Monday, September 29, 2008

Warning: Cyclocross is Highly Addictive

I bought my cyclocross bike before ever having tried the sport. Considering that most of my races have been the longer endurance sort, committing to a season of 40-minute ultra high intensity races was a bit of a leap. But, it was a surprisingly easy decision to make. Those who like the sport, like it a lot. In fact, from the outside, it appeared to me that cyclocross might be the most highly addictive discipline in cycling. 
When I showed up for my second 'cross race, Keith asked me if I was addicted yet. I said that I wasn't sure. I had to go through the full emotional/physical rollercoaster (anxiety, excitement, adrenaline, burning lungs/legs, nausea, fatigue, etc) to understand how I felt about it. My second race (Hardcore's Hop 'n Hurl) was better than my first. I didn't get lapped and I placed moderately better. My third race (Terrascape's Beans and Barley) was yet another step in the right direction. I was having fun, but I couldn't really say that I was addicted.

Then came my fourth race, the Brian Kullman Memorial Cross. Set in the field of Montgomery Junior High, my expectations were low. How could you make an interesting and challenging course in a schoolyard? Get cyclocross diehards Keith Bayly and Shawn Bunnin to design the course, that's how. Highlights of the course included a 90 degree turn in a sandpit at the bottom of a steep hill, a zigzag on the side of a hill, an extended stair run up, a steep dirt run up, a sandpit in front of some up hill barriers, and riding across a set of stairs. It was a constant challenge. 

The next day, I found myself daydreaming about the course. Thinking about how I might do each part better if I could do it again. I even considered going back to the course on my commute home to see if I could practice a few parts. I think it's safe to say I'm addicted now. 

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Mother Uckers

my new favorite bike video

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

I See Dead People

For evening entertainment, the girls and I checked out Body Worlds. We were joined by Keith, Bill and a few other cyclists, which made it seem more party-like and less dorky-like. Body Worlds is that exhibition of plasticized cadavers that was so controversial in the 1990's. I've been interested in seeing it for as long as I've known about it but have never found myself near an exhibition, until now. 
Being raised by science teachers helped me develop an outlook of curiosity about a lot of things that others look at in disgust. Having said that, I have to admit that I found Body Worlds to be a bit freaky. The freaky part was not so much about being surrounded by strategically positioned dead bodies, but that those bodies have fake eyes. It made them more human and less dead. It made you think about what happened to them. 

Overall, I found the exhibit to be very educational. Seeing what a fetus looks like every half week or so through the first trimester was eyeopening. Wow. So was seeing what arthritis, aneurysms,  and a number of birth defects look like. 

Totally worth the trip up to Edmonton if you get the chance. Its there until thanksgiving.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Bacon Seeds

With no more than a cruise around the block to familiarize myself with my new ride, I headed to Edmonton for my first two Cyclocross races. No time to learn the rolling-dismount/flying-remount for which this discipline is famous, it was gonna be sink or swim.Cindy and Mical were my road trip companions. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE talking about bike parts with my usual road trip companions - but these girls made the drive feel so short that I was sad to see when we entered the Edmonton city limits. Fortunately, I missed the turn off and took us for a 20 minute detour (the equivalent of an encore, I guess.

We arrived at Gold Bar Park in time to see most of the expert men's race. Pat (sporting a single speed) and Keith (sporting a beard) fought a hard battle. I picked up some pointers on how to ride, just by watching them. The women's race started shortly thereafter. The field was larger than I'd expected; about 17 of us, I think. My strategy was simple - hang on as long as possible. The pace was fast. Faster and harder than I ever ride on my own. Ever. It hurt. I felt like my body might fail at any moment. I was driven by two things: I) curiosity as to how hard I could push before failure, and II) fear of embarrassment for getting dropped or for not finishing. I have to admit that my fancy new bike added to the pressure. Although I knew that the engine couldn't do the bike justice, I felt like the bike would amplify any weakness in my effort; it's not exactly a low key bike.I got lapped, along with a number of other girls, on my second last lap. Other than that, I was pretty happy with my effort. I didn't think I could hurt more than I did while I was on my bike, but I soon learned otherwise. If you come to a dead stop after the finish line, that's when the real pain kicks in. Kind of like when you run your cold hands under hot water. It's better to go for a long, slow transition. I'll remember that next time.
Cindy had a great race. So did Mical, who took second. We horsed around while cheering o the elite men and then hung out in the sun. Now this is a way to spend a beautiful autumn day!

I was making calls to find us a place to stay for the night...'Hi, do you have any vacancy?'...when I heard some giggles up front. Cindy asks me 'Did you just ask her if she had any bacon seeds?'. Oh, Cindy...

Saturday, September 20, 2008


Please welcome the new addition to the family.
Chili Con Crosso
Born September 19, 2008 at 9:27pm
17 pounds 12 ounces

Inspired by Erik Bakke
Designed by Shawn Whole Wheat Bunnin
Built by Shawn Whole Wheat Bunnin

Special thanks to:
Bow Cycle for a great deal on the frame (yes, you can get Salsa frames at Bow) and many other parts of the bike
Campione for a great deal on the drive train and wheels

Thursday, September 18, 2008

The Bog 80

There is only one reason to wake up at 5:00am on a dark, sub-zero autumn Sunday morning - to mountain bike 80 kilometres through the muddy foothills of Alberta for the legendary Bow80.

Cindy and I started together and were within speaking distance for the first quarter of the race. I tried, but couldn't hold her wheel and eventually dropped back. But that didn't mean I was lonely. I played leap frog with Dave and Kham for a while. Some familiar faces cheered us on from the side of the trail.

Though there were stretches of beautiful, dry trail, the thing that most people will remember about this years race was the mud. The mud was everywhere, though it was the mud on Tom Snow that resonated with most. At the best of times, people ride Tom Snow fully expecting to have to take their bike (and themselves) to the carwash for a good cleaning afterward. The notorious bogs along the trail can stay saturated for the entire season, even through to September. A healthy dose of precipitation the week prior was enough to fully charge them. Adding to the fun, a summer of use by equestrian enthusiasts added a little something special to the boggy mix.

Despite missing the start and having to make his way through the traffic jam that accompanied the mass start into singletrack, Cory Wallace pulled off a handy victory. Craig Stappler took second and Jon Nutbrown was third.

I heard a lot of complaining about the difficulty arising from the muddy stretches. I think that stuff just makes it more Epic.

I felt like I rode hard and that it was a pretty good day for me, all things considered. Yet, when I looked at the timing board and saw that it was approaching the nine hour mark. One of these days I'd like to finish a race feeling like I crushed the field, instead of getting creamed and feeling like I'm just scraping through. But hey, Indiana Jones was always just barely making it through, so maybe its not so bad afterall. It's just awesome to be out there.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

XC8 2008

Erik and I couldn't resist the opportunity to return to Moose Jaw again this year for the XC8 mountain bike enduro race. Eight deadgoats made it out this year - returning champs Pat and Trish, Craig, Gerry, Linda, Dustin, Erik and me. Joining the party were four deadgoat friends, Jeff Neilson and Alana Heise (Alana was one of my partners at last years BC Bike Race. Jeff is her friendly husband), Shawn Bunnin (former Canadian national cyclocross champion, out for his first enduro race), and Mical Dyck (alberta's homegrown world class female mountain biker).

It was a longer and slightly different circuit this year, lest I think that I'd ridden all of the single track to be found in Saskatchewan. Conditions were great - overcast, with a bit of light rain. Cooler than last year.

The new loop was more challenging, and included some fresh single track and more vertical. A wooden duck at the side of the trail foreshadowed the low clearance section  that was to come. On the first lap, I watched as the group of guys in front of me had to clip out so they could duck under a tree fallen. I smiled to myself as I maneuvered through without even dabbing. Sometimes being short rules! By the second lap, my ego had inflated to the point that my head no longer fit comfortably under that tree. SMACK. That instantly set me straight.

The new trail also took us through a nifty twisty arrangement of trees that required some creative body movements to worm through. I might have to bust out that move the next time I'm on the dance floor. 

I used to hate getting lapped, but I've come to enjoy it. I'm lucky enough to know a lot of good riders. So, while I can't ride fast enough to stay with them (yet), I'll take the next best alternative of riding with them for a brief moment as they pass me. I couldn't believe my eyes when Craig Stappler blasted past me on the second lap. I hadn't expected to get lapped until my third time around. This guy was on fire! It was probably close to 20 minutes before I saw his competition come through - Neilson, Bunnin, Bakke, Doyle. After some more time, the lead ladies started to lap me - Mical, then Trish, then Alana. I was so proud that I could say that five of the fastest guys and the three fastest women in the race. It's inspirational to get lapped by someone you know - like, hey, I could maybe ride like that one day. So, I'd push a little harder...for a while.

I think it was at about the half way point that I saw Erik at the feedzone. I knew right away that was not a good sign. I figured it must have pulled out due to a mechanical issue, but it turned out he'd had a run in with a tree. I was glad to see he was walking around alright, but knew that it must have been a tough crash for him to have pulled the plug.
I finished my sixth lap after 7:20:34, 34 seconds too late to continue on for another lap. I have to admit that I was relieved to be done. My early finish meant that I got to watch the lead men finish. As expected, Craig emerged from the trees first. To everyone's surprise, a moment later, Shawn Bunnin emerged. Seeing Craig approaching the finish line, Shawn burst forward in a sprint to try to catch him. I didn't know it was possible to have that much jam after 7.5 hours of racing! Talk about an exciting finish!

The ultimate gap between first and second was just four seconds (though Craig did earn a 2 minute bonus for being the fastest to ride up the first hill, which means that the record will show a gap of 2 minutes and four seconds). Third across the line was Jeff Neilson (Alana's husband). In the women's category, Mical took the title, followed by Trish and then Alana. Pretty cool to know everyone on both the men and women's podiums.

I liked the new course this year. it was definitely harder this year - the competition was more intense and the riding was way tougher. The longer circuit meant less repitition (fewer laps) and seemed to accommodate the larger field (50% increase over last year) such that I didn't feel crowded anywhere (the course was, for the most part, my own). The fresh single track was a great way to see more of Buffalo Pound Park and it added a technical dimension to the course. The Offroad Syndicate and Blocks Saw and Cycle extended their usual warm hospitality and excellent organization.

This race should be on the 'must do' list of anyone looking to do endurance racing in Western Canada.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Best Business Trip Ever!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

How to Have a Successful Career in Your Spare Time - Lesson 6

Lesson #6: Work with people you like

Summer is short in Calgary, so you've got to make the most of every precious moment. One of the best ways to enjoy summer is drinking beer on a patio. Unfortunately, the best patio hours coincide with "business hours". Worry not, there is a solution. Bring your work to the patio.

This is a little something I like to call "team building". True, patio time is best enjoyed in the company of friends. Not everyone is fortunate enough to like all of the people with whom they work, but that's where the beer comes in handy. You might be surprised to find yourself at the end of the night joyfully singing karaoke with that dude that you thought was ruining your life at work. Or at the very least, you can get some good video footage of that person you hate and threaten to post it on youtube so they will be nicer to you at work.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Cycling Lingo 104


A mechanical bicycle failure that results in a lock up of the drive train. It occurs when, while downshifting under load from the middle to the smallest chain ring, the chain does not immediately disengage from the middle ring and gets carried upward until it wedges between the chainwheels and the chainstay. This jams the crankset. Since you probably wouldn't have been shifting to the granny if you weren't already busting your ass up a hill, the sudden lock up of the drive train deprives you of what little momentum, and enjoyment, you had.

I recently discovered a variation of this phenomenon, which I have labeled Reverse Chain Suck.
I can not explain the cause of reverse chain suck; however, I can tell you that it certainly sucks.