Sunday, June 28, 2009

Central Wasatch Tour

Acoustic Motorbike
It’s been five years since Mags and I dipped the back tire of our tandem bike into Puget Sound and set out eastward for a zig- zagging tour across this great country.  To celebrate that anniversary we loaded up our acoustic motorbike again on Friday morning for a two day tour around the central Wasatch Mountains.  Would it be possible to replicate all of the experiences of our twelve week cross country tour in just two days and 120 miles?  Nope—we checked the weather forecast Friday morning before we departed: Thunderstorms Ominous.  A flash flood was one experience we didn’t want to repeat.  We decided to postpone our departure one day.

Just five miles into our ride we did replicate one of the most common feelings of our cross country tour—the feeling of being stared at when arriving at a social gathering in stinky spandex.  Mags’ cousin was getting married on Saturday, and while we hadn’t planned on attending the wedding breakfast, our unplanned route through the maze that is SLC’s southern suburbs took us right past the park where it was held.  Mags’ parents were arriving at the same time we pulled in, and they cajoled us into going in and saying hello.  I was just a little self-conscious about my odor as I hugged my mother-in-law, but much more so when I hugged some of my wife’s cousins whom I hardly know.  They say the further you are from your bicycle the more ridiculous you look in cycling clothing.  A wedding breakfast is about as far from a bicycle ride as you can get. 

Central Wasatch Tour Our route took us over Suncrest to American Fork Canyon, up the Alpine Loop to Cascade Springs. I knew we’d be climbing slowly, but climbing American Fork Canyon was a little too similar to hauling our fully loaded tandem over the Cascades, the Rockies (three times), the Appalachians, and hundreds of other mountains along the way. 

Tandem bicycle + Gravel road + 10% grade = Slow

The climb from Cascade Springs to Midway was similar to riding the Mickleson Trail in the Black Hills of South Dakota, only steeper, but the reward of fajitas and mole from Tarahumara in Midway was far better than the Chinese buffets that were all we could afford five years ago. 

We camped outside of Midway behind some scrub oak that protected us from view from the roadway.  Nothing about that experience has changed.  With a bicycle, you can camp just about anywhere. 

From Midway to Park City via Guardsman Pass was more grueling climbing up a steep gravel road, but this time with washboards.  We bought lunch at the grocery store in Park City, and remembered how, along with a public library, a grocery store was an oasis in the desert that is the American highway.  They offer air conditioning, clean public restrooms, friendly faces and a chance to rest in the shade during the hottest part of the day. 

From Park City we continued north to Jeremy Ranch and the gravel East Canyon Road.  Mags replicated her perfected back-seat driving here as I leaned deep into some of the sandy corners on that road.  From there, it was another grind up Big Mountain Pass, punctuated by chubby guys wearing dew rags and goatees riding Harleys waving to us as they blasted past us. 

There are two kinds of bikers:  Leathers ride loud, stinky machines powered by fossil fuels and adorned with chrome, tassels and American flags.  Lycras ride silent, emission-free machines fueled by Mexican food and Power Bars and encumbered only with water bottles and a shiny coat of paint.  

There is a Brotherhood of Bikers that Leathers share with one another.  Some Leathers include Lycras in that Brotherhood, especially Lycras with panniers, what Leathers call 'saddlebags' because Leathers have an aversion to all things French.  Leathers figure there is a connection between anyone who chooses two wheels over four.  Lycras generally don’t feel the same way toward Leathers, but don’t tell them so because Leathers are mean.  Or maybe they just look mean, whereas Lycras look like fairies with their tights and shaved legs.  We saw two Leathers wearing skins and furs, with horns.  Now that's mean. 

From Big Mountain Pass it was a quick ride to Emigration Canyon and to our home in Salt Lake City.  Total distance was 122 miles ride time was just over 11 hours. 

Monday, June 22, 2009

Colorado Springs

SC 1
I set myself up for the ultimate irony at the Sand Creek race in Colorado Springs a week ago, but first let me tell you about the course.  Most of it was smooth, hard packed, wide singletrack.  It was smooth enough that I joked with Ryan about how I should have saved some weight by bringing the rigid fork from my single speed.  

Then, as if to mock me, the trail led us into the first rock garden.  This one I could ride, but there were some sections I couldn’t.   A lot of the next mile consisted of rock gardens that I could ride during my warm up, but never under hypoxic race conditions.  To make a long story short, the course did not play to my strengths.  Put another way, my strengths do not play to finesse riding.  

My inability to descend gingerly notwithstanding, I had two aspirations for this race. The first was to not finish last, which was [relatively] easy.  I finished in front of 11 riders, and there were another 20 or so that didn’t finish at all.  By the way, when 90 racers are trying to get up the same trail and so are riding wheel to wheel, if one of the guys in the front dabs his foot everyone behind him gets stopped too.   So, to the guy behind me that yelled when I decided it was faster to run than wait for a literal traffic jam, if you’re reading this: Don’t be myopic, look up, look around, and quit staring at my hub. There’s a race going on.  

My other aspiration was to pee in a cup, or get tested for drugs.  I failed in that regard, or at least I hope so.

When I crossed the finish line I had only one thing on my mind, and it wasn’t to find out what place I’d finished or if I’d been randomly selected for drug testing.  No, I was thinking of getting to Coors Field and watching Ichiro Suzuki, the galaxy’s most gifted, graceful and gracious ballplayer, slap another base hit that doesn’t make it out of the infield.  

So Ryan and I loaded our bikes into the truck, and thanks to a 45 minute rain delay, we made it in time for the second inning.  It wasn’t until later that night, after the Mariners had blown two golden opportunities and thus the game, as I was finally drifting off to sleep, that I realized that I’d forgotten to check if I’d been randomly selected for drug testing.  

Missing a drug test is as bad as failing a drug test in the eyes of the USADA.  The irony of hoping to be selected, getting selected, and then skipping out on the test would be too much to bear.  So, to the USADA, if you’re reading this, and if I was selected: I’m sorry, but Ichiro is leading the American League in batting, and I hadn’t seen him play for five years. I’m begging for a little leniency here.  I’ll pee in that cup any time you ask.  I promise all you’ll find is some flax seed, chocolate milk, and if I’m desperate, maybe a bit of Mountain Dew.   

Thursday, June 11, 2009

What am I thinking?

US CUP I’m leaving this afternoon, with pro license in hand, for Colorado Springs and the Carmichael Training Systems Sand Creek International Classic.  This will be my first race on the PRO XCT Tour so I only have two aspirations:

1)    Not finish last
2)    Be asked to pee in a cup

Cross your fingers. 

Sunday, June 7, 2009

A horse is a horse

Horsesense One morning when I arrived at my office with my fourth different bike in as many days, I was greeted by a co-worker saying “Jeez Chad, how many bikes do you need?” 

This co-worker is probably the closest thing to a real cowboy you’ll find in this day and age.  He competes as a calf roper in regional rodeos, he wears skin-tight Wranglers, and is fluent in the local dialect of Mountain English.   And in case you still had any doubt about his authenticity, he wears a big bushy handlebar moustache.  Incidentally, he is also my supplier of free range, grass fed buffalo meat, which he raises for practicing his calf ropin’.  [There are no –ing words in Mountain English]. 

So anyway, when my cowboy co-worker asked how many bikes I needed I replied in a way I knew he would understand.  “Different horses for different courses” I said.  He was satisfied.  After all, how could he not be?   He owns something like a dozen horses.  He has not mentioned my numerous bikes since. 

This has got me thinking.  What is the real meaning of that phrase?  Is it ‘different horses for different courses’?  Or is it ‘different courses for different horses’?  They’re not the same thing. 

One implies that, given a certain course, you need to select the right horse for it.  The other implies that if you’ve only got one horse, you’ve got to find a course he’s well-suited for.  Either way you’ve got your work cut out for you. 

If it’s the former, you’re going to have a lot of horses to feed.   If it’s the latter you’ll spend a lot of time seeking out the right course for your horse.  And how will you ever know you’ve found the right course?  You won’t, of course, so you’ll just have to keep searching.  

I hear there are good courses in Driggs and Durango, and of course I have ridden horses in Moab, Fruita and San Jorge, and found pretty good courses at all of them.  Also Hood River, Hilo, Hanover, Friday Harbor, Bar Harbor, Santa Cruz, Santaquin, Maah Daah Hey, Monterey, North Bend, Bend, Boise, Trapper Creek, Talkeetna, Black Hills, Fountain Hills, Fountain Green, Green River Utah, Green River Washington, but not Green River Wyoming,  Anchorage, Austin, Smithville, Millville, Harrisville, Harrisburg, Alton, Elko and Ely.  All have good courses, but I’m not sure if any of those is the right course for my horse. 

So naturally I’ve turned to filling my stable with different horses.  I won’t list all of my horses; suffice it to say they comprise a small herd.  I will warn you however, that owning multiple horses is not enough.  You are also going to need Wranglers for cold weather and others for warm weather.  Baggy chaps for dusty trails and the tightest Wranglers you can find for days you pretend to be a jockey.  You might need some balm for long days in the saddle, but I don’t recommend it.  Different horses also call for different sorts of cowboy boots, but whether or not to use spurs is completely up to you.  Keep your horses well fed.  Oats and hops will keep horse and rider healthy and happy.  Finally, every horse will need shoes that match perfectly the course you intend to ride him on. You wouldn't ride roughshod over a smooth road would you? 

As you can see, owning lots of horses is every bit as complicated as owning just one horse.  So whether you decide to keep just one horse and cart him everywhere in search of the ideal course for him, or keep a herd of horses so you’re ready for all kinds of courses, I hope this discourse on horses and courses provides you with a little horse sense on the matter.  

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to see a man about a horse. 

Monday, June 1, 2009

It's official

It’s been a while, I admit it.  I’d apologize but what good would it do?  I just haven’t been feeling any blogging mojo.  And it’s not like you can’t find narcissistic ramblings anywhere else on the interweb.  Quite frankly, I’m very surprised you’re still hanging around.  Haven’t you got anything else to do?  Well, I don’t feel any remorse for leaving you without your weekly dose of circular logic and nonsensical observations.   Besides, I’ve got a couple of lame, but nonetheless official, excuses…

It all started last autumn when USA Cycling announced it was going to dissolve the semi-pro category.  For 2009, all semi-pros would have the choice of moving up to pro or going back to the expert category (renamed Cat 1).   In other words, USAC told us to choose between being USAC-Sanctioned Sandbaggers or perpetually losing to guys that don’t have real jobs, get paid to ride, have team mechanics and don’t know the value of their equipment because they never buy it for themselves.  Easy choice, right?

For me it was less a decision to turn pro and more of a decision to not go back to Cat 1.  Remember how I worked extra hard last season to upgrade to semi-pro?   OK, it wasn’t that much work, but it did require a trip to Phoenix and lots of riding in circles.  This time around my upgrade came not from my own effort, discipline, hard work, sacrifice, training, sweat, etc.  This upgrade came my way via the action of a faceless bureaucracy. 

To make it official, this arrived in the mail earlier this spring:

The best part is that it says while I may be good enough to ride pro in the dirt, at least according to USA Cycling, I’m still a beginner (Cat 5) on a road bike.  Yeah, that seems about right, although others might argue with that statement. 

So with a bona fide professional license in hand and in need of a healthy dose of reality, I set out for San Diego in early April for race number 3 of the Kenda Cup West Series where I finished a respectable 19th in the Sage Brush Safari.  Respectable yes, but there were only 34 starters. This pro racing game, I realized, is going to take a bit more effort.   MBA

So that’s what I set out to do—try harder.  Maybe I’d even learn to ride downhill.  But that’s when my academic life reared its ugly head, in the form of a macroeconomics class.  I’d been cruising along in an MBA program for over 3 years, and now, suddenly, I was expected to put forth a lot more effort.   It was like riding in the foothills all day then, when you think you’re almost done, the road turns up a canyon and you have 3,000 more feet to climb.   

Anyway, several thousand IS/LM curves later, I finished, and a couple of weeks ago I made it official:

So now I have two masters degrees but not enough work experience, a pro license but no winnings to speak of, and I still can’t ride downhill. 

I officially need to come up some new excuses.