Saturday, 27 December 2008

Pancake heaven

I love pannenkoeks and little koffies for breakfast!

Amsterdam bikes

Here's one of the few bikes I didn't want to ride...

Den Haag

Today we went to The Hague. We couldn't sleep till morning, so we woke up, talked, and watched some TV. We took the second morning train to the Hague, the sun came up just as we got there. The train left at 7:41am according to the lady who sold us a ticket, and it did to the minute. It took 50 minutes on the dot to get to the Haag Centraal, exactly as she said too. Unfortunately since we were early, it was 2 and a half hours of checking stuff out by walking until anything opened.

Binnenhof is the Dutch parliament building or something like that, it's a big old looking castle type thing with a lake out front, hopefully the attached picture comes through. Rather picturesque, lot's of ducks and white swans hanging out there. We only wandered in a maybe a 5km radius from Haag Centraal where the train dropped us off, so I can't speak for the suburbs, but something about this place tells me there aren't too many rough neighbourhoods nearby. Up and down the quaint to our north American eyes streets, the building office signs were dominated by international consulate offices and other rich or high society sounding places. Everything is ship shape, I haven't seen anything (here or Amsterdam) yet that's derilect, run crummy or even run down.

Once 10:00 came we went for breakfast - original Dutch pancakes for Tori and I had a fried egg sandwich. We washed that down with 2 coffees and 2 hot chocolates and had a grand time relaxing.
11am was when the Maurits Cornelis Escher museum opened. I think we spent a full three hours in there, talk about a cool place. Not only did we get to see his life's work, but also videos, computer simulations/decompositions that illustrate the logical jumps that created his work that are impossible (for me) to see without animations bringing them to life, after which they're still basically impossible to grasp. There's also computers to play with and a floor of hands on activities and videos (mini wraparound imax style screen) to bring it to life and help understand it. To say it was a mind stretching experience is probably an understatement, it was so awesome. The final touch was that the ceiling lights in the basement cafe were giant blown glass bugs.

The ride home let us sight see more. Nice farmland, nice bike paths along the train line, lots of garden plots along the train tracks, and of course it's full of canals and dykes. Pretty neat to see the amount of effort put into maintaining the land and country.

Evening we went for a pizza at an Italian restaurant wanted to go, then just chilled out for a few hours. Big day, we were tired at the end of the day.

Thursday, 25 December 2008

Relaxing day

We woke up late despite going to bed early, just the clock confusion thing. It's hard to claim we did much today, but it sure was a good time. Went to the Rijksmuseum for a few hours, will hit up the Van Gogh one later in our trip. Van Gogh's stuff is a little more accessible to me than the other period works, although they're all cool. So is the free hot chocolate outside.

Watched a packed skating rink but didn't join the melee, played around on a bike skateboard ramp without a skateboard, went for coffee in Vondelpark, window shopped, drank more coffee, etc.

Tori said she likes seeing all the women riding bikes in nylons and high heels. Although we might be approaching this from different angles, I'm glad we agree on something. Among many other neat-o people watching moments, we saw a family of 5 on two bikes, dad had two kids in a low bucket thing on both sides of front wheel and one on a seat over back wheel, mom just had the one on back. Rather impressive over minivans and SUVs. Nobody wears helmets, I'd suspect the crash rate is low - the cars know there's more bikes than cars, the bikes have their own lanes, and they have way more roads to go on anyway since many of the streets are too small for cars. People don't go too fast on those bikes either.

We watched a little Chinese kid (they seem to spell it Chinees I think here, rather phonetic if I'm remebering the restaurant signs right) playing an old guy at chess on a life size chess board in a square. Fun to watch for a while.

After that Tori got her first ginger coffee while we took a relaxing break from our tough day of walking around and relaxing.

The plethora of city bikes is cool, lots of them have crappy sounding gears. This seems like an ideal place for that NuVinci friction fluid internal "geared" without gears hub to catch on. The bikes are utilitarian, which is fine - they don't need to be blingy - but they all seem to crummily maintained. Too many flats or underinflated tires. Too much squeak and rattle. Like, even if it's "just" a utility bike, I'd tighten up those rack bolts, throw some lube on the chain, and pump up my tires.

Amsterdam touchdown

Upon landing we began our little foray into European ways of doing things [efficiently].

We stopped at a mini grocery store in the airport to pick up a few items to insure ourselves for food in case stores were closed on Christmas. Calling it a convenience store would be only half accurate - it was convenient, but it's goods wouldn't fit into a 7-11. Natural unsweetened juices, salads, produce, baked goods, cheeses, and a couple of chocolates, but not chocolate bars really. Healthy stuff like a grocery store.

From there we went to the train station. My pre trip research showed taxis to downtown were like €40, but the train went to 150m from our hotel (another way of saying I tried to pick a hotel close to the Amsterdam Centraal station), and the train is €3.60 and takes 15 minutes with no stops. It's simple to take once you're on the right platform, but considering it looks like we can get anywhere in the country via train from the airport, it took a while to figure it out.

I always like arriving here and being reminded that part of my brain is vastly inferior and underdeveloped - the langauge part that is. Yes we all speak Dutch here, but yes once you say Hi to us we'll just accomodate you with perfect English, or French, or German too.

Downtown is nice on our first walkaround. Lots of tourist stuff availabl, seems busy, and no worries of not having stores open. The foods/restaurants available remind us that this city has a long, long history of world commerce, the variety is impressive.

Despite me oogling all the pancake houses, we got some sort of food I haven't had before, don't really know what it's called. Kind of Mexican.

Walked past some churches on the side of the red light district back to our hotel for a good night's sleep.

Best Trans-Atlantic flight ever

I can't say enough good things about these fully flat bed seats, man that's nice. Some sleep without my spine being compressed and my neck tilted, and my feet aren't all puffed up. Awesome!

I've finally learned to layer enough to survive the thermostat they always seem to set to "roast these poor people" on planes, I wore a very light cycling Defeet undershirt as my first layer so I could peel right down to that. Whomever runs the thermostat obviously hasn't been biking to work the last two weeks in -25C weather!

I'm totally digging the carry on luggage thing, I need to find a way to do that with a bike, maybe send it in advance. Airports are way less of a hassle that way. The new Timex is all plastic and is one less thing I have to take off to go through the scanners, now all I need to find is a lexan belt buckle.

We're flying home with the flat beds too through Frankfurt, I'm pumped.

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Christmas is here

I finally feel like Christmas is here. Our work Christmas party was bordered by work both before and after, so I didn't really feel the Christmas buzz yet. the past week was more of the same.

Then before I knew it, bonus day snuck up on me. This year wasn't a pink slip, and it wasn't a boom market cheque like the past. I wonder sometimes if it really even matters.

Then I had a few fun parties this weekend, including Warren's annual tacky sweater party, where I saw some friends who have all come home for the holidays, but who aren't here often.

Next thing I know, Tori and I booked a trip to Amsterdam, totally looking forward to it. I booked a hotel, and between a few online sites and contacting the hotel directly, we're paying about 40% of their posted nightly rate and also got upgraded a few levels on room quality. Hope that works out well, seems it's a sign of the times.

I did my last minute shopping, un-investment banker-like bonus spending like a new Timex Ironman watch and a new wallet to replace my aging "Bad Mother Fucker" Pulp Fiction replica. I also found a new shower/shave kit bag at the Bay that suited my liking in that it was quite trim, but it had no price tag. The lady sold it to me quite cheap by just making up a price.

Did a lunchtime workout, then went for a massage. Talk about a nice day so far. I was smiling as I laid down on the massage table because my new Timex has plastic straps instead of metal ones like my old one - that old one has been pulling the hairs on my wrist for 5 years. It's always the little things!

That's a Seinfeld like day of absolutely nothing happening of consequence in my life, and now we're boarding our flight.

Tori and I are looking forward to Christmas in a way we're unfamiliar with once again.

Monday, 15 December 2008

White Party

Our Christmas party was a "white party" this year - meaning wear whatever you like, as long as it's white. Could turn out classy and fit right into the Banff Springs hotel... or maybe not so much. Here's a few no names, non-incriminating photos. Costumes were great, fun night!

White moustache.

Pearly white smile.

Sailors.

Religious harmony.

Pope dates angels.

Pope and whipped cream.

Kokannee girls.

Iceman and a beautiful princess.
Gleaming white.
Elvis sighting.
Doctor and chef.

Cyclist, sailor and whipped cream part 1.

Cyclist, sailor and whipped cream part 2.

Colonel Sanders.

Saturday, 6 December 2008

Saturday Epic

Devin, Craig, Keith and I met at Cadence at 10 with the idea to ride, explore and have fun. Each was achieved in quantity.



We rode through Bowness, where a little slip caused trouble with Craig's derailleur housing. It shredded and gave no shifting support, although he made it to west of 22 before it needed attention. We fixed it well enough to keep going, and at that point Devin elected to turn around. Maybe his crystal ball was working.



We rode out to the Shell Jumpingpound gas plant, where I had a route figured out that clearly got us to a road I'd ridden before on my motorcycle. Unfortunately some detail was missed, so we put the "cross country" back in cross country. Well site roads, hay fields, cow trails, bushes, doubletrack, indian reserve, and hopefully staying on the right side of the elk/bison fence. I think it's safe to say this route to Cochrane had never beed ridden before - I also don't think it's ever taken me 3 hours to get to Cochrane.

Zone of exploration.  Note large square area between roads.  It has been explored.




2 mochachino's and a day old muffin got me going for the remainder of the ride, while Craig and Keith doubled up on cheese bun and carrot cake. It's funny, that was actually the only food I ate all ride, no on bike snacks or anything, the energy just flows from within.  Rather pleasant actually. I feel way to good on the bike for this time of year, talk about odd timing.



We dragged Keith back home the scenic way - most of the route was new to him... Retreat Road, Glendale Road, Symon's Valley. Not a bad change of scenery for a day's ride to the same town we ride to all summer long.



My door to door time was about 5.5 hours of riding time, I'm not sure what the hike a bike section added up to. Sun up to sun down.



Unprecedented route for an unprecedented day!

Sunday, 30 November 2008

Not much winter in November

It hardly feels like winter and we're almost done with November. Craig and I rode about four and a quarter hours both days this weekend, with Devin and Keith joining us on Sunday. Are we out training at this time of year? Not really. We're just using our fitness to ride around an have fun on our all terrain vehicles, otherwise known as cyclocross bikes (or as Carl Strong says, a Montana road bike).

Saturday we rode out Airport road into a fairly stiff but random wind, then continued west past 22 out into some nice valleys that aren't ridden as often as the rest of Calgary's cycling routes. Too bad really, as they're hilly, peaceful, beautiful, all around good riding. From there it was Cochrane Coffee Traders which supplied us with caffeine, and me with my new cycling powerfood, day old muffins. Homeward bound along Retreat road and TWP 262, I started thinking about mom's Thanksgiving dinner. Doesn't get much better than that for a day.

Since Saturday was so fun, our natural inclination was to repeat the experience on Sunday. Some other plans fell by the wayside, but what didn't change was meeting at 10am at Cadence Cafe on bikes. We decided to ride the Calgary bike paths south until that didn't seem prudent anymore, eventually finding ourselves further south than I'd been on our path system. We cut through Fish Creek and tackled some technical single track on the 'cross bikes to work on our skills, then stopped for coffee at Java Jungle for a refuel. The way home wound through the south Calgary path system, then veered onto Princess Island for as much single track as us and our bikes could handle. There were a few hills that required some effort, but all in it was a less taxing day physically than battling the winds Saturday.


Enjoyable on all fronts. Other than the last few minutes of each day as the sun set, I didn't feel a chill all weekend, the weather has been so mild so far this fall. Riding more and eating reasonably is what I'm looking for this time of year!

Thursday, 27 November 2008

From One Season to Another

I'm feeling pretty good about the cycling season of 2008.  The idea that popped up somewhere along the way was to complete 30 mountain bike races to commemorate my 30th year... therefore setting myself up for meeting the internal call of duty when I turn 40. 
 
The final tally was 31 mountain bike races, plus the provincial road race (DNF) and a couple of cyclocross races.  The majority of the racing was accrued through stage races, with the final breakout as follows: the ABA circuit (13), BC Bike Race (7), TransRockies (7) and La Ruta (4). 
 
I look back to each of these with fond memories... the dark first few days of BCBR with Jon lending both forward momentum and moral support, the days clinging to threads of my endurance watching Craig's engineroom dish out the power at TransRockies, and the whole range of stories that comprise the Calgary contingent's La Ruta expedition.  The experience of this season was fantastic all around, although as I mentioned earlier, I drifted further from my self expectation needle somewhere part way through the season.  I don't really regret that, this "little financial and global economic meltdown" thing has tugged at my mind a little these days. 
 
I'm looking to come a notch or so closer to my self expectation level next year with any luck... we'll see how busy the spring shapes up to be.  Having said that, cycling is pretty simple in terms of input variables, being mass and power output. 
 
The power output I can sustain hasn't really changed much in the years I've concentrated on cycling, although it does have a few percentage points of range.  The duration and repeatability of efforts are the variables I've had most success in extending.  I don't feel the need for any sort of overloaded intensity through the winter (the J-O-B brings enough of that), but I've generally figured out how not to let base fitness erode too much, such that I'm decently setup for when the snow melts to build it back.
 
On the mass side, I raced La Ruta '08 at the heaviest I've been in 3 years... not an event that is forgiving to additional weight... it's as much climbing in as short a period of time as I've ever experienced on a bike.  The idea this winter is to exorcise (or is that just exercise?) these man-muffin-tops from myself.  Let's hope that works out; adding weight to myself 3 years running certainly isn't helping the riding performance.

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Toronto

The mood of a conference where oil and gas executives who've had their market capitalizations crushed are presenting to portfolio managers who've had their funds crushed is decidedly different than the theme I was experiencing in Costa Rica.

Our evening was more upbeat... After dinner at Vertical Restaurant we went over to The Reservoir, a Jazz dive a few blocks from the hotel. We listened from only a few feet away to Juno winning Tyler Yarema and the Rhythm. It's amazing to see musicians up close, especially ones of pure talent a few levels above just bar crooners.

I also had the opportunity to catch up with Matthew Allas (ex co worker) and Mike Mckee (ex TransRockies parter), great to touch base with both of them. Wasn't able to meet up with a university buddy, otherwise it would have been a 100% batting average. Got the download on the local private equity mood and the derivative/strucutred products mood, but missed the research coverage on financials view.

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

La Ruta day 1

Tori and I had a pretty good sleep, waking up to the pitch black 3am breakfast actually seemed palatable. We were both feeling very under-stressed. The morning's routine went by very calmly. We ate, packed, and made our way out to check in, and due to our relaxed timing we were near the back of the pack. Neither of us minded. Pat lined up with us, and Trish dropped by for a sendoff as she elected not to race as she wasn't feeling well.

We started very calmly. We rode with Tori until the first real hill, and I spent time riding with Mark (Marco?) who's the Dutch fellow living in Curacao with the Moots with Rohloff 26" version. He even has the S&S couplers, I just didn't notice before.

On the first road climb Pat and I started moving up the field. He was riding strong and took a few pulls. I pulled lightly, my heart felt like it was working hard even when I was just standing around, like I had a few too many glasses of wine the night before or something.

On the first climb we split up - I didn't know if he was ahead or behind, but turns out he was behind. Once we got into the mud, he came flying by like he meant serious business, grunting and saying "lodo". That was probably the three hour mark, I never saw him again.

It was slightly overcast, and not as wet as we would have imagined. At check stop 1 I had drank half a camel back and one bottle, so I refilled. Between checkstop one and two, I ran out of water (2L camelback + 750 bottle). I was trying to pace and eat smart, and felt pretty good up until the 5 hour mark.

At about 5 hours, purgatory set in. I knew this year I'd be facing the truth test without much backup, as I'd been training little and eating too much. I was willing to pay the price for that, although I underestimated how bad that would end up feeling. I'm used to riding to the limits of my legs or lungs. The next step is riding to the limits of your mind, where you coax yourself onward by rational logic. I spent much of today beyond that in the "soul" stage where it's something much more gutteral that keeps you moving onward. The part I wasn't ready for was that I didn't get a single revolution out of my granny ring today. It was fine for the last couple of days of pre-riding, but today it was a chain suck machine. So not only am I undertrained and overweight, going into a day of the most climbing one can possibly do on a mountain bike, but now I'm forced to middle ring it.

The jungle hike a bike was challenging, a few spots where the mud fully packed up even my skinny 1.8" tire. Lots of "skiing" downhill where wheel traction was non existent and it was more just general direction. Once we got to the hike-a-bike hills, I started cramping, and simultaneously came up on Craig, who was feeling empty (vast understatement) from his recent food poisoning. We were within sight of each other for a few minutes, but my cramping and lack of granny gear had me going backwards fast. The heat, running out of water, and overgearing was ruining my legs.

Once we exited the jungle, I coasted luxuriously down the gravel roads on my full suspension... but the glory was short lived. After crossing a bridge at the bottom of the river, it's a steep gravel climb up toward check stop 3. Lots of people were lining the climb, and part way up with their cheering I made up my mind that I was going to ride it no matter what (maybe about Cochrane hill sized). It was a plan of short term pride with longer term consequences. I bonked so hard at the top I sat in the bushes in the shade and tried not to lose my marbles completely. Eventually it dawned on me that the day's biggest climb was only about 2km away, and sitting here wasn't doing much in the way of moving me toward the finish.

I rolled onward and found a surprise at check stop 3. Craig had waited and snacked so we could ride together for a while. We traded stories of suffering as we progressed slowly up the giant road climb. I was slowly wearing into my thin reserves, and promised myself I wouldn't stop forward momentum until I got to theck stop 4 at the top. If I needed to stop there I would. We passed a tico I recognized from every other year dry heaving at the side of the road 2/3 of the way up. With my brush with feeling ill yesterday, Craig's full bout, and mine last week, it was hard to watch.

Eventually Craig stomped on the pedals and took off, meanwhile I was fending off another bonk, as my caloric output on the hill was probably 5% higher than my digestive tract's absorption rate, and I hadn't really caught up at the earlier checkpoint. My mind was in spiritual la la land. I kept remembering really wierd things, and also that Tori reminded me to always think back to where she might be on the course too. A tico supporter gave me some dulces (sweets/cookies) which helped propel me to the top.

After what seemed like forever, check point 4 was in sight. The girl gave me a bottle of water and I put a Nuun's in. I felt like I wasn't digesting all the sugars I was ingesting. I drank the entire 750ml bottle in 30 seconds, then laid on my back and briefly nodded off.

Two things happened that woke me in a hurry. The town church bell started ringing 12 noon, and a Costa Rican cowboy came galloping up the gravel road off to the side on a horse. Being in a brief restless sleep, my mind put the bells and the hooves into the image of the grim reaper riding a black horse coming for me. Bonking minds are funny things. I got up, grabbed a pocket full of hot mini potatoes, and started riding to finish off the remaining tip of the climb.

The downhill is blazing fast. First pavement, then gravel, then ultra steep concrete switchbacks. I was riding behind a kid who'll be known as Juan Nutbrown, as he's young, smaller, and runs soft setup tubeless so he can descend like a total animal. On the high speed straight gravel I couldn't keep up to him. I was about 15m behind when I see two dogs run out from the side of the road right in front of him. I thought I was going to witness him ending up in half a dozen different pieces, as we were moving pretty much at terminal velocity.

His reflexes had him wheelie, and he ran over and maimed the second dog. It pulled itself off the road quickly with its front paws as its rear legs were immobile. It started jerking funny in the ditch. He slowed down and his eyes were as big as saucers... turns out he is number 88, Chinese good luck.

The final climb firmly did me in. I had no legs, no energy left, wasn't digesting what was in me and was just getting bloated in the heat. I had to stop and ask some ticos for some water and I sat down to collect my wits. Eventually I was able to ride/hike the remainder and made it the last 5km (which I'd been hearing for the last 15km from people on the sides).

At the finish I went and laid down on a lawnchair in the rain for 5 minutes before doing anything else. I got crushed by this thing again. I spent about 4.5 out of my 9.5 hours out there in the bonk-mystic land. My legs are thrashed from overgearing for 12,000 feet of climbing or whatever that crazy number is. Once I got my proverbial shit together, I walked down to drop my bike off at the mechanics. Saw a dude in an ambulance but I didn't have the stomach to view that kind of thing at that point.

On the way back up from the mechanic tent, Gerry's girlfriend Sylvia asked me to take Pat's bag up to the bag tent. I asked why, and she pointed to the same ambulance. Pat was convulsing away uncontrolably, and Trish was there with her eyes wide in disbelief. They couldn't get an IV into him, plus his bood sugar was super low on whatever scale that's measured on. It hurt to look at, especially since I was feeling weak, and I've seen so much succumbing amongst the strong these last few days. I took the bag away, tried to take in Sylvia's instructions of giving other items to our crew as they finish, and can only hope it works out in short order. It's been a tough trip so far for Pat and Trish.

Andy looked fresh at the finish and had a super ride, as did his brother Matt. Gerry and Steve survived. Craig did well given his empty tank and recent illness to work with. SuperTori came in sounding chipper, in the same rough time as last year, despite the course running about an hour longer and bending her derailleur hangar/getting her derailleur replaced by the ever helpful Tim (who unfortunately was having hip issues and stopped at checkpoint one, where he helped Tori).

The most common thing I heard at the finish line was "that was the hardest day I've ever had on a bike" (or just the hardest day period). On climb after climb I felt like a rock falling through the ocean - I'd hit bottom eventually, just didn't know when it would be.

It's raining outside our hotel in San Jose and we'll be up at 5 for day 2. This features the steepest road climbs I've ever seen. If I don't have a working granny gear I'm in big trouble. One way to understand how hard the stage's climbing is is to note that the first check stop and aid station is 8.4km into the day.

Monday, 17 November 2008

Pura Vida

We've packed up, had a long breakfast at Denny's, and are getting ready to swim before leaving this afternoon.

Sipping my delightfully full bodied Costa Rican coffee at Denny's while staring out the window at the surrounding mountains, I reflected on how emotional leaving Costa Rica makes me feel.  For a northern climate, euro gene pool based gringo, in theory I shouldn't have much connection to the tropical landscape of a small central American country, but it's become significant to me.  

The country is so diverse in geograpy, so inviting, the people are so nice, the challenge of La Ruta so draining, different and epic, and the coffee so good.  I thoroughly enjoy crossing the country self powered on my bike, savoring the highs and lows of the experience.  I also enjoy watching my friends, both old and new each time, making the same journey.  It's such a hard and rewarding test, that each year I have managed to pass, although this year I'd consider my grade nearer to the pass line and further from the "excellence" line.  This isn't a test where poor preparation can be hidden.  Working and eating too much while training to little don't cut it for this race.

It's a tough vacation, but I think it's one of the best vacation's I've discovered so far.  Nothing takes me further from my normal existence in Calgary than here - my blackberry doesn't work, so I'm cut off from my usual daily connections.  Replacing that is the La Ruta community that moves from coast to coast, focusing not on the outside world, but only on making it through the difficult days we're facing.  It's a complete escape.

Tori got me a souvenir La Ruta de los Conquistadores hat this year, I really appreciate having a momento of the times spent down here.  


Sunday, 16 November 2008

Post La Ruta

This year's race had excellent weather overall.  In many ways, I found it made the race easier.  I think my perception of difficulty also changed as I wasn't pushing as hard to empty myself... I knew there wasn't as much in the tank, so I spent some time trying to spin it out and catch the views and the sights.  Evidence of that is that every morning, instead of being dead tired when the alarm went, I was waking up 15 minutes before the alarm feeling rested - which I'd say is a little unusual at a stage race where breakfast on the latest start days is at 4:45am.  

Sitting here a day post race I'm not sore, and I'm not really tired.  I had really hoped to get the bug out of my system this year on La Ruta, but I'm not sure I have yet.  Time will tell.  I honestly find this whole thing pretty enjoyable... but I need to find time to track down the other enjoyable things I may be missing.

The Cannondale Scalpel was a pleasure to ride, I've been impressed with it all season.  I made it through another year down here mechanical and flat tire free.  I ran a skinny 1.8" tire at low pressure on the rear (about 22 psi), which really smoothed out the volcano descent and the train tracks, yet I never heard any rim contact, and examining my rim in the room shows no contact either.  On the fastest parts of the descent I'd look for the rocks that looked most damage inducing and make efforts to unweight, hop, avoid, etc., but other than that it was just riding normal.  Other than the chain suck on day one (I guess that's a half mechanical - nothing broken but it's still not proper functionality), everything was perfect.  At the bottom of the day 2 descent I did boil my front brake fluid and lost braking for 30 seconds, but it was at the very bottom of the hill when I would have coasted anyway.  I've heard 2 horror stories about weight weenies who brought Stan's aluminum rotors.  Trust me on this one... what's good for your local 90 minute up and down XC race circuit doesn't cut it here.  These descents are so steep and so long, braking should be chosen for reliability and power first, weight way further down the list.  I don't think 140mm rear rotors are worth bringing here either, I recommend 160mm front and rear.  Craig's 180mm front rotor probably isn't a bad way to go either.  One guy running Stan's cracked his in 3 places, yet somehow finished, another one catastrophically failed... not a fun few seconds to figure out your landing spot after that happens.

I had in my mind that I was going to do a 4-5 hour opener ride on the Sunday or Monday pre race start on Wednesday, but didn't make it happen as the rest of the group was heading out for a shorter duration.  In retrospect I wish I had... I think something along those lines would help prepare the gringo body for day one.

As with any stage race, it can be lost on day one, but probably not won on day one.  No matter how fast someone is, I think it's best to ride day one at about 90% effort until the final climb.  Anyone who has energy to put out 100% then can reel in a dozen riders in front likely, and if the converse is true, at least you can hobble home at 90% rather than 50%.  My big problem on day one stemmed from not absorbing fluids well.  I thought I was taking in fluids, electrolytes, carbs, in thoughtful and appropriate quantity and proportion, but part way in my body stopped absorbing it.  Feeling the effects of an under hydrated body, I kept drinking, but it wasn't doing anything positive.  In the 5 hours post race, I probably peed a dozen times as it all started working again.  Gotta figure that one out...

Unfortunately our group had a few issues this time, with Pat, Trish and Craig not experiencing optimal health.  Part of that is luck of the draw... I really still think this is a fun and enjoyable race.


La Ruta day 4

The tale of today was the heat and the slow evaporation of the gringos.  Compared to last year's start in the cold downpour, this year's start was in blue skies and sunshine.  Standing in the start queue was hot, even at the elevation of Aquires.  I was scared to face the day, I've had some of the hardest times on the Caribbean coastal heat.

The climb off the start was challenging, the surface was lose enough that it was challenging to climb all of it.  I dismounted in one spot as everyone in front was off, but if you had a clear shot it was probably rideable.  No big deal, race isn't won in the first few minutes anyway. 

Despite an absolutely badass cup of coffee to get me going in the morning, I climbed at a moderate pace... heat was the governor rather than legs or lungs.

The rolling hills out to the coast were great - my front tire was a little low I noticed after starting, so I couldn't round out the paved corners as I would have liked (hotel room check post race shows 18psi... I think for my weight for a tire to hold form I need about 20 minimum).  A guy I rode with for a while seemed really sketchy so I decided to back off and ride my own lines instead of watching him... as it turns out on the super steep downhill u-turn he couldn't make it and went straight off the outside apex of the u.

An hour later we were at the bottom of the furnace of hell climb, at which point the above said guy had caught back up.  At the bottom of the climb there's an iron grid bridge with loose rocks leading up to it, plus a gravel washout.  He managed to overestimate his skills once again and bailed into the iron lattice structure of the bridge.  What a dope, I honestly find all of La Ruta a no-crash zone.  BC Bike Race might have a few technical things that are unusual enough to surprise someone into a crash, but here everything is visible and predictable.

That 30 minute climb was probably one of the hottest climbs of my life, it'd be interesting to know how much water I lost to sweat during that period.  I've probably never sweated so rapidly in my life.

I coasted up  to a pair of guys on the long paved downhill and  as it seemed like I was the fastest coaster (note I also had by far the lowest tire pressure and we were on pavement), so they drafted off me for a while.  Once it flattened out, they were determined to push a big ring hard enough to keep the pace up, then signaled for me to pull through.  I did a few softer pulls before the other gringo of the three of us chastised me for being lame, at which point I said I thought it wiser to conserve energy as there was a long way to go in the heat.  He told me he checked the route profile and that it was all flat to the end.  I agreed.  Not really my job to undermine his "we're almost there" euphoria.

Anyway, by the second set of train tracks, he blew, and I think I actually caught a look of surprise on his face as I ran along the outside of the trestles 3 at a time... I like that little trick (thanks to the boys of the Heart Akerson family for showing me that technique).  I get a kick out of it, and it's actually easy and feels completely safe to me.  One of the Costa Rican supporters shouted a line at me that made me feel good, and gave me cause to giggle at the same time.  As I was running toward the end passing a last few walkers, he yells "this is your specialty, run awesome fast!".  Not a bad second language vocabulary for bike race spectating.

The flat grind through the banana and pineapple plantations was pretty trying for me.  I didn't have anyone around for pacing support, and ran out of fluids before every check stop today.  I kept spinning and focused on finding the right times to eat before I got low on fuel.  The river crossings were other spots to pick up a few places.  The roadie types do well on this day, but a couple of euro guys were crossing the river like a pair of fairies; they were 1/3 across when I started I just sort of marched/jogged by.  I shoulder checked when I remounted and they were only 2/3 across.  Never saw them again till the finish.

The end portion of the tracks was less this year, they put us on more dirt road.  I found the tracks pretty easy with my overly flat tires, my rear 1.8" wide tire was at 22 psi now in the hotel room check, and I didn't hit my rim a single time.  I think I'll quit arguing the virtues of tubeless tires to the clueless masses and just keep it to myself as one of the few competitive advantages an under-fit person can have on a day like today.

There was less water on the finishing straight, but the water that was there was brown, salty, and hot like piping hot bathtub water.  It's pretty unusual to feel something that hot splash up against your legs while biking outdoors.

After the last check stop, I rode in with a Spanish dude who TT'd it the whole way in.  I think he was trying to drop me as he'd do these 30 second surges every 3-4 minutes, then I just pushed him up a small hill once his momentum was slowing down and I think he realized I was just trying to get to the end rather than set myself up to sprint.  With a race as mediocre as this year's effort I wasn't concerned over being in front or behind him.

We coasted into Playa Bonita, with Drew Bragg giving me special welcome by name... made me feel good enough to buy him a cerveza later.  That was my best stage, but that doesn't really say much.  Not sure on position... I haven't really been checking last few days.

Andy and Craig were washing up, they had good race stories from the day.  Cory had 2 flats but in the end finished 11th overall in the GC this year, one spot up from last year.  He was pumped at the finish line and already talking about how great next year's race will be since they're moving it to 5 days.  I'm happy for him, and will point out as well that he's the top unsupported racer - something that makes quite a bit of difference out there.  Every other racer is carrying 1 bottle on the climbs, maybe 2 for some of the parts that venture into remoteness, whereas he has to carry 2 and occasionally 3, plus actually stop for food and drink at the checks instead of coasting through.  

Tori came in 2 hours faster than last year with the sun still shining, so she got the experience of jumping in the ocean with all the Costa Rican beach goers hanging around.  Steve had one of his harder days, but made it in in decent time.

Gerry came in later, suffering with sore butt problems today.  His dented and cracked DeKerf frame looks like it's seen better days as well.  Apparently it wasn't built up to his torture standards.


Friday, 14 November 2008

La Ruta day 3

Quote/understatement of the day came from Cory Wallace post race: "those guys are pretty hard to keep up to on the climbs" referring to the top 5. Cory had a great day, finishing 7th, and being the only one among that group of top riders who actually carries more than one water bottle at a time and has to stop at the aid stations.

Yesterday we joked around that if he beat Roberto Heras, he might just have to hang up the bike and use that to tell tall tales about, but it wasn't expected to happen so quickly.

Today's weather and stage were great. I enjoyed the day more or less from start to finish, but I had a really hard start. I wanted to sit down for a while and take in the view, but I managed to spin easy for a while until feeling crummy passed.

When I'm fit my body responds to efforts day after day, here it's taking a little more coaxing... it's a painful event to try to ride into form. Having said that, I did find a little power after the first hour such that the last 2 hours of the climb were a little more fun.

All the crew finished and will have their tales, but today wasn't epic (other than the size of the climb/descent)... but no crazy weather or mud or heat or wrong turns from anyone I've spoken to. Just a hammerfest bike race along the side of the country's biggest mountain. Fun!

Gang chilled in the pool and is now getting ready for dinner - surprise! - rice, beans, plantains and 2 meats to chose from. Same as breakfast and dinner all week.

Thursday, 13 November 2008

La Ruta day 2 - Awesome!

Making it through the gauntlet of Day 1 was well worth it.  Today was the most beautiful day of Costa Rican cycling I've ever had.  Relative to last years Day 2, there's more climbing, and more of it is steeper.  It's mind boggling.  The first climb was absolutely killer.  My granny gear worked perfect, so I decided to try to ride everything.  I paid the price at the end for the novelty of cleaning everything, but it was fun riding the super steeps.  We were rewarded with blue sky views all day (which came with a little extra heat on our backs).  The first climb also had a singletrack descent.

 

The second climb was just as long and challenging as last time, but I used the middle section to rest up, so I had fun grinding away up the mountain.  The Day 2 finish is also much more sane.

 

Barring odd mechanicals or the like, all our crew will finish.  Cory Wallace blazed in very close to Roberto Heras - very impressive to say the least.

 

Actually studying the profile of today is interesting - it's mind boggling how straight up and straight down this stage is.

 

The guy who came in 3rd today is basically unknown, even in Costa Rica.  Race organizers spoke to him when he signed up, and he said he came into San Jose a couple times a year, but lived in the mountains and had been training.

 

ClimbingCraig had a good day, and I think he really enjoyed the sightseeing, competition and the crazy terrain.  It's all so much more fun when you're feeling normal.

 

Also no updated information regarding Pat.  We're assuming he's recovering fine maybe watching the race coverage on TV.

 

Pat Update

Spoke to Gerry's girlfriend Sylvia this morning.  She rode in the ambulance with Pat and Trish.  First stop was a medical clinic of some sort where they said they couldn't do anything.  Second stop was the hospital, but the ambulance got lost on i's way there.  They finally sedated him so they could do IV's and such.  He'll be fine, but it'll be 2 days in hospital.  They both stayed there last night.

 

Apparently his camel back blew at Checkpoint 3 so he was finishing with less water than he otherwise would have taken.

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

La Ruta Day 1

- Trish did not start as she is sick.

- Craig started, finished very respectably considering he's running on an empty tank.  He waited for me for 15 minutes at Checkstop 2. Then we rode much of the big paved climb together.

- I'm here in one piece.  I went through all levels of purgatory out there.  I was ready to face it though, considering I'm undertrained and overweight.  What I wasn't ready for was having to do this stage without a functioning granny ring.  Last few days it was fine.  Today I couldn't get any more than 1 rotation before chain suck.

- Andy finished strong and rode strong all day.

- Lastly, Pat is en-route to hospital.  Convulsing in back of ambulance, they can't get an IV into him.  Dehydrated and low blood sugar.  Hard man with no off switch pushed really, really hard.

-He and I rode together at the start.  He did some good road pulls, then I didn't see him for a while on the first climb.  He passed me in the mud looking super strong, grunting and saying "lodo, lodo" (mud).

- Gerry finished well and was beat and tired but nothing unusual.

- Steve had a tiring day but no huge issues.

- Tori crossed the line looking fresh as a daisy, same time as last year, despite the average time being about an hour longer, and a broken derailleur/hangar that Tim/Gerry both worked on at different times.

- Tim made it to Checkstop 1 then stopped with a hip ailment.

 

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

La Ruta Day 0

At this point I'd say my ability to get this computer running and figuring out their old router on the floor is one of the highlights of the day so far.

Everyone seemed to survive the gargantuan burritors at JacoTaco last night, even if 2lbs of burrito weren't exactly what we needed for dinner. Craig and Trish did not eat with the rest of us. Gerry spent some time talking to Diego, and when Gerry asked if Diego thought the course would be "ok" he just made a cringing face and turned around. He said "days 2-4 might be ok". He said "It's been raining hard right up to November 10th, for last year when it was dry, it stopped at the start of November."

This morning we slept in, ate breakfast, and we cheered when we saw Trish with a plate of food. Registration followed and was quick, easy and efficient. Saw Craig at registration looking better but not 100%, said he'd been able to eat a bit in the last while. Based on his appearance there (he's staying at another hotel with Steve so we aren't seem him as frequently) I'd say he'll be at the start line for sure, but maybe not feeling exactly in line with how he'd prefer feeling. After that we grouped up to ride. Andy's got a sweet new Rocky Mountain carbon hard tail which we all spent a few minutes reviewing... then it was off to last year's day one climb again. Pat said Trish had a bit of a relapse and spent a portion of the day napping inside.

Pat and Andy battled it out for a while, with Gerry and Matt Hanford chasing. I managed to catch Gerry when he pulled over to the side to stop... which is evidence of two things: he's climbing strong and on the flipside I'm not feeling all that hot. There must be something performance enhancing in those Imperial Cervezas.After another 10 minutes or so uphill, Matt and I waited for Pat and Andy to return, then we all coasted back down to the hotel. I quickly packed up everything for the race, then went up to the lunch buffet to meet the gang. Tori did a different ride but got back right when we did.

Lunch was uneventful, just a bunch of bike talk and tall tales. Afternoon consisted of sitting around and doing more of the same - just about nothing. Spotted a guy with a Moots YBB with a Rohloff hub, but 26" wheels and no S&S couplers. Made me contemplate mine a bit - in some ways the robust design and lack of maintenance will serve him well, but I couldn't bring myself to bring one here with the severe grades (ie. weight counts, which is why I wish I had a few less dinner at the desk nights in the last month) and the slight internal friction loss. Even today on the pre-ride, my "self cooling" threshold was kicking in in granny or 2nd gear.

When 3pm rolled around, I start feeling my face go white, and lost any interest in chatting. I'm burping a bit too, classic sign the digestive track has set up a roadblock. Trish came by looking more spry, and said I looked pale. Lunch was good, but any doubt that enters your mind starts building on itself... maybe that salad bar? My meat choice was the buffet container labelled (I kid you not) "Mexican Meat" which sounds a bit ominous in retrospect, but it was seeminly well cooked beef.

The other notable 3pm event was the thundershowers that rolled in. Combined with Diego's above comments on it taking a while to dry out (meaning a week or more ideally), heavy thundershowers today don't bode well. Gerry observed "at least we can't see the top of the mountains this way". It's been over an hour of steady, hard rain. It's going to be epic. If I can by luck not have my innards stage a revolt, I'm fully up for a 10+ hour epic jungle/hillclimb/rain trek. On the flip side, I'm not at all up for an epic day on a tile bathroom floor.

I bumped into a nice fellow from Washington named Brett. In making small talk walking across the hotel, he asked what I thought the rain meant. I said "long, tough day tomorrow probably". He's here first time and said he just wanted to finish the day, and asked for tips. I shared my plan for tomorrow - ride the first [pick a number] say 6 hours at a pace that you're covering ground but not stressing yourself out too much, don't worry about the people around you. If you feel peppy after that mark, speed up. If not, just keep the same pace. The second part was love every bit of it that's thrown your way. There'll be the guys cursing their chains and gears and such, but honestly, you can't expect a bike to work perfectly in this. So just exercise the memory banks and fill in all the crazy things that happen to you out there. There's crazy shit that happens to everyone out there, that's why we came.

I hope I can remember that stuff myself tomorrow! I hope to see Brett finish, he seemed both excited at the ride ahead and anxious with the rain thundering down around us.

As of about 4:30pm I'm feelingevenly at 50/50. I'm trying to guage my inner senses, but I can't guess which way this one will go right now. The fact that I don't just feel 100% normal is worrysome enough. Other than that, I feel relaxed and cool as a cucumber. Earlier this month I felt the need to offload all self expectation just to keep my overall life stress load in check, and on that front it seems I've succeeded.


Monday, 10 November 2008

Jaco, Costa Rica

Our group trip out to Jaco took in the usual sites - the restaurant perched above the valley below, and of course the crocodrillos in the Rio Tarcoles. There were about 20 this time, big looking ones too. I'm not sure if Jon were around that I'd actually be inclined for the special safari down to the waterfront. Pat, who travelled out later in a different van, confirmed the same by throwing an orange into the water next to one of the biggest crocs. He said the head turn and jaws snapping to the spot of the splash happened absolutely lightning quick. Between the Rio Tarcoles and Jaco, we drove through some patches of rain. I think that was sort of the wake up call that this one could be muddy. It's hard for the dry climate crew to comprehend that so much water can come out of the sky all at once. Cars on the other side of the road were coming into our lane, as the puddles on that side were over their wheel wells. And that's a highway style road with 2' wide by 2' deep drainage gutters down the side.

We played in the ocean for a while, sat around the pool, and went out for dinner... all pretty tame. The only bad news from yesterday is that Pat's bag of clothes didn't make it, but news today is that American Airlines has delivered it to San Jose. Supposedly it'll arrive here today. Melissa from BC Bike Race gave him a jersey and some socks, and Gerry and I said we'd lend extra shorts, so he should be fine... although I am trying to talk him into doing his inagural La Ruta in Heart Akerson's footsteps.

I had a restless sleep last night; I was fine with the heat during the day (it's not overly hot), but at night I just couldn't nod off properly. Eventually I soaked a bunch of towels and slept under those, so my entire bed was soaking wet. Delightfully refreshing - at these temperatures anyway. Once we geared up to ride, I had a new experience with ocean water draining from my head. After our hour in the waves, apparently I became waterlogged. When I was bending over near the water cooler to fill up my bottle, sea water just started dripping off the tip of my nose. I could feel it draining down from my sinuses, and it actually felt pretty good. I walked over by the garden plants and bent over with my head down for a while... my skull was pretty water logged. Despite some Spaniards a couple rooms down gearing up for their morning ride with kneewarmers, we figured we could make it through our ride without them. Gerry and I were laughing too when we saw them polishing up their fancy bikes - 3 Cannondale Carbon Rush's and one 2009 S-Works Epic. One guy was even squatting down so he could see the top tube properly in the morning sun to make sure it had the proper gleam on it. Clearly they have little idea of the thrashing those bikes are about to experience.

This morning we rode part way up the first climb from last year's route - like riding in a steam room. I think the grades, heat, humidity and utter lack of air movement made an impression on the first timers. The girls went back to do some road riding. Craig hasn't been feeling well, lost his breakfast/dinner, and was looking rather pale, so he turned around with Steve and went back. Thomas, Pat and I rode up a few more minutes before riding back to town. At home I climb at whatever pace my legs and lungs can dish out, but here I run into a new ceiling - the ability to cool myself. I'm guessing on a climb like this morning's I'm riding at about 85% of what I might otherwise ride, with sweat streaming steadily off my nose. It'll feel good on the Volcano day to be able to ride at a temperature that's a little cooler.

Pat and I parked ourselves for a long lunch at the buffet, spending time talking to anyone who wandered by. Our friends and acquantainces are trickling in - Andy and Matt Hanford are here, Cory Wallace showed up, other Calgarians we haven't met before, and of course Drew and Joanne Bragg. Trish eventually came back from her ride as well, but she too isn't feeling good and couldn't eat lunch. Pat's logical guess traces it back to their van ride out yesterday, where they stopped for fruit, as the item he could thing of that would tie Trish and Craig's ailments together. Considering I had food poisoning just last week, I sympathize with their pale white faces. All I can say is that it's probably better this morning, still 2 days ahead of the race, possibly leaving time for a decent recovery. Tori and Gerry rode further along the highway, then got Tori's spoke tightened up at a local shop, and stopped for bugers. They're now having a cerveza on the patio in front of our rooms. They're quite complimentary for each other in terms of travel habits/preferences it seems.

Roberto Heras ate lunch a couple tables over from us, and now coincidentally he's browsing Spanish cycling web sites for the latest racing headlines at the computer next to me. I can see why he didn't slow down much on the grades of Europes biggest climbs, and why I look fat in my pants sitting next to him. There's not a lot of mass for gravity to work with. I might as well be sitting next to some skinny supermodel. I can't open another browser window to look up stats, but he's gotta be about 120lbs, if not a hair under. If there's pre-race armwrestling that spontaneously pops up at the dinner buffet, I'd put my money on Trish before him. The only thing skinnier in this room is the gecko stuck horizontally to the wall between us.

The mechanics aren't here yet, but the race guys called back to them to ask them to look around for a Mavic Lefty "hub cap" for me... right now my bearing is just open to the air on the 5mm allen key side. Before riding this morning I hacked up my room card and put a hole through the middle of it, such that it's a bit of a seal, but it makes quite a bit of friction, probably won't last all that long, and isn't really water tight either. I can't imagine it's a part that everyone just has lying around, but the call went to San Jose with an accurate description en Espanol so we'll see if they can rustle one up. Other than that, my gear is all present, accounted for and functioning.

Sounds like Svein Tuft is out, and the locals seem to thing Roberto Heras is due for second, they're all rooting for a tico who's name I'm unfamiliar with.

Tori and I are in the closest room to the check in, you'd think with this kind of royal location I'd be a UCI points leader of the world or something, but really it's just fluke. Sure feels nice to be placed so conveniently though.

The plan for tonight is for those of us who can tolerate food to meet up for Mexican at JacoTaco. Mmmm...

Sunday, 9 November 2008

Costa Rica welcomes

Trish, Tori and I flew to Toronto on the red eye, then down to Costa Rica after a three hour layover where we also grouped up with Gerry and Silvia. Nothing beats ending a workweek with no ability to get a decent sleep.

Costa Rica felt welcoming, right from the moment the plane doors opened. Ahhh, that thick feeling high % humidity air and a temperature I haven't felt since summer. We had armpit stains on our t-shirts just from standing in line.

The customs in the airport is a model of efficiency, as well the Scotia Bank machine right in the luggage pickup area is all the banking I ever need to do in the country. Once we got all our luggage, the lineup to get out of the luggage area was enormous. They scan luggage through trolley based scanning machines before you can leave, but some practical minded employee took half the line, opened the gate to the left, took our last little paper full of official passenger details, and just let 50 people through. Outside past the gaggle of taxi drivers we found the guy with the magic sign for the Best Western shuttle, then stripped down to more comfortable layers of clothes (shorts, t-shirt, sandals). All the locals wear long pants and full shoes this time of year.

We easily found Craig at the hotel, and his/our new buddy Thomas Yip (Calgarian too). They had ridden earlier in the day to some questionable neigbourhoods, found a local mountain biker who took them to a shop, and witnessed rain hard enough that it set off car alarms... the joys of the tropics. While they (in their words) stared with saucer sized eyes outside at the unusual-to-them (or any dry climate person) spectacle, the ticos just watch them with amusement, for them it's just like any other afternoon. Witnessing that amount of rain "input" helps one begin to understand the tales of mud on the race course. It seems they're enjoying everything so far. I feel like being around people taking it in for the first time freshens up the perspective I'm able to take in as well... all the more enjoyable.

We grouped up at the bar out front of the hotel for a beer during happy hour, which, unlike home, was a free happy hour. Hard to beat that! We had a great group dinner, told tall tales, and drank some pisco. Our waiter liked Trish, and made an elaborate grasshopper by weaving some long leaves off a plant for a souvenir for her. Steve and Pat were supposed to arrive around midnight but didn't, they're en-route now but we don't know why their original flights weren't as scheduled.

This morning I opened the patio door then went back to snooze for a few more hours. Tori asked what it was like outside, and as I moved my arm in and out of the doorframe, my report was that there was absolutely no discernable difference between inside and outside. Ahh, the simple novelties of the tropics.

Just about to leave for Jaco - it's a beautiful day. We swam in the pool, had breakfast at Denny's, packed up, and are ready to depart.

I'm not feeling fast this go around, but I sure am soaking up the environment and the relaxation.

Friday, 7 November 2008

La Ruta - departure nearing

My mind has checked out of work, I'm off to finish packing soon. This afternoon I've been reading La Ruta stories. Here's some reading on Heart Akerson, some from Dre that evidences everyone finds it tough, not just the untalented.

Through my browsing I came across a good quote from a particular writeup that stuck with me, and now I can't find the source.

"Muddy road of death you are my cruel mistress."




Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Sick

Everything's pointing at this juncture to me having my third (ugly) experience with food poisoning in my adult lifetime. Fate biting me in the ass for getting confused and eating the lamb burger Wasy ordered from Bow Valley Club I guess. Having spent half the night so far lying on my bathroom floor under a towel shivering and sweating at the same time, nodding off for little bits of unrestful sleep, I'm not seeing getting into work at the crack of dawn as overly likely.

Delirious and feeling disgusting, Bakke.

Sunday, 2 November 2008

A Little Bit of History

I was right there, on the spot, for a little bit of history at Bow Cycle!

Sunday, 19 October 2008

deadgoat 'cross race

Somehow I managed to drag myself out of bed after 3 hours of sleep to help set up the cyclocross course behind the Brentwood Co-op today.  We showed up ready to roll, and I'm almost certain Lonn had  a great set of coherent instructions and ideas for everyone.  After his explanation was done, I realized I hadn't understood much of it, so we set out to improvise the course.  It's fun to scope out the park through the viewpoint of the racer's eye to use the available terrain as well as possible.

I had a blast watching Tori race, she finished after Pepper Harlton.  

I only had enough batteries to take pictures of the races prior to the men's elite race, full set is available here.




Weekend

I fit in a 5 hour ride today, then 9 hours of partying at Shawntoberfest. Who knew Tubby Dog could line a stomach that well? Who knew Tracey Shearer could buy that many shots? Who knew so many hotties showed up at the karaoke bar? Who knew the Amsterdam Rhino DJ's could mix every catchy dance tune of the last 30 years into one grand finale? Who knew we could eat $50 worth of pizza at 3am?

I don't think I'm racing tomorrow. Somehwere along the way, Shawn registered as way more important than my $17 entry fee to the Gorilla run.

Devin's going to wake up late, as is Jon, Shawn, Claire, Bill, Phil, and Keith.  That was a full night's effort!

Friday, 17 October 2008

Busy week, busy weekend

The first day back from St. George turned into a 19 hour workday for me, followed by getting into the office at 6am the next morning. Ug. Not the way I wanted to ease back into the workworld. Looking at my quotes screen didn't feel any better either.

This week wasn't a good week for business either, which is why a little Friday noon meeting felt better... investment banks are funny places. Things happen on Fridays that ruin weekend recreation, but that can turn the mood of a week around in a hurry. Such as the following:

-----Original Message-----

From: [blanked out, but let's just say FirstEnergy's el Presidente]

Sent: Friday, October 17, 2008 11:30 AM

To: Erik B. Bakke

Subject: Company XYZ

Please meet me at their offices at noon. They "have some business for us".

Half hour countdown to hustle over. And post the lunch discussion, my weekend looks even fuller.

Work, trailbuilding with Jon, the Gorilla run, the deadgoat cyclocross race, and general La Ruta training are all vying for time.  Something's going to have to give.

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

St. George, pt 2

In a 4 day weekend, I didn't get to ride half the trails that are accessible just from the doorstep in St. George, but beauties like the technical trail Zen, the smooth flow of Stucki Springs, the rollercoaster like Bearclaw Poppy, and the steeps of Clavicle Hill and The Three Fingers of Death are now stored in my memory banks. We also did a fair abount of road riding, past the Gunlock and Quail reservoirs, up the biggest hillclimb I could find to Oaks campground, and through Snow Canyon. St. George's proximity to the great outdoors, and Utah's landscapes in general, really impressed me. Tori and I rode together all weekend, which was fun.



Aunt Peggy and Uncle Bob's hosting was fantastic, we were treated to gourmet meals every night. The pool and hot tub were icing on the cake. Buddy's continual attention to everyone's wellbeing was noted as noble service.



St. George even has it's own version of the fountain of youth. I rode the middle finger of the Three Fingers of Death. Whether it's the poetic symbolism or the simple act itself, that's living!

Saturday, 11 October 2008

St. George, Utah

After rush packing Thursday night, flying to Las Vegas, waiting 60 minutes for the rental car we already booked, Tori and I made it to our hotel at midnight.  I crashed hard as I knew my Friday morning "vacation" had a lot of work obligations too.

I woke up feeling crummy, I hadn't exercised much since the prior weekend's triple race agenda.  We ordered breakfast to the room, closed the door between the living room and the bed, and did 3 hours of conference calls each, plus other random emailing, phone calling, and work.

We left the hotel to find out that our key fob for the rental car only opened the trunk, didn't notice when we picked up the car as the doors were unlocked.  So we crawled in through the back, called the rental agency, and tried to get that dealt with before driving to St. George.

It felt nice to finally be on the road once a Mexican employee of the rental car agency, who I'd rank among their star employees after the pace of our pickup last night, assessed and fixed our problem without running us through the "system" for a car exchange.  We took the scenic route along the north side of Lake Mead, and arrived in St. George several hours later than expected and feeling tired.  

After sitting around and making small talk, we put together our bikes and Uncle Bob took us for a spin to some local trails.  It took 3 minutes from the driveway to get off pavement onto very, very high quality trail systems.  Awesome.  We rode until sunset along some red rock mesa, on technical single track loops.  To have that so close to home is a fantastic luxury.  Once we were home, it was time to hit the backyard pool before dinner... speaking of which, dinner was a gourmet affair.  I think there's a chance I might never leave their casita (little house room where a guest can come and go separate from the house, but it's attached to the house).  

We went to bed early feeling good with the 2.5 hours of riding and feeling like we're almost on vacation.

Saturday we rode about 7 hours, including a 10 mile climb up a nearby mesa to a campground, very La Ruta-ish route.  It was cold, they've got a freak cold spell this week the weatherman on TV says is from Canada.  It hailed, it rained, and was about 10-15C depending on elevation.  We had enough clothes to have a great day still.  

St. George is an amazing city for mountain biking.  There's 70,000 people here in an area that's completely surrounded my mountains, mesas, buttes, and all those other landscape terms of the southwest that are a little outside my vocabulary.  It's all public land, and hiking and biking trails are everywhere.  It's the equivalent of having a dozen Moose Mountain type areas surrounding town all within riding distance of home, if you're willing to do an hour commute on paths/roads each way.  If you want to load up the car, double that amount.

Amazing!

Monday, 6 October 2008

oval 'cross pics

Two pics turned up from the weekend, "the Bee and me". Fun times, but I'm so sore from all the racing, I'm nostalgic already and it's only one day into the workweek.



Sunday, 5 October 2008

High intensity times three

Today was the second race of the 'cross double header at the U of C, and it's safe to say I'm fully tuckered out.

Tori and I went over at around 9 to register, she was scheduled to race at 11 and I was slated for 12:15.

I saw part of Tori's race and it looked consistent with yesterday, she got 6th and is looking pretty smooth riding all the terrain.

I think I bit off more than I could chew this weekend, the race was hard.  My forearms were sore from yesterday, and my calves were sore from running, and my back from moving boxes.  I wasn't anywhere near fast, so I tried to focus on having a good time and riding skillfully where I could.  I flatted on the second last lap and ran for about 1km of the course, then Tim Brezsnyak lent me his bike for a lap... it felt sweet.

I think I finished dead last!  Time to rest up for a few days and get geared up for riding some longer rides in Utah next weekend.

High intensity times two

I started Saturday by riding down to the Calgary Road Runners 8k (or slightly less) trial race at Sandy Beach by Elbow Drive. First running race I've done in a long time, it was fun. I forgot to bring dry socks for after, but the 2x Elbow River crossing felt good even with 2 hours of wet feet after. Looks like I finished up 27th/114. I need to work on running downhills, that's where I'm slowest by far. The long false flat downhill is where I got killed.



After that it was coffee time at Shawn's house, the home for 3 hours of packing and moving furniture and heavy boxes.



From there it was time to head over to the university for the night cyclocross race. We watched the girls race which was well attended, and fun to watch Tori look like she meant business.



For the mens race, the first corner barrier tape got knocked over, then caught in my foot and pedal. By the time that got sorted out I was in last by a long margin. I think I passed 1-2 people a lap for a while from the tired Elites, and some of the fast Experts caught me too. I actually enjoyed the sprint through the three sand volleyball courts, that's where most of my passes were made.



After that we went down the the Art's Hotel Raw Bar for Tyler's 30th birthday. Nice to catch up with everyone, good times had by all. My spring cycling travel is going to have to be to Laguna Beach to go visit Tyler in his new place.



My calves are sore from the trail run. My back is sore from moving. Rest of my legs, and my left forearm are sore from the 'cross race. Signed up to race the 'cross race at noon today though too!

Monday, 29 September 2008

Cyclists charting their paths, Dallas is a true machine

I love the cycling community as much as I love cycling itself. Given a society where we could all drift along in comfort, there's a subset that seeks to define itself by pushing the bounds of what each and every one of us can do. Watching my friends makes me so happy in this regard... it's the inspiration I "take" from them.

Craig can climb singletrack like he's still on a 500cc two stroke. Jon threads the needle on the downhills making them look easy. Shawn lives for 'cross season, and dishes out the punishment in a very refined looking manner, riding the tightest off camber course twists with grace. Dolye takes away all but one gear and doesn't let anything slow him down. Tori suffers it out with with nothing but good spirits and knows how to bring fun wherever she goes. Cyrus has begun really dishing it out in some road races.

Which leaves Dallas...

He's always been a powerhouse. Large amounts of power for long periods of time are his thing. So much so, that he signed up for the Texas Time Trials with the confidence to take on the shortest category time for the 500 miler... based around his preferred sleep/ride schedule rather than prior experience with the event.

The end result? Showing up not to ride it, but to win it outright. A machine amongst machines. Congrats Dallas, awesome ride.

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Highlight of My Day

OK, I knew I was in the right on my flow-through and interest deduction charges for the year, but it's nice to have this sorted out finally so I can get my tax return!

Canada Revenue Agency, Preassessment Review Section

Dear Sir:

Re: Income Tax and Benefit Return for 2007

We have completed our review. Based on the documentation submitted, we have allowed the claim(s) under review.

[blah blah other stuff, keep these documents for the future, call us if you have any questions]

Thank you for your cooperation.

Yours sincerely,

xxx
Manager
Preassessment Review Section

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Midweek Mayhem Cyclocross Sept 16

Bakke and Bunnin sprint finish... and Bunnin makes it to the line first!

OK, there's a lot more to the race than that, but it sure felt good to write. Shawn and I were 6th and 7th; Chris McNeil was actually the one who laid down the smack tonight. That's the last time I'll see Shawn on the same lap finish of a 'cross race this year I bet.

Great weather, great times. Good to see a lot of the faces I haven't been seeing quite as much this year with my sparse attendance on the road circuit.

Am I even allowed to say I didn't feel much lactic burn? I think between the Bow 80, my first run of the year today (with my Ironman buddy for an entire hour, who I pleaded to take it easy on me), the fact is my body just wouldn't even go anaerobic even if I wanted it to. The end result was that today's race was just high threshold pace (not that I'm implying I'll go faster later).

Back at the office, I hope I can peel out before 10pm. Holy cow is this a wild time to be working in finance... the American financial landscape is being re-written before our eyes. Institutions that have been around for almost 200 years are going "poof" with surprising frequency... and through my Reuters screen it's a perfect almost-front-row seat.

Monday, 15 September 2008

Bow 80

The Bow 80 is 75% legendary course, and 25%... uhhh... challenging stuff once again. Tom Snow trail isn't prime recreational material at the best of times...
Good showing by all the deadgoats, and a fun day overall with the great organization, good weather, and cool prizes.


As it turns out, lounging by a pool in Las Vegas is only mediocre as a prep day for the Bow 80 (surprise, surprise). In fact, it's probably not all that bad, but the three hours without moving my legs on the plane probably wasn't helpful. My bike needs to go in for rehab more than I do, wasn't really able to leave all my energy out there on the course.

One of these year's I want to feel like I nailed that race!

Saturday, 13 September 2008

Bow 80 prep

In preparation for the Bow 80, I spent 6 hours today in 95F sunshine under the mist nozzles in a lounge chair at the Wynn's "euro" pool, broken up only with a 90 minute massage and a trip to the BBQ for some fish tacos.

I have no idea what it did to my riding legs, but what it did for my eyes was phenomenal!

Friday, 12 September 2008

Lotus Elise driving, Parhump, Nevada




Ahh, the joys of victory. Being a bunch of ibankers, we can't have a retreat without head to head competition (and requisite trash talk).

I think the skiing and bike racing skills helped a little, knowing lines and keeping your eyes up.

First place of 16 in the group, plus took the winners pot... $weet.

Las Vegas

I've been tired and getting burnt out, this whole fitting 30 races into a year and working my job isn't easy to fit into the routine. Coming to Vegas tired seems like a recipe for disaster, but I napped on way down (when hot dentist chick in seat next to me wasn't asking Vegas questions... by the way, it feels so unlike me to actually be informed on Las Vegas of all tourism places, like what have I become?), and planned a relaxing afternoon.

On arrival I managed to get in 2.5 hours in gym, almost 2 on bike, about half an hour on treadmill on max incline with weights, plus stretching and core. After that it was poolside in the sun, which had the benefit of a few more bikinis than a day in the office. Unfortinately the "euro-style" pool was populated more by overweight 50 year olds.

After that it was room service and nap for a few hours. I uncharacteristically drank a Red Bull upon my groggy wakeup so I wasn't a downer all night. Then the big group dinner... great food, wine and entertainment. Gambling updates for the first 6 hours ranged from down $8k to up $1k amongst the gang, I guess that makes my $25 gym entry and $34 room service salad (it's amazing what delivery charge, automatic gratuity and state tax add to the cost of food) feel well spent on a relative basis.

I'm looking forward to the Lotus cars tomorrow, those are bets I'm willing to take (having control of a skill driven outcome is easier for me to grasp than games of chance).

Sunday, 7 September 2008

XC8 finale

If I didn't mention enough before, this course is awesome. I'd say the only "funner" course I rode this year was BC Bike Race - and considering the natural geography the two races are set in, that's pretty good for XC8. What I did like last year was a little more time on that gravel road at the top of the hill, about a kilometer rather than a couple hundred meters... made it easier to stay fueled during the race, as the rest needs both hands on the bar. I like all the tight singletrack, but for an 8 hour, a few less tight spots on the trail aptly named "duck" would have been ok too.

Shawn basically caught up to Craig, but Craig held him off in the sprint (Craig also had 2 min time bonus). Jeff Neilson was third. Dallas dropped out for a nap after doing same number of laps as me, but he was done sooner.

Mical, Trish and Alana were the podium of the women's, with the Bee in 5th. The Bee was tired and bonking, but she sure makes me proud.

Pat was second for single speeding. I should equip him with a hemlet cam so he can film my next bike mishap, as he saw both of mine at this race.

I'm glad some ibuprofen found its way to me. That was the hardest knock I've ever taken on a bike or skis... but that's not really saying much as I've skipped hard wipeouts in both the snowsport and biking careers thus far.