Monday, 28 May 2007

Livin' the dream

Life isn't going too bad these days, but I'm not exactly livin' the dream. I'll get there eventually, and will certainly be including a little more bike and travel time than the current state of affairs!

Which brings me to a someone who is a lot closer to living the dream. I got to know Marg Fedyna last year as a fellow Albertan heading down to La Ruta. Although I'd heard her name and the stories that come with it prior to meeting, she didn't hesitate in laying the smack down such that there were plenty of new stories to tell rather than me having to regurgitate her prior impressive cycling feats.

I was only a one year "veteran" of the race, yet Marg peppered me with a plethora of questions about the experience, as a true devotee of cycling would (as an aside, much like our "other" cohort Nutbro). The three of us did some fall training rides together, at which point I knew Marg was headed for an impressive performance down in Costa Rica. Depending on the day, conditions, and the whims of my fitness, I spent a fair bit of time riding "near" Louise Kobin at my first La Ruta experience... and she was the reigning champ. Comparing these efforts back to our fall training period, where Marg was leaving me sucking cold October air up the Moose Mountain road, then following Nutbro and I down the "fairly technical" descents (not a problem when Jon had his downhill bike with him - ie. the hardtail with SID... but it did have the 2.1" tires on it), it was apparent that barring any unforseen difficulty, Marg had the goods to deliver a stellar result in Costa Rica.

Which brings us to today. Marg still has the goods to deliver... and is planning on heading over to the beautiful cycling mecca of the Alps with partner Nikki Kassel for the TransAlps. I can't generate much of a story to vouch for Nikki, other than sharing about 5 minutes of proximity riding in last years TransRockies with her. The experience stuck in my head, as Dallas is leading us up the trail, and says something to the effect of "dude, there's chics up there, you gotta quit looking tired for at least a few minutes". All I can say is that I tried...

Regardless, these two are a few steps closer to "livin' the dream" than I am. Take a couple of minutes out of your day to watch a few vids, and vote for their cause by watching the videos. And if you're really motivated, get over to the Alps to watch, ride, cheer, and drink a few glasses of red on a mountainside patio!

Saturday, 26 May 2007

Devon Dust Up Warmup

First, here's a style of bike I don't already have. Sweet!

It's been a few months since I've been putting in real "Bakke Miles", so despite racing this weekend I rode Friday night, Saturday on what turned to be a "fairly brisk" ride with Geoff Clark and Mike Mckee (and Pat Doyle eventually). My judgement told me not to ride as hard as they wanted to, so I just dropped off on hills and such. Nice day, finally the weather is respectable.

On the motorists vs. cyclists front, we actually had a 2 stopped car altercation on Lower Springbank. Mr. F250 buzzed us, so Mckee's finger went up. He stopped for to give us some words of encouragement from the car. As he passed us the second time speeding off, he came waay too close for my liking. I decided my full water bottle would make a nice sound off his door at the highest velocity I could muster. This time he stopped, got out, walked back really tough, then it dawned on him that the three of us didn't look so frail when he was on the outside of the 4 tons of steel. Some other yahoo who was in the oncoming lane stopped, reversed back to us, and joined the ruckus. He said he'd seen us "all over the road". Interesting since he was coming toward us and had just seen us over the rise of the hill. He was told to shut the fuck up in short order. Mr. F250 actually said "what do you guys expect me to do, slow down from 80 to 40?" I quickly opined that if his biggest problem in life is the inability to use 10 seconds of his Saturday morning for my safety and that of others we'd have a pretty big problem on our hands, pronto.

I'm sort of losing my patience with this kind of stuff. Cycling is an earth friendly, healthy, and inconspicuous hobby. Not like the motorheads out in Bragg with their Harleys and crotch rockets that you can hear for kilometers away when they decide the whole world needs to feel their acceleration. Cycling is benign. These all end with the vehicle driving off, and us riding away, hopefully with a full set of teeth and no blood. But I certainly can see it unfolding otherwise, this goofball couldn't understand one on one aggression in a fair setting, although his truck buzzes are the unfairest of one on one aggression.

Anyway, dropped by Bow later on to a) get my BB on the Strong replaced, seems like I've mashed the bearings already, and b) pick up a 4 bike hitch rack that supports by wheels rather than top tubes (ie. better carbon frame compatibility... especially since both my carbon frames are square tubed).

The train is leaving the station at 6am tomorrow for the drive to Devon, giddyup!

Dandelion & Burdock, Classic Raineer

Dandelion & Burdock is mmm, mmm, good.

1999 Raineer, mmm, mmm good.

Tuesday, 22 May 2007

May Long Weekend

It might be that I suffer from selective memory, but back in the days when my sprintime's were full of nothing but the U of C library basement studying for CFA exams, May long weekends seemed to be full of weather that was only a hair shy of utopian bliss.

Why is it now that when I'm ready for as much outdoor activity as I can take, it's 2.7 degrees Celsius and sleeting?

A little biking found its way into the routine, as did a little freezing wet coffee drinking in spandex in Banff in a coffee shop with the doors open with a couple biking buddies. A nice cap off to my "worst ride" of late - it's been a while since Bakke has bailed from a bike, and doing it 3 times in one ride didn't sit well with my self image of being a competent cyclist. My fork and rear shock both had no air pressure, so I was riding a mush jalopy that delayed any constructive rider input beyond the split second where it was useful. Oddly enough, I've pumped up both shocks, left the bike in the garage for two days, and done a 2 hour test ride, and the pressure seems to be holding. I'm baffled. Easy fix though if it works.

Ugg. At least I did more napping this weekend than I have in the last 2 years in total. I take that as a sign of burnout.

Saturday, 19 May 2007

One Small Hit for the Carbon Economy

Consumer efforts on the reduced carbon front can be viewed as insignificant in isolation. My general observation is that for any "average" Canadian household, there exists the ability to reduce electricity, water and fossil fuel consumption by about 30% relatively easily. By easy I mean using commercially available products to replace existing household items and minor habit changes. Realistically, that's a 5 year or more type change for people, just replacing items as other ones wear out or become obsolete. Sometimes you might ask yourself why... but in an ideal situation, if each Canadian made the same steps, we'd have a country that operated significantly better on a resource consumption side as a whole. If each person on our continent could make a 30% change, the aggregate numbers are even more hugely meaningful.

Mom and dad recently took a step in a different direction for them with their latest vehicle. The new car has an engine displacement of only 40% of the prior vehicle, which is a pretty big step change for someone used to driving a larger car. The utility of the new car hasn't left them disappointed.

A Takagi is in the works, which is a pretty impressive step change in hot water heating technology from having two 40 gallon tanks in the basement.

Dad has helped out with our yard that has shown the neglect of my working hours lately. So my thoughts were on the garden side this weekend. Who needs internal combustion to assist their "green" activity of growing plants in their yard? Seems contradictory. Mowers and gas weed whackers don't consume a lot of fuel, but pound for pound their emissions are noticeably bad. Also, who needs an 80 decibel internal combustion engine ruining the tranquility of the yard?

Tori and I have been going internal combustion free on our yardcare, so I've attempted to bring mom and dad into the fold. We'll see how it works out. A Neuton cordless electric mower was the first step. It's incredibly light, mom or dad could push this thing around easily. It's a bit narrow in terms of cutting path, but considering you can mulch grass and leave it on the lawn, and walk quickly very easily since it's light, I'm sure the grass will still be trimmed. The secondary tool for when they both want to tackle the lawn at once is a Gardena reel mower. The tertiary tool is a Black and Decker cordless electric weed whacker.

Time will tell!

Back in the Swing

Wednesday night I'm commuting home from work along the bike path, when someone comes speeding up behind me and slams on the brakes in the oncoming path lane. It's Nutbrown on the brand new Anthem. With the new toy, he's eager to ride. I ask if we can stop by my place to exchange bikes and I'll head out with him for a few hours.

We make tracks around Edworthy, Bowness, Bowmont slopes, and back home. 2 hours of fun, in the dark, on the technical singletrack, seeing some local wildlife, etc. I get home at 10:15 and am glad that I didn't just go home earlier and go to bed.

I was planning on taking Thursday off to recharge for a big weekend of riding, but Devin emailed and suggested we head out to the deadgoat Thursday night ride. Once again, right choice! About a dozen of us do Sulphur Springs and Ace of Spades. Devin clobbers on the climbs on his single speed, and Pat Doyle (the event's birthday boy) seems to have the momentum game figured out on the way down. I love the one long skinny section on that trail, it's got nice flow to it.

Great way to spend a couple of days!

Wednesday, 16 May 2007

Light at the end of the tunnel

After an intense night/morning yesterday, I ditched the suit for some cargo shorts and had a nice nap from about 2-5pm. Man was that ever refreshing. I woke to sunshine and birds chirping at 5pm, and decided it was time to go for a nice little spin around Nose Hill park.

The weather was beautiful, the trails were dry, and there's people up there who apparently do this sort of thing all the time. I'm definitely over-employed, but it never ceases to amaze me when I break out of the cocoon how many people there are that do things like going for walks with dogs at times of day I usually associate with work.

After a dinner of bruschetta, guacamole and crackers, I start to think immediately of bed again. But coincidentally, Nutbrown comes riding up my driveway on a shiny new rig... a Giant Anthem Advanced, just like the beauty below, and as clean as it for the time being too. So the picture above, from the Pedalhead race in Edmonton this weekend, is now ancient history. Nutbrown has moved from the VW to the BMW of bikes.

Let's start by saying this: people dropping by with new bikes, bike gadgets, bike stories, bike anything generally makes my day. The bike is sweet. Full carbon, including most of the rear linkages. The parts kit is basically the same as my S-Works Epic (a post is in order for that one, it's been long overdue). We chatted, we oogled the fancy technology on the latest toy, and it made me happy. Between Tori's Ventana, Jon's Anthem, and my S-Works, there's a few nice bikes sitting around to talk about.
What I'm worried about is how fast this is going to help Jon go. Small travel FS is exactly what the doctor ordered for that guy, and I hope it serves him well.
I see a lot of mountain biking in store this weekend!

Sunday, 13 May 2007

Bicisport Grand Prix

9 hours into my Sunday office stint, I feel like narrating yesterday's race.

Saturday evening was a warm and windy affair. I left work (late), rushed to do an errand, then headed down to Race City Speedway in a relatively embarrassing level of preparedness for the criterium.

I warmed up a bit, conversed with some folks I hadn't seen for a while, and watched Geoff Clark and Mike Mckee do their thing in Cat 4. Mike's got some legs for the finishes this year by the looks of it!

My plan was to race with a bit of cleverness rather than brute force. Some people can win by pummeling everyone to bits. I'm not Merckx. I also distinguish between "pummeling" and "racing". Pummeling in my mind is for Tuesday or Wednesday hammers, where the object is to go hard in the absence of any tactics. Racing in my mind demands tactics first and foremost, and if that includes a pummeling, deliver one if you can. In longer road races, where I'm fit, I don't mind pulling for my share and still seeing what I have left for the finish. However, after 6 weeks of 80-90-100 hours of work, and a short race format that doesn't really lend itself to "wearing down the group" (although this did occur), I opted to sit back and watch the majority of the race unfold with a degree of calm before applying myself.

For better or for worse, I decided to race for "placing" rather than for "excitement" or "proving my strength".

I think this event was my 4th time at this race. I've learned a few things along the way. Yes, it's going to be windy. If it's not one direction, it's the other. Yes, tactics will play to the wind, and yes, "nobody will work to make a breakaway" together. But instead of wasting all my energy trying to make the unlikely happen, I tried to focus on what will happen. There will be 5 or 7 laps. There will be 2 premiums, where people will sprint for some dubious glory that I don't care about (the marginal utility for a $40 cash prize is admittedly quite low for me). There will be attempted breakaways and innumerous accelerations. My bet is that unless Vinokurov joined Cat 3 in Calgary recently... that they won't get away. There will be a bell that indicates 2 laps to go, which will be followed by a massive acceleration that peters our coming up the back stretch, on both of the following laps.

I'm not saying I'm a hero rider, but if there's one ability I believe I have it's chasing/pulling into the wind. With this in mind, I decided to watch all of the above unfold, and not stress over any attempted breaks. I figured that if something actually looked like it had a reasonable chance of going, I'd wait until they were out for a few minutes, and see if they still had jam to hold the gap. My guess is that wouldn't happen, but if so I was willing to attempt to chase later rather than from preventing it from happening. When there were mind numbing accelerations into the headwind down the back stretch on lap 3, instead of standing on all the pedals for all I was worth to keep the acceleration, I'd pick a wheel, spin up easily, and let the pack stretch out. Within 3 minutes we'd be a happy, 5 wide bunch again. Premiums, and the counter attacks that followed them didn't draw me in.

In fact, I think I only put out anything over 400W for a cumulative of a minute or two for the first 90% of the race. I just told myself my goal was to imagine I was a little Honda Scooter trying to stay in the pack of race bikes with only tactics to make up for my extreme lack of power. When a "massive" acceleration happened, I'd grab a wheel, let myself hold whatever position I could with 300W, and keep that pace until we regrouped.

On the last lap I positioned myself in 5th for the headwind ride up the straightaway. The fellow in front of me launched an impressive attack that took us nearly up to the corner. I follwed in his draft hardly over 300W. When he faded, the real accelerations around the big corner came. I wasn't too tired from the 300W up the back stretch, so I had energy for the remaining 1 minute or less to the finish line. It seemed to pick up to the 400W range for another minute around the corner. I think I was still in fifth. I took a wide line to the left side of the finish, and hammered out what I could for power in the last 100 yards. I had this energy left in me because I hadn't "wasted" it on attacks earlier.

At the end of the day, the first three spots were within a bike length. I'm fairly convinced that had I been able to shave off... ohhh say 100 hours of work off my last month, that I'd be able to finish another bike length ahead. For my consolation I guess I get some bags under my eyes and a peloton leading T4 slip. Such is life.

I'm happy to say that it would seem that I've now earned my points for Cat 2. I've now proven my ability to a) understand enough road race tactics to make it through a couple levels of amateur racing, while b) amassing sufficient fitness to employ such tactics, and c) holding down my day job. In all honesty that's the last "good" road race result I expect to have... as from now on I'll be the whipping boy for "real" racers - those who have real talent and/or low time commitment day jobs. I'm sure I'll have good races in the future, I just don't forsee any chance of numerically good results. I'm fine with that.

Now if I can just get out to enough mountain bike races to make progress on that front, I'll be happy.

Friday, 11 May 2007

Bicisport Grand Prix

This Saturday is the Bicisport Circuit race as part of their Grand Prix weekend.

I think I'm just about ready for it... especially since it's only Thursday (oh wait, it's technically Friday morning), and I've already worked 68 hours this week. That isn't easy, mathematically that works out to 4 days in a row that averaged 17 hours. Using my mathematical skill, it seems 17 hours is 5 hours more than a 12 hour day... so pick a start time, say 7:30 for example. Then 12 hours later is easily computed to be 7:30pm. 5 hours later than that is 12:30am.

Funny thing is I'm not really tired. Well I obviously am, but the body masks it well. It is interesting how a body copes with stress inputs, it always manages somehow. Although I do have a cold sore and some well bitten fingernails as outward signs of my agitated state. Lovely.

It's worth noting that isn't the way most people choose to prepare for a bike race. Please cheer for me if I make it to the finish line!