Monday, June 30, 2008

Cascade Creampuff 2008

It was a comfortable temperature at the 5:00am race check-in, thanks to a thunderstorm that rolled through the night before (I was glad that I'd splurged on the hotel room, rather than camping, which appeared to be the chosen option for many riders). Apparently one of the race organizers took Maz aside and asked her if she knew what she was getting in to, doing the race on a single speed. 

The route was effectively two laps of a figure eight, with four key climbs, each of which was somewhere close to 3,000 feet of net elevation gain. The surface was split fairly evenly between road and single track, with the climbs being predominantly gravel road. The single track descents extended forever (like, 2 hours for me on the back loop) and snaked through a diverse forest areas. The trails were, for the most part, quite smooth and soft - not much by way of body rattling rooty or rocky sections. The major technical challenge (for me) was the tight switchbacks. The three flats I had didn't help, but I made it through thanks to the kind support of other riders.

Starting early meant that we beat the heat on the first climb. The treed descents also served as relief from the scorching sun. Still, I found myself soaked for virtually the entire day as a result of the heat and physical exertion. Food support was excellent, as were the volunteers. Aid station 2, which was at the top of all four climbs (the middle of the figure 8) was an oasis. Some spectators had made a snowman out of the snow that had survived the intense early-summer heat and had dressed it like a hula girl.  

When I rolled down to the bottom of the third descent at around 5:45pm (12.5 hours in), I was asked if I wanted to continue. They told me that I had an 1hr30 to get to the top of the hill. That was the cutoff and anyone arriving after that would be disqualified and not be allowed to finish. I chugged a redbull, shrugged my shoulders and said I would try. I knew it was highly improbably - it was the same hill that had taken me 1hr45 at the start of the day and the first 5km of it was now single track instead of paved road. But, I had nothing better to do and lot of time already invested. 

Hope allows you to believe crazy things sometimes. 

It was already getting dark in the forest. In a couple of hours it would be hard for me to see and would make a descent on the single track unsafe. My assumption was that they would pull me out of the race when I reached the top of the hill. For me, that was a better end than making a decision to quit. A stupid technicality really. Whether I get disqualified or quit, it is still a DNF. 

I rode for a short while with a guy named Erik. He seemed to be in the same zone as me - not ready to give up, but aware that it might not be our call. He shared some of his positive energy with me and then pulled ahead. After a few kilometres, he was out of sight. After that, I passed several shattered cyclists on the side of the road with their heads in their hands. I cursed myself for having too much pride to stop. I was tired, but in reasonable shape considering how long I'd been riding. Why would I push myself to feel like one of those people? Over the two hours that I took to reach the top, I had come to peace with the fact that I wasn't going to finish. 

When I reached the checkpoint, Erik was there. His facial expression confirmed that we were not going to be allowed to continue. As I filled my camelback with water and listened to the race organizer behind me, it became evident that I had read the situation incorrectly. To my amazement, they let us go afterall. We descended together for safety. It was good to have company and even though it wasn't my Erik, it was cool that his name was Erik. 

Erik and I crossed the finish line together somewhere past 15hrs30. Geoff and Dave were there waiting. So thoughtful. If I ever finish a race before someone else I know, I will definitely make a point of waiting for them.

I don't know much about how everyone else did as results are not yet up. I know that Jeff got 4th overall. Maz, Steve and Dave finished. Geoff finished too, despite a crash that was caused by a hazardous tool bag (sorry!). Gerry had the good sense to know when to pull out. I think Carrie did not finish due to time. 

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Gearing Up (or down, if you're crazy)

We strolled over to the Trailhead Cafe for breakfast. Someone in the kitchen mentioned something about going skiing - which is apparently still possible not to far from here. When you combine that with the extensive network of mountain bike trails nearby and the fact that this tiny town has a rollercade and a bowling alley too, at a population of 3,000, Oakridge may just have the highest fun-per-capita of any town I've visited in North America.

Even though the patio sits right beside a well used highway, I couldn't resist the opportunity to sit outside. Over the course of an hour, the patio filled other cyclists. Everyone buzzing with enthusiasm, it was amusing to watch us all size each other up as the crowd grew. When a vehicle pulled up with a rigid single speed on top, you could hear the shock roll through the patio crowd. Without a word, he'd established himself as the alpha male. 

It wasn't hard to spot the cyclists, the tell tale signs of scabbed knees, ripped calves and lanky arms revealed it all. This was a notably more hippie crowd than I'm used to, but there were some familiar faces, especially for my fellow Calgarians that have been on the circuit for a while. In some ways, it is a small crowd that thinks of this as a good way to spend a holiday. Then again, if you really think about it, it is rather surprising that there are that many people who think this is a good idea.   

A century ride isn't hard enough for you? ok, how about if it's mountain biking? what if we throw in 18,000 feet of climbing? and 40 degree heat? and some poison oak? and a 'bonus' 10 miles? Sold!

This race sells out almost immediately after registration opens. Of the 150 or so riders starting tomorrow, eight are from Calgary (as long as Dave wears a Deadgoat jersey, he's Calgarian). Three of the 23 girls in the race are from Calgary. 35 insane riders will be doing the race on single speeds - which means only having one gear all day. Three of those single speeders are from Calgary, including Maz, who is the only female that is bold enough to give it a go with only one gear tomorrow. 

By the time we left the cafe - around 9:30am - it was already hot enough that I was sweating, even when I was standing in the shade. It was at that moment that I decided the bee costume would be staying in the bag this trip. 

Geoff and I headed out for a mini-pre-ride (with the help of Gerry, who shuttled us to the top of the big climb). It was an important step for me to appreciate what I will need to do to survive tomorrow (I lack the ability to anticipate these things before I see and feel them for myself). I can't do anything about my physical preparedness, but that's not the only thing that matters. Avoiding dehydration, exhaustion, crashing, mechanical problems and bonking are going to be key. Typically a third of the people that start don't finish this race. I will be happy to finish. 

Friday, June 27, 2008

Welcome to Oakridge

This weekend is the Cascade Creampuff in Oregon. With the attitude that 'getting there is half the fun', I indulged myself by driving, rather than flying. Actually, Geoff did all of the driving, while I talked, and talked, and talked. Good fun.

You don't need to look at a map to know when you've reached the US - the loud, flag bearing Harley's, drive-through fireworks merchants, religious billboards and presence of Carl's Jr. franchises offer sufficient evidence of that. Stereotypes are not without basis. But, hey, there are positives that come with crossing the border, including American convenience stores that offer great support for road trips. Whether you're looking for beef jerky, a sit down meal, 37 flavours of coffee, a satellite radio, native american arts and crafts or a book, the American gas station has it all. 

The changing landscape made the drive feel surprisingly quick. We took turns picking music to set the ambience, rotating between ipod and NPRS, Christian Rock and Robotechno stations. Arriving in Portland during rush hour killed our momentum, but at least I had good company. We were passed by a Lexus with the license plate TORTS. Apparently one can make a great living as a cake maker down here (zing!). As we approached Eugene, we saw a cat balloon. What is that you say? Put simply: cat + highway + car + 35 degree heat. That thing was ready to blow.

We stopped for a fine dinner at the Sunrise Cafe at the top of Pleasant Hill. If we weren't famished, we probably wouldn't have even noticed the place - it was just a hole in the wall in the middle of nowhere. Self described as 'the best kept secret in Lane County' (I'm not sure how big Lane County is, but it is possible that this was the only restaurant in it), the place was packed and, by the time our dinner was served, people were waiting for tables. People watching is fun, especially when you are away from home. It's hard not to drawn to the laid-back Oregon vibe. I bought some of the homemade "Daddy Jack's Hippie Cereal" that was for sale at the cashier to celebrate our entry into this other world.  

It was almost dark when we rolled in to Oakridge. A town of approximately 3,000 people, there's not much to it. I hadn't brought the directions to the Ridgeview Motel, as I figured it would be easy to spot. But, after two passes down the main street, Geoff convinced me to check ask at the Blue Wolf Motel. As luck would have it, it was actually the Ridgeview Motel and was just in the process of changing its name and renovating. 

Monday, June 23, 2008

Cycling Lingo 103

cen*tur*y ride [sen-chuh-ree rahyd]

Generally understood to be a bike ride that is 100 miles in length and takes place over the course of a single day. Accomplishing a ride of this distance is considered by many cyclists to be a milestone. Given the long distance involved, a century ride generally takes place on the road. 

A modification of this term, metric century (measured in kilometres), is sometimes applied by a unique (crazy) class of endurance cyclists, called randonneurs. On the surface, this may appear to be a watered-down version of the century ride; however, randonneurs more than account for the conversion by regularly performing multi-century rides (of up to 1200kms!).

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Golf, Politics and Merging with Andromeda

I'm not even sure where to start. 
It was the CPMT annual tournament today. Translation: my once-a-year best ball tournament and a chance to catch up with some familiar faces. It was a nice day for a round of golf - clearly begging for some consumption of kokanee (I'm not sure how else you get through a whole 18 holes, to be honest). I accepted my handicap of having two x chromosomes and hit from the red tees (it makes the game bearable). 

This is a game of politics. Nowhere else will you see someone perform poorly (shank a ball, hit it into the water, etc) and get a complement. "oooh, nice contact", "good form", "you're so powerful". What a load of crap. Dude, you hit the ball in a direction that was unintended, how does that end in a complement? and, by the way, you are wearing hidiously white shoes with your brown pants. What's up with that? This game is in need of a serious reality check. Maybe the blazing sun has burned the retinas of all seasoned golfers.

The final highlight of the day was a reunion with my favorite finance prof. His son just finished up a physics/astronomy degree at Rice University (first in class, no less). The proud father that he is, he felt the need to illustrate the connection between his sons work and his own. Apparently there is overlap between mergers and acquisitions and astrophysics - the earth is preparing for a merger with Andromeda. It's been less than 10 years since I sat in his class, but the situation remains the same. We are on completely different planes of consciousness. 

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Cycling Lingo 102

cha*mois time [sham'ee tahym]

alternate spellings: shammy time, chammy time

A cycling expression referring to training. The term derives its name from the junk-protecting fabric that lines lycra cycling shorts. Though not technically chamois (being leather), the fabric bears its name on account of its soft, pliable nature. 

While the term is intended to reference training time spent 'in the saddle', it can also refer to the disturbing and unhygienic practice of continued wearing of cycling shorts 'out of the saddle'. Some have postulated that the body can be 'tricked' into thinking it is training by the mere presence of chamois. This theory has not been supported scientifically. 

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Ridin' Dirty

(Picture of Tim courtesy of Pat Not Doyle)

All week I prayed that the long-term forecast was wrong. Alas, when I checked the forecast on Friday, it appeared unavoidable that the weekend would be plagued with rain. So much for some monster road rides; I’m not really in to long, cold, wet rides.

The Iron Lung mountain bike race was scheduled for Sunday in Canmore. The forecast there was even more dismal than what was anticipated in Calgary, with the possibility of snow on Sunday. Still, the thought of a short, cold, muddy ride was strangely appealing. Hey man, I had nothing else going on and Erik and most of my new biking friends would be there.

My race time and route were modified (to an easier course) to accommodate a few people in the novice category, so I was offered an opportunity to upgrade to a higher category and ride the regular course. I took it (it was just a matter of time anyway – it is easy to podium when there are only 3-5 people in your category). Even at 9:30am, it was warm enough (barely) that I rode in shorts and short sleeves. The course was surprisingly nice, given the prior week’s weather. Just enough mud to make you feel and look like a superhero, but not enough to be a nuisance.

As usual, it was a small field – but the faces were familiar, including the girl that beat me at the Buffet of Bacon, Pain and Suffering. She was wearing a cotton shirt, which I thought was unusual for a rainy day. Then again, who signs up for a mountain bike race when the forecast calls for rain and snow? I’m not in a position to judge. Plus, I hoped that maybe some of that cotton chafing might slow her down.

For an hour and a quarter, I chased that girl down…to no avail. Just under 40 seconds separated us – a gap that I didn’t have a hope of closing on this course. I was happy with second, this time. Pat Not Doyle suffered a mechanical problem that caused him to pull out, but Mark hammered out a great performance in the Novice men.

The rain gods unleashed their fury on the course in the hours that passed between the end of my race and the start of Erik’s. They’d be riding dirty. Spectating with the other 'wives' from the mud patch that constituted the 'feed zone', I watched with the other spouses as the riders passed by, lap after lap, progressively dirtier.

Mical, who was fresh off her Canada Cup win last week, caught many of the guys within the first six minutes of the race, despite being staged two minutes behind them. She finished 15 minutes ahead of her closest competitor in a two hour race. She’s so awesome.

Erik took a podium position, despite a few setbacks. He was just behind Devin, who also put in a solid ride. Pat sure gave them a run for their money on his singlespeed. Jon was back in form and it was great to see him feeling good after the race. Tim looked happy and natural with his face covered in mud. Keith opted for a short race - it seems he did not like riding dirty. Trish, Tom and Craig rounded out the deadgoat effort. Alana cleaned up in the expert women category. Shawn was also in good form, taking second in the men's elite.

Not bad for an otherwise crappy Sunday.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

How to Have a Successful Career in Your Spare Time - Lesson 5

Lesson #5: Audiobooks
As you know from Lesson 4, I'm a fan of multi-tasking. Why do just one thing at a time when you can do two? Heck, why do two things at once when you can do three?

Audiobooks are a fantastic way for the time-constrained 'do-it-all' to enjoy books, without sacrificing spare time to actually sit around reading. Hey, I sit in front of a computer all day reading things, I don't need to do more of that. My favorite time to listen to my audiobooks is during my work commute.

Commute + Workout + Books = Hours of free time

I'm no mathologist, but that looks like a magical equation to me.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Giver8er 2008

...brought to you by the people that brought you (or at least popularized) the term Giverator, and the letter S (for Serious Suffering).

I've recently begun taking weekends off from work, which has left me with all sorts of time to pursue recreational activities. This weekend, it was The Giver8er Enduro, an eight (+) hour endurance race at Canada Olympic Park. I could think of no better way to spend a Sunday.

The conditions were perfect - sunny but not too warm, and a little muddy from some overnight rain. 150 riders turned out for the inaugural event, many riding solo and some riding in teams. I rode without a computer, which meant that I had no idea how long I was out for and how much time was left. By the time Dallas lapped me for the fifth time, I was getting pretty tired - of riding...and being lapped. But it was a good signal to me that I was on the home stretch. I think I was burning brain cells by the end, as I was unable to process any thought more complicated than how to propel my bike over the next 100 metres.

Eleven laps in 8 hours 24 minutes isn't going to get me a ticket to Beijing, but I was happy with my performance. Sitting at your desk, it's easy to think about doing a race like this - it is another to actually pull it off. Things like mud in your gears, or not drinking/eating enough, or crashing are a few of the challenges beyond the basic fitness and planning required to survive a long ride - as Erik can attest to.

It was good to see some familiar faces, including my awesome TransRockies partner, Cindy, and two of my BC Bike race partners, Alana and Lisa. Gerry, Geoff, Craig and Trish, Carena, Keith, Pat Doyle, Tim and Tracy, Devin, Dave and Kevin, Henry, Jack, Tom, Lonn, Linda, Ed, and Mical's mom, among others. Pat Not Doyle was on photo duty - we're so lucky to have this guy to capture our special moments. He's becoming the Tom Watson of the Western Canadian Cycling scene.