Tuesday, April 29, 2008


I was one of about 50 riders on Kenny’s Annual Ride Around White Rim in One Day (RAWROD) on Saturday.  Mags, Darren and Ryan were too.  It’s a hundred miles of rocky road through Canyonlands National Park.  I’d done it before in 2005 and bonked around mile 90 because I didn’t see the final rest stop.  Maybe I’d already bonked and just rode on past it. 

This year I vowed to take it easy, to go slow and to have more fun.  I wanted to ride with Mags and some folks I don’t normally get to ride with, so I took my brand new single speed out for what would be only my 4th single speed ride.  Ever. 

The day went exactly as planned.  I prodded Mags early to stick with the group, because I know riding 100 miles alone is no fun.  I made excuses to stop a lot to make sure she was in front of me.  She made it the all the way but had to walk up Horse thief, but I almost did too.  It’s 2.8 miles and straight up—well, at least it feels straight up.  That was one of the few times I wished I had extra gears.

Here are some photos from the trip.

Fish, living Aloha...

Mags, doing her first century ride not spent staring at my butt...


Me, second-guessing my single speed decision...


Darren powers up Murphy's Hogback...


Ryan cleans Hardscrabble as a birthday present to himself...


Fish celebrates his finish with a Cock 'n Bull...


Mags had the dirtiest legs of all...


Thanks, Kenny, for putting it all together.   It got me thinking about my own epic ride.  Anybody interested in repeating the RAGSLOW with me this fall?

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

I need your help

A committee had been formed.  Its purpose: to find a workable solution to the bike problem (funny that the problem is nebulous at this point.  Is it a safety issue?  An aesthetics issue?  Nobody is saying.  I still think it’s because the big boss is miffed about finding a bike in a conference room.  But why isn't she just banning bikes from conference rooms?)  They’re still going full bore with the idea of buying more bike lockers for us.  I measured a bike locker last night.  It’s not tall enough to fit my bike. 

Somehow, whoever formed this committee overlooked the one guy who rides a bike to work year round.  Now I’ve got to learn the job of a lobbyist, possibly the most powerful job on Capitol Hill if one knows what he’s doing.

I don't.  I’m going to need your help.

Many of you are bicycle commuters.  I need to know what the bicycle policy is at your place of employment.  Is there a formal one? Or do people just not care?  What concessions do I need to consider to not lose the bike in the cubicle privilege?  I need to overwhelm the big boss with information if I’m going to convince her that this issue isn’t really an issue at all.  I’m specifically interested in your stories of damage or loss to your bike from storing it in a bicycle locker, and what you have done to convince non-cyclists that bikes belong in the office. 

I’m not interested in hearing about the dissonance of an air quality agency having an anti-bicycle policy.  That irony is so powerful that pointing it out only angers people.   

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Strike three


Last week, after my bruised calf muscle was feeling much better, and my dog bite no longer ached, I invited Paz to come on our Weekly Wednesday Not-Training Ride.  He told me that bad things come in threes and that he wouldn’t feel comfortable riding with me until my third stroke of bad luck had come and gone. 

I assured him that I’d already had it, because I was having a terrible reaction to the tetanus shot, had no energy and was aching all over.  I found out Thursday the shot was part of the second stroke of bad luck, and that I was still in store for a third round of discomfort. 

This little zinger was sitting in my inbox that morning:

Another round of “get your stuff out of cubicles.” Bicycles should not be stored in any cubicles and stairwells need to be kept cleared. Purchasing of additional bike lockers will be looked into as an alternative. Everyone needs to make sure that there is adequate clearance in cubicles.

I will ignore the irony of an air quality organization having an anti-bicycle policy, and that today is Earth day and we were encouraged to take alternative forms of transportation (Why not all year?), and instead ask why must this existing policy suddenly be enforced now? 

The story is that our big boss, three levels above me, had a meeting with some industry big-shots.  She went to one conference room in our office, but it was reserved, so she went upstairs to a smaller one.  One of my co-workers had brought his mountain bike in because he is trying to sell it to another co-worker.  He had stored his bike in the smaller conference room upstairs. 

The big boss was embarrassed (I presume) that we would do be so unprofessional—we are air quality professionals, mind you—so she decided to enforce the no bicycle policy.   

What will I do?  I’ve had at least one of my bikes there in my cubicle almost every day since I started this job two years ago.  It keeps me company when the days get long.  I like to look at my bike and look forward to the fun I’ll have on my commute home. 

I’m not going to give up that security blanket and ideal parking space after such an arbitrary and capricious decision.  Besides, there are no bike racks outside and all the bike lockers are taken.  I wouldn’t want to park my bike in a bike locker anyway.  The heat in the summer makes things melt and the humidity in winter causes rust. 

Instead, I will make my high school English teach proud and practice civil disobedience.  I spent the afternoon giving my work space a thorough spring cleaning.  I made my desk look as uncluttered as possible.  I even replaced the carpet tiles under my bike to hide the salt stains that had built up over the winter. But my bicycle is staying right there next to me. 

This bicycle commuter is not going to give up without a fight. 

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Bite me

Last night I was on my way to class at the Weber State satellite campus in Layton.  I was running a bit late because the bus driver decided to create her own route through the suburban blight that is Davis County rather than take the freeway.  When she finally dropped me off at Layton Hills Mall I had twelve minutes to get to class, almost two miles away. 

I decided to take my shortcut.  It involves cutting through somebody’s yard, has lots of goat heads, and takes me through an open field on a crudely constructed gravel path.  Come to think of it, it’s ideal cyclocross terrain, and since I have been commuting on my ‘cross bike lately, it seemed like an appropriate thing to do. 

I have never seen anyone on this shortcut.  Ever.  So you can imagine my surprise when I came to the gravel trail and saw a couple out for an evening walk, followed not-so-closely by a large, unleashed, German Shepard. 

I approached with some caution.  The dog (I would later learn his name is Brooks and that he weighs in at a lean 119 lbs.) was taking a whiz as I got close.  Then he stood on the trail in front of me.  I moved right.  He stood his ground.  I thought I was past him. 

Then he bit me. 

I shouted.  I swore.  The couple, only now learning I was behind them, ran to their dog.  “He bit me.” I said.  The man had Brooks by the collar before he could strike again. 

Adrenaline surged through my veins.  I was incoherent.  I stood there, unsure what to do.  Slowly I realized I wouldn’t be making it to my class on time.  I pulled up my torn pant leg.  Blood was running toward my sock.  The pain was…conspicuously absent. 

The woman offered to drive me to the Insta-Care Clinic.  I accepted.  They assured me Brooks was current on all of his shots as we walked back the way I had just come, though the goat heads, through the yard, to their house. 


After waiting over an hour at the Insta-Care, and realizing there is nothing instant about it, the doctor cleaned me up and told me he doesn’t normally stitch up bite wounds because it risks sealing in infectious bacteria.  Then he poked his tweezers into the lowest of the puncture wounds, the one made by Brooks' sharp Canine tooth.  It didn’t stop until it was in half an inch.  The Doc reached for the stitches. 

He asked me if the dog had his shots.  “I don’t know,” I said, “his owners are sitting in the lobby, maybe you should ask them.”  He asked me when my last tetanus shot was, which I couldn’t remember, so he suggested I get another one. 

Remembering how shots always make my arm sore, I asked the Doc to shoot it in my calf, right by the bite.  “That leg’s going to be sore tomorrow anyway” I pleaded.  He didn’t oblige. 

So now, not only do I have a nagging sore calf muscle on my right leg, from last week’s racing mishap, I now have a  matching sore left calf muscle, a sore left arm from the tetanus shot, and an appointment in eight days to get my single stitch removed.  If you see me, you’ll please understand why I appear overly concerned with protecting my right arm. 

Monday, April 14, 2008

Sitting out


Everyone’s ready to start the race—except the race promoter. 

I may have downplayed the severity of the injury to my calf muscle in my last post.  I’ve been telling people it’s a bruise, but I don’t have a black and blue spot on my leg to prove it.  It’s just a little discolored, maybe a bit yellow, and still slightly swollen one full week after I whacked it with my pedal.  I kind of wish it was all black and blue; it would make explaining it a whole lot easier.   

Hipster Aaron and I made the trip down to Hurricane (pronounced hurr-uh-cun by the locals, myself included) on Friday without knowing for sure if I would be racing.  We made it in time to pre-ride the course, where I made it about fifty feet down the trail, to the first rocky section, and decided that I certainly would not be racing.  My calf felt fine on the flat sections, and climbing wasn’t too difficult, but the technical and rocky sections caused lots of pain.  I now have a little more empathy for women who don’t like to drive down bumpy roads because of the jiggles.  Maybe I should invent an apparatus with straps and latches to support injured muscles for times like this.  I could call it the calfzier. 

It was a hard decision not to race, but because it was the Cholla Challenge in Hurricane the decision wasn’t as hard as it should be.  This is the most poorly run course of the Intermountain Cup Series.  Every year you can count on  them to start late, to fail to sufficiently mark a few crucial turns on the course, and to take twice as long as necessary to finalize results.  In addition to those annual minor inconveniences caused by the race promoters’ not having their act together, every year they seem to come up with one major whopper that outdoes all the previous years. 

Two years ago, my first time doing the race, they neglected to mark the course through the intersection of about four trails.  I followed a group of about five riders on the wrong trail, and none of us realized it until our second lap.  Last year, on an unseasonably hot day, even for April in Southern Utah, they managed to run completely out of water at the neutral feed zone—before we arrived on our first lap!  I had lost my water bottle in a crash and had been depending on that feed zone for water.  If Rich hadn’t shared his bottle with me I might not have finished the race. 

This year’s whopper was their failure to deliver port-o-potties, they call them Honey Buckets in the Pacific Northwest, to the start/finish area.  The story I heard was that they were delivered some two miles away.  About thirty minutes before the start of the race—er, the scheduled start of the race, because they started late again—some guys showed up with one port-o-pottie in the back of their pickup truck.  That’s right, only one Honey Bucket for three hundred-some-odd people.  I think there’s a metaphor in there somewhere that describes the race organizers as a whole.   

Instead of racing I made myself useful by passing out water bottles to my brother (at left), to some of my teammates, to some of my friends and to a few strangers that looked thirsty.  I had bottles ready for Hipster Aaron but he never showed up.  It felt good to pay back some of the good will people have spent passing water bottles to me, but I’ve got a long way to go to restore my karmic balance. 

After the race my brothers and I took our mom to see the house our great-great-great-great grandfather, Moses Harris, lived in.  It’s right in the center of the town he founded and called, what else—Harrisburg.  I’ll post a picture when I get it developed.  The house has two front doors, which should tell you a thing or two if you know anything about Utah history. 

Thursday, April 10, 2008

One Down?

I started this season with two goals: First, to get a license and upgrade to semi-pro and second, well—there is a second goal.

I’ve grown tired of explaining to the uninitiated what my race category is.  I race as a pro in the Intermountain Cup, but nobody’s writing me checks, paying my entry fees or giving me bikes to ride.  So I don’t really meet the definition of a pro in most people’s mind.  And that’s OK, but it’d be nice to just say I’m a semi-pro and be able to leave it at that. 

The first step to upgrading to semi-pro status is to obtain a license from USA Cycling.  Turns out I actually did have a license from 1999 when I was doing races around Anchorage as part of the Arctic Bicycle Club.  All I had to do was pay the registration fee and my license was current.  That was the easy part.

The next step is to get some credibility.  Apparently they don’t let just anyone upgrade to semi-pro.  You’ve got to do well in some national-level races in the Expert category.  I’d heard that consistent top five finishes is what it takes.  I reasoned that one first place finish should be enough to convince them.  That seemed simple enough considering that I have been racing as a ‘pro’ for almost a year.  It was like I was being forced to be a sandbagger. 

So last weekend I boxed up my bike hopped on a plane to Phoenix for the NOVA Nationals Stage Race.  Vince picked me up at the airport and we drove McDowell Mountain Park just in time for the first stage—a Super D.  One

I haven’t done one before, but my understanding of a Super-D is that it’s mostly a downhill course with a bit of climbing and flat sections thrown in for good measure.  The whole thing should only take a few minutes to ride, but the Super-D course at McDowell Mountain was different.  It was more of a time trial.  It was nearly flat, just a bit of climbing and very smooth. It was smooth enough that I would consider taking Mags on a tandem bike ride down it. 

Not having done a Super-D before, I decided my strategy should be to see how many racers I could pass.  Racers started in 15 second intervals and I caught four of them.  Apparently that was a good strategy because I won the stage. 

The following day brought the second stage—Short Track.  I have never done a short track race either, but I have some cyclocross experience, which paid off in this course.  Each lap took about 3 minutes to complete.  We started out en masse and I knew how important it was to be first to get to the singletrack. 

I wasn’t first into the singletrack, but in the front group.  Then, on the second lap, on the one climb of the course a racer in front of me slipped and I had to dismount to avoid him. In a repeat of my cyclocross mishaps from last season, my chain fell of in the melee.  Six of seven riders passed me before I could get it back on.  That might have fueled my anger a bit because I spent the rest of the 20 minute (plus three laps) race reeling riders in.  I used my cyclocross skills to get off and carry my bike up the steep hill whenever somebody was right in front of me.  I reeled them all in but one, and I’m sure I could have caught him in a longer race.  I was second, but still first in the overall stage race standings.   

Stage three was the cross country race.  This is the race I needed to win for my automatic upgrade.  Thirty miles amidst the saguaros on a fast, mostly smooth course.  I was feeling confident. 

I led for most of the first lap, pulling three riders behind me.   Too long, I should have made somebody else take a pull earlier.  Then some kid--they let the 20 year old experts start before us--slipped up on literally the only technical climb of the entire course right in front of me.  It happened exactly like the day before in the short track.  I almost fell over, and jabbed my calf with my pedal.  It never cramped but I could feel it starting to twinge immediately.  By the end of the day I could hardly walk.  Four days later I still have difficulty walking.  Oh, and I broke a spoke in my back wheel somewhere in the first lap.  My wheel wobbled the rest of the way. 

By the second lap I was struggling to stick with the group of four.  By lap three I was feeling better but had dropped off the group and was getting boxed in by a bunch of lappers.  I finished fourth. 

It’s not the win that I was expecting, maybe I pushed myself too hard in the first two stages, but finishing fourth was enough to win the stage race.  I hope that counts for something in my pursuit of an upgrade.  Otherwise all I got out of that race was a generic medal and a swollen calf muscle.

Click here for race photos.


Thursday, April 3, 2008

Baseball on the radio

Bartolo_colon_is_already_in_a_jam_2On Monday, when Salt Lakers woke up to 4 inches of new snow on the ground, baseball fans across the country were waking up to the dawn of a new major league baseball season.  While Salt Lake’s not big enough to host a major league club, we do have the next best thing: the triple A Salt Lake Bees.  Those of us that don’t live in one of the 30 major league cites have to wait until this weekend or later for the minor leagues to begin. 

I have trouble explaining why I love baseball.  It’s not at all like my love of cycling which is something I need to do just about every day.  Baseball, to me, is different.  I played ball as a kid.  I was a lanky infielder with overly aggressive base running tendencies, but I haven’t played a formal game since high school.  Even still, there are a few nights every winter that I yearn to hear some play by play from some distant, scratchy AM radio station. 

There is a rhythm to baseball on the radio.  A good announcer can make you believe you’re there eating peanuts at the ballpark by describing how the dusk gives way to dark.  Likewise, because he’s there every night of the 162-game season he eases the transition of spring into summer and from summer’s dog days into a crispy fall.

A good announcer can draw you in just enough to make you cognizant of the game, but not so much that you can’t do something else in addition to listening.  I like to listen to games in the evening when I’m tuning up bikes in the garage.  I’ve missed a lot of sleep because games went into extra innings.  But every pitch was worth it. 

For some, baseball on the radio is a cacophony of ads.  “Why do we care?” they ask, “that this call to the bullpen is brought you by Joe’s Auto Body and Glass?”

While they have a point—the call to the bullpen was really brought to you by the current pitcher who can’t get his stuff under control—those of us that know the rhythm of the game know when it’s OK to shut off our ears. 

We also know when to turn them on, mostly because the announcers give us clues.  Every announcer has a few corny catchphrases by which he’s known.  Dave Niehaus shouts “my, oh my!” whenever the Seattle Mariners do something good.  And for a grand slam he delivers this whopper:  "Get out the rye bread and mustard, Grandma, it's grand salami time!”  My all time favorite is the pre-game setting of the scene by breathing in the “smell of the freshly cut grass under a cloudless robin's-egg-blue sky on a warm spring afternoon.”  My, oh my, that’s some good hooptedoodle!

The Bees open their season Friday night in Las Vegas.  I’ll be tuning in all summer to hear Steve Klauke say “It’s up there. It’s out there, and it’s gone.”