Saturday, 25 April 2009

Sick Saturday

Last night I didn't think I'd make it to the group ride, but this morning I hurried to make it there on time, as without that motivator I thought I'd likely be on the couch to noon.

Naturally I knew I wasn't going to hang in for long, but even the 30 minutes together cleared out my systems a lot better than the couch would have. 

I turned around by Church Ranches and hobbled home.  Tori and had lunch together, then we napped for 3 hours.

I've got no gas these days.  On top of that, my upstairs sink is plugged, and an hour of my plumbing effort suggests that this beyond things I have the time to fix at this point, so another plumber call this week. 

My shoulder blade area has been achy again, so I'm gonna book more physio - the two I cancelled due to meetings this week didn't help much... I think I need those needles again to force a few crazy tight muscles to relax. 

Doesn't feel like much of a weekend, especially with 8am meetings tomorrow.

Friday, 24 April 2009

First week being 31

There will be better weeks going forward... I'm working on many projects, and it's snowy and cold and not feeling very "bikey" for me right now compared to all the fun layered into last weekend.

One company I'm working with is near insolvency.  It really isn't good when you have negative monthly cash flow, and your banker now says your borrowing lines are now like 20% below what you've already borrowed.  That narrows your range of options, pronto.  Gun to head is the usual descriptor.

Second is a deal that has stretched me, an endurance junkie, quite a long way.  When someone goes hostile on you at the 11th hour, it isn't exactly fun.  There's a reason a gentler adjective wasn't used in naming the concept.

I've been sick for a week and appear to be getting sicker too.  It's not actually that bad other than I don't have energy spewing forth easily, and I like having energy to burn.

Could be worse, some of the above people I'm working with are also working themselves through random tradgedies in their lives on top of the business world problems. 

When it rains, it pours (or snows).

Friday, 17 April 2009


It's my 31st birthday today. Although for some reason the Merle Travis song "sixteen tons" with the line "another day older and deeper in debt" struck me this morning as having a little more truth to it than I'd prefer, all in all I'd say this is a positive affair.

Between people like Devin, Dallas, Craig, and Keith, who hammer it out weekly with me with only signs of speeding up at each of their respective ages, to Matt Joss who's running his best running times of his life as a brief sidetrack to his multisport career, to Pat Doyle who proves that neither age nor number of gears are particularly relevant to cycling results, to Gerry - "the Ger" who's knocking off remote and mountainous Indian stage races while avoiding the temptation to trade his partner for a goat, doing BC Bike Race again, and many other events since a full season last year of doing things like 24 hours of Adrenaline solo on a single speed didn't take too much out of his sails at 50 last year, dad Bill whose riding volumes I may only be starting to approach, to uncle Gary riding down in St. George right now, all the way up to the intrepid Ken Myhre who's going strong by any measure, let alone once his "age" is figured in (plus Ken is proudly displaying an ailment clear to many with Norwegian genes - the obligation to make tracks on as many parts of our sphere as possible). I think I have a pretty reasonable road map in mind of what my cycling career could/might/should look like at various points going forward. Meeting those milestones of model accomplishment along the way will keep me a happy rider.

In contemplating my future, cycling is the "career" I think about most - surprisingly little time is spent thinking about how much paper I can push, retirement savings math, etc. I'm not sure that stuff should burden down my thoughts on living life too much, although yes I admit most of my time is spent doing just those somewhat unimportant things here in 2009.

The sport of cycling, and seeing the activities of these friends, makes me conclude that years since birth is better characterized as "experience level" rather than "age" which infers the perception of decline towards inactivity and incapability.

The younger part of the crew, Shawn, Jon and Tori, have me as an additional point on their respective "experience level" roadmaps.

ps. maybe my birthday present in '09 can be a renovated house... if the wheels of bureaucracy creak forward at a noticeable pace!

Sunday, 12 April 2009

Easter Sunday

This morning I slept in, stumbled around the house in a generally sub par state of function, then met Shawn at 10:30 for an "any pace will do" ride from Cadence. After a little warmup leaving the city, I actually felt really good, which was nice to have the body delivering on output the third day into a riding block.

We fought west into the headwinds, which really meant I tucked into Shawn's wake and tried to hold on. On the uphill, into the gale force wind sections in a perfect draft, I was for minutes at 350-450 watts, which means Shawn was putting the power down today on the front much higher than that. It was fun riding. It was good to see the [few] MEC clad weekend warriors out being clobbered by the wind, we were reeling them in quickly today with our 2 man paceline.

Finding an open coffee shop in Cochrane was challenging; we settled into a nice place after looping through a few parking lots. I decided to go with caffeine, while Shawn went without. Yin and yang maybe. We agreed to disagree on most everything we talked about, but not in a contentious way... sort of reminds me of that old comic strip called the Lockhorns. Simon the Kiwi, the one man torture machine patrolling the roads on his mountain bike, spotted us at coffee. I'm glad he wasn't dressed in his riding kit as I didn't have any excuses prepared about how I was getting picked up in Cochrane and couldn't join him for some riding throw down for the next few hours ; )

To complete the reverse Cabin Jam loop, we went south on 22 and back on airport road, the former being a good chunk of work into the head/crosswind. I did 60 seconds of pulling interspersed over the 20 minute trip just to freshen Boonen, er I mean Bunnin up for the other 19 minutes. Maybe he thought he was racing on the other side of the Atlantic today in Paris Roubaix like is nearly homonym counterpart.

Obviously the head wind efforts took a toll, as our sprint up the backside of the airport road climb had us neck and neck compared to the 50m back I usually find myself when riding with Bunnin. Maybe it was the caffeine thing too ; )

But that was it, the rest of the sprints were one man contests, and we didn't work overly hard on the rest of the way home with the big winds behind us.

All in, another great day to cap off a pretty big weekend - something like 420km all in. I was actually pretty surprised at how "ok" I felt today instead of feeling like a sack of concrete. Guess that's the fitness building.

Drumheller mission

Keith wanted to do a lap of about 180km of goodness out by Drumheller this weekend. The plan was to start about 30km north of Drumheller near Morin, at Gary Chambers farm. Tori, Keith, Craig and I showed up at Gary's place a little before 10, and by 10:30 we were rolling out. Having Tori along was fun, it was nice weather out and we don't ride together too much, so might as well get in as much as possible during one day.

We rode south on gravel roads to Munson, then pavement into Drumheller. From there, we spent some time looking through the suburbs for a trail, road, or anything that would let us climb out of the town, but to no avail. Apparently doesn't have a very extensive inventory of 1914 cow trails worn into the coulees.

I'm glad we at least stopped to fill water bottles in Drumheller, as the roads we chose to proceed south were gravel, but more like freshly laid pit run that hadn't been compacted yet, so it was tough, slow going. We kept pulling out the map and "navigating" at various gravel road intersections that were so seldom used the didn't even have township and range signs.

Everyone was getting tired, and by the 3 hour 30 minute mark we hadn't made it to halfway on the ride, and couldn't find any point on the map that looked like it matched where we might be. We were standing at a 4 way gravel intersection, with no signs on any corner, yet the map showed no such intersections near where we thought we were. We saw the glint of sun on a car traveling along a highway to the west of us and decided to go find that stretch of pavement. Turns out we had overshot south by more than a few kilometers, so we pacelined north along the highway until we came to Rosebud at about the 4 hour mark. This was our intended lunch place and "half way point" on the ride.

We inventoried the town's amenities, and were approached by a local lady who was helpful in pointing us in the right direction for services. There was a museum/curio shop/convenience store, and a beautiful old prairie house hotel that had changed hands a week ago, and "might" have the kitchen running already.

We decided to try the hotel first, but as it turns out, the new owners didn't have the kitchen running yet. All they could guarantee us is fresh pie and coffee. With that in mind, we "reserved" a table to make sure we had our place in line... or whatever... then headed down to the convenience store to find some food.

Food consisted of cleaning them out of all their gatorade, some drink called Fuze, and some green tea drink... plus 3 frozen burritos, a microwavable philly cheese steak sandwich, a microwavable burger, and a plethora of other quick to eat goodies, including my new mid ride favorite, a can of creamed corn. Fortunately the guy working the counter let me just pull the cardboard off a can opener on the wall, as long as I didn't rip the cardboard, instead of forcing me to buy it.

With all that being digested, we made our way back to the hotel for pie and coffee, which was delicious. The hotel overlooks a beautiful coulee, and as we sat on the warm patio sipping coffee, we thought how nice it was to be done instead of "half way". We did our best to talk Keith out of sticking to the original route and instead attempting to find our way back along a more direct route.

With our meals settling, we slowly ramped up the pace on the way back. Tori started finding it harder, and coincidentally Craig and Keith were on the front pushing our pace along onto these gentle false flat uphills. Earlier in the day, once Tori had decided to tough it out for the whole day with us, I held back a little during the first half, expecting a little extra work on the second half. I pushed her along to stay in the draft as best I could, which is a good way of frying legs quickly.

After a half hour of that, we hung a left off the pavement again back onto gravel roads, still on the west side of the Red Deer river. The road led us the "back way" down the coulee into Nacmine, Alberta. Two things of note here - Craig descended the steep, switchback gravel road on non-knobby tires faster than all of us (maybe he just prays for traction?), and we debated our route home at the bottom of the hill, which became posthumously known as the "Bunnin Corner".

We had three choices home from Nacmine - south through Drumheller, back on the dinosaur trail on pavement (the easy route), through Drumheller, then up through the east coulees and home on gravel (middle, plus retracing some of the way we came), or north, which was more like 50km rather than 30km, fit in two larger coulee climbs, and was 100% new terrain on the way back. It was 5pm at this point. We opted for the long way home. Any bike rider knows short ways home are for times when it's raining, or hailing, not for the first warm days of the year.

We rode up the west side of the river until the first coulee climb, where we tested what was left of our legs. Through my bleary eyes I saw Craig crest about 30m ahead of me. He spun back down to help push Tori up the hill with Keith, Gary and I soft pedaled along the highway to let our sweat evaporate in the afternoon sun. Once we regrouped, we went past the ferry turnoff, then west and north on 837 toward number 27 which would be our straight east shot back to Munson. This part again had Tori fading and a lot of pushing assistance, along with some northbound slopes that had Keith and I doing double duty.

We tucked for all we were worth down into the river valley for the last time, then again raced up the other side. No surprise Craig was the first to the top again by about 30m, we then looped back down to relieve Keith of pushing duty to help Tori up the last hill.

From there it was a relaxed pace back the last 10km, except for Keith and Craig who sprinted into Gary's driveway.

All in it was 187km and about 7 hours, pretty big day. Warm weather, shorts with no knee covers, arms out in the sun, no wind to speak of just random breeze... felt like a summer day. Awesome hill climbing and scenery. Drumheller is a good spot to base a few rides out of for sure.

I have a feeling Tori will be asleep on the plane today, that was a draining effort on her part yesterday to pound out a long ride with the crew that's been riding all winter. When we start up the 230km spring Alberta Roubaix gravel race, better make sure there's a women's category.

Attached is my version of the map. I've combined Keith's high tech approach, everything I've learned from Tori's mapping on napkins and other scraps of paper, and blended it in a mildly high tech way with paintbrush.

The important part in all of this is how much fun was had. Weekend riding is doesn't qualify as adventurous if you know where you are, where you're going, or where you're going to eat with too much precision. This ride made my weekend. And also thanks go out to Gary for the steaks and hospitality!

Friday Easter Weekend

Shawn and I kicked off the easter weekend by riding together, first time on a road bike for me this year. They're neat - they sure coast better up hills, hold speed better, and shift better than a 'cross bike that's just seen 5 months of snow and slush service.

We rode basically non-stop, save for a few brief bottle fill stops, for 140k. We kept the pace sane, but considering that only 2 people divided the work of headwind duty, we were pretty darn tired at the end. I couldn't muster much energy on the last few hills into town.

I was so tired in fact, that I debated on whether or not Keith's Drumheller mission was something I could handle on Saturday... but of course I knew it was the right thing to do, and the right gang to make it fun, especially since Tori wanted to come along.

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Calgary warming up

Monday and Tuesday after work are the first two days this year where I rode after work.  It's sunny and warm so I can wear 2 layers instead of 3 or 4 or 5.  People have the itch to get out of the office.  The paths are full of weekend warriors, newbies, tri people, basically anyone who's not a year round commuter or other winter riding oddball now finds it pleasant to be out.  I'm seeing faces out there I haven't seen in months, it's so nice just to chat and catch up for a few minutes.

The good thing about winter is it makes springtime feel so good when it arrives!

Sunday, 5 April 2009

Devin Dishes it Out

Keith, Dallas, Craig, Dan, Kobe, Mark, Devin and I met this morning at Cadence. We rode quickly out to Cochrane, I particularly wasn't getting along with the "quickly" part of it, although I did feel better than yesterday. Mark turned around and wished us well on the remainder of the adventure just a little past Cochrane, as we proceeded directly out to Horse Creek road for some hill drag races without a coffee or water bottle fill up stop. Once the hill climb drag racing started I was so far behind I have no idea how they turned out.

Turning south onto Grand Valley road, we met the headwind that had been pushing us along, and it was pretty strong. Our group whittled down, with Craig, Devin, Kobe and Dan in the lead. Keith and I climbed the hill going south together, but he was suffering after some earlier hard efforts, and I ended up being alone in the headwind, so I rode up to Dallas. We traded a few pulls, then he eased up and I joined the other 4 guys up front. We hit the brakes at the Wild Cat Hills road to regroup, then started up the climb - it was pretty calm but just a little breeze of a headwind. I burnt a few matches trying to chase Devin and Craig, which of course didn't work well, but it was a good interval for me. The view from the top is beautiful, and we waited a minute for everyone to regroup again. We coasted down the hill, and when the attacks started I coasted and rode with Keith, he was looking like his legs didn't have much jump left in them. Once the group arrived at highway 1A, Kobe, Dan and Keith rode back to Cochrane instead of riding further west to refuel at the gas station, so for the remainder of the ride it was just Dallas, Devin, Craig and I.

Dallas is an asset plowing eastward into the wind, as is Devin, who seems to have fully recovered from his turbocharger implant surgery this off season. I wasn't really close enough to see any of the hill climbs other than the top of the Cochrane hill on the way home, but I think he nabbed more than a few king of the mountain points today, not to mention doing some serious work pulling into the headwinds on the way home. Very impressive overall. Then to add insult to injury, says Mr. Erfle "I think I'll take a few days off next week to fit in a training block to get in shape."

All in, it was about 5.5 hours for my ride time, and I feel way way worse after today than the mega Water Valley loop two weeks ago. Funny what two weeks of overwork, gaining some flab and fitness atrophy will do to you. On the bright side, I wasn't quite as bad overall as yesterday...

Saturday, 4 April 2009

Adventures with Jon

As I was about to change into my commuting gear on Friday after an over the top two weeks of work, Jon called and asked if I was riding this weekend, as I hadn't responded to any of the email threads.  I was fried, but I sat down on our workout room bench in our office and chatted with him for 20 minutes - good therapy to take my mind out of "suit world".

The concluding remarks were that yes, we'd both show up at Cadence for the 10:30 departure, and that Jon had to be home near noon as a) his wife's brother and new wife (they got married last weekend) had just driven across Canada and would be arriving today to stay with them, and b) his wife is 8 and whatever months pregnant, so Jon should be on time with his arrival back home.  

We (Dallas, Devin, Craig, Jon and I) met at 10ish, filled up on coffee, and rode south through the city, then decided to shortcut across the native reserve.  Nice terrain, nice gravel roads, but the plan ended up being cut a little short when... well I guess when the natives found out.  

Plan B was back to the city and out the normal way, with a slight twist Jon introduced.  Unfortunately Devin flatted, so we spent a few minutes fixing that, which is when I also realized my gel bottle was half full of HP sauce still from the Water Valley mission.  The last thing to check any time a tire is repaired should be zipping the saddle bag back up.  We missed that step, so an assortment of tire changing tools is now in the bottom of mud puddles.

Devin and Dallas made short work of 85st southwest, Jon and Craig conversed, and I trundled along trying not to be too pathetic - the last few weeks sucked a lot of juice out of my body.   My perceived exertion was a lot higher than the pace would usually make me feel.

After the guys raced the climb by the buffalo farm, then the climb off to the left on whatever magic bit of road that was, I decided to head home with Jon.  Needless to say, he wasn't going to make it home on time, since it was already about 1:30.

We rode back slowly, which is all I could muster.  Could have ridden a long ways at that pace, but speed just wasn't an option.  We decided to attempt a shortcut, and found ourselves east of McLeod Trail on a gravel and mud road leading toward a wastewater treatment plant - heaven forbid we ride on pavement with traffic to finish the ride.  We came to a gate, that said only "please close behind you" and nothing about "don't go here".  We continued east, until we could see the Bow River valley, the new hospital, suburbs north in the distance, but no obvious route directly home.  I think it's safe to say we were laying fresh tracks, not much of our surroundings indicated to me that this was an established bike route - we were "overlanding" as the Brits would say.  At this point, navigation is left to Jon, and we're basically going by site through some fields, which was pretty smooth sailing.  We were hoping to avoid fording the Bow River, although we saw that as one potential outcome.  

We came to a barbed wire lined fence, and decided to give it a go.  After heaving both bikes over, we tried to get as little clothing snagged as we could.  Half way over, Jon's phone rang.  When he checked his messages, it happened to be his better half.  He called back to explain - yes it's late, I'm just climbing a barbed wire fence about 10k south of our house, we'll be home soon.  And all that noise in the background?  Don't worry about it.  It's just 300 seagulls cause it looks like we just climbed into the back of the city of Calgary dump.

We mudbogged along a road that seems to run the perimeter of the dump, when suddenly I came to a stop.  Our quick analysis told us a few things: a) derailleurs aren't supposed to go that way, b) a multitool won't fix that, and c) we'd better start walking and dialing the phone.

Crosstraining is good, so we walked out of the dump and into the community.  Fortunately, Kelley is an understanding soul, who understands that Jon and his biking friends sometimes come home late, and sometimes need a ride to help make it home, even if she's really pregnant and has family moving in that afternoon.  We can't thank her enough.

From there it was stripping down to our less muddy underlayers, taking a tour of the house, and chowing down on a few bagels.  We carpooled up to Bowness to get Jon's truck, which also let me beg Bow Cycle near closing to quickly replace my derailleur, all while waiting for Tori to pick me up from Bow.  

These are the kinds of weekends I miss when I'm working - finding a little adventure, just like kids, sure beats the pants off more Excel spreadsheets.  

I don't have a proper derailleur hangar on my bike, but I've got some rigged up job that should get me through tomorrow - same time, same place - Cadence cafe.