Wednesday, December 31, 2008

2008 Year in Review

I attempted to meet up with teammates this morning for the "Hump Day Hump", a Wednesday morning ride that I've only been on once before (working in the suburbs, you miss a lot of stuff like this). Being that it's 9 degrees outside, it took me a little longer than I planned to get layered up and out of the house... then when I'm outside, I find that I've got a cleat full of ice. FYI, road cleats and ice don't mix well. I get to Irving/LFP at 8:12, find out later that the crew took off at 8:10. I rode up to Hollywood, then back home - just under 10 miles but not too shabby since it was so brutally cold and I'm supposed to be off the bike. I don't know that my toes could have taken it much longer anyways.

I've had some computer problems lately and was worried that I might lose my workout data from the past several years - thankfully, I had backed it up in numerous locations (iPods are not reliable backup media!) and was able to resurrect my Garmin Training Center data for 2008...

Runs: 231.54 miles, average pace 10:15.
Rides: 4076.77 miles, average speed 16.6mph.

Not too shabby. That's more than I've run/ridden in a year's time. Ever.

I'm thinking that next year's average cycling speed will be greatly increased since I'm planning a full summer at the velodrome... that and the fact that I've got a white/red/black bike, which everyone knows is faster than a white bike AND a black bike combined.

So for 2008...

I fell in love with the velodrome.
Escaped from Alcatraz
Broke 4 chains. (three 9-speed, one 1/8" track)
3rd Place at Sherman Park Criterium
Moved in with a hottie.
Crashed twice (once at Proctor, once on the North Branch Trail)
6th place post-crash at Proctor (I caught back on)
Won my division at the Chicago Triathlon
Tried Cyclocross and loved it's pure, sweet hell.

In all, it was a damn good year, and I'm proud of the fact that I accomplished all of the above and more while living in two cities at the same time. I'm almost through with that crazy travel, and I'm hoping that less time in airports equates to more time spend with the people and activities that I love.

Here's to a successful 2009!

Monday, December 29, 2008

Imagine the potential

for destruction. Ghost rider?

I've never crashed at the Velodrome, but I've come damn close numerous times... axle nuts hitting mine, wheel rubs, elbows knocking... I even popped a chain going into turn 1 at 28mph and stayed up long enough to make it down the wall (was at Stayer's line) and into the infield.
His knee is gonna be soooooore.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

who remembers...


Seems like something you could stuff in a jersey pocket easily!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

It's Here!

This one gets to stay in the living room, at least for a while :)

It needs a name.

HED Ardennes durability testing to come... look at all those spokes! Stallion Build, baby!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

New Bike!

It's been ordered.

Teh sexy.

Ultegra SL and HED Ardennes.

I need to pick out bars and a stem... suggestions? I'll need 46cm bars and a high rise stem (likely 17 degree up).

I hope I don't break it.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Yield Sign Go Sign Stop Sign Whaaa Sign?

John Greenfield's "Vote with your Feet" has a very interesting article up about the Lakefront Path's signage through Uptown:

I've gotta say, I was confused by these signs when riding up there this weekend - who's supposed to do what? I recognize that the rules of the road make it pretty clear how road and trail users should interact with this intersection but if all of the users of the road were clear on the rules of the road, we'd never have accidents.

Road users (cyclists, peds, and drivers alike) speed, roll through stop signs, blow red lights, illegally pass with a double yellow line, merge across double white lines, etc etc. People are pretty selfish, and that's evident in how they operate a vehicle. When confronted with the LFP/Montrose intersection, I can see cyclists not yielding to stopped cars, and I can see cars thinking that path users will be stopping because the driver can see the back of the Yield sign. (See pictures at linked story, above)

Once Chicago's back in full swing this summer, these intersections are CRAZY. You've got mulitple cars lined up in every direction, waiting for path traffic to clear while path users approaching the intersection see that traffic's stopped, speeding up to get through the intersection while cars are still waiting for the path's crosswalk to clear.

The best solution here is an overpass/underpass situation, but those are rather expensive, certainly more costly than a sheet metal Stop or Yield sign. Everyone using these intersections should approach them with greater caution now than before - if drivers are under the impression that path users will be stopping, that places path users at an even greater risk of injury while negotiating these crossings.

Be smart, be safe. Everyone should treat it like a 4-way stop. If there's a car approaching the path, trail users should assume they're invisible to the driver, that the driver is going to roll the sign. Drivers should be mindful that trail users are going to treat the yield signs similarly invisible and blast across without blinking an eye.

It'll be interesting to see what kind of court cases come out of this signage situation. Having argued both sides of the argument from an insurance adjuster's perspective, this intersection is kind of a nightmare when it comes to liability determination. I just hope that cyclists with a legitimate claim don't find themselves holding the short end of the stick because of an overly defensive insurance company.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

New Stuff & Next Sunday's Torturefests

Yay for voting day. I showed up at the polls at 5:40am, was 4th in line for my precinct... when I left at 6:15a (so many judges!) there were at least 100 people in line. I'm glad I woke up on time!

Hopefully, my cyclocross mech problems are solved... to the tune of almost $100.

Dura-Ace/XTR 9 Speed Chain, $40.
Wire bead Ritchey Speedmax tires, $18 (x2) plus $14 shipping.

This is the first time I've used a Shimano chain. Here's hoping it's what I've been looking for.

I spoke to the team's SRAM rep at our Team meeting last night and he said they'd like to look at the chains to see why/how they failed. I wonder if they'd let me guinea pig some experimental stuff... I'd be all for it.

Next week's race will not be pretty. I'm climbing 103 floors of stairs in the Sears Tower at 8:10am, then brunch... Cross race at 3pm. I haven't trained for the stair climb like I have in the past, and I'm +15lb from where I should be. The cross race is so close to home, I just gotta do it.

I think I'll take next Monday off.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Compton Destructocross

This week's ChiCrossCup race was in St. Charles and the course was set up wonderfully - kudos to the organizers! I made the pilgrimage out to Kane county with two teammates for the 4b's race - we didn't have a chance to pre-ride the course due to lack of time, but I figured that my lack of fitness would outweigh any advantage that the pre-ride might afford me.

I'd been to Randy's to get this bike fitted to me, and we changed the whole cockpit around, so I was really looking forward to how I'd feel on the bike for this race. That said, I had my first DNF ever... and it certainly wasn't for lack of spirit or trying. The bike fit felt pretty good though.

I was in a good spot at the start - managed to stay top 20 for the first half of lap 1 when... BANG. Front tire blowout. I didn't know it at the time, but it seems that the bead on my front tire decided to give up the ghost. Whee.

can you even GET wire-bead cross tires?

Right after finishing at Carpentersville, I had noticed that my front tire was behaving strangely - the bead was atop the rim rather than hooked inside it. I quickly deflated the tire and popped it back onto the rim... I suppose I should have been more diligent and checked the condition of the bead.

The bang was loud enough that several teammates ran over and asked me if I had wheels in the pit... I responded that I didn't, and they yelled back that they'd meet me in the pit with a wheel - since this course's pit was right at the start/finish and was single sided, that meant I got to run the second half of the course rolling my bike aside me. As I passed the officials, I commented "it's a lot more fun when you can ride the bike" to which Dave Fowkes replied "i'm with ya on that one".

I grabbed the new wheel and set off again - the majority of the field had passed me just after I flatted so I knew that I had pretty much no chance of catching on - this had become a workout. When I came back through the chicane where most of the spectators were, my hero Mike Seguin was there with the beer handup. SWEET. I certainly wasn't expecting it, so I was moving too fast and crushed the cup, sending most of the beer into my glove, but I did get a good bit of it in my mouth. With a delicious right hand, I powered through the remainder of the lap - this was my only full lap of the course.

I was passed by the race leader after the first barricade - this served as a motivator. I cleared the sand pit and went into the backside's off-camber chicane when I was passed by #2. Atop the hill, I could see that most of the riders were opposite my position on the course, so I stood a decent chance of catching one or two of them if I'd just get my ass into gear. I powered through the spectator area and was approaching the last barricade when the chain gods saw fit to punish me... POP. Since i'm now a chain-breaking veteran I managed to keep the bike upright, thought I'm pretty sure that my knee hit my bars, it's pretty pissed off at me right now.

Since I had a SRAM chain on this bike, I figured I'd see if the break was close to the powerlink and I might be able to piece things together... no luck - the pin that snapped did so leaving only the outer plates so I knew my race was over. I then walked back to the officials area and let them know that I was DNF for a mechanical, then went back to the spectator area for some brats and a beer while watching the end of the race.

the day's casaulties.

I suppose I'm now in the market for another chain, does anyone have any suggestions? I've popped three PC-971's in 2008... there's gotta be a better solution for a clydesdale drivetrain. I snapped a KMC 1/8" track chain earlier this year - that's how I found out about the heavy duty Izumi chains. Is there a road equivalent?

Although I only rode one full lap at Compton, I am quite proud that my lap included a successful beer handup. When you've got race priorities like these, cyclocross is WAY more fun.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

the never-ending battle

I've battled with weight for a substantial portion of my life... in 2001 I hit the weight equivalent of "rock bottom" - alcoholics and addicts use this term to indicate the turning point in life where they recognized there was a problem that could only be resolved with some serious life changes.

November 2001. 317 pounds. Three hundred seventeen pounds. It's hard for me to believe I was ever that size, but it's true. I wish I had more pictures of that time - I'd use them as cues, inspirational tools to keep me on track. (If anyone reading this has some, send them my way - you'll be doing me a favor.)

How, you might ask? Several things:

Sedentary College Student Lifestyle
Unlimited Meal Plan in the Dorms
Daily Sonic visits - 44oz drinks = ridiculous, Frito Pies aren't health food.

Combine those with a guy who's already ~30lb overweight at 250 and you've got a ticking time bomb. Wash, rinse, repeat for five semesters and you've got your payload.

In the fall of 2001 I lost a grandfather to a heart attack. He was, by all accounts, healthy as a horse. Grandpa Clay was no gym rat, but he was a wise man that recognized the benefits of a lifestyle that included proper nutrition and exercise... this made the circumstances of his death all the more relevant... if a guy like this, a guy who's doing everything the way he's supposed to can have a heart attack, someone who's in my position at my age doesn't stand a chance in forty years.

It took a couple of months, and I don't even think it was a conscious decision, but I decided to make a change.
I wasn't going to destroy my life before it started.
I would start using my body.
I would stop filling it with garbage that made me feel like crap.
I would find balance.

Balance takes a long time to find.

March 2002. Skiing, Lake Tahoe. You can see it in my face. ~300lb

June 2008, after crossing the finish line at the Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon. 240lb.

I'm in the best shape of my life in the second picture. It took me six and a half years, but I did it the "natural" way, no surgeries, no pills. I wanted it, fought for it, and through trials and tribulations made it. It wasn't easy, there were many plateaus, peaks, and valleys... the details of these aren't important, but the lessons learned are - at least to me.

Lesson 1 - short term weight loss goals are not a means to an end. I'm no expert, but I figured out that you can't just keep losing weight gradually over time. it all looks good on paper, but it just doesn't work that way. you get burned out, frustrated, and need to let your body rest in the new shape it's discovered. I didn't take a scientific, nor guided approach to doing this - had I done so, I'd probably have accelerated my timeline. I'd lose some, gain a bit back, lose some more, level off, lose some more, gain some back, and on and on.

Lesson 2 - diets are for quitters. How many people do you know that are "always" on some fad diet or another? Low Carb, No Carb, Beach, Cookie, Drink, Grapefruit, blah blah blah. I'm a marketer, and I think that helps me see the integrated, multichannel campaign that you're eating, one forkful/packet/bar/shake/cookie at a time. There's tons of money to be made in this space - it's evident if you watch off-peak television. I wonder how much money has been made on ab gadgets alone... it's gotta be in the hundreds of millions.

Lesson 3 - this shit isn't easy. It's a struggle. Candy doesn't get less delicious, chicken wings are just as tasty... if anything, those things taste BETTER because you're not eating them all the time. After a long workout, you want to pig out - but you can't. Weight loss doesn't work unless you run a caloric deficit... burn more than you shove in your mouth. It's impossible to out work your mouth (especially my mouth!) at the gym. The human body was designed to feel "full" based on a given volume of food, assuming that food is of a reasonable caloric density. Many modern foods (like mayo) FAR exceed what I call a "reasonable" caloric density.

Lesson 4 - you need to want it. reasonable goals and reasonable timelines are key here. training for an endurance sport is a fantastic way to set a long term goal. I've used the Chicago Triathlon as my long-term improvement metric. in 2006 I finished in 03:13:53. 2007 I cut almost 14 minutes to finish in 02:59:17, and in 2008 i cut off another 2.5 minutes to finish in 02:56:42. I plan to shave time in each subsequent year to gauge progress.

My weight has fluctuated and will continue to - but fat and muscle density vary substantially. The 265lb I am at now is MUCH more lean than the 265 I was at several years ago, and I'm able to athletically perform at a level that I never dreamed I'd get to. I'm thankful for the fact that my young metabolism allows me to make these changes over the course of months, not years. I'm cognizant of the fact that it's only going to get harder, and that's intensifying my efforts.

I'm setting a "stretch" goal for myself now - I want to be under 230lb for xXx's winter camp come March 2009. I've 35lb to lose and five months to lose it. I'm going to start tracking calories, something I've never done before. It'll be hard to resist all the candy in the office, but I need to figure something out there. I want this. I want to not be the last person atop the wall this year. I want to summit Black Mountain. I want to win a cat 4 race, look good in a skinsuit, and not think twice when I take off my shirt to play volleyball at North Avenue Beach.

In short, it's on like Diddy Kong. Let the losing begin.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008


I've never been doored, and for that I consider myself lucky. I do know people who have lost bike-door battles, thankfully I don't know anyone who's died from it... but that doesn't make diminish the reality that it can happen to anyone.

Drivers, look out your mirror before you open your door. Make sure your passengers don't open the door until you give notice that it's clear to do so (this IS your responsibility as the driver!).

Cyclists, be vigilant and ride defensively! Look ahead into parked cars, into mirrors to see if there's a person in there. Make sure your position in the roadway is one where you can take evasive action to avoid a collision. Stay out of the door zone as much as you can, and don't be afraid to take the lane if it's not possible for a car to pass you safely!

the good folks over at anti-dooring are running a collection to print up another batch of stickers based on the below design... click this link if you'd like to help out.

As a driver and a cyclist, I find that there are a good number of shitty cyclists out there - there's a good number of shitty drivers, too. Just because your mode of transportation does or doesn't weigh a couple tons/use fossil fuel/go fast/make you feel protected/get the girls/look good shouldn't infringe on other's rights to using the roadway. Some people are going to ride no matter what, some will drive no matter what. We all just need to learn to get along to our destination, and safely.

please visit for more information.

a tip o' the helmet to dispatch 101's for posting this first...

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Cuyahoga Valley National Park / Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath

This weekend I came to a few conclusions:

1) Summer is over, It's Fall.
2) The journey can be the destination.
3) Fun comes at any speed.
4) Crashes come at any speed.
5) These kick ass:

I struck out to Century Cycles in Peninsula, OH this morning with my lovely lady at my side - we rented some Electra Townie 3's ($8/hour, what a deal!) with plans to explore the Erie & Ohio Towpath through Cuyahoga Valley National Park. Century's Peninsula store is adjacent to the towpath and right in the middle of the park - ample parking, easy to find, and great to deal with.

I hadn't ever ridden a bike equipped with Shimano's Nexus internally geared hubs before, and now I wonder why I don't own a bike with one. Holy Fun. When you get on the bike, you find yourself immediately laughing as soon as you take your first pedal stroke - it's like you've been transported back to your childhood... I think Electra's "flat foot" geometry does a great deal to make the bike FUN first.

We set out northbound on the towpath and were treated to nature's fall fireworks show in progress.

Peak color in this area will be in a few weeks, but the maple trees have already started changing. About 10 minutes out on the ride, TK broke this one out of mental "storage":

Erie Canal

I've got a mule, her name is Sal,
15 miles on the Erie Canal
She's a good old worker and a good old pal,
15 miles on the Erie Canal

We've hauled some barges in our day
filled with lumber, coal and hay
And we know every inch of the way from
Albany to Buffalo.

Low bridge, everybody down
Low bridge for we're coming to a town
And you'll always know your neighbor, you'll always know your pal
If you've ever navigated on the Erie Canal.

We better get along on our way ol'gal,
15 miles on the Erie Canal

'Cause you bet your life I'd never part with Sal,
15 miles on the Erie Canal.
Git up there mule, here comes a lock,
We'll make Rome about 6 o'clock
One more trip and back we'll go, right back home to Buffalo.

That continued for about an hour... I continued our reversion into childhood with the "50 States" song where you sing them in alphabetical order. Yeah, these bikes were THAT MUCH FUN.

on our way north: you can see one of the locks at the end of the clip

We then started into a discussion about how damned fun it was to ride these bikes, and how we were glad that we'd left the helmets in the car... we certainly weren't being good role models, but with our speed averaging around 8mph we figured "what could happen!?"

We figured that one out about 5 minutes later. I was cruising behind her and went to smack her butt as I passed... I passed a little close, she freaked out a bit, and our handlebars struck... next thing you know I'm face down in the gravel with two bikes on top of me, and she's on top of both bikes. We're both happy that nobody saw it happen, though I'm sure it would be youtube gold. My stem was rotated around and the bike had a few new scrapes on it, but it was otherwise ok. I scraped up the palm of my hand, my knee and a couple knuckles, and tore some holes in the elbow of my baselayer (saves the day, every time!). TK was fine, having had the benefit of using ME to cushion her fall. I was kind of surprised nothing broke on either bike.

We rode in silence for about 3 minutes until the bickering started about who caused the crash. This would continue for quite some time. We kept at it for the next 8ish miles until we reached the Canal Visitor's center in Independence, Ohio. We stopped to check out a lock that NPS still uses for demonstrations on how the water could raise/lower barges... pretty cool considering that this was built around 1825, and that labor was paid with a jigger of whiskey and 30 cents an hour.

we make this lock look GOOOOD.

At the canal visitor's center we rode over to the Depot to board the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad which works with the NPS to provide cyclists with one-way fares of $2. With multiple stations along the towpath trail, this is a great option for individuals who may want to explore one direction by bike, but another direction by rail.

We hopped on the train for our trip south and bought sandwiches for lunch. The trip south took about an hour, though there were 5 or 6 stops where the train would sit for a few minutes to allow for bikes to be loaded/unloaded. The railroad offers tours through the valley, including Murder Mystery rides and "Grape Escape" wine tasting events.

the view from the train: the towpath trail goes through the wetlands in the distance via boardwalk.

Once at Botzum we hopped on the bikes and set out northbound to peninsula once again. Parts of the towpath in this section were very close to roads, and you could see that the locks had been destroyed to make room for the road to travel through.

We discovered a produce stand and corn maze about halfway there...

We stopped and were promptly attacked by giant spiders. Shouldn't have stopped.

Since we didn't have bike locks we didn't want to leave the bikes in order to explore the produce stand, so we kept moving. The remainder of the trail passed some very interesting areas between the farm and Peninsula, mostly areas where the canal's engineers had to deal with wetlands and streams bisecting the route like Furnace Run. Flooding was apparently a major problem and would destroy critical sections of the canal, but it was the railroads that destroyed the canal's business model.

In all we had a blast. I highly recommend the towpath for anyone who's looking for an actively lazy saturday activity where you can enjoy a beautiful day. The opportunity to learn something about the history of the area you're pedaling through is always a plus, too.

For anyone who's thinking about this ride, know that going northbound on the path is at a slight downhill, where southbound is a slight uphill... make your day easier and ride north, let the train take you back south. If you're looking for a workout, check out my posts on the Cleveland metroparks rides.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Beagle v Debate

Far more interesting than the second half of the debate that's going on right now. for the live tweets.

are you registered to vote? get it done soon.

Monday, September 29, 2008


Seven hundred billion dollars.


The comparisons between "Main Street" and "Wall Street" notwithstanding, I think people would be more likely to consider this an option if it weren't for a few pesky items:

1) it doesn't seem like ANYONE will commit to the benefits of the packagethe money.
2) nobody's been able to describe what these "toxic" assets even are!
3) we've uh, been kinda burned on this whole "its gotta happen now now now, its good for the country, trust us" thing before. PATRIOT Act, anyone?

Update: the house just voted it down. Dow down 600ish points. Oh hell.
Update: MSNBC's got an interesting newsvine feed going... looks like 70% of respondents are saying "No it's not a good idea".
Update: time to start drinking

Monday, September 22, 2008

Jackson Park Cyclocross Race Report

See the race on MotionBased:

after 30 minutes of pain

xXx's Cyclocross offering in Jackson Park kicked off the Chicago Cross Cup for 2008. I arrived plenty early so I could watch the hour-long Pro/1/2 race - I wanted to see how experienced cross racers would ride the course - what lines they took approaching barricades, etc.

Heeding Randy's advice from the previous week, I pre-rode the ~1.25mi course twice. Generally flat, it provided some rather technical off-camber turns into barricades, 180 degree turns transitioning pavement to grass, and long straightaways allowing for passing. The course was generally narrow enough to make passing difficult outside of the straightaways, so I knew that positioning at the start would be critical to avoiding the inevitable traffic jam as the peleton headed into the first narrow section.

I managed to line up on the second row, inside at the start - at the time it seemed like the 4a group was big when I watched the start of that race, but now it seemed like there were MORE guys in the 4b race.

Dave Fowkes gave us our pre-race speech and started us off. The rider ahead of me clipped in properly and was off like a rocket - I was able to do the same and followed his wheel out of the start/finish area. I charged hard into the first narrow section, somewhere around 8th wheel. As I wound through, I caught the jam-up in my peripheral vision and charged ahead. I approached the off-camber-dismount-into-a-barricade and popped off the bike perfectly, somehow. I suitcased the bike up to the next barricade instead of rolling it (was yelled at for this), cleared the second barricade and remounted, clipped in, and was off again. Never had I so cleanly mounted/dismounted before. I was about 10th wheel when I came to the third barricade and dropped my chain... tried being uber-PRO and shift it back on, but it wasn't happening. I grabbed the chain, pitched it onto the small ring, and got back on the bike. I dropped my chain on that same spot 2 laps later... not sure what I was doing wrong. After the first chain drop I knew I was mid-pack and that it was unlikely I'd catch up, so I settled into a tempo and rode, trying to keep from being passed any further.

On the last lap, the intensity caught up with me and I just had no gas left in the tank but I pushed it out as hard as I could. On the back half, Guy Graves yelled "MOVE YOUR ASS ITS THE LAST LAP" which found me with more energy, somehow... knowing that there was a decent pavement section before the finish, I shifted into my 53x24 and stood on it, sprinting like there was no tomorrow - I hit the pavement and worked through the gears, hitting the grass again around 22-23mph and passing 2 or 3 riders in disbelief. I almost puked about 15 seconds after that last effort but held it back. Puke smell doesn't come out of bar tape, so I'm told.

My goal for the race was to survive, finishing without breaking anything. The bike's ok, I'm ok, and it was fun.

Before I raced, I wasn't sure if I'd like cyclocross. I found that answer in Jackson Park. :)

Luke's Race Photos

crossposted at:

Friday, September 19, 2008


I got a facebook message from the girl who moved into my old apartment... apparently a package had been delivered to my old address and vintage clothing store out front was holding it... hrm, I'm not expecting a package, ok.

I get to Shangri-La (cool place, cool people that run it btw) and the guy behing the counter points to a 2'x2' box... wtf? Then I notice "Accenture Chicago Triathlon" on the return address... coolio, it's my prize pack. Since I rode over there and had a half-full bag already, I figured I'd open it up to see what was inside.

I'll say, this is a pretty decent prize pack - I don't know if the regular age groupers got anything different than the clydes, but this is still pretty decent. Inside was a TYR Tri backpack big enough for a helluva lot of stuff - easily would work as a race bag, especially nice because it's got separate pockets for wet/nasty stuff. There was also a $50 gift certificate good towards Sidi product at Village Cycle Center.... but the best thing in the bag:


Hells yeah. I've got two of these bitches now. Maybe I shouldn't quit triathlon quite yet?

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Wednesday Link Dump

I haven't done one of these yet, let me know if you hate it.

Palin Baby Name Generator

$85B is a shitload of cash.

90B gallons is a shitload of water.

Interesting proposal as an alternative to "deep tunnel... fascinating.

Indoor MTB Park. Rad.

Chicagoist is losing it.

Sunday, September 14, 2008


As less-than-ideal-situations go, I thought I had it bad with the cross bike problems on Saturday.

Nope. Pants off, passed out on the beach in the morning. Never been there, I don't wanna.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Fun with the Cross Bike

Today was quite the day. Since Gustav's remnants are dumping copious amounts of water all over the midwest you'd think it wasn't a good saturday to ride... au contraire. The original plan was to meet at the Lincoln/Damen Starbucks at 6:30 and ride from there. Since my contact about the *$ meet was Jeff and I had gotten a bail-text from him around 6:05 I had my reservations about leaving the house at all. I got in touch with Boggs who was still waiting at *$ and decided to kit up and get moving. It was completely worth it. I met the others and we rode up Lincoln a ways until I asked what route we were taking that involved so much of Lincoln... nobody had an answer so I took the lead and steered us westbound onto Lawrence en route to Devon/Milwaukee. When we got there, we noticed that the field below the toboggan slides was covered in water - some small patches of grass still visible though.

I've never been disappointed by Randy's clinics and this was no exception to that rule - we covered dismounting, mounting, dismount-barrier-mount, as well as group starts. I'd hoped for better results in the group starts but couldn't seem to get my damned shoes to clip in - I'm spoiled by SPD-SL and it's easy cleat-pedal interface. A normal portion of this clinic involves hill run-ups, but the growing lake in the field below us didn't allow for it. Too bad, shouldering the bike for no apparent reason just isn't quite the same.

At the end of the clinic, this is what we saw at the entrance to the N Branch Trail.

When we arrived, the picnic tables in the pavilion were visible, though water was covering the concrete pad below them - the dumpster serving the pavilion had some water around the base of it... when we left, water had all but topped the dumpster, and the tops of the picnic tables were covered. The North Branch Trail had at least 4' of water over it. An intrepid group of us tried to go north via Milwaukee>Harts Road but found Harts to be covered with rapidly flowing water... not sure exactly how deep it was, but you could definitely feel it pushing on your wheels upon riding through it. Since it would prove difficult to find decent non-flooded trails, we opted to grab a coffee to warm up for the ride home. Along the way we saw several railroad underpasses where cars were being towed out of the water - we also discovered that potholes lie under standing water several times, but luckily none of us flatted.

After I got home, I lounged around a bit and dried out since I had been wet for ~5 hours straight. Around 4 I set out to run some errands and took the cross bike back out. Nothing's quite as fun as putting sopping wet shoes onto dry socks, let me tell you.

As I was heading north along the deserted LFP around Belmont I figured I'd take advantage of the space and continue to practice dismounting/mounting the bike. After several successful rounds, one round that failed miserably (messr bag caught on saddle, oops), and another attempt that led to me face down in a puddle, I figured I'd get moving and finish playing in the mud. As I shifted, I heard some sad noises from my rear derailleur and felt my chain tension against something - not good. I looked back to find this gift from the cycling Gods:

Yeah, that's my rear derailleur. Fuct. Hardcore. Hangar bent 90 degrees all to hell, upside down like it's a trapeze artist or some shit. Sweet.

At this point, it really starts to rain. Thanks.

I snap a few pictures (naturally), whip out the multitool and get to work - hangar needs to come off, cabling removed from shifter & de-routed from lugs, you name it. I stuff everything into my bag while looking for my chain tool... which isn't there. Rock. On. So much for a cassette singlespeed solution to get home. I try to tension the chain across the 53x26 but that's just not happening - every time I put pressure on the cranks, the chain jumps around on the cassette all crazy-like. Chain's gotta come off. The rain lets up a bit.

Solution? Put this morning's skills clinic to the test. I tried running and mounting, but that's all kinds of hard to do when the crank is spinning freely - pedal smashing into my opposite shin, which is pretty cool. Next option, clip into one side and kick myself along with the opposite leg... this option worked best... one leg gets tired, coast it out and switch, the kick along some more. I made it to the Roscoe tunnel and hailed a cab on the other side. Cabbie not so thrilled about muddy wet bike-dude getting into his cab and he made no effort whatsoever to get my bike into his cab. After aborting that attempt at getting to a shop I realized I was only 2 blocks away from Belmont... as I'm scooting along I see a #77 sitting at the light... who knows when the next one will come, so I hop off, shoulder the bike, and run.

Pedestrians really don't know how to react when they see a sopping wet 6'6" dude with a bike on his shoulder running at them. Some, wisely, get the hell outta the way. Others stop like deer in headlights.

I made it to the bus, got the bike to a shop, and it's there for the night. Hopefully they can call me tomorrow with a full assessment of the damages. I need this bike up and running for next Sunday's race, so here's hoping the repairs are relatively straightforward... and that I don't need a new rear derailleur.

Thursday, September 11, 2008


As I was riding yesterday I took a look at my jersey and saw the names printed on my sleeves - it was then I realized that today was significant for a reason other than most remember 9/11 for... it's the day we lost Pieter.

I couldn't not get out and ride. I'm not typically one to "enjoy" climbs, but for some reason they weren't so bad today. Maybe it was the fact that they were there, I was there, my bike there between us.

and back

Monday, September 8, 2008

Cleveland Lakefront Bikeway: Rocky River to Downtown

This evening I decided to head west along the Cleveland Lakefront Bikeway to see what it had to offer. I searched for maps/cue sheets online unsuccessfully so I figured that I'd just find my way out there. The westbound route from downtown out to Rocky River is essentially the same, save for one stretch through Ohio City where you're on one-way streets for a few blocks. Signs along the route aren't the "standard" green bike route signs w/ a white bike on them, but they are placed just before each turn in the trail. That said, there are a few spots where you've been pedaling along for quite some time without seeing a sign; it would be nice if there were a few more signs to reassure riders that they're still on the right track. The beginning of this review is designed to take you from the Northernmost point of the Rocky River Reservation along roads suitable for an experienced cyclist. If you're not comfortable with riding on roadways and/or with moderate traffic then you may want to try using a street parallel to the one I took. The below route review is written with directions eastbound from Rocky River to Downtown, but should be fairly easy to adapt for westbound travel.

Cleveland Lakefront Bikeway: Rocky River to Downtown

From Valley Parkway & Detroit Road, continue Northbound on Sloane Ave but prepare to make a left turn after ~150m onto Sloane Subway. This short yet very interesting street seems to be the only way to cross an abandoned set of railroad tracks, and spits you out onto Clifton Rd. You'll be traveling along good pavement here, with wide undulating residential streets lined with beautiful homes - this is the case for your entire time spent in Lakewood. You'll cross Rt. 2/US 60/Clifton Blvd, continuing North onto Lake Avenue for a short time until you hit Webb ave and will need to make a quick right followed by a quick left as Lake does not cleanly cross Webb.

Lake Avenue is not an ideal road for recreational cycling, but it's definitely the best option in the area. Traffic is not particularly heavy because of Lake Ave's proximity to US 60. You'll continue for approximately 3.5 miles where you'll make a left onto Cove Ave, approaching many large midrise apartment/condo buildings overlooking Lake Erie. Follow Cove for a block and make a right onto Edgewater Drive. Continue along Edgewater and you'll leave the midrise buildings behind and return to single family homes along both sides of the street. You'll reach the beginning of the Cleveland Lakefront Bikeway at the intersection of 115th Street and Edgewater Drive, almost exactly 4 miles from the start.

Edgewater drive continues eastbound, the pavement along this portion is rough at times but in generally good condition. You're on a very gradual downhill here, but you'll soon drop down to lake level. At Edgewater and West Ave, follow the bikeway signs into Edgewater park where you'll continue on a 8'-10' wide path that snakes through the park. Take some time to refill your bottles here if necessary, but be sure to check out the view before you go down the hill.

At this point, check your brakes because you're going to need them - you're in for a 5%-10% descent down to lake level, and there's beach sand blown all over the path. Take care not to hit sand at speed, even experienced cyclists have trouble with staying rubber side down with sand under the tires. The path diverges at the bottom, if you'd prefer to explore the park take a left turn, the path is a loop through the park and will bring you back. If you're heading downtown, keep moving straight and head towards the Rt. 2 underpass. Stay alert here and obey your stop sign, there are cars moving on and off an expressway here and they may not be aware that there's a bike path at the base of the ramp. Put yourself in an easy gear, you're about to climb up about 40 vertical feet in a rather short time.

From the park you'll climb into Ohio City through a subway beneath railroad tracks. Be alert through here, there's quite a few turns in addition to a fair amount of glass in the tunnel, so watch where you're pointing those tires! Once out of the tunnel, there's a bit more twisty climbing to do, so stick it out and you'll find yourself in a light industrial/residential part of Ohio City, @ the intersection of W 65th Street and Father Caruso Drive. Continue south on 65th for a couple blocks and follow the sign to make a left onto Herman Ave for a block, then another right onto 58th followed by a quick left onto Tillman Ave. These turns are all well-signed, but some trees should be trimmed to make finding the signs a little easier. Tillman ave is the eastbound route, westbound riders at this point would use Herman Ave one block to the North. Follow Tillman for two blocks then make a right onto 49th and a quick left onto Detroit Ave.

Detroit Ave is probably the "hairy" section of this ride, but it's really not that bad. The right lane offers parallel parking, which provides the cyclist with 4' between parked car and the dashed lane line divider where traffic flows. Follow Detroit Ave the rest of the way through Ohio City and over the Veteran's Memorial Bridge. A note about the bridge - it was widened beyond the original steel structure at some point and there's a lane to the right of the steel. This is NOT the best place to ride. If you watch the painted lines carefully, you'll notice that the bike lane requires you to cross over the rightmost lane of traffic into the bike lane which is then adjacent to the center travel lane. Once past the main span of the bridge, the center bike lane ends and reappears on the right shoulder once again. This isn't an ideal situation, but with proper signaling a cyclist shouldn't have much problem getting through this area.

Once over the bridge, it's only a few blocks further East to Public Square, Tower City, or anywhere else downtown you'd like to go. Put your bike on the RTA and find a new place to ride, or maybe grab a bite to eat somewhere on 4th ave or the warehouse district.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Making this site better.


Derailleur Hanger, Maybe?

I took the new wheels out for a ride on Labor Day... great fun. Leonard, Peggy, Alberto and I took the team route up to Highland Park. Wheels are stiff and roll VERY smooth - the rear's freehub is very quiet, especially compared to my Ksyriums.

At one point on the way back, I shifted into my 26... and hear a faint "cling cling cling". I've heard this before: rear derailleur cage hitting spokes. Damnit. My hanger's probably bent just slightly - who knows how long it's been that way, probably from the last time I shipped it? The Proctor crash?

Grr. Here's hoping this doesn't turn into a fiasco of parts replacement.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

New Wheels!

I've been eyeing a new set of road wheels for a while now - my backup/training wheels were lost to my cross bike over the winter and I've never made up for it... until now. I was between a set of Neuvation R23 Aero4's and "Traditional" Ultegra Hub/Mavic Open Pro wheels. Each had pros, the Neuvations are lighter, both are known to be very strong regardless of how you torture them, and they both cost under $300/set.

Through much consultation with others and many people as fans in either camp, I decided to pick up the Ultegra/Open Pro setup... mostly because I got them locally and didn't have to wait, but also because they ended up being $220 since they were on sale at a certain store that's in cahoots with a secret website where they have ridonkulous prices on things. I couldn't pass them up for 40% less than the Neuvations.

64 spokes of fury!

This evening I set out on a quick test run... planning to ride early in the morning and the last thing I want is a wheel problem so I figured I'd give them a spin. I threw on some FSA rim strip (I normally prefer VeloFlex cotton tape, this is an experiment), some tubes and tires off my destructorated Mavic Cosmics and off I was. As soon as I put weight on them, I heard the spokes pop into place... great. This is one disadvantage of hand "finished" wheelsets, but for the price I can deal with it. Wheels felt nice and stiff for standing sprints, accelerate well but definitely not as easily as my Ksyriums - those will be a lighter weight "treat" for race day from now on. I headed north to Hollywood on the LFP, where a Fred grabbed my wheel around Addison and sucked wheel all the way to the Irving Park tennis courts, at which point I looked back and kindly informed him that I'd appreciate him announcing when he's on my wheel - all too often you need to take quick evasive action on the LFP and if some Fred is overlapping your rear wheel without your knowledge... bad news. I made it to Hollywood and hopped off the bike to check the wheels - true and round. Sweet. I did, however, notice that the nose of my saddle was pointed up a tad. I'm hoping I can torque that bolt down to keep this thing from moving, time will tell on that one.

On the way back, a Fred on a double squish was on my wheel. What's with these guys? First, it's flat here. Second, the LFP is PAVED AND SMOOTH. If you were riding on Lake Shore Drive you might need the full suspension, but it's entirely unnecessary. Whatever. Since I was out for a short ride to test these wheels, I wasn't looking to drop anyone nor was I feeling competitive. I maintained 18-20mph all the way south to Belmont, where I peeled off... at which point Fred exclaims:

"Thanks for being the rabbit".

Oh, Fred. You're so welcome.


In other news, I like my new wheels :)

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Chicago Triathlon Race Report

2008 Chicago Triathlon Race Report - Aug 24 2008

Going into this race, I knew that I hadn't put the effort into it this year like I had in the year prior - my training schedule in 2007 was entirely focused on this race, with bike races as secondary. When planning this year out, I really thought that I'd be able to "do it all", mixing triathlons in with a full schedule of road races and crits... not so much. Over the winter I became much more comfortable in the water - a requirement for a race like Escape from Alcatraz. I hadn't been on a strict training regimen since June, so I knew that I would be "coasting" on residual swimming fitness since I'd only been in the pool a max of once a week for the last few months.

Tracy arrived just in time for me to hand off my flip flops and get lined up - I had tucked a GU into the ankle of my wetsuit but by the time I zipped up it was nowhere to be found. Great. Looking around, I noticed that the wave was MUCH bigger than it had been in years past... all Men's Clydesdales were starting in Wave 27. Great. We started getting into the water and I positioned myself in the middle, only having to tread water for about 30 seconds before we were off. I started my Garmin and flattened out into the water.

oblivious me.

For as many guys as there were in the wave, the beginning of the swim wasn't too bad. I quickly made my way up to the front third of the wave, only having to swim over the top of two or three people to get there. About 300 yards out my goggles fogged to the point where I couldn't see a thing, so I moved over to the seawall where I could lick the lenses - this did the trick and I was fine for the remainder of the swim. We were at the Shedd Aquarium before I knew it, while turning around the buoy I peeked back and realized that I was pulling most of the group - there weren't too many pink caps ahead of me! I stuck it out for another 200-300 yards and started feigning fatigue - no point in letting these suckers draft me for the entire swim - it was their turn to do some work. It only took a few "soft" strokes in the water to be passed, at which time I promptly jumped into the leader's wake and matched his rhythm. With 100yd to go, I kicked into high gear and oxygen debt, even managing to breathe bilaterally in order to get out of the water as quickly as possible.

The run from the water always sucks. My first year I did it without stashing shoes. Mistake. I had my shoes in a good spot this year, so I stopped to put them on, along with my xXx jersey that I had laid on top of them. I fiddled with getting my Garmin onto my wrist, something I shouldn't have wasted time with since it was going to be clipped onto the bike anyways... but who's thinking logically during T1 anyways? Tracy was right there to lend support - I don't know if she was talking to me, yelling, screaming, or had signs - I knew she was there but was so "in the zone" that the world was on mute.

this run always sucks.

I got to transition and my bike with ease - I had prewalked it and knew exactly where I was going. Not many of my wave's bikes were gone and for that I was thrilled and thankful... I've not had that happen before since my swim has always sucked. I put on my socks and shoes, donned my helmet and rolled out, putting my gloves on while maneuvering the bike with the other hand (that's really hard to do, by the way).

Starting out onto the bike course I knew my legs just weren't in prime shape - they felt sluggish even when I passed through the Oak Street Chicane. Sunday's headwind certainly wasn't helping, I could barely maintain 19 mph regardless of how I positioned myself. Encouraged by the spaceship sounds of my borrowed Zipp 606's (thanks, Mission Bay!) I tried my best to put the hammer down and get myself up to Foster Ave for the turn back south, figuring I could make up the lost time on the southbound stretches. Once turned south, I found that the pavement was somehow in WORSE condition than it was for Bike the Drive. Great. Tanks to Da Mare for dat won. Hizzoner could have had CDOT put some effort into Lake Shore Drive, especially since this will likely be the Olympic Triathlon course if/when Chicago 2016 happens and the IOC was likely watching this event. Potholes, cracks, rough patches... and a BIG ASS HOLE FULL OF SAND awaited us on the southbound stretch. I managed to recognize the inconsistent pavement far enough in advance to avoid most of it, but it was hard to find a rhythm when constantly swerving to avoid people/holes/aero drink sponges/water bottles. Southbound, the wind helped a great deal but it just wasn't enough for me to average the 40km/h I needed to come in at an hour for the bike leg. As I passed Chicago Ave on the way to T2 I ate another GU to prepare for the run. While coming down the suicide ramp before dismount, I heard a bunch of people yell out for me - I presumed these were xXxers who saw me coming down the ramp (I had my team jersey on).

"suicide" u-turn onto lower randolph

Transition still wasn't terribly busy... and there were few bikes on my wave's rack. I still wasn't going to celebrate too much as the run is BY FAR my weakest event. I took off my helmet, threw on my shoes and grabbed my crack pack (Enervitene) as I was already feeling that I'd need it just to get through the run. I headed out with apprehension - on last year's run I experienced some of the worst foot pain I've ever had... it felt like a needle being shoved through the ball of my foot... pretty sweet. Around Mile 2 the pain kicked in, both feet this time but the left foot being far worse than the right. As last year, if I alternated between running and walking and stayed in the gravel/grass I knew I'd make it. Keeping in mind that I was targeting 2:45, I had started on pace to hit that number but having to walk some would prevent me from achieving that goal - the pain was sufficient that I didnt' care. I found another guy who I had started the race with while running, he was having problems with chest congestion and just couldn't get enough air. We leapfrogged each other doing the walk/run drill until around mile 3 we started to encourage one another to get moving. I knew that I had to beat last year's time... I had a fever, and the only prescription was to HTFU and more cowbell. Someone was ringing it, because I came out of the LSD tunnel with some energy for the last 200m and finished strong.

Overall, I managed to place three full minutes faster than last year at 2:56, also first in my Division - Men 250+ Lb Under 39y/o. I'll take that.

first in my division. didn't know it at the time.

Here's my splits from the past 3 years (click to embiggen).

Monday, August 25, 2008

2008 Chicago Triathlon, FTW!

I won my division. Holy kick ass sweet.

The guy who came in behind me was 4 minutes faster in the swim, but I was 4 minutes faster on the bike... he was 50 seconds faster than me on the run. He lost the race in transition. My T1 was 2:47 faster, T2 was 13 seconds faster.

It totally pays to roll your socks off so you can get them back onto wet feet faster :)

Full race report pending.

Paid! (DHL Broked my Bike, Part 2)

In an earlier post I noted that DHL had broken my bike on a whirlwind tour of the eastern US... looks like they've owned up to it, there was a check in my mailbox this morning. It sucks that they lost my cleanest, whitest 2007 xXx jersey, but I suppose the funds can go towards buying a 2009 jersey.

I will say, DHL's claim process could have been much more of a painful process. I've processed insurance claims in the past and all too often the adjusters have a mountain of claims to handle on a daily basis, with many claims having quite a long tail on them due to inspections, missing paperwork, etc. I probably made it easier on both my adjuster and myself by providing a ton of pictures, narrative, and documentation with my original claim submission... still, two weeks from filing the claim to having a check in hand is a pretty quick turnaround.

Still... it seems odd that DHL chose to send me the check via USPS. Why wouldn't they deliver it themselves? Fear of being damaged?

Monday, August 18, 2008

Cleveland Metroparks: Rocky River Reservation

Let me say this... Cleveland's got some SWEET riding. When I found out I was coming out here I spoke with Jeff who informed me that he was jealous... I'd be able to ride the metroparks. I'm inclined to agree.

Since I'm not here on the weekends and my work schedule makes a 5-hour ride impossible during daylight hours I broke the "emerald necklace" up into chunks so I could ride the whole thing. I'm sure I'll find a portion that I like best, but it's all pretty dayum cool so far.

Rocky River Reservation

From Bagley Road to the lake you'll find some of the best riding I've come across in a while - especially considering your proximity to a major airport and metro area. Valley Parkway is two lanes with good pavement, though you will occasionally come across a rough section from the right tire track to the shoulder. Northbound is a slight downhill, not enough to really recognize unless you've got a computer that tracks it. Having a slight tailwind and this downhill, I thought I was just having a great day out on the bike until I turned back south and reality washed over me.

There aren't many stop signs or lights on this section - 4 or 5 stoplights at most. It's truly a place close to the city where a recreational cyclist can get a quality workout with minimal traffic hassle, especially since the road's speed limit is 30mph and visibility at the intersections is very good.

As amenities go, you are riding through a park so there are restrooms and drinking fountains aplenty. There is a golf course with a snack bar just south of Lorain road, but that's pretty much your only convenient food/drink option so be sure to bring everything you'll need along with you.

At the north end, Valley Parkway abruptly ends at Detroit Road and there's no signage to indicate which direction a person might go from there based on your ultimate destination - Cleveland's bicycling network seriously leaves something to be desired on this front. I had my Garmin GPSMap60CS with me so I was able to navigate through some of the neighborhoods closer to the lake, where I discovered that the majority of the shoreline was privately owned with little to no public access. Apparently there is a public beach here at the end of Columbia Road (at Lake Road, Route 6), but I didn't attempt to venture over there as I was losing daylight. On that note - if there's a chance that you'll be out at or after sunset, you will need lights on this stretch of road as it gets quite dark and drivers are unlikely to expect cyclists on the road at night. Should you be stuck without lights, I'd suggest taking the bike path adjacent to Valley Parkway as a safer alternative.

I'll post more sections as I get a chance to ride and review them.

Friday, August 15, 2008


I was out of cereal, and my Cleveland apartment doesn't have much around it for grocery stores, so taking a cue from my lady, I went "grocery shopping" at CVS... ended up with a box of Kashi GoLean! Crunch.

I should have heeded The Car Whisperer's Advice. I sat down watching the olympics and decided I'd try a handful of it - before I knew what had happened I had eaten half the box.

I'll say one thing, ~24 hours after you eat a bunch, you sure as hell feel like you've "Gone Lean!". It's powerful stuff to say the least.

It's ironic that a colonic roto-rooter cereal might cause you to have to call roto-rooter to deal with the aftermath.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

DHL broked my bike.

In shipping my cross bike from Seattle to Cleveland, DHL decided to send it on a whirlwind tour of the USA.

Yeah, you read that right. Seattle to Ohio to Virginia to Ohio to Pennsylvania to Ohio. Logistics are complicated. What's efficient doesn't always make sense to those not close to the operation. I'm guessing that the Virginia trip was completely unnecessary... and people might wonder why DHL is in dire financial straits, looking to have UPS carry freight for them.

In the process, my bike suffered injury... you've gotta do bad things to a boxed bike to bend a derailleur hanger and knock a wheel out of true. I don't know exactly what happened, nor do I want to know. Along with the bike being hurt, a team jersey must have fallen out somehow, because I packed ALL my clothes (clean and dirty) in the bike box for shipment. The jersey was the only thing dirty because I missed it when I did my last load of laundry, so it was in a separate bag on top. Grr. I'd rather have my jersey than the $69 I paid for it, especially since it was the only 2007 jersey that I hadn't crashed in.

I found a Trek dealer online, took it in for them to install the new hangar and true the wheel - they tried telling me that I should go for a super tune-up ($129!) since I also wanted to have the rear brake re-cabled (not DHL's fault) but I figured that would just complicate the damage claim process to not have a separate receipt for the shipping damages. $63.87 for the wheel true, new hanger, and derailleur adjustment. Not unreasonable.

I'm sending the claim form in today... I figured 2 hours at $30/hour was pretty reasonable since it took me about an hour to figure out what the hell was wrong with the bike, plus I had to drive the bike to and from the bike shop, which took about an hour total. I'm guessing they'll dispute this portion.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

A Cyclists Prayer.... and Pray you check those Keos

swiped from:

Well said, especially the "silence until peaceful words policy" post-crash.

A Cyclists Prayer

I say a few prayers while riding and racing bikes. These help me keep things in perspective and keep it real. Here are a few of my common prayers that aren’t too personal.

Allow these bike racers not to rage against each other but to strive with each other. Amen

Let these racers not get injured so they are able to continue to do purposeful work off of the bike and be able to do all the goodness they can with their families and friends. Amen

Keep me from lusting after these bicycles. Help make my bicycle a tool for goodness as I pray while riding. Amen

Help me not get angry at riders who don’t hold their line. Especially do not let me get angry when riders force their way between me and the racer in front of me because this is just a competitive move in racing bikes. Amen

I know that the act of bike racing really doesn’t compare to more meaningful acts but at least let this time be enriched by prayer. And more importantly let this time be one of harmony between racers. Let us show support for each other and not trash talk or gossip. Amen

Help me not get angry at this guy who is opening up gaps and riding at an uneven pace. Rather let me turn this anger over to energy toward catching the pack. Give me similar energy toward purposeful goals in my life. Amen

If a racer causes me to crash may I not say anything until I can speak some peaceful words. Amen

Riding Look Keo's? Check them for a recall. Makes me glad I chose SPD-SL's.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Tour of Elk Grove 4's - Where's my power?

Chicago residents are no strangers to traffic, but it was quite a surprise to find the Kennedy at a standstill as we headed out to Elk Grove from the city... so much for a pre-race warmup, we figured. When we arrived, it was clear that this event was as well organized as last year - 40 minutes prior to the start of the first race, barricades and cameras were in place, the finish line was striped, and not to be outdone by Da Mare, Elk Grove had a Jumbotron!

Registration was another story... Race organizers: Pre-registration benefits organizer and racer alike. One of the ways you can make everyone's life easier is to pre-fill USAC waivers on behalf of your participants so the check-in process goes much smoother. You get a legible form, we don't have to scramble to find a decent writing surface. Deal. It took almost 20 minutes to sign my form and get my numbers... and there was no line when I walked up to the table. By the time I walked away, there were at least 10 people waiting.

While changing for the race, the 5's were off and it was strung out from the beginning... I thought it was a preview lap at first, but when I saw the leaders' speeds it was apparent that the 5's were strung out from the beginning. No such luck for us. When we got to the staging area to line up, everyone was antsy - it was getting quite warm out and first race had gotten off a few minutes late. Once the pace car confirmed the course was clear of the previous race, we were told to head to the line, no preview lap. At the line, the referee announced that our race was being cut to 25 minutes + 2 instead of the prescribed 30 minutes + 1. Positioning at the line is critical in this narrow course, so I moved up as far as possible. We started fast, and the group strung out a good bit due to some poor clip-ins at the line. Having raced the 5's last year, I knew this course. Elk Grove's L-shaped course features 180 degree turns that create a nightmarish accordion crashfest if you're in the back of the pack, somewhere I planned to stay far away from... plans change. For the first several laps, I stayed in the front 10 wheels, even chasing down a few attacks on the backstretch. For a bit it seemed that a break might get away, but despite my efforts to block they weren't quite far enough out to hold. Having been off the bike for most of July due to moving, vacation, and my insane work schedule, I knew that these August races would be tough, but I hadn't anticipated having little to no power coming out of the corners. For whatever reason, I just couldn't accelerate like I used to - a serious detriment in this race. With two to go I was spit out the back with a fellow teammate. We worked together to finish strong, determined not to let a pack of ~10 or so catch us. We managed to stay away, finishing in the bottom of the results.

In all, a well organized event despite some challenges at registration. I just need to figure out where the hell my power went. If anyone finds it, let me know - I'll have you overnight it to me. I could use it.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Seattle Critical Mass Clusterfuck

Apparently everything went to hell during Seattle's Critical Mass ride on Friday. A car got corked, mean words were exchanged, car was damaged, bikes run over, people hurt.

“I’m gay, the person with me was a lesbian and we were a attacked by eco-terrorists. It’s the most Seattle thing that could have happened."

I've ridden CM a few times in the past and it definitely instilled a LOT of confidence in my ability to ride through the streets of Chicago... but I've grown up. On the Advocacy front, there's little if any positive impact from the event, other than the participants' having a hell of a fun time and bikes being involved. I'm all for a good time, but when the group grows to several thousand riders to create a polluting traffic jam, it only serves to anger drivers... and they take it out on any cyclist they see... which could be your friend, loved one...

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Chicago Criterium Race Report

Between being off the bike for three weeks and this being my first proper 4's race, I knew that my result in the Chicago Criterium wouldn't be pretty, but since it was the inaugural event and the start/finish was only 6 miles from home... you just gotta race it!

This course, wow. Holy awesome. A little something for everyone - small climbs, a technical backstretch, and WIDE sprinting lanes. These are the elements that criterium dreams are made of. I'm not sure if Chicago stumbled across this throu dumb luck or if they had experts design it, but this is what a crit is suppose to be... the fact that it's almost half a mile away from the closest Burger King sits well with most riders, too. It was clear that Chicago was on display for the IOC, with banners and inflatables touting the Chicago 2016 Summer Olympics bid. In all, for the first year of the event, things seemed to be set up and staged well from a race execution perspective.

After hearing about some of the carnage in the earlier races, I decided that I didn't want to crash a third time this season so I figured I'd sit in the middle and see how things looked from there. Bad move. I should have known it was going to be a hammerfest when Dave Fowlkes announced that we were racing 30min + 2 rather than the scheduled 35+1. A minor difference, true... but throwing a wrench into things by cutting the time always seems to move a race a bit uptempo. From the get go, this was F A S T. I've ridden with a lot of these 4's when we were all 5's and/or in 4/5 combined fields... but never on a course this wide open. 25mph on the short ends, 35mph on the front and back stretch, including the Congress Parkway semicircle. I floated from the middle of the pack to the back quarter, where the accordion effect was terrible. Several times I'd try to move up, but the 119 riders in the field managed to fill the spacious course and made moving up quite the chore. I managed to hang with the group for about 20-22 minutes until I popped off the back when everyone accelerated with a prime sprint. I did get lapped with one to go, but managed to get out of the pack's way in choosing the "wrong" line through the course so they could safely pass. I'm pretty sure I was DFL, but at least I wasn't pulled.

In all, the race was smooth and safe, with only one crash that I didn't witness as I was off the back - apparently someone went down on the Michigan/Balbo corner, causing many riders to slow themselves out of contention.

I look forward to this race next year - hopefully I'll be in better shape. I was dissapointed in my result, but I still had a blast.

You did good on dis one, Da Mare.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Slipstream's Motionbased Site

I use motionbased to track my outdoor workouts... very cool that Slipstream has uploaded this year's Tour stages.


Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Alaska: Kenai Fjords Tour (July 20)

The morning after... still a little blurry but all appendages still intact for both of us, so it was a successful night of drinking. I'd booked our cruise as we were waiting for the wedding shuttle to pick us up, so we didn't have much on the agenda for the morning.

Soo's breakfast was stellar once again - pancakes with a berry compote toppping - perfect little alcohol sponges that did the trick. Knowing that we were going on a boat ride, Tracy and I were able to successfully eat enough to get rid of the hangover but not so much that we'd get seasick if things got rough out there.

After breakfast, we headed back to the room - I blogged one of the previous entries while Tracy was getting ready, then we made our way to Seward's small boat harbor to catch the boat. Seward's harbor was drastically different than Homer's, to say the least. It's less fishing-centric and definitely has been made very tourist-friendly (there's a Subway, ha) to accomodate the numerous cruise and tour passengers that come through the area. It's unlikely that many of them make it to the proper downtown area, it definitely has a lot to offer. We picked up our boarding passes and made our way across the pier to the awaiting Kenai Star.

We had two options - a 3-4 hour bay cruise or an 8 hour glacier cruise. Since we'd hiked to Exit Glacier a few days prior, we'd thought about doing the shorter trip but we're certainly glad that we went on the longer dinner cruise. We got our seating assignment and decided that we'd go out on the deck instead of sitting inside right away... everyone else did this as well. Luckily as the cruise went on, more and more people declined to brave the wind coming off the cold Pacific waters and decided to sit indoors in the warm cabin - more space for us.

Over the course of our 8 hour cruise, we saw humpback whales, orcas, several tpes of seals, sea otters, lots of puffins and other sea birds, a big freakin glacier, and some dall's porpoise... and after dinner (Prime Rib and Red Salmon) Tracy spilled coffee all over her pants.

No seasickness on this boat ride, whee! We spent some time near a glacier, and it got MUCH colder, apparently the water temperature drops to ~34 degrees in close proximity. There were enough large pieces of glacier floating in the water that the captain had to steer around them in a zig-zag pattern in order to get us close.

The above video gives you some idea... It was pretty creepy to hear the ice screeching against the hull. The "thunk" noises you hear are "berglets" (little icebergs) that the boat is running into. Visions of "Titanic" flashed through my mind... but it was well worth it.

Once we headed away from the glacier, the crew made an announcement: they had fished a piece of glacier ice out of the water and had chopped it up for drinks... glacier margaritas were on special for $4. What a great way to sell a bunch of drinks!

After we returned to Seward, we walked back to Soo's and got ready to go out - the Seward Ale House awaited us; those still in town had agreed to meet up for one last time since most of us were heading in different directions on Monday.

It's hard to beat a dog-friendly bar that serves draft beer in mason jars and has free hot dogs. We took advantage.

In all this was a great end to a wonderful trip - we had a blast, A and B got hitched, and we brought home some fish. It's a little disheartening not to see mountains whenever you look for the horizon, but I suppose the Chicago Skyline's not half bad either.

See all the pictures from the trip: