Monday, March 30, 2009

We Built This City

. . . with cloth and poles.

While others were racing their bikes on Saturday, I was out hitting some garage sales with the family. Before you laugh at our white trash hobby, I'll remind you we live near some pretty affluent areas. A rich person's trash . . .

Case in point, we stopped at one house with a bunch of new, boxed tents spread out in the street. Apparently this lady bought a bunch of tents with the intent of making millions on eBay. Finding out it was too much trouble, she decided on a garage sale instead. We bought six new tents for six bucks. Yep, a dollar each.

The kids put them all up to make sure all the parts were there, and as you can see it was a success. They had a tent city to play in for the day, but by nightfall it was taken down and most of the tents were given away to friends and family.

A few years ago I picked up an old Italian road bike at a garage sale for $175. I don't even remember the make of the frame, and it didn't really matter; all I saw was the full Campy Nuovo Record group that was hanging ON the frame. I parted it out on eBay and cleared a cool $575 (after fees) for my trouble.

So there is definitely gold in them there foothills, but these days you're more likely to find it in someones garage than in a river bed.


Sunday, March 29, 2009


The big red bike.

I did a little work on a friend's bike. It's a nice old Motobecane that I believe will be used as a coffee shop racer.

It originally had a funky crank in which the large chainring was directly attached to the arm, making a single speed conversion difficult. I pulled an old Takagi crank out of the parts bin; it came off my 1984 Ross Mt. Whitney, if anyone remembers those.

I theft-proofed it with some solid axles, threw on some old Dia Compe brake levers, and performed a general tune-up. I test rode it as best I could, but the bike is HUGE.

Anyway, I think it's a cool bike:

In return, Eric put together a custom 12-pack of big bottle brews that should keep me busy for a while:

Thanks, Eric, and sorry it took so damn long.


Saturday, March 28, 2009

Mission Aborted

Right before liftoff, too.

Well, I woke up feeling quite well today, the best I have felt all week. Not sure how I feel about that. I guess I am relieved that I am not dying, but in the back of my head I am wondering if I could have gone out and turned a few laps. But I guess since it was only two nights ago that I couldn't even breathe, I WOULD have to be an idiot to race.

I am wondering what I could have done differently when everyone else in the house was getting sick. I ate well, took my vitamins, rode hard and tried to rest as best I could. I even avoided my son when he was sick, which made me feel like a total ass, but I really wanted this race to go off without a hitch. In hindsight, I should have just let him sneeze and slobber all over me and I could have been done with this weeks ago.

I'll let the virus pass and resume training for the next objective, which is the 8-hour race in Cool on May 2.


Friday, March 27, 2009

Twice on the Pipes

I just returned from the doctor’s office where Doctor Bhuvaneswari Thirunavukkarasu (yes, her real name) listened to my rattling pipes and took some X-rays. Upon looking at my cloudy lungs on her computer screen, she said, "You have pleuritis." When I asked her what this meant, she said, "It means you are not racing your bicycle tomorrow."

Last night I felt OK, at least until I went to bed. Once I was horizontal for a while, it suddenly hurt like hell to breathe, and I was only able to take in shallow breaths. It felt like I was drowning, and it freaked my out a little. I thought to myself if it gets much worse I may have to call 911. Seriously. I popped a couple of Advil hoping to take the edge off the pain, and unknowingly did exactly what was needed: The ibuprofen helped with the inflammation of my pluera, and the pain eased up within 15 minutes. I fell asleep and felt much, much better this morning.

Still, I kept my appointment today because there was just enough pain to be concerned about. I figured if I was really OK, the doc would give me a clean bill of health, and I'd be off to the races. Otherwise, I would honor her advice whatever it may be.

So after the poking, prodding and pictures, she told me what I didn’t want to hear, and I reluctantly agreed to take it easy for a few days. When I stood up to leave her office, I think she could tell I was still considering the race. Her exact words were, "You would have to be an idiot to race your bike, OK?"

"I know," I replied. "I know."


Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Hammer Falls

I woke up today with a weird pain and pressure in my upper chest. It hurts when I breathe deeply. The pain intensified over the course of the day to the point where I called the doctor and made an appointment for tomorrow morning. I have a feeling it's some sort of respiratory infection. Obviously my participation at Boggs is in serious jeopardy.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Waiting for the Hammer

I am alone on an island.

The other three members of my household are either currently sick or recovering from being sick. I have thus far avoided the cooties, but I am not confident I will escape unscathed. With only four days to go until Boggs, catching this cold—which appears to be an awful one—would be disastrous.

Actually, at this point I am not positive I don’t have a touch of the cold anyway. It’s tough to tell since it’s spring and I work in Sacramento, the "City of Trees." It’s about the worst place to be on the entire planet as far as allergens go. When the trees are in bloom (now), it’s pretty bad. Add a little wind, as we’ve had the past few days, and it’s downright brutal.

So I feel kind of shitty, and whether it’s a cold or allergies or paranoia-induced hypochondria, I don’t know. Either way, the timing sucks.


Saturday, March 21, 2009

. . . one . . .

One week until Boggs.

I had a pretty good week on the bike, totalling 147 miles, highlighted by a 4.5 hour dirt/road combo ride on Tuesday.

Towards the middle third of the ride I started fading a bit, and I thought, "Man, I am cooked." But I had set out to do at least four hours, so I kept plugging along. I upped my water and fuel intake and started feeling better little by little. On the last third of the ride I felt pretty good, and by the time I hit the final series of climbs leading up to my house I was flying. I finished feeling strong, so I was pretty happy about that. If it weren't for the fact that I had to pick up my son at school, I would have gone on for another few miles.

I still don't know if I have the capability of eight hours in my legs yet, but I guess in a week I will know the answer to that question.


Friday, March 20, 2009

Suburban Sprawl Crawl

Say what you will about suburban sprawl—the increased traffic, heightened stress, commuting pollution, low-density land use and the sedentary lifestyle it promotes. All true to a certain extent. As a mountain biker, though, I have learned to like it. Bring on the sprawl.

I live in the Sierra Foothills and drive a LONG way to work in Sacramento. Yeah, I’m a horrible person. I have personally killed a polar bear and a few penguins due to my ice-cap-melting, fossil-fuel-emitting ways. My sincerest apologies to my furred and feathered friends.

I used to live much closer to work and less than a mile from Sacramento’s American River Bike Trail. It was only a 10-minute drive to work, and I deemed it "too close" to commute by bike. The meager training miles, a little over 100 per week, weren’t worth the wrinkled clothes, shower supplies, and extra time required. Plus, who would want to ride a dorky bike with a rack and fenders on it? I’m a BIKE RACER, man.

Fast forward six years, and I would love to have the opportunity to commute 10 miles to work on a dorky bike with a rack and fenders. Sign me up. Unfortunately, it took living 40 minutes from work to realize it.

Still, I do what I can. I work a 4-10 schedule to eliminate one day’s driving. I ride to the grocery or hardware store when I can. Occasionally I do ride home from work, and it saves my wife and I one car trip and the world a couple gallons of burned fuel. It’s a 35-45 mile ride depending on my route. The shortest route has the busiest roads; the quieter the route, the longer the ride. To date I have ridden both to and from work exactly once. Eighty miles with a 10-hour work day in the middle was just too much—16 hours in total.

I spent the better part of three years grumbling about living in the boonies. My close, convenient, safe bike trail was long gone. No longer could I roll out for a ride after work and shut my brain off. I was now riding on narrow roads with horrible surfaces, up and down incessant hills, and trying to coexist with intolerant drivers. I hated riding around my new home. I gave up on riding a road bike and used a cyclocross bike for a while. It was good, but not great. It wasn’t until I built up a 29er that things got interesting.

I built up a Karate Monkey in 2004 and it immediately became my go-to bike. The bike isn’t great at any one thing, except if you count its versatility. It’s no road bike, but unlike a 26" bike, it rolls quite well on the pavement. The stiff fork is kind of harsh on rough trails, but again, with the big wheels it’s tolerable. It steers slowly in tight singletrack, but it’s manageable. Still, I immediately loved the Karate Monkey. Something about the bike led to slowing down, looking around and exploring.

So instead of leaving on rides with a definite route in mind, I started hunting. I would pick an area to scour, ride down old roads, look for dead ends, rail road tracks and creeks—all the places trails are typically built. I would scan Google Earth and look for areas that might hide trails. I trolled web sites. I asked kids with mud on their faces. You know what I found? Dirt. Sweet, sweet dirt. Lots of it. All around me.

The area where I live would best be described as the beginning of the rural foothills. Narrow roads, acreage, ranches, livestock and wineries are the norm. The roads would be nice to ride on if they were quiet, but they are not. They are patrolled by ranchers in old trucks, soccer moms in huge SUVs, rich kids in daddy’s Benz, and white-knuckled commuters speeding towards their evening martini. Just to the west of us is more suburban, and the roads mostly have—get this—BIKE LANES. This is where I ride the most now.

The developers along the Highway 50 corridor have left quite a bit of open space around the homes. In this space are paved trails, crushed granite fitness paths, gravel access roads and even some singletrack. They are sometimes hard to see if you aren’t looking for them. Often there will only be a small entrance between a couple houses or a slight parting of the trees. I rode by what has become one of my favorite local trails for YEARS without ever seeing the entrance.

Now I can piece together long rides from home that avoid major roads by using these hidden gems. I can commute home from work by mountain bike and see very few cars.

So while I can’t do a pub crawl on my hipster fixed gear like my urban friends, I can do something they can’t. I do the suburban sprawl crawl. I get my dirt jones anytime I want. Right from my house.

Long live the suburbs.


Sunday, March 15, 2009

. . . two . . .

Two weeks until Boggs.

I had a good training week. Even though I missed a day due to my son being home sick from school, I still managed to ride over 150 miles.

I ended up getting a motel room in Clear Lake for the night after the race. One of the things that has always bounced around in my head during my two previous 8-hour races was being too tired to drive home. It's about a 2.5 hour drive to Boggs, a little farther than I'm comfortable with. I'm pretty paranoid about driving tired.

Sleep and I have always had an uncomfortable relationship. The Sand Man visits, but never stays as long as I would like. (Case in fact: I have been up since 2 a.m. this morning.) I average five or six hours a night, sometimes less. Once a week, usually on Saturday night, I take an over-the-counter sleep aid, and it helps me catch up. I didn't take one last night because I have to drive in to work early this morning. Again, I'm very careful. Driving with the lingering effects of a sleep aid in my system isn't something I will mess with. I have a good reason to be so careful.

On February 21, 1986 I was driving home after classes at Sierra College and fell asleep at the wheel. The car rolled five times and I was lucky to walk away with fairly minor injuries.

At that time I was working full time, carrying a full load of classes, and riding as much as I could. It was a recipe for disaster, at least for me. I was trying to do too much, and there weren't enough hours in the day. So I sacrificed sleep, and I paid for it.

Anyway, all these years later sleep is still an issue, but I live with it. It's better than sleeping with the fishes.


Sunday, March 08, 2009

. . . three . . .

Three weeks until Boggs.

Last week was an OK training week: three trainer workouts (due to rain) and two long rides. Friday on the ride home from work I had race-winning legs. I really felt great. Yesterday I had DFL legs. I suffered during the whole ride. Not fun.

Today I'm hoping to feel better when I ride later. We'll see.

Random shots from yesterday's ride . . .

Lots of snow in the Sierras:

Yeah, the coyotes and rattlesnakes are bad . . .

. . . but it's the bullfrogs that'll get you every time.