Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Vicarious stress

Wednesday, 28 January

Yesterday afternoon I attended a meeting in my department about budget cuts. The size of the cuts won't be known until the legislature adopts a budget, but fear of the unknown is great. People express this fear differently. Some are angry, mainly with those "at the top" who are pretty sure to be secure in their jobs. Some are critical, because without specifics management cannot take concrete action and seems ineffectual. Some are nearly desperate, throwing out un-thought-through suggestions as if grasping at straws. Discussion went on for nearly 90 minutes. It didn't bring any results or tell us anything new.

My job is probably not in jeopardy, so my fears are mainly for my colleagues, my department, and morale in the workplace. But when I got on my bike to ride home, I felt exhausted and had no energy. Maybe the emotions of others at that meeting were so strong that the stress transferred to me? Maybe fear took a physical toll on my well-being? If so, this does not bode well, either for my workplace in the months ahead or for our society where so many are under similar stresses.

I keep thinking of the man in LA who murdered his wife and five children and then committed suicide because of his debts and job worries. We all need support networks, which means we all need to be someone else's support. We need to check in with people we know who face uncertainty and stress. We need to help each other find ways to relieve that stress, even if it's only listening.

Sorry to be sappy. Maybe the physical manifestation of others' fears was more tangible for me because I could feel it in my performance on the bike, but how will it play out for others in terms of road rage, domestic violence, and so many other ways we humans have devised to "vent"?

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Where was everybody?

Sunday, 25 January

The forecast today was for subfreezing temps overnight with a dusting of snow, and then pure sunshine for most of the day. Um? We had more than a dusting last night, and the temperature was right at freezing when we got up this morning. So no early-morning bike ride (snow on the driveway is a good clue that road conditions might not be the best for bikes). Did some chores and headed out at 12:30, after it had warmed up 2 whopping degrees and just exactly as it started to snow again.

The original plan was to ride around the south end of the lake, but that seemed less than a good idea in case the snow started to stick. We went as far south as U Village and then headed north on the bike trail. At Lake Forest Park, Mick had had enough and went home, but I wanted to ride out the trail a little farther. It was snowing pretty hard but not sticking at all. And I had the trail all to myself. Between Bothell and Redmond, I saw a handful of runners and maybe 2 cyclists. It was peaceful and beautiful with the snow coming down.

On the way back, I figured it would be good to throw in a little climbing, so I went up Hollywood Hill. This was the most wonderful part of the ride. I love the snow--usually--and it was amazing to be a part of it, to see it on the trees all around me, and to be able to ride my bike through it all. The view at the top would have been spectacular if the forecast had been right; you look straight out to the Olympics from here. Today, well, you couldn't even see Seattle.
What great good fortune to have two beautiful rides in one weekend--and beautiful in such different ways!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

LandShark Loveliness for the WooHoo100

Saturday, 24 January

The big FRM team ride today was from Kenmore to Anacortes via Granite Falls. Of course, a bunch of folks would be turning around at someplace(s) as yet unknown rather than doing the whole, epic ride. Me, I was hoping to get to Granite Falls with the group and then toodle my way home via Lake Roesiger or Monroe. Ha. We got as far as the UW Bothell campus and my rear derailleur cable broke. I sent them all on their way with good wishes and headed home. 9 miles on my 34x12 was interesting; I had to walk about 100 meters at the top of a short, steep hill but otherwise just tried to stay on top of the gear.

At home, it was a simple process to set up my new LandShark for its first real ride, and I was back on the road in a matter of minutes. I had no real plan but headed toward Snohomish. Temps were cold, and I was vigilant for ice. I was a little unnerved in Clearview, where there had been LOTS of freezing fog which was just beginning to drop off the trees onto the road. It was like riding through mini hail storms.

Coffee and raspberry bar in Snohomish, then, what the heck, let's see how much nicer it is to ride the light bike on that bear of a back way to Monroe. Lots nicer, that's for sure. There's one absolute monster of a climb where I pretty much have just one speed. But today I was able to "accelerate" (from 6.4 mph to 6.7 mph) in the last 100 meters. There's also a bunch of draggy 2-3% road on this route, and I absolutely flew along (I'm pretty sure there was a tailwind). There are a couple of nice descents, too, and I was really hoping to get the bike up to 40 mph. I never got over 34, but the bike is rock solid with no little flitters (that's a highly technical bike review term, you know!).

It was a wholly uneventful ride. Nothing got sore from being on a new bike for the first long ride. I kept thinking how nice it was to have a custom bike that fit me, instead of me having to fit the bike. (The only other custom bike I have is the tandem, and there are limits to the custom fit of a stoker compartment.) Near the end of the ride, I realized that it was also my first long ride on a new saddle. I've been riding Avocet O2s on all my bikes for years, but sadly they are no more and I had to find something new for the LandShark. Hooray for Erik Moen's perfect suggestion--I don't even think about what I'm sitting on!

At the end of the day, I'd done 19 miles on my rain bike and 81 miles on the LandShark, the first century of the New Year! The Chinese New Year starts on Monday, so I guess it was good timing. :)

P.S. to Brian, Mr. "Nobody Here Knows What De-Icer Is": There is de-icer all over many, many roads in Snohomish County, on SR 522, in Woodinville, lots o' places. Maybe it's just that nobody in West Seattle knows what de-icer is?

Monday, January 19, 2009

Warning signs

Martin Luther King Jr. Day

It was so nice today that I had to turn what started out as a putzy 3-hour ride into something more appropriate for a glorious winter day. So, fueled up with coffee and a chocolate pinwheel cookie (bakery-sized, not the supermarket kind), off I went to the backroads of Snohomish County. It had been a long time since I'd been on this particular road, and it was just as hard as ever.

As soon as you turn off the bike trail, you start climbing and go over a bridge across the Pilchuck River. Well, most bridges today were a bit frosty, which made me realize this rural, woodsy road was going to be iffy in terms of black ice and frost, especially with brilliant sun and dark shadows sometimes making it hard to see the road surface very far ahead. By the top of the first climb, I had devised a little warning system for my paranoid self: if there was frost on the grass (or whatever) beside the road, then there might be frost or ice on the road, but if there was no sign of frozen matter, then the road was probably clear. This scheme worked well for a bunch of miles, through warm and cold patches and one descent that would've been fast on any other day. Somewhere around Lake Roesiger, though, in my peripheral vision I noticed copious amounts of white stuff on the shoulder. My attention immediately focused on the road, but that seemed clear. Then I looked at the white stuff: snow. Lots of snow. Snow up to within a foot of the fog line and receding back into the woods under the trees. This went on for 4-5 miles. It was cold, but the road was safe for riding.

In addition to frosty patches and snow banks, I saw lots of devastation from December's weather events. One picturesque pasture in a tiny valley completely destroyed by a stream that must have altered course and spread rocks and tree parts helter-skelter across the patch of green. A stretch of mossy trees lying sideways where Woods Creek had heaped mud and debris onto the road. Out on the Tualco Loop Road south of Monroe, the barbed wire fences are festooned with strands of grass, and the anchor wires on utility poles have huge "nests" of grass and other debris 10 feet off the ground, left behind by the receding flood waters.

It was a glorious day to ride a bike. It was warm in the sun, chilly between the snow patches, and so beautiful all the day long.

And now to work on today's volunteer task to mark the day that it is and to get ready for the momentous day that tomorrow will be.

Monday, January 12, 2009

New April stage race

Monday, 12 January

There's a brand new stage race in The Dalles this spring that sounds like it's going to be a great event. Chad Sperry knows how to put on a bike race :) and Sorella Forte is all about women's bike racing. I've raced on a couple of the courses and ridden part of another. It's supposed to be slightly less epic than Mt. Hood, but since it falls in early April after winter training interrupted by snow in these parts, I think it's going to feel pretty epic. While you're in The Dalles, be sure to check out their ace bike shop, Salmon Cyclery.

Here's the race announcement and link to the website:

New for 2009
Cherry Blossom Cycling Classic
4 Stages
3 Days
$8000 in Prizes

Sorella Forte and Race Director Chad Sperry have teamed up in 2009 to host the Cherry Blossom Cycling Classic April 3-5th in The Dalles, Oregon. This is going to be a tremendous stage race located just one hour east of Portland and more importantly on the other side of the Cascades (that dry rural side). With an average day time high of 60 degrees and a 1/2 an inch of rain for the month of April, the region is truly the Banana Belt of the Northwest. $8000 in prizes will be up for grabs and the courses will be top notch with many of the roads debuting on the NRC with the Mt. Hood Cycling Classic. Travel time to each stage start is 4 miles or less from the city of The Dalles. Race consists of 2 road races, time trial and a criterium. Courses are well balanced and favor no one but those who are willing to ride the hard and have strong early season fitness. Categories include

Pro 1-2 Men
Pro 1-3 Women
Masters Men
CAT 3 Men
CAT 4 Men
CAT 4 Women
Masters Women (will race with CAT 4 women but scored separately)

Registration opens today. Register by February 25th and receive a $10 discount. Field limits are mandatory so be sure and register early to assure your spot.

For course, registration info as well as breaking news and updates be sure and check us out on the web at .

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Flood ride

Saturday, 10 January

(More pictures are posted here.)

My ride buddies today wanted to stay high up on the hills to avoid the flooded valleys, but I wanted to see the new Lake Snoqualmie. We parted company on the Woodinville-Duvall Road, and I headed east, to the flood plain. I knew the West Snoqualmie Valley Road and High Bridge Road were open, so I would probably not be forced by high water to turn around.

The West Sno Road offered watery views across the valley. Bear in mind that on a good day, you can't see any water from this road. The only problem for cyclists was the uncertain content of the muck on the road (and thus the spray onto the water bottle) between dairy farms.

The bridge at the Crescent Lake Road (where you turn to ride to Monroe) was rebuilt a couple of decades ago after the old one washed out, so it was high and dry. However, where the road dropped down toward valley level, you could see the "high tide" line where the flood had deposited debris before it receded. The water level seemed to be about 10 feet lower today than it had been whenever it peaked.

From there, West Sno Road becomes High Bridge and it rises above the valley floor. I had figured the road would be closed at Lost Lake--the 3 Rivers Mobile Home Park always floods, and there's another low spot just down the road where there's a gas pipeline substation. But the road was not closed, and Lost Lake seemed like an epic climb after 3 weeks off the bike, so I kept heading north along the valley. Surely the road would be closed and I'd have to ride up Fales? Nope. That stretch of Elliott Road had obviously been underwater recently, but the water level in the fields was maybe 2 feet below the road. I continued on north up Connelly Road past Kenwanda Golf Course. Hmm, turn left and go up Broadway, or turn right and go down at look out at the sea toward Snohomish? Oh, let's go have a look.

And of course, that meant turning onto Springhetti Road, which was definitely closed. "I just want to look," I told myself. And then, "that water over the road doesn't look tooooo deep." The third section of submerged roadway was pretty long and a little sketchy and rather dampish for the one foot I had to leave clipped in to pedal with. And then I was at the junction with Highway 9 and Airport Way. Oh, keep going--it was either that or turn around. There was lots of debris on the road on the south edge of the airport. And more road closed signs just past the RR tracks. This water was where I had the toughest decision: try to ride through it, or turn around. Well, I couldn't bear the thought of being so close to Snohomish without actually getting there (you'd think I'd never been there before), so I watched a couple of SUVs plow through and then rode through. Piece of cake.

Snohomish was a busy place--mostly folks coming to look at the river, I think. On the way back, I ventured out to the middle of Highway 9. Looking west, Marsh Road was like a boat-launch ramp: it just disappeared underwater. And 9 itself was swamped on the south edge of the valley. I had a little more confidence going back through all those submerged sections; I could usually get up enough speed that I didn't have to pedal while coasting through. It was a little eerie, though, that it wasn't like riding through a puddle; this water was part of a river and was definitely going somewhere.
It was a good ride today, my longest in a month. While there was plenty of sightseeing to keep me distracted, it would be better for everyone if those sights hadn't been there to see. Except the eagles at Log Boom, at both ends of the ride.