Thursday, December 31, 2009

What you missed when you started drinking at noon

Sure it maybe wasn't "prudent" to ride one of the most technical routes in the fells in the middle of a snowstorm, but it sure was fun...

Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Culled, at a hair over 9bs

I went out to Otis AFB on the Cape this weekend with my good friend NHG for a belated version of our traditional X-Mas day bike ride (you know, because we're the kind of addicts that would rather ride bikes than get presents on Christmas). After getting good and wet and cold in the slush, we descended on a lobster shack for some local fare, where I laid my eyes on one of the largest lobsters I've ever seen. Staring up at me from the saltwater tank was a one-clawed (cull) lobster weighing in at 9lbs, 4oz. sans left hand. It being a slow night, and the proprietor of the shack being rather friendly, I prodded him a little about it, and lobsters in general. The conclusion: Lobsters should ride bikes.

If you were a lobster, you'd have:
  1. Built-in body armor: You'll never break a collarbone or end up with a huge scrape across you face from a crash--you've got full-body custom plate mail. Not only is it custom, it automatically replaces itself with a slightly larger size every year, so you won't be self-conscious about looking fat when you stop training, or get a real job.
  2. Regenerating limbs: Body armor is nice and all, but if you're really taking it to the edge, some day you might get hurt BAD. When your arm is broken in six places it would sure be nice to just hack the thing off and grow a fresh one. Especially when you don't have insurance.
  3. Teeth in your stomach: Yep, that's right. Never choke down a Clif Bar again. Gulp it and forget it. Your gut will take care of the rest.
  4. Eight Legs: Need I say more?
And now for something completely different:

Lobster pic credit:

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

To that guy in the median on my way home...

So, I'm riding down the main drag a couple nights after our recent big snowstorm in Boston. It's about 11pm and in the 15degree chill my alkaline "I'm a-comin'' beacon is barely a glimmer on my handlebars, but when you gotta get from A to B, you gotta get from A to B...

At about A.5, I start coming across significant pedestrian traffic from the not-quite-in-porter-square bars and cruise past one particular cluster where a guy says sarcastically in my direction, "man, that's dedication". Ok, it's cold or whatever, and a little slippery, but I'm not the one stranded in traffic for an hour trying to get home on a derailed subway. I'm also not paying $80/month for a T pass. Then there's that exercise you're not getting, and all the time I save not waiting for the bus (and summarily waste on this blog. F-you, internet and your siren song). Genius and bat-shit insanity live on opposite sides of a fine line that's often hard to pick out from behind a steamed up windshield, in traffic, at night, during a snowstorm, when it's too cold for your lights to work; but crazy got a lot of people pretty darn far. I this case I'm sitting on my couch while you are far far from home.

Wear booties. Ride happy. Old man winter Ain't got nothin'.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Big wheels, Frozen Trails and Holiday Cheer

I was more than a little disappointed this morning when a potential car-full of would-be CX racers sublimated into the ether, leaving me to either face an hour of solo driving to go race a silly bike in freezing weather or do something else, like go back to bed. I chose the latter. It was not long, however, before the riding bug got all up in my gym shorts and an acceptable alternative plan was hatched, involving the reassembly of Jack Hammer (the rigid 1x9 650b MTB) and a couple of hours of singletrack riding with Seth (who, unlike Jack, is a real person). This brings me to my point:

There are lots of reasons to like the holidays (some of those reasons have frosting, others have gravy), but more than the holidays, there's something sublimely satisfying and utterly breathtaking about experiencing the outdoors on the threshold of a long, hard winter. The cold rarefies the air and desaturates all the world's colors, leaving the senses to the crispness of the frozen path underfoot and the peaceful silence of a forest curled up to sleep--by contrast you feel that much more alive. When you're lucky you'll ride like it too. If there was anything that could have quashed my disappointment over a race-day aborted, it was a morning tour of a chilling lake by way of a ribbon of dirt.

Tomorrow anyone?

Edit: Almost forgot Seth's quote of the day...

Seth: [after his third mechanical of the ride] "Ok, I think I've finally got everything working."
Wrench: "You'd better knock on wood while you have the chance."
Seth: "I'm bound to hit a tree eventually."

Saturday, December 5, 2009

NBX G. P. (of Cross) Race Report

Came, raced, lived to ride again.

Glancing at this morning's weather report, there was definitely no expectation of "good" weather for today's skinny tire contest in Warwick, RI but that being said one rarely, if ever, shows up at a venue after a half a day of continuous rain and says, "gee, I thought it would be a lot worse." It indeed could have been worse, but it was bad enough. To speak to Chris's comment, yes you did leave some trail but you totally didn't clean up after yourselves. There was mud all over the place :).

Having not done anything that counts as strenuous physical exercise in about three months, all of the goop actually wasn't half bad. After cleverly disguising the fact that I ride mountain bikes in the snow on stuff that makes a CX course look like a freshly paved sidewalk, I managed to pass a whole lot of people from my start spot waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay at the back, and finished somewhere mid-pack in the 3's. One would think that people who embrace a whole sport centered around riding sketchy bikes in crap-ass weather could handle them a little better, but it seems they can't and I'm by no means complaining. I would have been dead last if I didn't take 20 or so people in the corners. (because OMG am I slow. it seems that "training" actually does make you faster. Who knew?) It's worth making a big deal out of this bike-handling thing because I'm really not that coordinated a guy. (find some video of me in the barriers and you'll see what I mean) Meanwhile there are real athletes in the race--you know, the people who are naturally good at just about any sport the first time they try it--picking their way through turns with one foot unclipped and their lower lips in a dental death grip. So much potential unrealized. So much potential... And more often than not, it's just people being lemmings.

Here's a quick example. It reads something like "good line... bad line."

The high line in the video was the one that most of the 4's were taking earlier in the day (to clarify, people were staying high farther around than in the video when it was less slick. This is an extreme example of why staying high was a pretty solid fail). Given that it hadn't rained much at that point it might have been the best approach and was well worn in by the time may race came around hours later when, after being pissed on for a few hours and mashed around a good bit, it was a slippery off-camber ball of terribleness. Despite this, most of the field insisted on riding the high-line for all 5 laps, while the few who explored other options blew by like everyone else was standing still. Just because everyone else is doing it, doesn't mean it's right! ...and on that note, I'm out.

Great Day For a Cross Race

The Belgians would be proud.

Friday, December 4, 2009

TTD Part I: Be late for EVERYTHING

Those of you who have been following for a while may remember the "Training for the Detail Deficient" (TDD) series of last season which, in keeping with the theme, was never really planned in any sort of serious way and not really ever finished (I contend that it shall be revived in the event I ever regain the fitness high-ground enough to justify talking about how to go fast again).

In celebration of this debacle of declarative memories, and the fact that I pretty much sit on my ass doing problem sets these days (I'm soo too old for this), I bring to you a new, considerably more ridiculous training series with the initials TTD. You may de-acronym as you like, but I'm particularly fond of "Training for the Training Deficient", or in the spirit of this episode's title, "Training for the Time Deficient". TTD is all about feeling fast, spinning tires and ultimately getting nowhere fitness-wise, all on a strict time budget. TTD works its way alternately around beer-drinking and professional life so that you can be who you want to be when you grow up--as long as you don't want to be on any sort of three-tiered podiums.

So without Further adeiu - Part I: "Be late for EVERYTHING"

(apologies if this makes no sense, I was up all night doing work and may be delerious)

TTD is all about working with your schedule. If you've gotta work, kick-it with your bros at the local watering hole, spend half-a-day shopping online for parts to make your bike lighter, TTD works with you (and your schedule is tight, like {censored! My mom reads this for Pete's sake}). TTD is so flexible that it actually creates time where there was none before! How? By always being late.

The hardest part about not training is that exerting yourself is difficult. Everybody knows how awful it feels two weeks after you stop training for real when your high-end goes to shit, but four MONTHS after you stop training, even a couple flights of stairs are enough to initiate cardiac arrest. As time goes on you find yourself wanting to "just chill" on the bike more and more often, until you're barely breaking double digits on the speedo-- and actually getting less exercise than walking.

Good thing you have somewhere to be--10 minutes ago! Similarly to how smokers are supposed to tell as many as people as possible that they're gonna quit so they're motivated not to fail and look like chumps, telling people you're going to be somewhere on a schedule that you could never reasonably keep is a perfect motivator to ride fast ALL THE TIME. The whole ride slow to go fast thing is totally overrated anyway. Not only will you be riding hard every time you get on a bike, but you also will be creating time that you never would have had if you left your house at a reasonable hour and made your way responsibly to your destination--those five minutes could be the difference between obscurity and the nobel prize!

The perfect late departure is as much science as it is art. To truly make time where there was none before, you must leave your start point later and arrive at your destination at the same time you would have normally. Having been away from racing for long enough to have the oxygen return to my brain, here's a handy magic time claculator:

T = (D / v1) - (D / v2)

where T is the time you can delay your departure and, D is the distance you need to go, v1 is your normal speed, and v2 is Mach III (subtract one Mach for every month you've been off your regular schedule). Additional time may be required for sweat mopping and regaining consciousness, depending on level of fitness, but you'll have to calculate that in on your own.

Ride Safe...

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Dude, I'm an elite bike racer...

Can't stop watching this...


Thanks to Jennifer for the find.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Giving Thanks (and alternately complaining)

This time last year was a cynical one for P&W. The Pedal was hanging over a toilet between slices of pie and I was ripping on the foul temptations of consumerism.

This year, I dare not take a the pie for granted. Some consideration to be taken for the fact that grad student income is less-than-generous and pie is generally free, I'm a lot more appreciative of our country's little Puritan gorge-fest this year--mainly because it's two extra days off. The whole "grad school is great because you get to get paid to work on whatever you want" pitch has been a big fat lie so far. There's more than a couple of things in the queue that need getting to (like all the research I was supposed to be doing but haven't gotten around to until, uh, tomorrow), and there's nothing like extra days with no class and no problem sets to get them done...

Let's face it, all I want to do is go out and ride.

In that vein, here's a few things I'm thankful for this year:

  1. Tall socks. No, they're not cool, but they keep you from having to roll your pants up and down all the time.
  2. Reasonable November weather. I seriously thought this was a record warm year, but apparently it's not that unusual. My perspective is probably skewed by the fact we have yet to turn on the heat in my house, w brings me to:
  3. Wool. Freakin'. Blankets. When you don't heat your house, a nice Afghan patu goes a long way
  4. A crew of friends that want to ride on turkey day. See y'all in the morning!
Eat. Drink. Be merry.

~The Wrench

Monday, November 23, 2009

"My bike is like a high maintenance girlfriend"

"Everything I buy her needs to be 'special' and there's always something wrong that she needs me to fix." ~Seth

There it is -- being into cycling is like having a high maintenance girlfriend. You spend all your money and time on her; you stop hanging out with anyone that doesn't like her; and despite her destructive influence on your life, breaking up with her sends you spiraling into a depression that makes you fat and melancholy. As you may have noticed, cycling and I have been forced to "have a little space" from each other lately. Following the metaphor, I've grown a little more normal in the waist (about 13lbs) and generally have been abusing my body to the tune of all-nighters and habitual coffee swilling for a couple of months, but like any breakup you get over it eventually and move on. Hence, I think it's time to start dating again: This weekend featured two rides for FUN , and there are definitely more on the horizon. With Captain Big-Wheel (pictured above) as wingman, it's time to go pimp some bitchin' singletrack again...

Thursday, September 24, 2009

It pulls a little to the Left.

It's been a long time sine the last post, but not as long as I've been commuting on a bicycle. Having never held a job to which I've had to drive a car or take public transport, there's more than a few urban assault miles behind me. And I'm not ashamed to admit that I take certain liberties with posted traffic regulations when I deem it safe to do so.

Contrary to some opinions, I'm of the school that taking a more aggressive approach to urban riding is actually safer than JRA with your thumbs in your belt-buckles and a self-righteous, law-abiding grin. Keeping your speed up and rolling though intersections (when there's nobody coming - I'm not suggesting you get in people's way) is certainly not inherently safer than the mellow alternatives, but it is worthy of paying attention--both for you, who's working with a narrow margin for error; and for everyone else, who notices you because you're not just a stationary blob in the shoulder. Time and again, this theory proves itself. I've been sideswiped by a Nissan, eaten by a pothole (or two) and knocked over by a motorcycle, to name a few, all while JRA, but never (in the last decade, at least) have I had a mishap while riding like I meant it, which is not insignificant given that I mean it at least 75% of the time.

Today was no exception...

I'm on my way to the MFA, thinking about some nice art I'm gonna see, rolling down the main drag through an intersection where I had a green light, maybe doin' 15mph, which is decidedly JRA on this particular road (slightly downhill), when, with absolutely no warning, some J-walker comes out from behind a car less than six feet in front of me without so much as a glance in the direction of traffic.

To be honest, this is a moment I've been waiting for for a long time. Not because I want to clean out a pedestrian (believe me hurting someone for whatever the reason doesn't give one a warm fuzzy feeling), but because I've always been curious about how I would react.

The scenario has run over in my head 1000 times: Drop the bars, square shoulders, head-up, don't forget to wrap. Basically it's a football tackle: transfer maximum momentum without injury and make sure everything stops right where it is. I can now definitively say it works like a charm, unless you're my fork. You'd be amazed how much frame repair one can do with a signpost...

Of course, the usual me would have been in the middle of the road going 50% faster and would have been 15 feet to her left when she stepped out. So much for JRA--or maybe so much for contemplating art? At least nobody got hurt.

Ride it like you mean it.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Mt Snow Race avoidance report (long-belated)

Those of you bored enough to browse by here regularly may have noticed that there hasn't been much racing in the news. Not to worry, I haven't taken up randouneering yet, but the wrench has been a little distracted lately. (So much so that he's started talking about himself in the third person!)

It all started a few weeks back when another potentially rainy ski hill MTB race (Mt. Snow #1) went head to head with an invitation to Dim-Sum. If you happened to read my last race report, the outcome is no surprise. Like a good paceline, once you get dropped off the back of the race train in late season it takes a monster effort to get back on, especially when the race train is in New England and you're in Pune, India. (Did I mention I was in India?)

Despite our purchase of Indian-Made "Hercules" brand bicycles for local travel, the racing scene in India is less than vibrant--not surprising given how hard it is to exert oneself in the midday smog. There is more than sufficient opportunity to ride, however, as I am commuting daily by bicycle to the project site (installaing a FabLab and working on FabFi), in traffic that would make your average urban courier drool with envy. As you might imagine, capturing a ride through utter urban-trnsport chaos with a handheld video camera is somewhat challenging, given the necessity to ride with one hand, but I tried because I love you all so much...

I'll be on a whirlwind tour of Asia (now through India and back in Afghanistan) until early September and mostly posting on the Fabfi blog, but anything that non-geeks might actually read will be cross-posted here.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009


It is often said that cycling is a metaphor for life. I find that with BCBR the analogy is uncanny. Perhaps there are greater cycles of life I can compare the race to, but most obvious to me at this time is the parallel between the six nights at BCBR and the six years of my grad school career. Like a race, one of the remarkable things about my last four months was the recognition of the importance of every moment, that even my few periods of rest had meaning and purpose. If I may speak in analogy for a while, perhaps we may distill a deeper meaning of things. For those with little patience for words and the rambling thoughts from the road, I have posted a photo taken from my mother's porch early one morning on my visit to California last winter, an image which perhaps captures the essence of this essay, should one know the full story behind it.

The first two days of the race were effectively a hazing ritual, the first day especially so. All too soon we dove headfirst into the hills and felt the pains of existence so acutely, my competition swarming past me as I struggled. And at last, reaching the top of the hill there was little reprieve, for I knew that it was but the beginning of the more terrifying prospect of descent. Lumbering over the drops and rocks as best I could, rallying my courage to continue, we battled on, all too relieved to reach the finish, but I, having suffered through it all with immense cramping, was truly intimidated by the prospect of six more days of this, each stage longer and more unknown than the first.

It is hard to say that day 2 was much better. Where the trails lacked the brute intimidation of Stage 1, they made up for it in the length of climbs and freshly cut trails on off camber slopes taunting me, laughing at me as I tried to rally legs that refused to move. At times literally only able to stand, I wished my shame to vanish with the cramps. Ending the stage with a good section of fast fire road, I felt a fair bit of redemption. In my element, able to turn a big gear at slow cadence I was at last rewarded with the feeling of success. Retiring at the end of the day though, I could only hope that tomorrow would be better by some mysterious force of nature moving within my legs.

Perhaps finally coming into form by the trials of the first days, Stage 3 saw us embark on the start of a hopeful journey toward a higher running. Like a puppet of the gods, it seems it was perhaps more a lesson in hubris, for day 4 brought me to the lumbering endless darkness beneath the blazing sun. Everywhere I looked was only pain and frustration, with myself and with my place in the world. As I wrote before, for the space of 5 hours I was in a place of suffering. We finished in 5 hours and 15 minutes.

It seems that making it through the hump, with the end in sight, perhaps the hauntings of the previous day were mental more than physical. Rolling into our strongest day, we placed 18th on the stage, finding reward in the early showers and the first boat to Squamish, where in the shade of a tree we napped peacefully and dreamt only of good things to come. The final two days took us over hill and under hill, across root and yonder river. We had come into our own, finding comfort in the trails, rolling in tempo with the course, on our mark as it were. We finished day 7 on a high, perhaps not technically perfect, but somehow in tune. It was perhaps the best finish imaginable given the forecast from the first days.

I remember thinking so clearly on the first climb up the mountain slope at Whistler, how remarkably similar that effort was to the entirety of my thesis writing. Both are now a fog in my mind, save for a few moments of clarity through obscure twists and turns, brief moments where I caught my breath at some switchback or in the damp walk home from lab in the wee hours of the morning. But how vividly I recall the one thought, emblazoned upon the day as it were, that like climbing a mountain one breath at a time, one climbs a thesis word by word. And should you dare to look up from the valley and wonder at the height of the mountain, dumbstruck at the possibility of ever getting there, you may think it an impossible task. As endless as it may seem, it is far better to stare at the trail ahead, counting off the breaths, finding some enjoyment in the simple rhythm of life. Mountain tops are made for looking down from, not to look up at.

And having completed the journey, it is appropriate to look back to the beginning whence we came. If there is a meaning in the analogy, it may be that we carry our past with us, that beginnings are all important, that they mark a conclusion of a former chapter. Perhaps also it tells us that our various comings and goings are not as separate as we might imagine, that our training on a bike is training for life, that the way we face obstacles and greet companions on the trail is exactly that. It seems fitting at this time to revisit the beginning of this chapter, my first post to this blog, a century ago by some measure:

``When I think of the ideal life, it’s one where I might greet my colleagues tired and battered, but walk yet with the levity of victory. It’s one where on the starting line my competitors might call me Dr. Edlund, though I might suffer more because of it. It’s one where the suffering we endure makes us gracious and wise. We should aspire to live a passionate life, drawing from and giving to the stories of legends. I am honored to be embarking on this mission with Keith, and hope that with the courage to ride what comes, the coolness to flow with it, and the patience to try again, that I can learn some of his grace.

I’m not sure what I’m in for, but know that it’s good to dream of the future. With the inception of my thesis writing and graduation looming it’s hard to say where this year will take me. It’s good when heading off into new territory to take a survey of the land and set your bearing by some prominence – I think a mountain top somewhere will serve well.''

Perhaps this chapter has come to a close. Perhaps it is just the beginning of something new. There is not too much more which needs to be said, for I believe we have made it there. And having arrived at this place, now with the perspective of time and uncountable effort behind, what is it I see? Perhaps this, a passage from me thesis, a section from my acknowledgements written this day, captures the way from here.

"In going forth, I promise that I shall use the wisdom of my years and the full force of my experiences to assist our great evolution through the stars. We should ask ourselves daily, ``in what capacity can I best serve?'' At the end of the day we should be judged not by what we have done, but by what more could we have done. As scientists and citizens, we should not only endeavor to solve the world's problems and find freedom from the shackles of the past, but to create new ways of thought and new means of living. It is our duty, everyone one of us, to march ever toward the light."

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Climb to the Clouds "Race" Report

[Edit: for those of you randomly linked off of google searches for C2C: Before posting snippy comments, please remember there's this thing called sarcasm that is often used as a literary device... oi!]

There's no way to to make yourself feel better after a frustrating week of slowness than soundly trouncing a couple hundred 50-somethings riding custom Ti bikes and Carbon Serottas on a nice friendly century ride.

While Eric made the trek to Maine for a "USAcycling event" with "people his age" who are "probably training a lot more than we do", I instead opted to wake up at 6am and ITT it out to Concord for the satisfaction of making people my parents' age weep.

The best thing about this particular ride--less than aptly named "Climb to the Clouds" as the road to the clouds (the top of Wachusett mountain) was closed for construction this year--is that it's fully supported, meaning that you not only get tasty food at two locations on the ride but you also get to pass the whole main field not one, not two but THREE times if you organize your passing and lounging in the sun correctly; with each pass picking up a few chaps who vainly try to hang on for a few miles and then fall away into obscurity as soon as the terrain points upward more than a couple of degrees.

But all humor aside, it was a good day for wrench's legs. As has been proven time and time again, the wrench is a pure endurance athelete. I can hang in z2-3 all day, but don't have a high end to save my life. Fourtunately, such a skill set is perfect for a hilly century and I finished with a rolling average of 19.7mph for 115miles (including the ride to Concord), pulling pretty much the whole time and not even having to kill myself to keep the speed up until the last 20min.

The scenery, as usual, was excellent, the weather nearly perfect, and the plums at the aid stations succulent. All in all well worth the early wake-up call.

MIT Compatriots Ilana, Gerald (on a tendem), Chewie, S___ and Yuri all hung for varying amounts of time, with Yuri impressively sticking my wheel for 85 miles, long past even the calves of steel (Chewie). Impressive!

Now to evacuate the contents of my fridge...

P. S. It is NOT ok to complain about your bike being heavy when you're riding a Cervelo P3. You, random middle-aged guy at the base of Wachusett with way too much money and not enough sense, need to sack up.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Pat's Peak Race Report: DNFantasy

Oh, local bike racin' how I loathe the so...

It was back again this week to the local bike race scene, with a short jaunt up to Pat's Peak MTB festival. In keeping with tradition I made sure to:
  1. Build and/or change my bike significantly the night before and not ride it
  2. Phone up the weather gods and make sure it rained significantly right before or during the race
  3. Fail to obtain adequate sleep the night before the start
Because there's nothing like a race season where you're perpetually over-tired, off-balance and slogging through mud to make you love riding bikes. An man do I love bikes this year, but I digress...

One nice thing about perpetually racing in the rain is that you never overheat--admittedly a nice feature on a lot of courses--but you have to wonder if you've been stealing ice cream cones from toddlers in your sleep to build up bad karma when you show up to a course so muddy you have to run like a mid-october 'cross raceer while getting baked to a crisp in the 85 degree sun.

And don't get me started on ski resort courses...

So you might think that having a really intense 26 hour riding week (BCBR), then taking a week off would make a guy really fast, or at least that was my hope as I lined up in the first row of a 13 man cat1 start. I even joked at Colin, who has recently dabbling in the Pro/Open field, that if he took his reverse hole-shot particularly hard, I might be abel to get a wheel. (though really I'm just glad he's not in my field any more so I don't have to face getting beaten in every race he decides to finish--a great way to kep a guy from crossing the line ahead of you is to make him do an extra lap just in case!)

Having done this whole ski-resort thing before, I know the drill: Don't kill yourself so badly on the climbs that you can't stay upright in the woods on the way down, and keep the pot just below boiling because it always ends up being a long day and you'll need some steam for that third hour... Thus, despite my heckling, I took a page from the hecklee's book and rocked my own reverse hole-shot.

The nice thing about starting at the way-back is that even if you're having an awful day (we'll get to that...) you usually end up passing more people than pass you. I might have even passed all the way up to second place by the end of lap 1, you know because I'm just that good -- POP! pfffffttt.... [crumple]

The start of lap 2 was decidedly less enthusistic than lap 1. This was largely due to the realization is that I no longer race in a field where I can make time on descents, which was arrived upon empirically when my chase picked up ten seconds through the long twisty singletrack downhill. Has one too many faceplants made me cautious? Say it ain't so!

By the start of the second climb of lap 2 I had conceded third, and efforts much beyond fully aerobic were quickly starting to be out of the question.

As it turns out, my body post BCBR is a lot like an old laptop battery. It's taking forever to recharge, and even when fully juiced up I only get about 40 min before totally crapping the bed. Sara says it's going to be this way for another couple of weeks. She should have told this guy as much before he lapped me (on his 5th lap, I was only riding 4) after taking 10th in BCBR AND racing 6 hours solo the day before this event. Clearly his starbucks job is netting him a much better caffiene hookup than the rest of the field.

Anyway, round about lap 2 I started putting together a rather grandiose DNFantasy (TM) to distract me from how much suffering I was still in for. The secret to a good DNF--and by association a good DNFantasy--is the convolution of greatness and failure such that your pathetic inability to ride a lousy few extra miles without passing out on the side of the trail is overshadowed by the epicness of the ordeal from which you were unable to recover. At the same time you want to escape with no major damage to yourself or your bike, such that you can survive to race again without maxxing out your credit card on spare parts or spending hours in an emergency room. It also helps if you come off as the consummate straight shooter or good Samaritan. This can all be boiled down to a simple formula:
  1. You're in the middle of having the race of your life (Glory)
  2. In a desperate move to drop/pass/otherwise end you, some other guy pulls [bonehead stunt] (moral high-ground)
  3. The bonehead stunt backfires, causing [insert description of carnage] (karma)
  4. You, being the benevolent and forgiving guy that you are, pull [heroic move] to keep from steamrolling the other guy, despite his being a douche with no race etiquette. (honor)
  5. Though you just barely escape crashing yourself, you manage to [catch, bash, grind] your [inexpensive but essentail bike part] on a [rock, tree, ditch, stick], rendering it totally f--ked and ending your race. (pathos)
The construction of the perfect fantasy managed to sustain me all the way until lap 4, by which time I was all alone, way past having given up on racing, and pretty much cruising along enjoying the weather. Mountain biking is much more pleasant in zone 2...

All in all, it's probably not a bad thing that my DNFantasy didn't come to fruition, as a lackluster 8th place actually bumped me UP to 5th in the overall Cat1 points. Yay persistence.

Maybe it's time to give up XC and ride the lift to the top. Of course then I'd need to learn to do this:

Thursday, July 9, 2009

BCBR Wrap Up: Recovery is Pro.

If image does not show, right click here and select 'view image' or 'show image'.

You know it's been a long haul when you're still sleeping past 11 on the fourth off-day following a race, but with the rain abated at last it's time to sum up and move on. So here it is BC Bike Race 2009 recap, 30-2 (my plate number). If we're lucky there will be a 30-1 version coming soon. After I'm done with all the nitpicky details, someone has to talk about his feelings...

Back in November I said something to the effect that we were trying to execute the perfect MTB stage race--an elusive creature of myth and legend that leads hundreds of adventurers back to the hunting grouds every year in pursuit of it's sinewy hide--and so the hunt continues.

Rolling into Transrockies 2008 (if Eric hears me say the T-word, one more time he'll probably slit my throat, but hey, it's agood opening) everythnig was dialed. I hadn't so much as changed my tires in three months, I raced my setup nearly every weekend and was riding with the same partner as the year before in a race I'd already ridden 2x. This is the definition of no surprises. Indeed, with the exception of s few flats (we weren't yet on the tubeless boat), we got out of TR2008 with no major time-sucking errors. Almost perfect.

Fast forward just over 10 months and I'm sitting in Vancouver with less training, a bike that just got finished a week earlier and a pair of new tires at a totally new venue with this new guy that hasn't raced all season and only brought half a bike. SURPRISED? Not really.

The most difficult part of stage racing is planning and logistics. If you're as into riding bikes as we are, you can't screw up the training part of the P&L too badly, but when it comes to dialing and testing gear, packing it up and getting to the church on time there's a certain degree of sphincter tension required. Most people simply throw bills at the problem to make it go away (you'd be amazed what $4k worth of complete new bike and $400 worth of airline baggage fees will get you) but when you're at best partially employed and your partner is a starving grad student you've gotta be your own wedding planner. Any wedding planner will tell you that you NEVER get away with overlooking the details. Of course Eric had just filed the divorce papers for his thesis 5 days previous, so the clipboard and walkie-talkie were firmly sitting in my lap, and I haven't been my usual risk-adverse self lately.

After a new cassette (my bike) and rear derailleur (Eric's), everything seemed to be rolling fine except for the annoying problem of my tires not wanting to stay on the rim. Of all people, I should know that if you have a strange catastrophic component failure when warming up for a big race IT WILL FAIL AGAIN IN THE RACE WHEN YOU LEAST WANT IT TO. But I'm a stubborn bastard, and bogarting two pairs of brand new tires (mine and Eric's) then ponying up for different (untested) rubber at retail prices was not on the radar. Not one tire survived to the end of the week in tubeless form.

Keith out of character take 2:

On our Friday warmup, Eric's seat stubbornly refused to stay tight. Did I personally drown the clamp in loctite? Nope. Was it loose again on the trail by day 2? Yep.

Keith out of character take 3:

When I found Eric's pedal nearly seized after day 5 did I insist on replacing it with the pair of spare pedals I brought? Nope. Did it fall off on the trail on day 6? Yep.

Then there was that time I landed on my face...

If image does not show, right click here and select 'view image' or 'show image'.

Total lost time (including getting lost for 10min on day 4): about an hour. Total number of places that could have bumped us up in the GC: 4. Somewhat less than perfect.

But let's talk about riding bikes:

BCBR is a very different sort of stage race than what I was used to. TR is all about vertical ... and suffering. A hour long 10% climb in the sun is standard fare for TR, as is hiking with a bike on your back. Technical riding, for the most part, means threading the needle between loose rocks and ruts at 30mph. Singletrack is something you have to ride through to get to your next jeep trail up a mountain. BCBR is exactly the opposite. If you can't ride your bike, you might as well go home. At the same time distances, vertical and ride times are all significantly shorter.

Interestingly, our ride this year was exactly as fast (or slow), wrt the leaders, as George's and my ride last year in TR (144% of the winning time) despite the vast differences between the two races. It's probably a coincidence but I choose to believe it's a statement about how slow we are riding north shore tech because we climbed way faster this year. (As a point of comparison, the #2 team in both races included Barry Wicks, so one can expect that they're roughly comparable in terms of relative competitiveness at the front.) Fitness was definitely not a significant limitation for me, though I would have loved an extra tricep on each side for the downhills. More about training in future posts...

If there's one thing for sure, it's that riding big mountain singletrack forces you to become a better rider. Stiffening up on a 20 or 30 min technical descent means not making it to the bottom without a rest, and riding loose means trusting your skills at drop-offs, staying off the brakes and getting comfy with your seat in your gut. I'd like to think we do all that better now. The skinnies still scare me a little, but that didn't stop me from more than once hitting one way too fast and coming out the other side in one piece with my heart in my throat. Adrenaline makes you faster, after all.

A note about teamwork, or maybe team chemistry:

One of the hardest parts of stage races (the team variety) is making the most of the fact that everything will always be twice as screwed up as when you're riding solo--2x the mechanicals, 2x the bonking, 2x the snoring in the tent at night (though I maintain I don't snore). Somebody is always faster, and nothing is ever 100% in your control [grinds teeth]. Coming into BCBR, I expected this to be particularly challenging for our team with Eric off the race scene for so long, riding an old bike, and totally new to the crazy adventure we were about to embark upon. I can also be ultra-competitive, passive-aggressive when annoyed or disappointed and generally a huge know-it-all at times, though I try to keep it in check as much as possible...

In addition, while the TR rules allowed me to vent any pent-up frustration through my hand directly into my partner's back, BCBR said no touching so we were both riding our own races no matter what (and all you people pushing your buddies uphill for extended periods are dirty cheaters!)

However the relationship progressed over the course of the week, it's final state was best summed up by the experience of changing Eric's flat on day 7:

Hearing a loud "BANG" a few riders behind me, I instinctively knew that Eric's tire was off. I Jumped into a hollow off to the side of the trail and by the time I had the CO2 out Eric was there. I pulled the wheel and tubeless valve while he dug out a tube, which I then pre-inflated while he cleaned the rim. Working from both ends we then seated the tire together and I inflated it while he picked up the spare bits. Off and on in three minutes flat through neatly coordinated teamwork [Fist Bump].

I could go on and try to make some sort of profound statement about how the BCBR experience has changed my life perspective or something like that, but really it just makes me want to go back and ride it all over again. Besides, Eric's the reflective one.

In case you were wondering, Pedal and Wrench will live on post BCBR. We still like bikes and still have WiFi...

All the BCBR photos here.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

BCBR Stage 7: Race ya fer Beeahs

In the spirit of today's stage, I'll be quick. Real quick. Stage 7 of BCBR was 30k long, had 1200m of vert... ...and started by shooting straight up a ski hill. We came out as hard as we could go, securing a solid position on the climb, and ended up in a lengthy party train on the singletrack descent where Eric soon blew a tire (sorry Panaracer, no more noTubes for you), allowing the whole train to pass while we tubed up. It was off to the races again after that, passing plenty of others with flats on the rest of the way down.

Unfortunately for us, there were more than a few people who really really wanted to get ot the beer tent ASAP, because despite our best efforts we came 22nd on the day and only picked up 5 minutes on our closest competitor, leaving us at 22nd overall in the GC.

and so to the beer...

Full week recap coming soon.

Friday, July 3, 2009

BCBR Stage 6: Hot Buttered Hammerfest

I should have been a little more concerned last night when I found Eric's pedal (Crank Bros. Candy) noticeably difficult to turn. It looked like the (cosmetic) end cap on the axle was just broken and jammed up inside the cage, and sure enough pulling it out loosened everything up nicely. Having done this multi-day stage race thing a couple times now, I should know what happens once WILL happen again when you least want it to--Murphy's law or something like that--but I left well enough alone. There's only a 6 hours or so of racing left, right?

After a start that nearly killed me (why is everyone all of a sudden racing again on day 6? I thought we got all that out of our systems on the island...) we dropped into a steep, dusty, switchback ridden descent where the rule was ride or get run over. It was tight, intense, and my arms were burning so bad I wanted nothing more than a ten foot high skinny to get everyone off their bikes for a while. Racing up with the fast kids ain't no joke.

Hitting the bottom I looked back for the first time, no Eric. Everybody on the party train rolls through, no Eric. I waited a couple minutes more, no Eric. This is SO not a time to eat dirt and slide (trust me, I tried it on day 3). Then here comes Eric, no PEDAL. The bearings were so seized it was unscrewing itself from the crank.

He reattaches and we roll. 10 minutes later, BUGGER.

If there are FIVE things (we're up to five now, right?) that one learns from stage racing, number five is how to manage adversity. Usually we're talking making a quick and clever fix to a broken part, mitigating the effects of fatigue through proper care, weathering adverse conditions and the like. Today I tried channeling adrenaline fueled rage into a 6mm allen key. Effectiveness? Let's just say I needed a 10" lever to get the pedal off again after the stage, but I digress.

We raced harder today than ever. Technical descents left little room for rest after climbing in the 85+ degree sun, and the stage finished with a 10k false flat time trial through the woods in town. Maybe we raced too hard? Maybe we won't recover? Eric is already bionic (has a neat tape thing that makes his knee not hurt) and I've already made a little human hamburger, but that's how it goes up here in the mountains. When you're pinning it up a climb (pinning it might not be far into zone 3 at this point), it's hard not to be asking the question "what about tomorrow?" The question transcends racing, really. Every moment we live has some effect on the next, yet if one spends every moment worrying about what comes next one never lives the now. Today we lived the now. 23rd on the day, moved up to 22 in the GC.

The now is bombing down a gnarly singletrack so steep you're riding the bike your chest and snapping up your head for a second to admire the amazing snow-capped peak framed between two trees as you fly past. The now is attacking a 30 degree climb like it's the last one of the day because you want to know if you can make it. The now is accelerating through a berm around a blind corner you've never seen and trusting the next berm will be there for you. Most of the time it will be.

Tonight we leave you with an example of life in the moment, trust in one's abilities and one of the best trails riders of all time (seen live after Stage 6 of BCBR), Ryan Leech "just turning around":

(sorry for the giganticness, no video editing here...)

Stage 7 is a sprint tomorrow. 30k, 1200m of vert up a ski hill and back. Leaders expected in 1:30! Gonna have to break out the reserve legs for that sort of silliness...

BCBR Stage 5: Reincarnation

Stages races are long. We made it over the hump of stage 4, but just barely. Though not our worst performance on the books, it was a stage I don't wish to recall, at least in detail. Perhaps my most pressing memory of the day is the 3 km mark for the second aid station, and then remarking later what a miserable hour that was (Keith assures me it was not nearly so long).

If my bike were as worn as I was yesterday, I wouldn't ride it to the Dairy Queen. I had entered that dark place where suffering surrounds every moment and every movement. With legs completely tapped and a haunting pain in my left knee, the day was a lesson in survival, or sisu as the Finns call it. I spoke few words that day, preferring to keep the darkness to myself. For the space of approximately 5 hours I hated my place in the world.

As if coming back from the dead, I pulled myself together and today we had a stellar ride, placing 18th in stage 5. We pushed hard at the beginning at latched onto the back of the pro group as we hit the singletrack. The climbs were to our liking, being not too steep, shady, and technical enough to put distance between us and those behind. The investment of altitude was returned in full by a bomber descent that for a period seemed endless in its twists and turns, dives and rolls through fern laden gullies. The finale of stage 5 was truly a work of art, inspired by generations of mountain bikers carefully crafting the most excellent and graceful of courses, which through its flow drew out our inner grace and unity with the world.

Finishing stage 5 in just a shade over 3 hours and 30 minutes, we were fortunate enough to make the early departure to Vancouver and enjoyed the afternoon sun on the deck of the ferry.

We celebrated the fruits of our labors with a nap under the shade of a tree near base camp, studying the course profile and the terrain for stage 6.

Team Pedal and Wrench will sleep well tonight, dreaming of big things tomorrow.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

BCBR Stage 3: It's Only a Flesh Wound

Stage races may be an amazing way to sample a region's riding, and they're obviously effective at boosting one's fitness, but they're definitely NOT a good way to meet women. Like the majority of sporting events, BC Bike race is a sausage fest, so much so that all the normal annoyances that typically haunt the ladies like queues at the washroom and the shower are reversed, leaving the men frustrated and covetous of the empty stalls behind the doors labeled with a skirt.

You know you're starved for the company of the better smelling sex when the most enjoyable part of your day is getting gravel picked out of your face by the MASH nurse. Granted, the insertion of gravel into your face probably put a damper on the earlier part of the day by comparison, but we all know ho much the scrubby thing hurts...

So to begin: Shout out to Sharon for not being gentle. My future career in modeling thanks you.

On the theme of yesterday's post, if there are THREE things one learns from stage racing, the third is that in the game of flesh rock scissors, flesh never wins. The story isn't really that important, let's just say certain incidents could have been avoided with a little better attention (Don't worry mom, it got stitched up real nice).
Today's stage was 60km, 1600m of climbing (mostly on road), and tons of twisty rhythm singletrack of both the fast and the technical variety. Eric proved himself to be a true athlete, coming out stronger today than on days 1 or 2 and broke out everythnig he learned at Otis and on the road to both time trial the bejeezus out of the open flats sections and cruise the technical singletrack with a grace that left at least two teams soundly in the dust.

Stan's also came in handy in the last km, sealing a sizeable gash in Eric's rear tire (after the addition of CO2) well enough to keep us rolling to the finish without losing any places.

Overall Finish time was just a smidge over four hours for a week-best 25th on the day, bumping us to 27th(?) overall (unoffical results). Injuries clearly make us ride faster. If only the first aid didn't take 15min we would have been top 20.

I was pretty convinced up to an hour ago that we were pretty bad-@#$ dudes, with my crashing on my face doing 25 cents in km's and then making a monster team comeback, but then my ER doc offhandedly mentioned that he crashed his bike doing 200kph last week. He also puts out 104,398 watts at the track.

4:30 am wake up tomorrow, with much more racing to come.

BCBR Stage 2: Rocky 1 and Rocky 2

If there's one thing to be learned from stage racing, it's that shame, modesty and maintaining a pleasant odor are all overrated. This morning, we all rode a school bus to the ferry toting bag breakfasts complete with kiddie sized juice boxes. Not long after, we all changed into our gear on the ferry (many of us out in the open), and as I write this, the two guys in the tent next door are talking in great detail about their bowel movements. I'll spare you the details, but let's say more fiber is most likely called for. Being someone who says what he's thinking most of the time, The near-complete eschewing of all unnecessary social convention is one of the most liberating parts of the experience for me. Convention is silly, and deep down we all want to talk about poop.

If there are TWO things that one learns from stage racing, the second is that there are good days and bad days. Today, racing-wise was not a good day--or more appropriately, not a fast one. After a fast start and 25k of mid-blowingly good technical singletrack, Eric again battled his body chemistry for control of his leg muscles for the next 25k, and we spent about 10min being lost at about the halfway point. Despite nearly time-trialing me off his wheel on the long logging-road descent where we blew by at least three teams, we came in a somewhat disappointing 31st on the day, dropping to 30th overall.

On the upside, we had our first day without a mechanical, the Sauserwind tires are rock-solid (and fast), and Eric discovered "Sharkies", the elctrolyte fruit snack, which seem to agree with him nicely:
Oh yeah, and we also rode more than four hours on the best collection of singletrack we've ever seen.

Sleep now, go hard tomorrow.

PS: Eric made a cameo on Velonews.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

BCBR Stage 1: Eric Lives to 30

Stage one of this year's BC Bike Race was short, intense and left nothing to the imagination. The course's 29km was packed with 1500m of vertical, most of which was gained and lost in a pair of super steep continuous ascents/descents. As a race season introduction the day was trial by fire for Eric, who was plagued by cramps but nonetheless rode confidently and spent most,but not all, of his time on the right side of the handlebars. The day was too much for the venerable Panaracers as well, which blew off my front rim on a hard hit with 20min to go, forcing the insertion of a tube and leaving a huge ding in my rim, pictured here after being bent back and filed smooth:

That's one blowout too many and an invitation for a testdrive of some Specialized Saucerwind 2.0 tires with the 2-Bliss bead. Impressions to come...

It's days like today that really make better riders. Crashing through the woods in a train of people with serious technical game (the level of technical riding here is way above that of other stage races I've done) you do a lot of things you never would have even thought of trying solo. Aggressiveness is the best remedy for excessive gnar. Most of the time you come out rubber side down. The rest of the time you aim for the soft dirt.

Overall finish today 26th. Bringing the pain to Nanaimo tomorrow, though the pain might only be felt in my lower back.

Like a Bat Out of Hell.

After my bedtime so I'll keep it short...

When preparing for a big race it's often very easy to lose sight of the important things--not the right tires, adequate rest and dialed gear--the wonder and adventure that brought you out in the first place. The reason you race a lot of bikes and don't watch much primetime TV.

Waiting helplessly for Eric's wheels for two days, blowing two tubeless tires off a rim on Friday (hope that's fixed, eek!) and splitting time between Eric's family and taking care of business was definitely a recipe for a bad headspace and the stress was palpable every time we hit another setback or kink in the plan.

After two hours of logistical nightmares at registration this morning it was looking like more of the same--too much to do, too little time. We hit the road in our borrowed jeep, bag lunch in hand (multi-tasking, you know) and gritted our teeth to battle the traffic back to town. Then, just as we hit the main drag, windows down, egg sandwiches in hand (that's a boiled egg in bread, btw), I looked down and noticed a cassette tape sticking out of the deck. "Meatloaf: Bat out of Hell". In went the track, down went the windows, up went the volume and instantly the stress melted away into a vat of late 1970's vintage cheese.

It looks like we might have net along the way, so keep listening...

10am start.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Holy Crap BC!

The wheels arrived around 2pm today. With eyes as big as saucers we tore into the box like kids on Christmas, giddy with dreams of adventure, delighting in the assembly of our toys.

We managed to hit the road at about 4pm. Our destination: Mt. Seymour park, the site of Stage 1. My delight and anticipation revealed itself for frustration in disguise. You see, Mt. Seymour is a downhiller's paradise. Carbon armour is the style. Lycra is definitely of a different culture.

I suppose the idea of sending us to a DH park on the first day is to give us all amped for the coming race, perhaps setting Day 1 as a microcosm for the remainder of the race. Frankly tough, it's a tough haul, and while I hope to ride most of it in the race, I'm sure there will be much grumbling and perhaps much walking. I'm sure the race directors will have many colorful comments to consider regarding this one. A DH park in a XC race, wtf? Or in the words of the a DHer we met at the park, "They're running you down Severed [the trail]? I don't envy you..."

I believe the last time I felt like this was when I was 17, looking down a black diamond slope of a ski run at Donner Pass, feeling like I was about to roll off the edge of the world. I stood there just staring at it, the moments dragging thoughts through my head, and while the world stood staring up at me, I hoped one of these thoughts would be the confidence to let it go, a faith in my abilities, a new found understanding of how things should be.

Anything is scary if you look too closely. The answer then, is simply not to look at it. Riding is about having the experience to pick the one good line from among many in a moment's assessment, the confidence in your body to follow through, and the coolness to stay focused on the road ahead. Staring too long at any one object kills the flow, and next thing you know you're face to face with that rocks you were so entranced with. No, it's better to let it roll.

For your viewing pleasure, a couple vids of Keith and me working out the kinks on Sunday's course. It gave me pause to consider what the hell I was doing and do a quick game theory analysis on my life. We managed not to shoot our eyes out. We rolled it, perhaps not totally gracefully, but totally stoked at the bottom:

There will be many good days of riding ahead.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Oh buffer, how I love the so...

Day two in [north] Vancouver. Eric is on the ground, but missing a box of luggage that includes his wheels and a number of other useful things. ETA on the wheels? Oh, about 26hours after it's supposed to... We hope. In the meantime we're getting very familiar with this page. Good thing we planned in a few days of buffer.

In the meantime, the bikes got sort-of built,

we checked out the local bike shops--one of which came complete with a coffee filled VW van--

and admired the stunning scenery (more to come):

Eric was floored by the steepness of the mountains riding up into the clouds on the outskirts of the city--mountains we'll be climbing in only a few days.

Tomorrow morning we hit the trails and try to get that preview...

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Of Bikes, Blogs, and Sleeping in Airports

Still in Vancouver. Still in the Airport. Still have wifi. If Tim Horton's stays open all night, I may never have to leave.

After not really sleeping, except on the flight, in pushing 40hrs my brain doesn't have much left in it except blogging. If racing makes me this cracked out, I might be able to pull a Kerouac every night and have half a dozen books written by the 4th. We'll also finish dead last.

Speaking of dead last, did anyone see the start list of this thing? It's a veritable who's who of elite MTB racing. I'm the last guy on earth to engage on character worship, and even I recognized all these peeps:
  • Seamus McGrath / Chris Sheppard (see, even MTBers dope!)
  • Alison Sydor / Lea Davidson
  • Catherine Pendrew / Katerina Nash
  • Ryan Trebon / Georgia Gould
  • Chris Eatough (<--!!!!!!!!) / Jeff Schalk
  • Barry Wicks / Kris Sneddon
  • Andreas Hestler
yeah, and then there's these guys.

If we don't get beat by more girls than the Teams of 4 field has entries, I'll be a happy camper--well that and if we don't have any serious mechanicals.

While most people like to adhere to the rule "don't change anything before a big race". We dared to be different earlier this week and went back to the wrenching-board to work out the final bugs. I finally put on the big and 32t middle rings I've been avoiding all year because of the NE terrain and the $225 replacement cost if I want to replace it with another XTR when it wears out. I also shoehorned in a second bottle cage with zip ties and electrical tape and trimmed the shift levers down so I could trim another 1/4" off the bars per side, leaving this final product:

Eric didn't escape the rule-breaking either, as the application of age-defying lotion by the gallon continues to obscure all the Yeti's wrinkles--like this one, that we drilled out to keep it from spreading:

then there's the frankensaddle:

and frankenshim:

We also replaced the RaceFace 22t chainring and SRAM 970 cassette with their Shimano XT counterparts and readjusted the rear derailleur cage spring in an effort to keep the drivetrain from skipping under power on rough terrain (we also switched out his back wheel for one of my training wheels that was decidedly less beat up). Don't know if our fixes helped yet (that's how down to the wire it was), but at least it's sexy lookin':

And finally, the most rediculous bottle cage setup ever. I can't believe I let this happen, but it'll probably work (zip ties have since been done neatly). Why do they put braze-ons under the down tube anyway? useless:

and the full monty:


Now that we're (almost) up here and settled, we're hoping to get a big ride in tomorrow and preview some of the first stage or two, work the kinks out, etc. then it's two days of easy spinning and enjoying the city until go time.

Newly equipped with a Casio exilim EX-FS10, there should be some worthwhile photo evidence of our race vacation between now and Sunday. After that I'll probably pack the camera, but uploading opportunities could be limited until the end of race week. Meanwhile, results will be posted on the BC Bike Race site, and probably also in the other major online cycling rags.

exciting, eh?

Stage Racing 101: Getting there from here

Helllooo, and welcome to beautiful Vancouver, BC! Despite not yet managing to get out of the food court (I'll get to that later), our neighbors to the north are already hard at work offering up all the comforts of home, with a bonus feature or two:

...god save the queen. All kidding aside, the Vancouver airport is rather pleasant: free wifi, parquet flooring, lots of natural light, greasy spoon Chinese food restaurants, about a million Chinese tourists (not eating the chinese food) and a strange forest-themed exhibit with real birds nesting in it (possibly not the intended design).

Apologies for not being more prolific lately, but interestingly enough trekking out to a stage race requires a lot of preparation, and a lot of stuff:

Exactly 100lbs of stuff, to be precise (tools and parts not shown). Thanks to a little creative packing, both Eric and I got our bikes on as regular baggage--$175 bike fee my a##--but with a little help from a couple hundred non-english speakers with a canceled flight and an incompetent gaggle of airline employees I'm actually the only one who made it to Vancouver...

After standing next in line for about 30min waiting to get checked in our attendant failed to be able to print my connecting boarding pass, and despite my warnings, also failed to start checking Eric in before the flight closed. If I had to guess, he's probably somewhere over the Rockies right now (crosses fingers).

Though missing your flight due to clerical error is awful, it might not be quite as frustrating as barely getting checked in and then almost missing it anyway because a TSA employee is having a crap day and decides to take it out on you:

"BAG CHECK!!" says the x-ray tech.

...along comes a surly, overweight, aging man who is clearly annoyed that he had to get up from his chair in the back and heaves my backpack upside down over his shoulder and would have dumped it unceremoniously all over the floor behind the counter had I not reached over and stuck out my hand to divert the waterfall. Suggesting to the one man entirely in control of my security pass-through time that he might want to pay attention to what he's doing was probably not the most pragmatic approach to the situation at the time, but when a guy's ONLY job is to pick up bags from a conveyor, inspect their contents and put them back, you'd think that not damaging the contents of the bags through gross negligence would be a basic skill criteria. I draw the patience line at FAIL.

Long story short he dumps my entire bag, then refuses to let me repack it myself and proceeds to be unable to get everything in, at which point he angrily defers to me, but not before insisting that he run it through the X-ray again.

Then I took off running, not just "oh, I might be a little late", but using benches as vaulting platforms, Indiana Jones being chased by a giant boulder style hauling-it to the gate, which I reached barely in time to get a seat with no overhead storage. I feel like a pretzel...

More soon!