas Blend.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Word play

Tuesday, 13 November


They derive from rhyming roots: numb, dumb, and crumb.

So how come the B is silent in numbly and dumbly, but not in crumbly?

Monday, November 12, 2007

New in the Gin Optics line

Veterans Day

PruDOG was being CATTY and wouldn't tell me for sure what colors are and aren't in the 2008 Axley/Gin Optics kit. So I had to wing it when I started making hats for the newbies on the team. I hope the color scheme didn't switch to purple and green!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

The Springs

Saturday, 10 November

This is one place that's probably more glamorous in your dreams than it is in person.

I wonder how many of these "go missing" every year....

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

WTF is up?

Tuesday, 6 November

Alright already, we should've moved past the fireworks of the 5th of November by now. Yahoo and Comcast have been dysfunctional all day, and Topica hasn't delivered a message I sent 11 hours ago (sorry, TiCycles!) (can I say yet that the WSBA will soon launch its own listserv off Topica?). What's up? Are secret internet forces conspiring to make me actually do work at work? Am I supposed to be happy that my Armadillo didn't flat in 20 whopping miles today and just let go on the email thing? If you think I'm ignoring an important email message, well, I'm not...really...I just don't know it's there. Argh.

Saturday, November 03, 2007


Saturday, 3 November

120. That's how miles I got in on my super tough, super slow, solid-rubber-with-tread armadillo tires before I got a flat. Tiny piece of glass sliced right through. Of course, since the tire was so stiff, it took me 20 minutes to get it off, replace the tube, and get the tire back on again. Ironically enough, I was on my way to a team ride, and my teammates waited for me--longer than they would've waited if I'd flatted my friendly old tire that slipped on and off. Just whose bright idea was this?

Friday, November 02, 2007

Random thoughts

Friday, 2 November

I love this view from the stairwell next to my office. The colors just keep getting better (although the camera phone doesn't do them justice).

One-time, end-of-season race reimbursements make for a nice chunk of change. The team never shared its magic formula for making such calculations, but it turns out I was the most frequent racer (out of 200+ team members) and the check is generous. Thanks, JCV!

I second the suggestion by Anonymous that NWBuckeye should write a web page for promoters on how to professionally put on a bike race. It's some advice that could use sharing. I think the WSBA could make a home for such guidance.

Alastair, who crashed on a shoe last Saturday, is in great spirits. He's in a neck brace for 6 weeks, so no driving, no riding, and (in his words) no driving Formula One for a while. He had a humdinger of a black eye when I saw him earlier in the week and was due to have his cheekbone screwed and pinned back together yesterday. He carries on with his other hobby, though, and will have a showing of his photography at the U-Frame It on Broadway from November 14 through December 31. The title of the exhibit is "Fully Exposed," and let's just say that the photos are probably mostly of women. I was going to post a picture of the photo from the announcement, but that's probably a violation of his artistic property rights and Coach Curly would get on my case for violating his sense of family values.

Tomorrow is the WSBA calendar meeting when we get fodder for planning next year's race season. OBRA has been at this for two months, so it will be interesting to see what major conflicts develop. Most interesting so far is that the women's race at Mt. Hood (and not the men's race) is on the UCI calendar and the event has moved to mid-May. So now I'd need a UCI license to do one of the stage races closest to home?

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Most expensive tires ever

Tuesday, 30 October

Earlier this month, I had a string of about 6 flats in 2 weeks. I had a similar experience when I dusted off the rain bike last year too, but a pair of new tires seemed to solve the problem. This year, the cycling products procurement person in my household (and the teammates who stood around and watched me fix all those flats) decided that I needed bigger and better tires to solve the problem. I think they are going to turn out to be the most expensive tires he's ever seen--and I don't mean the purchase price.

Because I moaned when I saw the size and weight of the new super-tough armadillo tires, I currently only have one on my rear wheel. It's 28 mm wide. Yesterday was its maiden voyage. Oh, the difference! It does not accelerate. It provides even greater contact with the bumps on the Burke Gilman Trail to maximize wear and tear on the bike and on my nerves and other body parts. Mostly, though, it just takes its own sweet time. How do I describe the exhilaration of going downhill with a tailwind at 14 mph? What greater fun can there be than going up a 15% hill with heavy headlight battery, backpack, and tires that stick to the pavement?

The cycling coach in my household tells me that this will make my winter training even better. "Think how easy it will be when you get on your race bike!" Here's some advance warning to the peloton: come next March, I probably won't be able to handle my race bike because it will accelerate all over the place and go downhill so fast that I'll finally have an excuse for my poor descending skills.

The hidden costs in these tires are the time my teammates are going to have to wait for me on team rides all winter long (those same male teammates who said I needed a pair of armadillos) and the price of a winter vacation somewhere warm and dry where I can ride a bike without super-wide tires to remember what it's like. I'm thinking I've discovered yet another dimension of the cycling industry where what works for the male of the species is somehow less than ideal for the female. And just you wait until one of these tough, gnarly babies flats and I have to get it off and back on the wheel!

[I think I discovered too why I got to ride tandem both days last weekend: one less weekend for me to whine about going slow on my lethargic tire.]

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Never cross a shoe

Sunday, 28 October

Sometime Friday night, a woman's pump with stylish pointy toes and a 4-inch heel was scorned and rejected along Rainier Avenue. Or perhaps Cinderella dropped it on her way home from a pre-Halloween ball. In either case, it laid patiently in wait for the hordes of cyclists who would pass that way on Saturday morning. As one large group passed, it flew up from the road and into the spokes of an unsuspecting rider, albeit one who appreciates women's legs in 4-inch heels. His bike stopped instantly, throwing him face down onto the road and toppling other riders in the melee. Of the three in that new love-hate triangle--shoe, bike, rider--the shoe suffered only some minor road rash on her stiletto heel. The bike's fork and front fender were dealt a fatal blow, but the heavy old frame will ride again another day and the invincible Rolf wheels don't even need truing. The rider, sadly, had damage to multiple bones: skull, cheekbone, vertebra, and ribs. He will not be back on that bike or any bike any time soon. Perhaps he talked the ER staff into a few extra stitches on his face so he'll have a handy costume for Halloween this Wednesday?

Yes, the scorned shoe has found a new home. The ambulance folks left the rider's shoes with his bike, and we made sure the stiletto was added to complete that threesome. Maybe it won't be bronzed, and it will probably never see another night of dancing, but I suspect it will be the talk of at least one household for a good while to come.

The moral of this tale is not about how you treat your shoes but about wearing your helmet. There are things out there beyond your wildest dreams just waiting to take down a cyclist. You can be the best bike handler and most experienced rider out there, you can be on a road you've ridden a thousand times, and all it takes is one lonesome black shoe and--poof--you could be part of one of those I-don't-believe-this-is-happening-to-me ordeals that we don't wish on anyone!

Heal fast, Alastair!!

Thursday, October 25, 2007


Thursday, 25 October

It's a full moon, so you'll just have to pardon the odd digression here.

Has anybody ever felted anything? (Get your mind out of middle school.) I figured the next step in my hat making is to learn how to felt. Through the felting process, a knitted item completely changes texture (shrinks) so that it no longer looks like a piece of twisted and tortured yarn but a smooth, tight, wooly piece of fabric. Turns out the process is not rocket science, just a bit mysterious and not quite certain, which I guess explains the thrill.

I wonder if I can felt pieces of the antique (ancient, decrepit) Pendleton blanket I have. It has bald spots and holes and really has outlived its life as a blanket (I remember that my grandparents used it in its early old age to protect apples in their shed all winter so it's probably 75 years old). If I can bear to cut it up, can I make felted placemats or bowls (for potpourri, not cornflakes) or maybe scarves or a table runner?

Felting websites cover felting a knitted item and carded wool (lacking sheep in my backyard, I'll have to settle for already crafted items). In a touch of the bizarre, I found one blogger who felted her cat's fur so that she'd have some part of him to treasure always. I understand the sentiment, but somehow the end result seems a little....gross.

All I have to do to felt a hat is make one that's 25% too big, run it through the hot-water wash cycle in my washing machine a few times, rinse, wring, and shape to dry. The mysterious part is you don't know how any particular yarn will break down in this process, and you don't know how much any given item will shrink. They say that it produces a lot of lint--and it's addictive. What else am I going to do on a rainy weekend when I've had enough of riding my bike through puddles besides pummel a poor hat in the washing machine? Stay tuned....

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

My name is Phrehdde

Tuesday, 23 October

I thought about trying to find a ride partner for a little post-work spin this afternoon, but it's a good thing I didn't: everyone I know would've been mortified to ride with me. See, when I left for work this morning, it was dark and cold-ish. You know, time for tights and calf-high fleece socks and all those creature-comfort sorts of things. Who cares that the shorts are 5 years old when you wear tights too? I was pretty proud of myself for remembering a short-sleeved jersey for the balmy afternoon temps that were promised.

The thermometer on my local website said it was 75 degrees when I was packing up to leave work. Nix the tights. Um, are these shorts even decent? (At least I shaved my legs recently!) Can I roll down my socks around my ankles so maybe the wild pattern doesn't show too much? Oh, that short-sleeved jersey is pink (to match my Axley/Gin Optics Stungunners, of course), and the shorts were once red, white, blue, and black. Argh!

I saw lots of folks out there, but thankfully no one felt obliged to ride with me and comment on my wardrobe. It's no wonder the ex-teammates who passed didn't even acknowledge my existence (but most of them don't wave or nod even when you're wearing the same jersey). The Husky cycling team was about as randomly attired as I was. Clint was Mr. Stylish in full team kit from his wrists to his ankles. I passed one TGHer in team colors down to her gloves. I was in the last 5 miles of my ride before I found a worse fred than me; he still had his dress socks on.

But who cares!!! It was a glorious afternoon to ride a bike. It was the kind of day that Argentius claims we didn't have any of all summer long. The kind of day when PruDog could've lost 40 pounds in a 2.5-hour ride. It would've been a gift any time of year; a full month after the autumnal equinox, it was a thrill. I didn't even mind riding the rain bike....too much.

(I have surely jinxed myself and will no doubt be swimming my way to work tomorrow morning.)

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Press release

Wednesday, 17 October (updated 22 October)

SEATTLE – The First Rate Mortgage Cycling Team is pleased to announce the expansion and development of its women’s squad for 2008. With returning riders and new recruits, the FRM women’s team now totals 14 female athletes in categories 2-4.

The first contingent of women to be added to the team roster hail from the west side of Puget Sound. Four of them pulled off a recent racing triumph by clinching second place in the masters women B division at the state team time trial championship in Elma in August. Brenda Green, Lisa Lund, Kathi McMahon, and Tonia Schmidt signed up with FRM after the official Meet the Team Ride in mid-September. These cat 3 and 4 women saw lots of racing action in 2007, from Ice Breaker to TST to Methow and Walla Walla. Also coming to FRM from Bainbridge are long-time, part-time racer Julie Houck and experienced triathlete Nora Masters, who has a few bike races on her resume as well.

Perhaps more familiar to Seattle racers are women who made the move from other local teams. Zana Faulkner finished the 2007 season in first place in the WSBA cat 4 women’s rider rankings. Jitka (“I like mud”) Cole is still racing strong, with the cyclocross season in full swing. Sile Kiernan, who whisked herself off to the ER (with a broken collarbone) before the officials knew she had crashed at Redmond Derby, brings the number of Irish nationals on the team to a lucky three. And Joanne Green comes to FRM with a bunch of top-5 finishes in 2007, including a win in the Nooksack criterium.

Just starting out in bike racing (but no stranger to bikes) is the newest racer on the team, Robin Secrist, who is making the transition to bike racing after winning the 2007 Seafair Triathlon (and other events). Donna Peters and Sara Graham will continue to ride for FRM, and Martha Walsh returns to the team after a year in another jersey.

The first order of business in 2008 will be securing some upgrade points for cat 4s ready to transition to cat 3. And the opportunities for cat 3 women in Washington in 2008 are exciting. In addition to a separate BARR ranking, this category should see separate scoring at key women’s races during the season and maybe even separate races (from the women cat 1-2s) by the end of the season. The cat 4 race series will be bigger and better and more publicized in 2008 and will provide excitement and motivation for riders at this level. The team also has an eye on regional stage races and other challenging events to round out the season.

The FRM women are looking forward to camaraderie and competition in 2008. It’s a great group where everyone has valuable experience and insights to share, and everyone can learn from everyone else. Watch for the FRM team colors at every event on the 2008 race calendar, from Mason Lake to masters nationals!

Monday, October 15, 2007

Good luck, Dwan

Monday, 15 October

The designer of my favorite bike starts a regimen of chemotherapy tomorrow, soon to be augmented with radiation. This follows a summer of equally harsh treatment for the person who "sold" the bike to us. Sometimes bad things strike in nice places, and sometimes lightning strikes twice. I'm sending my love to a couple of special guys in Eugene....I wish I could send hugs as easily as text messages. No doubt in my mind which are more important.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Reading material

Friday, 12 October

Thanks to my teammate Keith, who is picking up the old kitchen cabinet today.

Thanks to folks in Florida, California, Massachusetts, and Illinois who paid enough for my orange jerseys, etc., to keep me in generous coffee money through the winter.

Now I just need warm dry weather and lots of time to finish painting the new fence, and some magic way to get the red stain off the concrete floor in my laundry room without inducing a crippling wrist injury that would force me to retire from hat-making. (A girl can wish, can't she??)

There are a couple new cycling blogs/websites to keep your eye on for entertainment through the winter months:

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Free to a good home

Tuesday, 9 October

I'm trying to clean house. I can't do it in the spring because I'm too busy racing, so what better time than the autumn when suddenly I'm spending a whole lot more time here and discovering what a cluttered place I live in. I managed to find happy homes (well, at least paying homes) for almost all my orange team clothing (thanks, Argentius!). And I found something that I think you really need for storing your helmets or racing shoes or rolls of bar tape or glasses or water bottles or whatever.

This is a great kitchen cabinet, built by a real cabinet maker in Woodinville. It's made out of vintage plywood (real wood, not sawdust and glue). It's 36 inches wide x 12.5 inches deep x 14 inches high. The hinges and latches work great, and the doors hang and swing straight.

I've tried putting it out by the street with a "free" sign, but the weather has been so marginal the last couple of weeks that I haven't been able to leave it out there long enough to find a new home for it. So I think you really need this cabinet in your garage or basement. I'll even deliver it in NE Seattle, or you can come by and pick it up.

The next option is to let my 13-year-old niece go at it with a sledge hammer, and that seems like a waste. It's calling your name.....

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Sweet repeat, sweet victory

Sunday, 7 October

Way to go, Michael! Mr. Alpine Ibex Emde won the Furnace Creek 508 for the second year in a row with a time of 27 hours 32 minutes. He averaged 18.46 mph. The guy in second place was about 1.5 hours behind him. Truly incredible.

Not all the results are in yet (meaning, not all the riders are in yet), but you can find 'em here.

Late addition: Karen Armstrong, also of Spokane, was the first woman to finish the 508. Her time was 36:58, and she was THREE HOURS ahead of second place. What's in the water over there in Spokane??? Way to go Karen!

Even later addition: I just realized the key to success must be that awesome Emde Sports coaching!!

Friday, October 05, 2007

Crazier than me

Friday, 5 October

Tomorrow morning, some 201 hardy souls will set out on the Furnace Creek 508. That's 508 miles of bike racing...without stopping much. Some folks do it in 4-person teams (or 8-person, I guess, if you count the 4-tandem team), some in 2-person teams, and some do it solo. Like last year's winner, Michael Emde.

The Ring of Fire TT I've done twice now is sort of like barely getting your toe wet in this sport of ultra cycling. When you do OK at 12 hours, though, they think you'd be great at 48 hours or whatever it takes to ride 508 miles in the California desert. I'm not (yet?) convinced of that, so I'll be riding my rain bike on a sociable and short ride with my new team tomorrow but thinking especially of these 508 competitors that I've raced with this year in Washington and Oregon:

Michael Emde
Karen Armstrong
George Thomas
Hugh Gapay
Michael Wolfe
Greg Geser

If you don't know any of these names after Emde, you should; they are all truly incredible and inspirational athletes. Michael Wolfe has probably raced his HPV more miles than I've ridden my road bike this year. Try googling "George Thomas RAAM."

You can find your favorite rider (they've all got numbers and "totems") and then follow their progress on the 508 website:

Send positive thoughts their way when you take a shower or go to bed or get up in the morning and realize that they are all still out there on their bikes. It's kind of amazing how this is part of the same sport that's holding national championships at the LA track right now!

Thursday, October 04, 2007

More physics...and haiku

Thursday, 4 October


That much high school physics I do remember. Thanks, Mr. Folsom, for helping me always remember the colors of the rainbow: RedOrangeYellowGreenBlueIndigoViolet.

The rainbow on my afternoon commute was beautiful. For a while, there were two, and then one doubled. But like most rainbows, this one came at a price: I got drenched. Is it April already?

Ominous clouds loom
Rain tumbles down and soaks me
Sunshine warms my soul

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Physics and floor pumps

Tuesday, 2 October

I admit I didn't do so well at high school physics--and that class was a long time ago. I'm not sure this subject was covered, though.

When I use a floor pump, it seems that I cannot inflate my tires to more pounds per square inch than pounds of my body weight. Even if I put all my weight on my hands and take my feet off the ground, I still cannot put enough air in the tires for a TT (and barely enough for commuting). Does this reflect how much I weigh, or how little upper-body strength I have?

I know all you 160-pound guys have never encountered this problem, so I'm sure you'll have lots of speculation to offer. Just don't blame me when I can't be a self-sufficient cyclist.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Exchanging recipes

Wednesday, 26 September

OK, Allison started things off with her recipe for raw ravioli. It must be warmer in Pullman than it is in Seattle, because I really needed soup tonight. Here's my homemade recipe du jour, which is not raw but features no added fat:

Split a delicata squash in half the long way, scoop out the seeds, and place the two halves face down on a baking sheet. Bake for about an hour at about 375. Let cool.

Scoop the squash out of the rind/peel and place in a blender or food processor. Add vegetable stock, chicken stock, water, or any combination of these and process until it's a soup-like consistency. (If you want a zing to your soup, add a couple of minced garlic cloves at this stage.)

Transfer this concoction to a big saucepan. Peel and grate a parsnip (you know, one of those things that looks like a beige carrot on steroids) and a carrot, and add those to the soup. Let simmer for about 15 minutes. Add 4-5 chopped green onions and whatever fresh herbs you have in the garden, along with enough ground pepper to give it more zing and a little bit of salt. Continue simmering for another 15 minutes. You may have to add more water/stock or milk to keep it from getting too thick.

The squash and the parsnip are sweet, and the pepper and garlic make a nice warm contrast. One big delicata squash made enough for two big bowls of soup. With a green salad and a little raw gouda from Ferndale, this made a nice autumn dinner.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Full moon or weird 'hood?

Tuesday, 25 September

When I walked home from the gym one night last week, a car drove slowly past me in the first block after I left the parking lot. Then, while I was waiting for the light to cross Lake City Way, it came by again, honked when it was about 100 feet away, and went past me very slowly. I was wearing shortish gym shorts, but lots of fleecy layers on top and running shoes (not 4-inch heels) and certainly could not have misled anyone about my motive for standing on that street corner.

Tonight was weird too. There was the couple sorting squashed aluminum cans on a sidewalk and loading them into plastic bags (not sure why you need to sort cans). This was in front of one of Bill Pierre's many back lots, nowhere near anyone's house or recycling bin. There were two guys pruning shrubs and trees, in the dark, in September (you usually prune in the winter). There's the house with the skateboard park in the side yard and the shopping cart in the front yard, even though there's no grocery store within a half mile. There was the guy out of your worst nightmares with stringy grey hair and bundled up dirty clothes coming out of the small little park that's mostly a ravine around Thornton Creek. I have never walked through there, and if he's what I'd see, I'll stick to the long way around on the street, thank you very much. The 20-pound cat with the 2-inch tail didn't come out to see me tonight; he'll chase you down the street if you don't stop to pet him.

I did find 6 cents and had a nice little conversation with a guy who's remodeling his house and was admiring his handiwork from the street while smoking a cigarette.

Is it the full moon?

Sunday, September 23, 2007

HP Challenge

Sunday, 23 September
(updates added 25 September)

Last time I went to a cycling event called the HP Challenge, it was the biggest-money bike race in the country. And it was only for women. And no, there was no separate cat 3 or cat 4 race. I didn't race, but I stood in feed zones in some pretty spectacular country: Stanley and Galena Pass come to mind. I also met some pretty amazing people. I know of only one woman who did that race who's still racing, and she lives in Pullman.

Today's HP Challenge was put on by the Cascade Bicycle Club. It started in Packwood, went about 15 miles down SR 12 to Randle, then turned south on forest service roads and eventually wound its way up through the Mt. St. Helens blast zone to the Windy Ridge lookout. The high point of the ride is only at about 4100 feet, but the road rolls so much that the total elevation gain over the ride was probably more like 6000 (update: Garmin says 7755). There are some amazing trees in the Gifford Pinchot forest, but it's the 12 or so miles of road through the blast zone that are jaw-dropping. I had to keep reminding my tandem partner to keep his eyes on the road and his hands on the brakes as he was trying to point things out while the rollercoaster road dropped away from us (whoever thinks you can't backseat drive on a tandem has never ridden with me--downhill!).

My Mt. St. Helens guidebook says that "Windy Ridge is possibly one of the most breathtaking panoramas in the world." In addition to the crater, lava domes, and steam plumes, we were supposed to see Mt. Adams towering to the east. The clouds were hanging too low today: we could see just a bit of the red ridges on the east flank of the mountain but no "breathtaking panorama" from that particular spot. And the spot is aptly named. In spite of the abundant stock of food Cascade provided for us there, the temps were estimated in the low 40s (update: Garmin says average temp on the day was 38.6F) with a steady wind, and there was no lingering with the hope of a better view of the mountain. I schlepped the camera up and back, but it was too cold to get it out (take off jacket to find jersey pocket, take off gloves to find camera, take camera out of get the "picture").

That road through the blast zone is amazing both for itself and for what it transports you through. It is perched along the edges of a steep ridge and follows the contours of the hills, making it roundabout and very rollercoaster-like. I'm not an engineer, but I sure appreciate where those folks can put a road. It transports you through a land of ash and pumice and trees laid over like toothpicks--past tucks and pockets in the terrain that were sheltered in the blast and now seem verdant green. Some of the hillsides today were raging red and yellow and orange as the leaves on the huckleberries and scrub maples turned color--colors you only see on ornamental landscaping here in town. And since there are no trees to block your view, you look east (I think) at a huge expanse of forest and river drainages. Truly spectacular. Priceless, even.
Since Cayuse Pass is missing huge chunks of roadway that disappeared in the 18"-of-rain-in-24-hours storm last November, there is no good way to get to Packwood. Our route took us through Eatonville, and I now have a new bakery on my list of places to stop on road trips in that direction. Anything tastes good after 110 miles on a bike, but the blueberry muffins fresh out of the oven were luscious. Further commercial endorsement: my Stungunners performed flawlessly again today. Put 'em on, forget they're there, ride all day in arctic blasts with nary a tear. I guess while I'm promoting PruDog's efforts, I should mention that Ohop is very near to that bakery in Eatonville.... And of course I would be remiss not to mention the great performance by our Co-Motion Macchiato. We are getting more and more confident about how it handles on all kinds of terrain, which means more and more fun. (Update: Garmin says our max speed was 146.5 mph. See how fast you can go on a Co-Motion!!)

When we signed up for this ride, OAD and I figured we'd be tired of the tandem after Ring of Fire and would do this one on our single bikes. But the more we thought about it, the more the vain, snooty bike racers in us came out, and it seemed like it might be fun to pass a lot of people on a long, relentless climb...on a tandem. Oh, we were so right about that. :)

Friday, September 21, 2007


Friday, 20 September

Free at last, free at last. Free to move about the world. It took just over three months, but my passport renewal finally came through. Time to visit the in-laws!

My passport has a chip, my cat has a chip....I don't think I want to ask what's next.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Post-ride coffee

Sunday, 16 September

If you've been bad and not eaten anything or drunk anything on a 35-mile ride, and then stop for 2 cups of coffee and a pure-white-flour-and-sugar scone, is the coffee (on an empty stomach) likely to exacerbate symptoms of dehydration? A nutrition-free 35-mile ride is no biggie for me (notice that I did not report this year on what or how much I did--or didn't--eat during the 12-hour TT), but having some coffee and then feeling like my head is detached was a new experience. Who needs beer? Don't give me the old bad-research line that says coffee isn't hydration (they threw out that hooey last year--liquid is liquid). I'm just curious about the odd caffeine-on-an-empty-stomach kick.

Moving on to less-hyphenated writing, have you noticed that fall is here? The cat has reappeared from his summer prowls and wants to sleep on the bed all day, except when he's begging for more food. He's eaten more in the last week than he did in the last two months! And the green beans in the garden just poof! quit making more green beans. But yummy yummy, the delicata squash are in. Tonight was the first batch of delicata soup of the year, and I got an idea for a tasty variation. Recipe to follow, if it works.

And have you noticed that when you park your rain bike for 3 months over the summer, it gets out of shape, loses fitness, and refuses to go more than 14 mph when you take it out for its first spin?

Friday, September 14, 2007

In the email inbox

Friday, 14 September

This was a nice closing sentiment in a message I received at work this morning:

Good luck on your everything.

Hope it applies to your weekend!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

In the mail

Thursday, 13 September

Well, if almost nobody got excited enough to comment about 200 miles on the back of a tandem or my new Axley eyewear collection or even eating totally local and organic, this will be a real snoozer. You might not be able to tell from the preceding sentence, but I've been busy lately. Hats for the PruPuppies, hats for the newborn daughter of a friend of my husband (pink and lime were the colors they asked for; I chose some super-bright yarns, which were fun to work with).
Today I mailed a baby blanket to a racing couple in Olympia and some hats to folks in Hood River. The cool thing(s) about those last two hats are: (1) The yarn was a prize at Ring of Fire--what other promoters do you know who tailor their prize list to suit the interests of their competitors? (2) The yarn came from sheep raised not 50 miles from the Ring of Fire venue. (3) The yarn is going back to Oregon to somebody who probably rides right past the Imperial Ranch on half his training rides. I might have to go stop in some time. At the ranch, I mean.

Okay, I'm not contributing anything here to boost us out of our collective blogging doldrums. Allison and Ted are promoting a cross race in Pullman, which is almost enough to get me to try cross racing (but not quite, sorry). I made some interesting observations about friendly and oblivious riders and their respective teams on the trail on Tuesday night, but the team I'd diss has already blasted me once here, so I'll refrain.

One last thought. I'm not sure how I could possibly have mustered such a big smile at this point in our epic ride last Saturday. It must be because Tina has such a great smile herself, and when she grins at you and points the camera, you're inclined to grin back. Thanks for the photo!

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Accidental national champion

Sunday, 9 September

Here is my view for the 12 long hours of Ring of Fire. This was early in the morning, before the salt patches appeared. His race report is here. And there are some pictures of us on Kenji's blog here.

Watching this for 12 hours while co-pedaling our tandem earned me a 2007 national champion title. Ring of Fire was the 12-hour national championship for the UltraMarathon Cycling Association. We also set a tandem course record at ROF (2 miles would've been a tandem course record), and my 2006 women's record still stands. A great weekend for stroking the ego.

Among the many wonderful features of this course are the varied views of Mt. Hood. When you start in the morning, it's a little peak off in the distance. At different spots, you can also see Jefferson and Adams. Then you climb through the trees for a while...a long while...and then a blissful descent and Hood pops into sight, completely dominating your view.

You also ride past many farms outside Dufur and Tygh Valley. Some are what you'd call "going concerns." Others, like this one, are remnants from another time.

Tandem FUN

Saturday, 8 September

Tandems aren't everyone's idea of fun, and most people would probably see 12 hours on one as punishment for some horrible crime and not fun at all.

But the only way I could think of to improve upon the fun I had at the 12-hour Ring of Fire TT in 2006 was to do it this year on the tandem. O.A.D. was agreeable, although I think he secretly wanted (note past tense) to do the 24-hour version instead.

The course was just about the same as 2006 (they replaced the awful highway climb with a back road through farms--with the same elevation gain), and the weather was better (clear but cooler). Our goal was to beat my single-bike distance of 183 miles, and 200 miles seemed like a nice round number. The specific goals you set in bike racing never happen exactly as you plan, but we did end up riding 200 miles. 16.67 mph for 12 hours. Slow, you say? Factor in 13,500 feet of climbing on the tandem, short stops for various reasons, and you'd better think 16.67 mph over 12 hours is cruising.

Last year I had no issues with saddle, feet, or stomach, but my back was shooting pains down by legs by the last 50 miles. This year was just about the exact opposite. My back got tired but didn't rebel (thanks, Erik Moen!), my feet got hot spots, and I had stomach cramps for a couple of hours. The biggest drawback to riding tandem is the lack of choice in how you sit on the saddle. You can't fidget or get off the saddle for even half a pedal stroke. And eventually you pay the price. But I daresay that nobody's "private parts" would be "issue"-free after 12 hours on any saddle.

Proof of the "be careful what you wish for adage": one of my hopes for this weekend was to get to captain our tandem. When we hit mile 200, O.A.D. had to get off the bike and just about passed out right there on the side of the road. Amazingly, Mike R, the other Seattle rider in the 12-hour race, rolled up in his car. (His race ended after 114 miles because of flu symptoms.) He gave my captain a ride back to the finish (7 miles), leaving me and the bike out there at twilight in the middle of irrigated fields with voracious mosquitoes. Rather than stand there and hope somebody would pick me up before the bugs sucked me dry, I climbed on the bike and rode it in. Remember that (1) I'd just ridden 200 miles without steering and (2) a tandem is a big, awkward bike to drive. The first 1/4 mile was wobbly but after that it went well. The saddle was only about a centimeter too high, but the bars (especially the drops) were out in the next county, so riding in the drops down the 4-mile descent was, um, interesting. But I got to captain a (stokerless) tandem.

Postrace fun: You've got to read some of the live updates on the ROF website. Promoters Terri and George sit at the start/finish line in front of the Imperial Lodge and add running commentary between riders coming by to check in. George got night duty this year and was having a great time doing "interviews" with riders--and deleting much of what he wrote before it got posted. Terri and George put on amazing races here in Oregon, and they have such great one-on-one rapport with their riders that we didn't even have to wear numbers. Come race with them sometime!!

Shameless product promos: Somewhere around mile 120, we were up on top of the plateau out here in eastern Oregon, and the white Cytomax van came flying down the road in the opposite direction. Figuring it had to be Kenji and Tina, we both waved. The van did a U-turn, and they came back to chat. Everybody always asks what O.A.D. and I talked about for 12 hours, and this conversation was by far the longest we had all day. It was great to see familiar faces out there! And of course I have to mention the Axley Stungunners again. These are ultra eyewear. I put 'em on in the morning and never thought about them again. My eyes never got watery, even on the 15-mile descent. In spite of sunscreen and sweat, they didn't slip and I never had to push 'em back up my nose. They didn't rub the tops of my ears, and they didn't interrupt my vision. They were perfect. What else can I say? Thanks, PruDog!

Boring ol' pictures to follow. And probably Garmin data too. We're off to raft the Deschutes today!

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

N.F.B.O. *

Wednesday, 5 September

When I read the pre-release hype for these new Axleys, I have to admit that I figured they were just not intended for old girls. After all, "Stungunner" doesn't have the ring of something with huge marketing appeal in my demographic. And having to be defensive about "sweet pink trim"? I live by "sweet pink trim."

So when I had to stop by the local Axley USA office today to drop off some StokedHats for PruPuppy 1.0 and PruPuppy 2.0, I was in for a big surprise. As soon as I put on the Stungunner, I knew it was a great match. They are light, comfortable, and in spite of their incredible hulk appearance, they really fit my face. There is enough of a wrap effect to the shape of the lenses that the sides of the frames--even the sides of the "full orbitals"--disappear out of sight. The lenses in mine have a green tint, which made Mr. Axley look a little sickly and sort of flatten out the contrasts outdoors, but they were plenty dark for riding on a sunny summer afternoon.

There are two more features of this model that you seldom find in cycling eyewear. The first is peripheral vision. When you do a little head check to make sure you won't get clobbered by a garbage truck if you try to dodge that pothole, most glasses give you lousy peripheral vision because some part of the frame gets in the way and you can't see the truck around a few millimeters of plastic frame. Not so the Stungunner. Don't ask me how, but you get a clear shot when you turn your head the littlest bit and look back.

The second is eye and sinus protection. No, nobody advertises that their eyewear protects your sinuses. But if it doesn't, then on a long descent or a cold ride, your nose gets that perpetual drip. And without good eye protection from the wind, this problem only gets worse. Alright, so it was 75 degrees on my first ride with these babies, and the Burke Gilman Trail lacks any significant descents, but I could still tell that a great defense shield was in place.

Going into this afternoon, I was facing some tough decisions about my big race on Saturday. If only the answer to "which shorts?" becomes as crystal clear as "which glasses?" The Stungunner is * Not For Boys Only * and I might just have to wear my pink jersey to tone with the "sweet pink trim."

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Cheery glasses for a dreary day

Tuesday, 4 September

My new Axley Ginnys with the pink/red lenses were perfect for the dark foggy misty morning today. Any opthalmologist will tell you that you should wear eye protection (a.k.a. glasses) any time you're on a bike, and with these, I've got something to turn to when the bright sunshine goes away. The fastest guy at Eugene Celebration told me he loves pink lenses for his long rides through the forests around Mt. Hood to help pick up the contrasts under the tree canopy. And the Ginnys passed my test on the ride this morning: most of the time I was not even aware I had them on. I think they're gonna see a lot of off-season time on the bike....


Tuesday, 4 September

The Eugene Celebration stage race is a funny thing. The fields are always small, but they typically include some of the strongest riders in the region. And not necessarily the same folks you've been racing against all season. So the racing is hard, the outcome is not predictable, and there's nowhere to hide.

This year's celebration was a flattish road race on Saturday, TT and crit on Sunday, and a hilly road race on Monday. There were about 20 in the combined women's field at the start--same size as the pro-1-2 men's field! The first road race was a pack finish, I won the TT, one rider got away in the crit to take the GC lead away from me by 3 seconds, and then I had a brief moment of extracurricular activity in Monday's RR that didn't do me any favors and I ended up slipping to 6th overall.

About 15 miles into Monday's race, the road starts to get a little bit like a roller coaster. There's one sharp downill left hander that's tricky on the tandem but not bad on the single bike if you take it at less than the 25 mph the chief referee recommended. I was at the back of the front group going around that bend. The road immediately goes uphill, I shifted, the chain shifted and then jumped some more, the bike lurched into some loose gravel on the road, and suddenly the bike was completely out of control and I was absolutely sure I was going to be sliding across fresh chip seal. I managed to keep the bike more or less upright as it went across the road and was able to get a foot down when it slowed when it hit the grass/weeds/brambles in the ditch. I stopped without hitting the ground, thankful too for that little gap behind me to the next groups of riders--who all passed me while I was trying to get out of the ditch and back on the road. This was at the bottom of about a 1-mile climb, and I managed to chase back on to (and pass) one group. My knee was really sore from where it had whacked the top tube when I lurched to a stop. I tried to rub it out on the next descent, but that didn't work so well. We finally all regrouped with the front riders literally 50 feet before the bottom of the long, 4-mile climb that's the heart of this loop. I managed to stay with the front group about halfway up but got popped. The rest of the race was a 20-mile TT for me. I needed to keep the time gap below 1'30" to stay "in the money" but with five of them up there and me by myself, that didn't happen. Still, I rode hard, I made up time on the second descent (local knowledge helps), and I didn't get caught. It was an absolutely beautiful summer's day--93 when we drove through Creswell on our way back to I-5.

One more race to go....

Friday, August 31, 2007

Lucky-colored glasses

Friday, 31 August

Yesterday's mail included a tape-bound box with a new pair of eyewear, Axley's Ginny in powder blue with pink trim (which nobody can see when the glasses are on). They're smaller lenses in a smaller frame than my other Axleys, and as you can see on better models than mine, they fit smaller faces well. The fit is good: not tight across the face, but secure in the temples. On my swelled head, they are in fact tight, but glasses loosen up easily enough. The tech specs on these specs are here.

My two cents? The lenses are made of impact-resistant polycarbonate, which is almost safety glass, so you're protected from flying rocks, big bugs, and projectile snot from the rider in front of you. But I always worry a little about any glasses that leave an edge of the lens against my face (is that what "half orbital" means?)--and I've got the scars to prove why. I'd describe the "powder blue" color as "turquoise," which is perfect because....let's just say that turquoise is lucky for me and not jinx it any further. And with the rose-colored lenses (that's not what Axley calls them, but who could resist a reference to rose-colored glasses?), they'll be great for commuting and bleak winter rides. They also seem to be good for blogging--they cut down on the bright glare from my laptop's screen.

They come with an eyewear care package and a nice, petit carrying case (half the size of the case for the chunky Bandits). I will road test them on a road trip this weekend. The weather forecast isn't gloomy, but we'll be driving in twilight times and these'll be perfect.

You'll be able to order your own--in blue, bone white, or pewter--at

I think I'm becoming the Imelda Marcos of eyewear....

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Eating REALLY local

Thursday, 30 August

My husband had a play date in the park tonight, so I was on my own for dinner. Instead of another bowl of cereal, my menu was food that was very local. Potatoes, beans, and herbs from my garden, and eggs from some hens who live two blocks away. I had been hoping for tomatoes too, but they didn't get the memo and were still hard green pellets.
It took me a while to figure out that these were the perfect ingredients for a frittata. But to be entirely local, I couldn't use salt, pepper, butter, or cheese. Fortunately, a well-seasoned cast iron skillet is pretty nonstick. It would've been better with tomatoes sliced on top just before it went under the broiler, and it definitely would've been better with a little cheese. But it wasn't bad (better than corn flakes, that's for sure!).
Dessert was applesauce from the tree in the backyard (okay, it's an apple tree, not an applesauce tree...). It is an off year for apples, so it took a while to find these four. Again, nothing added.
Eating local would be a great diet, unless you happen to have cows down the street. I didn't miss salt, but I learned the flavor that a little bit of fat (cheese) would've added to the frittata and how a little bit of sugar brings out the flavor of fruit.

Tomorrow I think we'll be back to things from faraway like rice and soy sauce. And tomorrow I'll post about my new lucky-colored glasses!

Monday, August 27, 2007

Hillclimb strategy

Monday, 27 August

Yesterday was our state hillclimb championship. It's not much as hillclimbs go--pretty short, not steep--but it still seems to intimidate most of the Washington peloton. Here are the factors that I would say affected my performance:

1. I had not raced on my road bike since July 1.

2. I have done only one training ride with long climbs all summer (at the beginning of July).

3. I never had much power, and I lost more last winter.

4. I tried to lose weight quickly and had some bad days on the bike with no energy for even short hills.

5. I increased my mid-week training miles, item 4 notwithstanding.

6. I started running a couple of mornings a week (no, not for cyclocross!), before my trainer workouts.

7. I took the bottle cages and computer off my bike on race day, left my wedding rings at home, and even went so far as to weigh my favorite pairs of sunglasses to see which were the lightest.

8. I had a super stressful week (including lack of sleep) before the race (can you say "omnium results"?).

9. I had no expectations because I haven't been racing in the WA peloton this summer (not by design, it just happened that way) and couldn't anticipate how "competitive" I'd be. My goals were vague (to beat two particular women).

10. I lost 7 pounds in the weeks leading up to the race.

Coaches, take note. In spite of the things above that you would laugh at, discourage as training habits, and argue were detriments to my performance, I think my time this year was a PR on this course. Here are the numbers I have:

2007 28:37
2006 28:52
2004 29:05
2002 30:24
2001 30:27
2000 30:49
1997 29:30

28:37 was also good enough for third-fastest women's time overall. So which of those top 10 factors was most influential? Number 10, hands down. Of all the women who opted to "weigh in" at the finish, only one weighed (one pound) less than me. And in spite of my power shortage, I mustered enough to keep it in the big ring for the second half of the course (that's pay off from climbing on the tandem).

Our society doesn't let you talk about women and weight in the same sentence. Too much potential for sounding judgmental or damaging someone's self-esteem. But on the margin, on a climb, on a bike, less is better.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

New way to waste gas

Wednesday, 22 August

While I was out running this morning, I saw a guy "walking" his dog with his car. He sat behind the wheel with a retractable leash in hand out the window and drove slowly down the block while the dog prowled and sniffed along the edge of the street. What, I'm supposed to be happy the dog is getting some exercise? This speaks volumes about what ails our society....

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Family pride, or why beans are like tomatoes

Sunday, 19 August

Many summer hours of my childhood were spent helping my grandmother pick, trim, and cut green beans--straight from her garden--for canning. I thought of her and my grandfather this evening when I harvested these from my own backyard; my grandparents would be proud. Ride with me to Maltby sometime and I'll show you where they were locavores decades before it was trendy. And how are beans like tomatoes, you ask? No matter where you shop, you can't buy any that even come close to tasting as good as the ones you grow yourself.

The weekend leading up to my Sunday evening walk down memory lane (bad pun there, but only a few will catch it) was busy. Friday I rented a floor buffer, attached a disk of about 10-grit sandpaper (saying goodbye to the skin on my knuckles), and tried to get the 60-year-old paint off our concrete floor. It was a 3-way battle between me, the sander, and the paint. I'm not sure who won: I gave up after 3 hours and returned the sander, and there's still paint on the floor (and aches in my shoulders). I've been at this project for many months, and I really should make some more effort to finish it while there are still daylight hours when I'm not at work.

Then we hopped in the car and zipped (not) to Corvallis. Saturday morning was the Marys Peak hillclimb and the one-year anniversary for my tandem racing career with my husband. We had cautious hopes: between he, me, and the bike, we weighed at least 10 pounds less than last year. And the weather was 25 degrees cooler. So...we took a whopping 12 seconds off our course record! We heard lots of "it was windier this year" and "the air was heavier because it was cool and humid." But still....shouldn't we have been able to go more than 12 seconds faster? Kerry certainly proved that being a year older is just an excuse to go faster. All the results are here. I will admit that it was kind of fun passing everyone who started in front of us and being the first bike (of any sort) across the line at a tough hillclimb.

Post-race, we had another lovely drive on I-5, all the way to charming Centralia, followed by one of the worst road-trip meals I have had in a long time and a romantic evening in a Motel 6, in a room that must have only recently come by its "no smoking" label. There was some redemption in a brief excursion to 3 of the plethora of outlet stores in Centralia and even more (no sarcasm here) in our serene, pastoral Sunday morning drive west on highway 12 to Elma.

My team time trial was an odd beast. Our goal was to have the 4 of us finish together. We were the only team in our category, so this was not an unreasonable goal. After some initial hesitations in the first couple of miles, we settled into a good rhythm and rotation and worked together smoothly for the rest of the 32 miles. We had fun, and we all finished together. Mission accomplished. Those results will eventually be posted here (please don't nag me).

Only 3 more weekends of racing this year!

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Comfort zone

Sunday, 12 August

Today I let myself be taken way outside my comfort zone--and it was a 100% positive experience.

I am the queen of crit avoidance. Sneak one into a stage race on me, and I'll take whatever prorated time the officials give me; just get me off the course. But today I was committed to the OBRA crit championship in Gresham--on the tandem with Sal.

I kept waiting for the apprehension attack, for hating myself for getting into the position I was in, and then for the sense of impending doom at race time. They didn't show up. Since ours was the first race, we got to preride the course a bunch of times. That helped a lot. And I knew most of the other riders in the race. Still, 6 corners was 2 more than I'd ever seen in a tandem crit--and 6 more than this time trialer would like.

The male-male bikes did most of the mixing it up today, with 2 of them staying away for the second half of the race. The eventual race winners took a really bad line through an early corner and nearly put most of the field into the curb. The things you don't see on the back of a tandem are nice sometimes; I was just aware that we got REALLY close to the sidewalk coming out of that corner and heard the words fly. On the other hand, it's hard to sense how much harder you're going when called upon. It hurts, but you can't see much difference because the stoker isn't getting all those visual cues that the captain is, the ones you get on your single bike.

I think I was pretty relaxed during the race; I never had the familiar panicked feeling of "we are going WAY too fast into this corner." There were maybe 3 or 4 times when you might say we were pedaling against each other. Considering that we have ridden together 4 times in 6 months, and that the race was 30 minutes long, 5 seconds of mis-timed effort is not so bad.

My captain and his bike were awesome in this crit. I am sure he had to do a lot more work, simply because the course was fairly technical. I just had to pedal and lean...and sometimes pedal harder. Time in a crit has never ticked down off the race clock so fast, and never before have I paid no attention to how many times we'd gone around the circuit.

It's funny. The whole CONCEPT of a tandem crit is way outside my comfort zone. But the EXPERIENCE of this one was not. I guess that's why you're supposed to push yourself sometimes--to expand your comfort zone. I'm glad I did.

Oh yeah. Results. We were the first mixed tandem, 4th overall, 2nd in the pack sprint. I have no idea how we did in the finishing sprint; nobody came around us, but I couldn't see the bike that won to know if the gap got bigger or we kept it close in the last straightaway. Primes went to the guys up the road, and I don't even know what they were.