Sunday, 26 June 2011

2011 Ride to Conquer Cancer (Calgary)

After a long winter of prep, our FirstEnergy Road Rockets are ready.  We've raised the 2nd most funding after bohemoth Enbridge, and 3 of our Road Rockets are in the top 10 donor collections overall (boxes to the right).  Not only are 3 in the top 10, our team also contains this year's largest individual donor!  That's a great way to start the ride, and more important than drinking beer at the tent site on Saturday night.

I had a co-worker drive my bag out on Saturday morning so I could ride from home to tack on another hour to get to Spruce Meadows.  Checkin was fairly uneventful and well run, and the weather looked good.  Our team had a couple of cancer survivors, and Jenn's speech at the start was a keynote.  Mom had cancer with 3 kids and died young, uncle had it, grandma, and I forget who else.  Long list though.  And she's had a bunch.  Can't unfortunately do the ride with us after a strong 5 day a week Calgary to Cochrane job bike commuter-vegetarian-non-smoker-only a beer a day type is whittled down in health over years of recurring bouts and spreading to way too many parts of the body and having an ongoing diagnosis of even if it remisses it's just a matter of time till it comes up somewhere else.  Really sad, but of course even if she was sad we'd never know.  People do amazing jobs of being resilience in the face of more lightning strikes than anyone deserves.

We started out with 2,200 other participants towards the Chain Lakes campground, whom in total raised $8.7 million.  That's a lot of dough.  Pace was easy off the bat, it's not a race anyway so we just chit chatted.  I gave my raincoat to a team mate who only had a jersey which ended up "saving their day" in their words.

The first few rollers sort things out, and even if you're going conversational, the group just divides up naturally.  We had a good paceline going by Okotoks, and dropped in for a quick pee break.  The support on the ride from the volunteers is fantastic in terms of food, snacks, mechanical help, and coffee.  There's a lot of people out who need mechanical help - this even is participatory and doesn't draw "cyclists" per se.

After Okotoks, more hills and headwind did sorting, and John Chambers, Brian Dunn and I ended up riding for hours together.  My guts got into that "not processing fluid" situation I get sometimes, so about 80k in I dropped off them.  They rode into the finish with the guy who's a researcher and 2x survivor who makes it in first each year - I was a few minutes back after the headwinds slowed my solo progress down.  Great day to be out though.  Chambers and I then went for a ride towards Nanton to top up the mileage, so when all was said and done it was a hundred miles for me in 10 minutes less than 6 hours.  Even with that, the bike racks were sparsely populated when we came in the second time.

Brian decided not to ride extra with us, but he had the first beer poured of the entire event.  It led to about 10 more for all of us, watching our team, the Kern team, other friends, etc. come in for hours.  Walking through tent village was La Ruta-esque - people just clobbered themselves to finish this thing.  Medical tent lined up, people sprawled on the grass, hobbling, etc.  I guess biking a lot sorta makes me numb to the reality that pedalling a hundred kilometers is big for the population average fitness level.  We watched Ryan Leech do some trails which is always super cool to see up close - seeing world class from 8' away is always worth it.  We continued the tall tales and gong show as long as we could with the band being pretty good - but they ran out of beer (we even had cases upon cases of our own delivered).  Off to bed.  But not in my tent, someone took that.  Odd for a charity event I thought, chatted to the lady briefly.  When they have a letter and number on them, and that letter and number is not the one they emailed you in advance, you probably shouldn't put your stuff in it.

I took only a light bag and had to wear all my clothes to sleep decently, but managed fine.  Woke up to rain, and tried to get breakfast.  They sort of ran out of food, and there were hundreds behind me.  I was in one line that "closed", then shuffled to the next one, and after 10 minutes they closed too.  Probably not a good way to do it (and the beer which was charged for) considering the "customers" each bring a minimum of $2,500 of donations (and most much more).  For the sake of the charity at a minimum, these people bring invaluable (and huge) funding, and I'm sure even having one extra guy there for $2,500 bucks would have offset another pancake load or whatever.  No biggie really, I had a boost, a banana, and pack of instant oatmeal with cold water.

I loaned out extra caps, armwarmers, windbreaker, etc. this morning as we were in a steady rain and a headwind off the start - and it didn't truly ease up all day.  Start time was 7, but it seemed like people were going out well before.  I mounted at 7:02, and hadn't seen Chambers and Dunn, and asked the rest of the FirstEnergy team, but no luck.  From seeing Brian up earlier, I thought they'd be off, so off I went.  The first climb was packed 6 wide with hundreds of people, none of whom were finding it appropriate for big ring.  It's weird seeing that many people out, but fun.  Was going by hundreds of people, and met Cee, a chinese girl who latched onto me at some point.  I shoulder checked again 10 minutes later, and considering I was doing about 300W for that time period, was surprised she was still there.  I eased up to chat, and she said she should have trained more this year and only had ridden a couple times.  It got to "if it interested you, you might want to try a race" as there's a pretty impressive engine in there for a girl who's essentially first ride was this thing last year.  After a few more hills, she dropped off, I coasted, then Brian and John showed up - but from behind.

We were off to the races so to speak, as traffic dwindled now, weather was foul, and headwinds were fierce.  Remaining 70km were 3 man paceline, and somehow we ended up at the finish first (had to wait for first batch of awesome great big beef burgers to be finished).  One lady asked us if we started at 4am... funny.  I'm not entirely sure she believed us when we said "like just a couple minutes after 7".  3:29 - so a good two days of pedalling hard which I was hoping for.

Good setup at the end, would have been nice to stay and chat, but with rain, being soaked, and overall getting chilly, booking it out of there seemed wise (plus I got a ride in an ML with twice the power of mine - the AMG one).

Good weekend all in.  Tough tough riding for newbies who were getting drenched and blown around by headwinds on Sunday.  Good fundraiser, lots of fun times and stories, and good talking to those who are going/have gone through way crappier times in life than a couple hours in the rain.  And like a bunch of girls had on their t-shirts: f**k cancer.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

30 years ago today

Dad says I learned to ride a bike 30 years ago today, who would’ve thunk it’s the same way I got to work today, the same thing I did last night on a nice summer solstice ride from Priddis:

I couldn't find a photo of you on just two wheels, but this was from the weeks before.  3 years, 2 months, 5 days old and you were off to the races, so to speak, on two wheels.  I think the right photo shows you were into speed early on.

I'll never forget that day, you started on the bike path across from Irma Hall's house, and rode around the ball field to the left field area where the path went down the slope and turned.  I was laughing so hard I had trouble keeping up with you.

Apparently the basic little mechanical odometer said first summer was 256 miles.  I don’t really remember much other than the first ride by the baseball field and associated soft landing in the grass, a ride to grandpa’s house which was relatively far for that equipment (~5 miles).

The City and Bikes: Rubber Meets Road (Wall Street Journal)

Spring was a little shrill and embarrassing. There were crazed media furies about bike lanes, non-stop reports of police crackdowns, hyperbolic worries that the city was transforming into an effete Euro village. If we didn't defend our streets, the cyclists would overtake Manhattan. Mayor Bloomberg and Department of Transportation commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan would open a leg-shaving station in Union Square.

One day you'd walk down to the harbor and see the Statue of Liberty sausaged into tight shorts, sipping a Stumptown espresso and thumbing through Velonews.

But then a funny thing occurred. It got warmer, more people started riding, and the mania was eclipsed by reality.

That's the beauty of a bike, a simple machine with two wheels and zero ideology. When you can turn a pedal and feel safe, it's fun and makes sense.

And anyone can ride. There have been cheesy distortions of cycling as a trendy, elite activity—to link bike paths to ongoing gentrification, and claim the city is catering to a hipster fringe.

You want to see what a fraud that argument is? Get on a bike and ride. For every Spandexed obsessive tucked on a $3,000 carbon fiber frame you'll see 100 people of every imaginable background just trying to get to work, do their job, have fun with their kids, safely spin from A to B.

Bikes are New York fringe? Email your friends. Ask how many of them own bikes. Then ask how many of them own cars. If more of them say they own cars, look out the window. You live in Connecticut.

This is not to say there aren't problems. Safety is still a priority. Many places in the city continue to need pathways and better solutions. A ride through midtown still feels like Car-mageddon. The West Side Bike path on a weekend is a free-for-all. The Brooklyn Bridge is tourist madness—always take the saner Manhattan, if you can.

And cyclists can't be exempt from criticism. A bike rider in New York City has a responsibility to be not just an advocate but an ambassador. There's nothing worse than a haughty biker who thinks the rules don't apply to him or her.

Actually there is something worse: a haughty biker without a helmet blowing a whistle, yelling out of the corner of his or her mouth for people to get out of the way. Slow down, lunatic.

But New York's cycling momentum looks unstoppable. The city is finally closing in on a bike sharing program, in which people will be able to rent bikes for a small fee at a kiosk and return it at another kiosk at their destination. This is long overdue. It's a little embarrassing New York doesn't already have it. Washington, D.C. beat us.

Think bike sharing has nothing for you? You know the traffic nightmare of getting across town at 4:30 p.m.? Can't get a cab; subway doesn't go there; it's too far to walk. Imagine paying a couple bucks to hop on a bike, and pedal safely through the gridlock to get there in five minutes.

Naturally, there are cries that bike sharing will cause chaos, that ghastly kiosks will clutter the sidewalks, that it's another example of urban planning gone amok.

Right, of course! Paris installed bike sharing a few years ago, and now look at it. It's completely ruined; nobody goes to Paris anymore.

The revival of urban cycling in this country follows a fairly predictable pattern: nervousness and ridicule, followed by the realization that the truth never matches the fear-mongering. The supposed choice between bikes and everyone else is a bogus choice. More bikes in a city doesn't merely benefit riders; it reduces congestion, saves money, improves quality of life, elevates the experience. No one returns from a city and says, "Oh, it was great—except for all the biking."

The biggest mischaracterization about the infamous New York Cycling War is that there's a war at all.

Look all around you. The bikes have won, and it's not a terrible thing.

Write to Jason Gay at

Monday, 20 June 2011

Moving, biking, birthdaying, biking, fathers day, fun

Hmmm, blur of a weekend, sort of lost the details of the funny stories now a few days past.  A broad range of activities filled the weekend, which made it feel like a really good weekend.  Moving some furniture out from Vancouver, dining and rooftop patio sitting, awesome surprise birthday ride with Jon, Devin, Shawn and Kate (and her little dog Toby).  We got out of town late, but missed most of the rain and did Jewel Pass uphill then Razorback which was awesome on the downhill, then raced back up the Quaite valley climb and down Jewel.  When I wasn’t struggling I was having fun, especially on the down.  Kelley Nutbrown refueled us with homemade goodness for Jon’s surprise birthday party after – a great way to unwind after a ride.


Mom and dad came over for father’s day coffee and breakfast snacks, then Cindy and I rode from Priddis out Coal Mine road, but unfortunately it’s impassable as a bridge is out.  It’s a short one; I hope they can just truck in a modular one, but we’ll see.  Too bad for now. 


After that it was home for quick packing, then Cindy’s sister hosted a father’s day dinner too.  The big announcement was that some new grandparents were in the making so that’s pretty exciting stuff.


Felt good riding into work today, I’d like to do some longer rides after work this week once the skies clear – plus the Ride to Conquer Cancer thing coming up this weekend.  BC Bike Race packing needs to happen soon too.

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Organ Grinder Enduro, Canmore

The Organ Grinder didn't let down at all today, my organs were hurting after.

It was great sleeping in Canmore as we could get up a little later and watch COPS after dinner, which is a small town Motel 8 bike race tradition. Shawn made some great coffee at breakfast and the commute to the Nordic Center was under 5 minutes.

The course was longer than the XC, laps for me were 45 minutes vs. about 30 I think yesterday. Achilles seemed ok, rain didn't become miserable, upper areas were like riding a waterslide covered in peanut butter, but lower portions were fine. Yesterday's eye dropper and Devonian drop technical sections had the ass-whooper to help pummel us too. I rode everything individually, but never linked a totally clean lap. The laundry chute was the hardest for me as it was so slick. Some people saw a bear there on one of the later laps.

I got lapped by leader at 3 laps, then Shawn at about 4.15 laps. I felt fine up to fifth lap. Rolled into end of fifth lap thinking it was time to quit as it wasn't likely I was going to hammer out a 45 minute lap on my last one to get to 6, but then the timing clock said 56 minutes which was confusing relative to my watch, and I was encouraged to go out again. I got back in 50 after not feeling good for last time up the big georgetown climb, and finish was taken down. Ryan Draper lapped me (ugh) and finished a bit ahead and apparently he was first one they declined, and nobody else was between us. Not like this weekend was about impressing anyone with my results, it's just the work for nothing thing. At least I got my full 5 hours in - Nordic Center is hard riding for that amount of time.

Fun day. Geoff Clarke blew up his bike somehow, Steve Walsh had an awesome day but timers missed it, Shawn podiumed, Devin did great, Jon finished it all. Kate won, and the new girls Heather and Kate seemed to have fun.

The post race food was good, but not enough to keep me off making a bagel/steak/dijon/cheese snacks after when showering at Claire's. The Erfle family was travelling en masse, then I stopped for a totally entertaining slice of pizza at the Erfle's when I dropped his bike off on the way home. Way more dishes, cleanup, and action than an average dinner at my house.

So tired, but in a few weeks I need to do 7 of these back to back again.

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Iron Maiden XC, Canmore

I'm pumped, first ABA cross country race for me, plus a double header if my body holds out.

Started with comedy of errors. Shawn, Devin and I had a pre-planned schedule set up to carpool out to the Iron Maiden XC in Canmore, so during the morning deluge I dropped my car at Shawn's in exchange for the S-10 so I could do an exchange on some patio furniture at BBQ's Galore. Ended up pushing back the schedule a bit based on BBQ Galore's speed, construction traffic on Crowchild, and buying a few more things.

Shawn then wanted to hurry. We packed up in the rain, then went to Devin's. Devin advised that under no circumstance should we go up 17th due to construction delays. After debate, Shawn overruled and suggested we do 17th. I stated that I felt I should be indemnified for any further blame on timing. It turned out to be awful delays. Half way through a kilometre of stop and go, Shawn realized he forgot his helmet/glasses/gloves. Backtrack. Got to Devin's over an hour late and he made a sandwich so we didn't have to stop. So funny.

Got to bike race pretty late for warmup. Shawn's got the nerve issue again, I'm feeling challenged, Devin's neck is the issue. We're a beaten up group.

Course was muddy as can be. Shawn hammered home a 4th, Devin did a 7th, and I finished last but finished. Last didn't make me feel bad - intensity after lacking it felt great, I had no issues on any of the technical which felt great, achilles didn't act up (we'll see the real result when I wake up), and derrier issue wasn't great but I guess survivable.

I remember how to ride technical, it all went well. Loved it actually. Slipping in the mud, the Devonian drop with all the funny people cheering, the eye dropper early in the lap just to get fully warmed up. So good. Just need the achilles to hold out so I can do a little more (lot more) proper riding.

So good to be out riding and see everyone.


The ingredients of my patio furniture arriving, the office clearing out at 2:30pm to drop by for beverages, a spontaneous Murietta's dinner, then Shawn calling from the new West rooftop patio made a runaway night on Friday. So fun. Stay away from the grenades after midnight.

Thursday, 9 June 2011

The Road Rockets Report, Outdoors Edition One

Our charity fundraising team for the Ride to Conquer Cancer battled traffic to meet in Bragg Creek for a ride tonight. For those that made it out, it was a beautiful evening to ride - one of those we wish we had months more of in Calgary. We welcome more of you!

We wore nothing but smiles. Err, make that the smiles we had on never left our faces, and we wore bike clothes.

Ruby was like a kid with the wind blowing in her hair, but unlike a kid, missed Will's ice cream treat's post ride. Rubber side down from start to finish makes it happy and fun, and even those cattle gates didn't phase her.

Doug earned street cred with a great euro baby blue polo apres, and further hardman points by riding his mountain bike whilst not showing that he was breathing any more than usual. Note this in the annals of "Intimidation Tactics That Work".

Karen beamed smiles more than shifting gears, all the while insisting on needing to ride more. I see a solid and positive outing a few weeks away, and our pep talk designee on game day.

Angela set tempo out of the parking lot, shocking the group's legs into action... no wonder Trent was afraid to show. Lacey organised the pursuit while beleaguered Bakke cowered in his draft. Angela said she'd be offering hill pushes on the big ride for additional charitable donations. The finely shaved legs always give away a hard core cyclist.

The hills did what hills have done since the dawn of time - sifted out the groups. Lacey revealed that his year off of caloric restriction, riding on all continents, and cage fighting in his spare time have honed his killer instinct. Smelling blood early on the feeble BikingBakke, he toyed with surges on the first hills, then unleashed an attack on the last 6km climb to the summit past Elbow Falls near the end of highway 66. As Bakke crested the hill with his tail between his legs, Lacey's heart rate had already dropped to a sub 50bpm resting level and he had combed his hair for the podium ceremony later. Only later did I find out he had created a 24 page photo flip book of the exquisite mountain scenery on his iphone and had already ordered it for overnight delivery to show the family at breakfast tomorrow, "unencumbered by the FirstEnergy morning meeting" he adds.

We're in for a treat riding through the beautiful rockies for a good cause. Next week should have another outing, perhaps less susceptible to traffic hassles.

Till next week!

Monday, 6 June 2011

Getting fit, sort of.

So we'll call it effectively a month since TransPortugal, and today I did a crosstrainer machine at lunch, and actually felt like doing [moderately] hard intervals. Of course I was on a crosstrainer because I can adjust it to an angle that doesn't require movement of my Achilles, and because my derrier and cycling saddles are less compatible currently than I'm used to, but it's better than nothing...

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Canmore weekend

Beautiful weekend out in Canmore - a little fun biking both days (Cindy and Kate as the cuter than me riding pals) of the very un-hardcore variety still as my various health issue remediation is still underway, some wedding fun and dancing action, and some mountain town coffee drinking and breakfast bagel sandwich eating. Good times all around... so happy.