Thursday, December 28, 2006

6 Interesting Things

I've been tagged by both Cory and Paul. Does this mean I should list twelve things? Or just six really good ones? Here are five I can think of right now.

1. I am red-green color blind.

2. My first bike race was a 24 hour race (First Annual Iowa 24hr at Boone. I took 3rd place and won $50. Kerkove beat me by 10 laps for first).

3. I do not own a telephone. People can either call me at work or knock on my door.

4. I have never flown commercially, but have flown on private planes 4 times.

5. I have never owned a car, but I did total my boss' car last winter on the way to a race.

Monday, December 11, 2006

What's up?

What I've been up to lately:

Reading. Wendell Berry, Michael Pollan, and now Christopher Moore.

Riding. Not much. Just to and from work, but I did do this last Saturday. I'm riding the 1x1 to try and get ready for the Arrowhead.

Cooking. I've been trying to go to bed early and get up early so I can read and make myself breakfast. Mostly pancakes, fried potatoes, eggs, and sausage.

That's about it.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

TOBASCO a success

TOBASCO went well. We cut it short for time and safety reasons so we only ended up doing about 130 miles. In any case a good ride. I'll talk about it more when I have more time. For now you can look at Paul Varnum and Cory's reports and pictures.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

TOBASCO still on for Saturday!

Sorry about the long absence everybody. I haven't been around computers much and I've had other stuff on my mind so...there you have it.

TOBASCO is still on for this weekend. Start at 5am at Ledges. Cory, are you planning on camping? How are you getting out there? I'd like to ride out, but with my gear I don't know how I'd do it. Maybe one person can drive and carry gear and the rest can ride or maybe since the ride is so early we should all just drive out. I don't know. We'll make it work somehow.

Here's the final route. Print it out and bring it along. I plan on riding as a group, but you know how it can be. My use of "left" and "right" can be a little misleading in the best of times so check the map as well as the directions. I have ETAs listed at each pass through town, but keep in mind those are estimates and are perhaps a little optimistic.

Possible food stops will be in Madrid, Slater, Huxley, Cambridge, Maxwell, Gilbert, Stratford, and Boone. Other towns may be on the route, but they probably don't have anything. Be prepared to be self sufficient for at least 50 miles at a stretch (more is better). Running out of food is bad. Running out of water is worse.

Weather looks like a mystery so far. We'll see I guess.

So who all is coming? I've heard confirmation from Cory, Nick, and Eric. With no goes from Paul and Dave (who is planning his own epic in his neck of the woods). I heard rumors of participants from Cedar Falls, but fear that my long internet absence may have scared them off. Let me know (post a comment) so we don't leave without you.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

TOBASCO update

The TOBASCO ride will be held on November the 4th, starting at 5am at Ledges Park in Boone County Iowa. Here is the more or less finalized version of the course. I hope to have some directions on the map before ride time. Post a comment if you need more info or have any questions. Hopefully all will become clear as mud before the start.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Your opinion needed.

With the postponement of the Endurosnob Epic and conflicts of every variety I'm considering moving the TOBASCO ride back a couple of weeks. The 14th would work, as would the 28th, or perhaps the 4th of November. There's no need to rush the ride in order to get ready for the Epic anymore so why not? Give me a show of hands for which weekend you'd prefer.

I rode the first 50 miles of the TOBASCO route yesterday and it's looking good. There will need to be a few course tweaks, but I think everything will work out. I'll update the map soon.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Endurosnob Epic Cancelled!?!

Sad news. Snob has cancelled (okay, techincally postponed) the Endurosnob Epic. I was really looking forward to it too, reading everything I could get my hands on about the backroads of Nebraska and so on. November is a bit scary, but I was willing to risk it. I had planned on carrying emergency camp-out stuff just in case. Oh well. I'll just have to put my energy into the TOBASCO ride and then the Arrowhead.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006


In order to prepare for the Epic, I am planning my own training/fun ride on Saturday, October 7th. I am tentatively calling it the Tour of Boone and Story Counties or TOBASCO (despite the fact that it touches Marshall and pokes into Hamilton Counties and there is no hot sauce involved). Here is the tentative route.

Everyone is invited, but bring both your cruising and climbing gears. The ride will start at perhaps 4am at Ledges State park and finish when it finishes. I figure we'll start in the dark so we don't finsh too much after dark. Perhaps there'll be grilling opportunities afterwards.

Thanks to Cory and Jeff for actually publicizing this ride. Special thanks to Jeff Kerkove for the logo.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Triumphant return?

Well, when last I wrote I was preparing to ride in the 24 hour race at Seven Oaks. Preparing might be saying too much. I didn't really do anything to get ready. That might explain my less than stellar performance.

The race started out well enough. I jogged to my bike in nearly last place (right where I wanted to be) and started up the first hill. Now Seven Oaks is a course more to my liking than 9 Mile. I climbed pretty well and, though I couldn't descend the hills like some others I was doing okay and actually passing some people and keeping ahead of them. I felt pretty good that I could ride so much of the course. I rarely had to dismount or even put a foot down. I think that if I put all of the best parts of each lap together I'd only have to dismount once (and I'm so close on that one too). This early confidence may have played a part in my demise.

After four laps I was feeling pretty good and I decided that since I had plenty of water left I'd go out for one more before stopping. This was contrary to my four lap rest strategy, but I don't think that it was a big deal. I did start to notice a bit of a hot spot on my saddle, but I didn't think much of it. The fifth lap went fine and after a quick refill of my Camelbak I went out for another.

On this lap it started to rain. Not much more than a sprinkle, but if you know Seven Oaks then you know how it can be when it's wet. Most of the trail is clay. Hard and fast when dry, but slicker than snot when wet. Think of wet clay in elementary school art class. Think of the way it would get underneath your fingernails and never come out. Think of what that would do if it filled in the tread on your mountain bike tires.

So yeah, I started crashing. On the first tough downhill switchback I took it a little tight and fast and ended up running down the slickening trail with my bike wrapped around my leg. I thought I was going to break my leg, but I just ended up with a bruised knee. I remounted, confidence shaken and continued to ride. I crashed several more times, none too severe, but it caused me to walk a lot. Many places it was as tough or tougher to walk as to ride. I got to a nice flat section of trail and thought to myself, "finally, I can relax for a minute." No sooner had I thought it though than I went down hard (for no apparent reason) and left a divot by the side of the trail with my shoulder. I didn't really hurt myself here either, but I was shaken to have fallen on such an easy part of the course. I rode/walked out the rest of the course and decided to take a break.

The rain quit pretty quickly, but once again, knowing the course I knew it would take hours if not days for it to go back to good riding conditions. I sat down for a while, then lay down, then slept. After dark I awoke and thought I'd try another lap. On my way out I ran into Squirrel and chatted with him about the race. I had only been out of the race for about an hour, but he was up to lap 10 on his single-speed. I had thought that I was doing pretty well, but finding out that someone on a single was four laps ahead of me was another blow.

After that I pretty much called it quits. I hung out for a while, called Eric for a ride and was back home by about one in the morning. I found out after I changed that I had what is perhaps the hugest saddle sore that I've ever had. I guess I'm glad I stopped. Time to look into a new saddle. 6 laps, 7 hours, 42 miles isn't too bad is it?

Thinking back I realize that I was doing pretty well up until the rain hit. I've ridden two other 24 hour races at Seven Oaks and at each one it rained more (much more) than it did this year. What was different? Well, I couldn't ride the course when it was dry the first year. Rain didn't do anything but bring the competition down to my level, walking. This year, since I could ride most everything dry, rain really slowed me down. Also, the rain freaked me out, I let it scare me. I kept picturing myself crashing and that was a huge mental toll. I thought I was going to hurt myself. I stopped having fun.

I'm not sure if I'm going to do any more 24 hour races. I don't think they're my style. Point to point races are much better for me. First, there's no going around in circles which makes the race seem interminable to me. I look at a landmark, say a tree, and then, ages later, when I think I've made some progress, there it is again. I haven't gotten anywhere and I still have to ride all day. In a point to point race there is new scenery at every corner. It's the same sort of thing for me as having a bike computer telling me how fast I'm going. I keep looking at it and saying, "I'm only going 7 mph, that's crazy, I'll never make it at that rate." If I don't look, if I don't know then I can just ride and have fun. Second, there's just no quitting in a p-to-p. If you're out in the middle of nowhere 20 miles from a town, you still have to go 20 miles to that town. In a 24 It's too easy to quit when the going gets hard. All you have to do is finish out the lap and stop. Not being able to quit makes me work through tough periods in the race and keep rolling. I end up enjoying it more. Finally, I don't pass or get passed constantly on a p-to-p. In a 24 you're always either coming up on someone (rare for me) or having to get over for someone else. It breaks my momentum and makes me feel like I'm going nowhere.

Which brings me to my next topic:

The Endurosnob Epic
Finally, a point to point race. 300 miles of gravel and dirt roads. There are some great photos on the Snob's blog. This sort of terrain really makes me want to get out and ride. Just, what, seven weeks to go? I'd better get rolling. And you'd better sign up. The deadline is October 15th and we need some more people to make this race go. Nick? Cory? Paul? get on it.

In order to prepare for the Epic, I am planning my own training/fun ride on Saturday, October 8th. I am tentatively calling it the Tour of Boone and Story Counties or TOBASCO (despite the fact that it touches Marshall and pokes into Hamilton Counties and there is no hot sauce involved). Here is the tentative route.

Everyone is invited, but bring both your cruising and climbing gears. The ride will start at perhaps 4am at Ledges State park and finish when it finishes. I figure we'll start in the dark so we don't finsh too much after dark. Perhaps there'll be grilling opportunities afterwards.

I will be checking out portions of the route this Saturday and Sunday to make sure they are actually there. Most of this route I have ridden before, but some parts are new territory. Check out the elevation maps! I've saved the best for last.

The Arrowhead is on!
I'm all signed up for the Arrowhead Ultra again this year. Hopefully I'll make it in. There's a 50 rider limit and those 50 will be determined based on a ride/training resume. I think this is the first time I've had to turn in a resume. And for a race no less. I hope to get some extremely slow riding in this December and January to prepare for the inevitable pace of the race.

Since I last wrote I've read one book twice, Wendell Berry's novel, Jayber Crow. This is a break from my usual routine. I usually read a book and then quickly move on to the next, but this one caught my attention so much that I had to read it again. This is certainly the best book I've read in the past couple of years and perhaps the best book I've ever read. I won't say too much about it since I can't do it justice, just read it yourself.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

The elves have been lazy.

Not much time. I'm at work so here it goes.

I have a new (old) bike. An old Schwinn that I'm turning into a Grant Peterson bike. Cotton bar tape and eventually a Brooks saddle. Looks nice.

50 mile ride with Cory last weekend. Lots of nice B roads. The pictures don't do it justice.

Thinking about putting on a 15o+ mile ride in October. You'll probably need lights.

24 hour race in Boone this weekend. I signed up. Now I've got to do it. How to get motivated?

Books I've been reading:
Harlan Ellison, various short stories. More to say on this later.
F. Paul Wilson, The Keep. Dracula vs. the Nazis. What more can I say.
Edward Abbey, The Monkey Wrench Gang. A nice fantasy.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Stealing the internet

I went for a gravel ride Sunday. I used the route that I'd planned on using a few weeks ago, but a little more successfully. Nick and I left at about 11 Sunday morning and began our leisurely tour of the Dragoon Trail in Boone County.

It was warm and hazy for the first 25 miles or so, but as we climbed up from the Wagon Wheel bridge we started to hear thunder and feel the drops. From there until we finished at about 7 it was nothing but rain. The rain wasn't too bad, goodness knows I'm used to it, but it stung a little on the downhills when I got going fast and I couldn't see too well. Speaking of stung, around mile 23 or so I was stung by some sort of insect that got caught in my beard. It hurt, but what more can I say about that.

After an hour or so of heavy downpour the gravel started getting soupy. I could tell when I was getting into the soft stuff because my tires would start to roar like there was an old truck coming up from behind. That and I'd slow way down. Around mile 40 the gravel got so bad that I was in my 34x25 low gear and struggling on the flats.

I always look forward to the Y Camp hill (mile 46) on 166th Ave because it's the steepest toughest thing around, but it was too much this time. Things were going pretty well most of the way up, but just as I could see the big willow at the top a car came up from behind and I moved over to make some room. The soft gravel at the side of the road did me in. I walked the last 100 yards or so. Nick, coming up from behind, saw me walking and gave up himself. I probably would have done the same. We took a long break at the top and ate my emergency Power Bar to try and recover. That's the first time I've been defeated by that hill. I vow revenge.

By mile 55 or so we were both spent. The hills and the soft gravel were too much. Nick was having to stop every mile or so to rest, and truth be told, I wasn't doing much better (not that I'd admit it). With about 8 miles to go we hopped on the paved road back to Ames. It was amazing how my bike, even with knobbies on, seemed to pedal itself down the road. A huge relief from the mushy gravel (worse than the gravel on
TI2, good thing there weren't any B roads). Roadies have it too easy, I say.

Quick Links:
I'm trying to add some links in my text to make this blog more accessible to those who don't know what I'm talking about. Here are some extras.

Confrontation isn't my style. This seems more like it. Nice bike Lindsay.

I won't be making the GTDRI this weekend. Unfortunately I'll be working. I guess someone has to.

Sunday, August 13, 2006


I've had a busy couple of weeks. Nine Mile, visiting family in Michigan, and moving have all kept me from blogging as I ought. Where to start?

Moving has been an experience. I'm moving most of my stuff by bike and since I don't have to be out of my old place right away I'm taking my time. So far I've moved most of my clothes and about half of my books. I'm trying to get organized and get rid of excess stuff at the same time. We'll see how that goes

The new place will not have a TV, internet, or a telephone (my choice) so I'll be more out of touch than ever. I hope to continue my blogging at work and at the library, but since most of my thinking is done at night I'm not sure how that'll work out. I might find myself a computer to use as a glorified typewriter and write out entries at night and then upload them the next morning at work.

Since my roommate and I agree on sparing use of A/C and he has even later nights than I, it seems as though I'm back in the dorms. The humidity, late nights alone, lack of worries about waking anyone up, and the insular environment are similar to those times I spent pacing back and forth sporadically listening to music, thinking, and reading in my college days. I kind of like it and I feel as though I could sink back into that sort of vague existential mood I embraced back then. I think that might be a mistake though. I should really be getting out and doing things, becoming more active, rather than staring at walls for hours on end. I'm older than I used to be and don't feel like wasting my life all over again.

Please excuse any misspellings. The spellchecker is down.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

24 Hours of Excuses

Oi, Nine Mile wasn't what I'd hoped it would be. Despite my moderate ranking, I'm pretty disappointed with my performance. No one to blame but myself though. Here's the run down.

The course wasn't what I was expecting. I had heard that it was fast and not too technical, but I didn't really know what I was getting into. I guess it's where I live, but I have always felt that a mountain bike course is defined by the climbs. Instead of being hilly though the course was virtually flat. There were a few climbs, but they were all middle chainring stuff, nothing you had to gear down and grind up. I also expect tight singletrack with switchbacks heading up the climbs. Instead the course was rolling open double track for about 2/3 of it's length. Actually this part of the course was kind of fun and made me wish I had brought my cross bike.

The other third of the course was tight twisting singletrack that seemed to go nowhere. While the course was flat it was also bumpy in these parts. I'm not used to tight and flat and combined with the bumps there was just no way I could conserve momentum. Some people really seemed to fly through these parts, but I just couldn't do it.

The biggest problem on the singletrack though were the rock gardens. There were more rocks on that course than in the whole of Iowa, it seemed. I've never ridden anything like it and I didn't know how to pick lines or keep my momentum up through these sections. I got the impression though that rocks like this, or worse, are par for mountain bike courses in much of the country. Most people seemed to handle them well and flow right over and through these sections.

On the open sections my endurance training came in handy and I'd pass a lot of people who were struggling while I was barely pushing the pedals, but as soon as we got to the singletrack my weakness showed and all of the people I had passed and more caught and passed me. It was frustrating yo-yoing back and forth like that. I felt like I should be more consistent, like I was going too hard on the doubletrack, but I never felt like I was working too hard or even breathing hard. I even saw some people climbing short hills in their lowest gear and having trouble, I don't get it. Am I a good rider or not. I couldn't figure it out.

All the tedious singletrack wore on me pretty quick. By lap four I was starting to dread those sections. I had forgotten commandment one of endurance racing: ride your own race. If I had been thinking straight I would have said to myself, "just walk the parts you can't ride and don't worry about everyone else," but I didn't. I became annoyed with myself for not being able to ride what I figured were easy singletrack and rock sections. I guess I considered them easy because I wasn't busting a lung out there. I never had to catch my breath or felt my legs burning. It wasn't mountain biking the way I know it.

On lap five I had a hard crash transitioning from the singletrack to the road. I caught my crank on some dirt and was launched over the handlebars. I landed squarely on my chest. For a second I thought I had knocked the wind out of myself, but I hadn't. I grabbed the bike and pulled it off the course and started to get a serious head rush. I felt dizzy, my head hurt, and I heard buzzing in my ears. I had to sit down. I knew I couldn't ride that way. I began to wish that I had hurt myself worse so that I could drop out of the race. I knew the damage wasn't that bad though. It would just be an excuse. After a few minutes my head cleared and I started to ride again. My head wasn't in it anymore though. I felt tired, not physically, but mentally. I wanted to quit.

I finished out the lap and started another, but noticed that when I started to breathe heavily my chest hurt. I also started to feel sleepy. That was enough for me. After the end of lap six I went back to my camp. I figured that I would rest for a while and see if I felt better later, but I really didn't expect to. I went and chatted with Kyle and Ron from Irwin's and then decided to go to bed. I knew that I shouldn't have quit, but by that time it was dark and I was dreading riding the rocks in the dark. I kept picturing myself falling and breaking an arm or something. Looking back it wouldn't have been a problem if I had ridden my own race and just walked when I felt like it. I couldn't sleep and my body wasn't tired or sore, but my mind didn't want to race anymore.

I finally fell asleep with the thought that once it was light I'd get in a final lap or two, but the weather had other plans. At about 5:30 in the morning the storms started again. The wind wasn't as bad as the previous night, but the rain and lightning were worse. Again I thought of riding on slippery rocks, falling, and breaking an arm. I got up and walked around for a while, took a shower, and called it quits. It turns out that after a bit of a fiasco with delays and restarts the race was called at 5:30. I couldn't have gotten those last few laps in anyway.

If there's anything I've learned from this race it's to not pay attention to perceptions of what I should be doing and focus on what I can and am doing. In my first 24 hour race I couldn't ride large chunks of the course, but that didn't deter me. I just swallowed my pride and walked up those hills. If I had done the same thing at Nine Mile I would have gotten in probably four more laps without much trouble. Looking back my lap times weren't that bad. If I had continued at that pace, or even a little slower I would have been fine. As it was I did 80 miles in 10 hours with no physical exhaustion or soreness. That is at least some sort of accomplishment.

It was worth going up just to see everybody from my previous races. Endurosnob, Paddy, Simmons, and Kerkove from Trans Iowa, Charlie Farrow from the Arrowhead and more whose names elude me just now. It was good to go to a race of almost 900 people and still feel like I was known and welcomed. Maybe I'll give it another shot next year

For now I'll just have to look forward to the 24 at Seven Oaks. Now that's a course I can get into. Climbs like you wouldn't believe. Bring your granny ring and your good set of lungs
. If you're looking for a good small 24 I can't recommend it enough.

As to that riser stem, Paddy, I love it. It is part of the solution to hand numbness problems I'd had on other 24s. That along with the Ergon grips kept my hands feeling great all ride. I even rode the first four laps without gloves (I'd meant to wear them, but I forgot and didn't want to stop) and felt great. Yeah, it looks funny, but so do I.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Almost ready...I think.

The bike is good to go. I installed a new rear derailleur, chain, and shifters today, all SRAM. No bell though. I couldn't find one I liked. The bike is cleaner than it's been in years (not saying much) and everything has been inspected. Nothing could possibly go wrong...Right?

The clothes are in the washer and I'm starting to get all my gear together. Now I just need to stock up on some food, drink, and chamois cream. Anything else I'm forgetting?

I think I might make my goal for the race 200 miles. I don't really know if that's reasonable or not. I'd have to do 15 laps at an average speed of just over 8 mph. Seems slow I know, but I'm a pretty slow mountain biker. Actually, after some thought that's about twice as fast as I did the Arrowhead (with sleep) or 2/3 of my Dirty Kanza speed. Maybe I can do it if the course is willing.

In literature:

I returned a book to the library unfinished today. Thomas Pynchon's
V. wasn't doing it for me. It seemed too much like something assigned in a high school lit class. Well written to be sure, but I just couldn't connect with it. 100 pages in and nothing but party hopping.

Something I often look for in a book is that I can empathize with what is going on. I couldn't do that with this book. I didn't see any of myself in it. Now, a good book can make the alien seem familiar or the familiar seem alien and I can respect that, but this was just keeping the alien alien to me. Besides, the symbolism was a little bit heavy and that always gets me.

I decided to try the book because one of the blurbs on the cover of a Phillip K. Dick book I was reading called Dick a "poor man's Pynchon." Well, why not try the rich man's Pynchon I thought. I returned it and checked out another Dick novel.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Nat'l Champ? No.

I've got my ride up to 9 Mile all set up. I'll be RVing in style with some guys from Irwin's in DSM. The trade off is I have to be willing to go to quilting shops with the support crew/drivers. I'm doing the solo thing, but I won't be Nat'l Champ material. I didn't want to pay for a license and heck, I know I don't have a chance anyway so I'm just a "solo freak." I'm still thinking about bringing up the 1x1 just in case, but I really think I'll ride the Rocket 88. I've got some new SRAM X7 and X9 stuff for it and I can't let that go to waste. Is it okay to do major parts overhauls days before a big race? I thought not.

Actually this isn't really a big race for me. I'm going to take it pretty easy. I think I'm going to focus more on the point-to-point endurance stuff rather than the 12 and 24 scene. My real goal is seeing how long I can make it before sacking out. I'd like to do the whole 24 without sleep, but based on past experience 2am is the latest I can make it without a nap.

I'm not really into the 24 thing. Something about crowds and going around in circles. Seriously though, the crowds do scare me and the partying. I don't know if I want to be on the trail with that many hooligans (and I mean that in the best possible way Dave). I probably should have done the Laramie Enduro. I've always wanted to go to Laramie and 70 miles of mountainbikeing seems like a good excuse. Oh, well. Next year.

Non-bike stuff: My friend Pinky challenged me to write a short story and so I did. We settled on a Sci-Fi time travel theme. It's pretty short. Maybe a page or two. It's not ready for the public yet though so you'll all have to wait before you see it...Maybe a long time.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Movie Reviews

I've seen more than my share of movies in the last few weeks as well. Here are some one minute reviews.

It's a Superman movie. What did you expect? It's got all the essentials: Lois Lane, Lex Luthor, kryptonite, etc.. The new actor looks too much like Christopher Reeves. The whole 'son of Superman' thing doesn't work. Pretty thin really. And let me get this straight. Superman can get stabbed with a shard of kryptonite, almost die, barely be able to stand, then suck it up and still save the world by lifting a continent into space? I want a refund on my kryptonite. It just doesn't hurt Kryptonians like it used to.

Pirates of the Caribbean 2:
Not too bad. At some point the love story got lost (as though anyone was paying attention) and it turned into a vehicle for action (well, I guess that's no surprise). Good effects, some great sequences, but it doesn't hang together like the first one. Some action sequences seemed to last forever. The film was about 30 minutes too long. I'll see #3, but probably on videotape like I saw Star Wars Episode 3.

The Aristocrats:
A film about a joke that isn't funny. I know that no one will listen to me, but this is a pretty worthless documentary. I know you'll go out and see it anyway, I guess you have to, but the film has little redeeming value. It is disturbing and gross at the best of times and pretty boring most others. The high point of this film is Gilbert Gottfried. Enough said. See it anyway.

A Scanner Darkly:
I just saw this one tonight so I haven't had time to wax pessimistic about it. Good film. A good examination of drug addiction and drug culture. It delves deeply into realms of paranoia and helplessness, using others and being used. From what little I know of the addicted personality this seems to be accurate. At times we can laugh at the absurd actions of the characters, but at others we have to cringe at their logic and rationality in irrational situations. I like the cringing. It also goes into drug rehabilitation and recovery though not as much as I would have liked. This is a topic that has deep interest to me. So yeah, see it. It's some of Phillip K. Dick's best writing adapted for the screen. I'll have to read the book now, though I wish I had read it before seeing the film.

Sunday, July 23, 2006


Gravel Grinder:
Two weeks ago I did a gravel ride with Eric. It was a hot day and neither of us were really prepared. It was Eric's first gravel ride and with a new bike to boot. I decided to really put the hurt to him and plotted a tough hilly route through the Des Moines river valley. By about mile 32 the hills had been enough for Eric and I wasn't feeling too good either. We turned around, headed into Boone, ate some sliced turkey and rode back to Ames. Not a bad ride, but we'll do better next time. We were chased by only one dog. A big disappointment there.

Bob Roll just said "Bougie."
What can I say. I've been watching the Tour these past few weeks and that has kept me from writing as I should. Now it's over and hopefully things can get back to normal.

Lantern Rouge:

That's French for dead last. That's how I did in the Iowa Games this year. In the time trial I was last in my age group and missed my goal of 30 minutes for the 20k race. The mountain bike race was indefinitely postponed. Then there was the road race. To make a long story short I was dropped by the peloton after about 5 miles and had to ride the rest of the 52 mile race alone and way off the back. At the feed zone (where I had no one to feed me) at mile 26 someone yelled, "nice effort." Great. Just what I wanted to hear. With about 10 miles left to go the race director's van started following me down the road pulling up race signs and markings. As soon as I crossed the finish line they pulled it up off the road. Demoralizing. I hope that 9 mile isn't so bad.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Crosscheck Challenge

Here's tomorrow's route for all of you following from home. Lots of hills, mostly gravel. Start at 1:00pm, my house. End at Stomping Grounds sometime before dark. What else you want?

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Dog Gone Ride this weekend

Just a quick post today. Sunday is looking good for a gravel grinder. I'm thinking about doing a route that I did before TI where I was chased by, at least, 30 dogs. Up to 5 at a time. It'll probably be better with a group. Lots of hills and I might throw in an extra section down by Ledges just for fun. Eric and Nick are coming for sure, I think Cory knows about it, but everybody's welcome (sorry I didn't get in touch with you last weekend Paul). I wanted to write more, but, you see, there was this bike race on TV that I just had to watch.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

It's the Pits for me.

I felt pretty awful today so it's a good thing that Eric and Cory showed up and dragged me off of the couch for a ride. I had woken up early for work, not eaten, drank a beer after work, and all I really wanted to do is sleep. I was really hoping that no one would show and I could just go on sleeping.

Originally the plan was to ride at Seven Oaks, but the clay soil out there is notorious for slippery footing after rain. Plan B was a gravel ride, but that didn't sound too exciting so we compromised on a ride out to Peterson Pits. We pushed pretty hard going out and gave Eric a taste of gravel riding. None of us were really set up for gravel. Eric was on his single speed and Cory and I were on full suspension bikes.

Once we got out to the pits we previewed the Iowa Games race course. Much of the time we rode at speed, but after a while we mellowed out and just rode. My bike was acting as a stick magnet and as soon as I got one out of the derailleur another got caught. I think my shifting is a little off now, hopefully I can get it taken care of when my SRAM X-7 stuff shows. Horses had torn up the trail pretty badly and I'm not sure whether having suspension was a help or a hindrance. With all the little bumps it seemed like the suspension was always active and dragging me back. I think I would have been happier on a rigid bike using my legs and arms for suspension. Probably I need to get a rear shock with adjustable rebound, but I'm too cheap.

As we were headed south along the river I tried to hop over a log and crashed. My first thought was that I had fallen poorly and landed on my hands which is a mistake, a good way to break a wrist. Then, seeing that my wrist was okay, I checked my knee which had hit pretty hard, but it seemed okay. I got up and started riding again only to realize a little further down the trail that my right leg near the Achilles tendon was pretty scraped up. I stopped a bit further on and had a look at it. It was ugly. It looked like someone had taken a potato peeler to the back of my leg and ankle. There was a four inch "peel" of skin hanging off.

I don't usually carry a first aid kit with me while riding. I've never had an injury that I felt needed attention. I figure the injuries I'm really worried about are broken bones and there isn't really much I can do with a first aid kit for that. This is the first time I've wanted something. It wasn't a serious injury, but it looked bad and I wanted a bandage to cover it up. Pretty much all I could do was remove the flap of skin and keep riding.

After that we decided to head back home. It was a pretty short ride overall. A little under 3 hours, but it was good to get out and stretch the legs. It made me feel a lot better overall. The ankle injury isn't too bad. It just looks like someone painted a red stripe on the back of my leg.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Does this mean Hushovd will win?

The satellite TV is working better today so I've been watching the Tour. The Tour isn't really all that exciting at this point. I'm more enjoying the sight of bicycles on television. All this doping controversy along with that one guy who won like seven times or something has got me thinking though.

I think that the prevalence of the "who wants it more" attitude has made doping inevitable. The person who wants it more is obviously the one who cheats. Of course the race isn't really about who wants it more. It is about who is the best cyclist. I'd bet that the guy in second wants to win as much as (or more than) the guy in first. However, the person who wants it more might be willing to do something a little underhanded to get the win. I guess that's pretty obvious, but at the top levels everyone want to win so much that cheating is an unsurprising result.

I'm glad that I don't care about winning that much. I think that's why I go in for the endurance events. The race is as much against myself as it is against anyone else. Especially in the point-to-point races or extreme conditions races it is just a challenge to finish. When I signed up for the Arrowhead race all I wanted to do was finish. I was really pleased with my result, but mostly I'm glad I finished. In a way I'm glad that I didn't manage to finish Trans-Iowa because that makes finishing the others more meaningful. I'm not testing myself if I succeed every time. What's the point of cheating when the only one who cares is you and you'll be happy just making it to the finish line.

Another phenomena that I've noticed is that of the comeback from injury and eventual triumph. Think of LeMond after his shotgun wound, or diver Greg Lougainis after hitting his head on the board in the Olympics, not to mention that one guy with cancer. I can think of other examples from people I know. The formula seems to be: be close to the top of your game, get hurt, recover and gain sympathy, come back and win.

It's possible that it's just a fluke, that for every miraculous recovery there are dozens of normal wins, or maybe it's just that at the top of any sport you're almost guaranteed to get hurt at some time (okay, this doesn't work for LeMond or Armstrong, but it might apply to many others who suffer from sport related injury, think of mogul skiers and knee surgeries). It seems to apply in other walks of life too. Almost die climbing a mountain, become successful in business. Recover from alcoholism and become president.

Whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger...right? I don't think so. I've seen too many contrary examples. I think people just like a good story. In any case please don't push me down the stairs and think you're doing me a favor.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Rained out at Seven Oaks

Well, I did that Seven Oaks ride I was talking about, but it didn't turn out the way I'd planned. I rode out Saturday at about 4pm and got there with plenty of time to spare. The wind was pretty strong out of the west so I had to gear down on the gravel. I was only chased by one dog so I'd consider that a success.

Once I got there I set up my hammock to hold my campsite and went out on the trail. There were a surprising number of campers there (probably because of the holiday and free camping), but none of them looked like cyclists. I had really hoped to have the place to myself, but I should have known better. The trail was in good shape, dry and packed, and I was able to clean some sections that I hadn't been able to ride before. Four dabs and three dismounts for the first lap. I'm slowly becoming a better technical rider. After the first lap I laid down in my hammock and rested for a while. After about half an hour of rest I went out for a second lap. I did better as far as dabs go, I don't think I had any, but I dismounted four times and one of those was over the handlebars. I still can't get the hang of those downhill switchbacks.

After that I made some mac & cheese, tried a yogurt granola bar (pretty good, thanks Amy) and laid down for some more rest. It was tough to relax the way I'd wanted to with the other campers though. They had some bad music blaring, kids crying, 4x4 pickups revving, and other general noisiness. A little before dark the races started up at the Boone raceway to add to the general hubbub. Did I mention that you can hear Hwy 30 and the railroad tracks well too? I think I should have opted to ride into one of the harder to access campsites down in the woods. It would have been a lot quieter, but I would have had more insect problems.

Just after dark I started to hear thunder, I hoped it would pass me by, but it just kept getting closer. I got up and rigged my tarp over top of the hammock and hoped for the best. Shortly thereafter it started to rain. I hoped it would be one of those quick rainshowers, but I wasn't in luck. The storm lasted all night. At first I stayed pretty dry, but then I started to get splashed and the longer it lasted and the harder it rained the wetter I got. I started to get cold and though I knew I wasn't in any life threatening danger I knew I wouldn't get much sleep if I didn't warm up. I hadn't brought a sleeping bag since I hadn't counted on getting cold, but I had brought my emergency blanket. You know, one of those Mylar sheets. I've used them before and they aren't too bad, but they don't breathe at all. So I had to choose, damp and cold, or soaked and warm. I chose soaked and warm.

I could feel water trickling down my body and insects crawling all over me, but I was too tired and uncomfortable to do anything about it. At least the thunder and rain cut down on the disruptive noise. I put up with it until morning when I decided I'd had enough and got up to make some breakfast. I've had some pretty miserable nights out and this wasn't the worst, but it definitely ranks as "miserable." I pulled quite a few bugs out of my gear, including two grasshoppers and a spider out of my helmet. After making some more mac & cheese I decided to pack it in.

I had planned to stick around for the IORCA State Championships today, but I thought that with the rain and so on the race would be cancelled and I didn't want to spend $30 to ride (if you can call it riding) on a muddy course. I rode home through Boone on the pavement in the rain and had to wait for a long train at Jordan, but I got home pretty quick anyway. I was home by 8:40. I hung up my wet things, showered, and took a nap to make up for the restless night.

So yeah, I guess I had a good time. Hopefully the trail will dry out by Tuesday for Cory and I and anyone else who'll be joining us (Paul? Eric? Nick?). I'll have to rethink my packing list for ultralight camping though. I don't really care to be that miserable on a longer trip.

Update: it seems that the championships were not cancelled. Oh well. I'm a slow XC rider anyway. I'm trying to watch the Tour on OLN, but our satellite reception is horrendous. Sometimes I can tell they're on bikes but most of the time it's colored squares and "Geo...capie...Pelo...eak awa..." and so on.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Book Review: The Man in the High Tower

I just finished reading Philip K. Dick's The Man in the High Tower. Briefly it is an alternate timeline wherein Germany and Japan win World War II. Nothing too exciting about that. Now how does Dick deal with it?

Dick's world has the two Axis powers dividing up the U.S. much as the Allied powers did with Germany. The Japanese are largely benevolent towards the occupied lands, however Germany continues along a path of extermination and police/military rule. The two Axis powers are also positioned in a sort of Cold War much like that between the U.S. and Soviet Union with proxy wars being fought in regions of Asia and South America. It seems that Dick doesn't want to stray too much from actual history here, but rather attempts to merely juxtapose the players.

One interesting facet of alternate histories for me is the possibility that moral problems are historically constructed. Winners write their own history. Portraying Nazi Germany as a "good" victor would be challenging and interesting version of events. Disturbing sure, but imagining a world where what was done was good is the kind of stretch I look for in this sort of book. Dick does a little of this, but ultimately the Nazis are still disfunctional and evil in his opinion.

One major theme in his book is the concept of "historicity" or that which separates the historical from the mundane. Think of the difference between a flag and a flag flown over the White House. Same object, but one gains a certain (though limited) amount of historicity. To illustrate this some of Dick's characters are forgers of historical artifacts. They have no qualms about flooding the antiques market with forgeries of Civil War revolvers and Mickey Mouse watches. Through the course of the book one particular forged item becomes a piece of history and must be contemplated as such. What is this ephemeral "historicity" is it real and what is it good for? Something to consider in the age of E-Bay where a wad of celebrity chewed bubble gum is worth bidding for.

Another theme is that of reality versus fiction. Dick presents us with a book within a book, The Grasshopper Lies Heavy. This book presents the characters with an alternate reality in which the Allies won the war. Although different from the way things actually turned out it does turn the eye of the character back towards the reader. This becomes even more convoluted when a few of the characters come to the conclusion that the events of The Grasshopper Lies Heavy are reality and they are living in a false world (Interestingly the notion that they are living in a false world makes historicity impossible).

What does it mean to live in a false world? It doesn't make sense to me to say that although everything that we see says one thing, what is actually going on is another. Why would anyone believe that the events of a book are more real than what they live every day? It seems as ephemeral as historicity. There are some clear parallels here to The Matrix movie, but in that case there is a real difference (however unlikely one is to find it). I might recommend the film Total Recall as an example of this inability to distinguish real from unreal (Not suprisingly Total Recall is based on Dick's own short story We Can Remember It For You Wholesale, which I have yet to read). This theme of living in a false world also harkens to Dick's own belief that we are actually living in ancient Rome and history has not progressed from there. It's a tough one to buy into.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Races anyone?

I took Cory's lead and signed up for Iowa Games today. I'm planning on riding to each event and doing every event on the same bike. Gotta have a gimmick.

I was planning on riding at Seven Oaks this weekend, but as Paul pointed out there's a race there on Sunday. Well, I wasn't really planning on racing this weekend, but I might just do it. There's free camping the night before so I think I might ride out on Saturday, do a couple of practice laps and work on my skills, then camp out and do the race in the morning. It'd be a pretty good weekend adventure and perhaps I need one of those. In some ways I hate XC racing, mostly because I'm not any good at it, but it can be a powerful motivator for improvement. Even if I decide not to race I could ride out, camp, and watch the race. That wouldn't be so bad. I'd get all the riding and wouldn't have to compete or spend too much money. Besides, I need to try out my ultra-lightweight camping setup.

Oh, and the IORCA website says that Seven Oaks is 7 miles now that they've added another 1.5 miles of trail. But I thought it was 7 miles two years ago. I don't know who to believe anymore.

Why do I have to do everything X-treme?

Monday, June 26, 2006

Blog resolve fading

I've been terrible about posting. Sometimes I get on these kicks where I do something religiously (brush my teeth, cook for myself, bike every weekend, etc.) for a while, but then I skip one day and everything falls apart. Classes while I was in school were like this, as was martial arts when I did that, and fencing too. I don't like being the kind of person who is so flaky when it comes to commitments, especially self-commitments. I don't know if it's a responsibility thing, wanting to quit, or just laziness. In any case I don't want blogging to become like that. I really do want to learn to write better and I think that this is helping. By the way, harassing me about it won't help. As my friends and parents know, this can solidify my failure into a will to fail.

Wedding Attended:

My roommates got married last Saturday. It was a good ceremony and reception, not much more to say about that. They had some edible Legos as party favors (or whatever they're called at weddings) and that was pretty neat. As usual when I get dressed up I forgot something. This time I forgot my belt and had mismatched shoes. I tried to find a belt at my parents' house, but there was no hope of wearing the two belts I found in my father's closet. As for the mismatched shoes, I have two pairs of dress shoes and they look pretty similar. Every so often I grab the wrong two. At least this time I got a right and a left rather than two rights that I grabbed for another wedding.

Mountain bikes ridden:
Bob and I went biking at Seven Oaks after work today. According to Bob's cycle-computer the course is now a full 12 miles. Wow, it's tough. The first half is very tight and there is a lot of climbing and not a lot of opportunities for carrying speed or resting. The second half is much more relaxed and makes you feel like you can at least attempt another lap.

I only crashed a couple of times and I seem to be getting pretty good at the uphill switchbacks. The downhill switchbacks are another story however. I get unnerved and feel like I'm going to crash. One of these days I'll gain some confidence on these and then I'll be a much better rider. I'd better hurry though. 24 hours of 9 Mile is coming up soon. Oh, and if anyone is heading through or near Ames on their way up to Wausau and has room for another bike and rider I'd like to beg a ride.

Adding to the list of demoralizing things I've heard recently:
Dave Nice, the awesome guy whom I met on TI, had his bike stolen on the GDR. Add this to the rash of stolen seatposts and headlights in Ames, the theft of a good customer's new (and well deserved) bike, and a cyclist getting beaten up by an SUVer in Des Moines and you might say I'm not feeling so great about being a cyclist. Sometimes I feel like the whole world is against us. I know I shouldn't let it get me down, but somedays I feel like throwing in the towel, getting a car, a credit card, phone, mortgage, and taking up golf. I suppose golfers have their problems too.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Psychologists as portrayed in Sci-Fi

Lately I've been reading a fair amount of science fiction. The past five books I've read have all been by Frank Herbert (of Dune fame) and Philip K. Dick (best known for Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep). All of these five books have had psychologists/psychiatrists as supporting if not main characters. Psychological professionals as presented in these novels are very different from the way I typically think of them.

Herbert portrays them as all knowing behavior predictors. They are able to tell what a person will do far in advance and use that information to advance their agendas. Psychology is an accurate and predictive science in Herbert's view. This seems to imply a rather simplistic model of the human mind. As if psychology were like elementary physics and we could predict behavior as though it were a cannonball on a trajectory. In reality it isn't so easy. No reputable psychologist would venture much more than an ordinary human guess at what a particular person might do in a particular situation. There are just too many variables to consider in each person. The science deals more in generalities than specifics. They can say what many people would do (and perhaps propose an explanation why), but not what the individual person would do.

Herbert's view seems like it might have had some weight in the popular media forty years ago when he was writing, but it seems to have little now. Science fiction is sometimes portrayed as a picture of the future. Viewed this way we can see that Herbert thought that psychology would someday become like the 'hard' sciences and be a predictive tool. Looking from where we are today though it seems foolish. We would never expect Dr. Phil to be a swami who knew what others were thinking and could control them with a word or gesture.

Dick shows psychologists as inept know-it-alls who have a psychobabble explanation and a snake-oil cure for any problem. In some respects he sees them similarly to Herbert: he sees them as people who believe that they hold the key to human behavior. They think that they see the true motives behind actions and have some control over them. In fact they are deluding themselves with their own fancy words and concepts.

Dick presents the popular view of the psychoanalyst who can come up with an after-the-fact reason why someone has done something. Dick is critical of these psychoanalysts and sees them as vain and self-important people who believe that they have it all figured out, but can't make heads or tails of their own lives. This cynical view helps Dick to give more credibility to the views of 'insane' people, a theme that appears again and again in his novels.

The psychologists, psychiatrists, and psychoanalysts whom I have known don't tend to fit in either of these models. First, no one takes Herbert's predictive model seriously. As far as Dick's view goes, most psychologists and psychiatrists won't venture into the realms of motivations or mental states, but stick to simple correlations. In the case of clinical psychologists and psychoanalysts, most are hesitant to offer up patent explanations for behaviors and would rather listen and offer a few suggestions or hints to help the patient/client.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Atkins' Diet + endurance ride = bonk.

I went for an epic ride with Cory yesterday. It was to be a simple gravel cruise on the Rocket 88, but events conspired to make it a long 5 hours on the bike. Lets look at what these events were:

1. It was a longer ride than either of us figured. Cory's estimate going in was 50+ miles, but after some quick and dirty calculations with the map it seems that we went at least 60 miles. Now an extra 10 miles doesn't seem like much, but consider item 2.

2. We both ran out of water with about 10 miles to go. Cory ran out a little before me, but he seemed to be in better shape during the second half of the ride. I was really dragging and while no water for 10 miles usually wouldn't be too significant, consider item 3.

3. It was over 90 degrees out. I was unprepared for the heat. I didn't have anything in the way of electrolytes and only a little food, which brings me to point 4.

4. I didn't eat any breakfast that morning. I rarely do before rides and usually it doesn't make much difference, but I think that it could have helped for this ride. Besides, I didn't have anything in the house that I could have eaten for breakfast, see item 5.

5. I had accidentally gone on the Atkins' Diet for the previous couple of days. I happened to have a lot of eggs and hamburger around so that's what I had been eating. Hamburger omelets. I did have a little ramen, but that hardly counts. I really needed more carbs in order to do a ride like that.

So that's about it for analysis. Next time I'll know a little better. Not that I'll listen to what I know, but at least I'll know it.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Book Review: Guns, Germs, and Steel

Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs, and Steel explores the topic of human history through a rarely seen and yet compelling lens. Diamond sees history as the interplay of evolution and accident (one in the same by some accounts, notably mine). First I'll explore what is meant by evolution and accident.

Evolution, in biology, is generally thought of as "survival of the fittest." We think of one species being better suited to a climate or food source and prospering while another is poorly suited and failing. In the short run this is a reasonably accurate view. However, evolution is not a short term process. We have to ask ourselves, how did these two species become different. This leads us to the true mechanism of evolution, accident.

In some sense, evolution might be thought of as "survival of the luckiest." By this I just mean that if one species happens to live in a particular place it will do well, while if it happens to live in another it will do poorly. The same species then is both fit and unfit, depending on the circumstances.

If we view human history as evolutionary then we can see that some cultures have flourished and others have failed. Why? Genetics? Well, yes, that is a factor (though only one), but only on the surface. We have to look beneath the surface to find the accidents that led to this and other factors.

The biggest factor that Diamond sees is geography. Where a people live, what resources are available, in terms of plants, animals, climate, and communication and migration routes are what makes for success or failure.

Diamond is sensitive to the fact that this makes him look like a historical determinist. That is, history is an inexorable march that can not be slowed, diverted, or changed. History is fixed. He defends himself by claiming that history is unpredictable because of it's accidental nature.

While he is partially right, we can't know what, exactly, will happen next, we can still make some predictions about how it will happen. He might not be a historical determinist, but he does seem to be a historical fatalist. There's not much we, as individuals, can do about it. We can't make the less fit culture predominate, because it would therefore be more fit.

Diamond makes much use of the somewhat controversial science of linguistic chronology in showing the various waves of migrations that have populated then displaced, assimilated, or destroyed those populations. In order to defend this science, much of the book is dedicated to giving evidence for it's usefulness in establishing dates and relationships among peoples. This topic is at least as fascinating as his main historical thesis and deserves (and probably has many) a book of it's own.

The only problem with Diamond's book is it's practical application. What exactly are we supposed to do about the bad things in history if history is fatalistic? Diamond mentions that this avoidance of the mistakes of history is the purpose of his book in the introduction, but only alludes to it vaguely in the main text. The book appears to be largely a curiosity for overeducated people such as myself.

If I had to draw a lesson from it, and this doesn't seem insignificant, it would be: don't take history too seriously. More specifically, don't be too proud of who you are or your homeland. We are all immigrants of some sort or another. Using historical lands as a guide to whose land is whose is a false way of deciding political arguments. Also, our genetics is an accident rather than a cause of history. Thinking of oneself as superior based on genes is wrong.

This review was hastily written and poorly edited so don't put too much stock in it. This book is a thought provoking and very readable. I recommend it and not just because you'll look intelligent to your friends.

Friday, June 16, 2006

No more griping about work.

I had another pretty interesting conversation, if you can call it that, at the coffee shop this evening. A guy whom I sold a bike to last week was looking a bit lost and so I waved him over and asked if he wanted to sit down. He did, well sort of. First he asked if I'd rather stand. I said no and he sat. He seemed to have a really short attention span and couldn't seem to string two sentences together in a very coherent way. His responses to my questions or comments were vaguely related to what I had said, but not quite right.

He asked what I was reading and we talked about that for a while. He made some comment after looking at the cover like, "I can tell you that there are better things you could be reading." I asked him what he considered good reading and he said that he wished that he had never learned to read. I tried a different line and asked what movies or TV shows he preferred (he had previously expressed that he had some interest in these). The Chapelle Show was the only one he could come up with. He asked if I read a lot and I said yes. Then he said something like, "So you prefer to do this than live?" I told him a little about my philosophy of reading, but he started to glaze over. He said that if a book didn't catch him in a couple of sentences then it wasn't worth reading. Same thing with TV or movies. He said that he was an artist, photoshop and photography.

He started flipping through the book, looking at the pages, but not really reading them. It was like the letters didn't mean anything to him. He seemed to have a lot of trouble with symbols and ideas. He asked if the book wouldn't be better off as a tree. It was as though looked at things as objects without meaning or context rather than as objects with a use, purpose, or deeper significance. He didn't seem dumb, but he didn't seem to be in the same content-rich world as I am.

Then he asked me if I had a flag. I asked what kind of flag, thinking that he meant something like a personal flag (based on his art background) and he pulled a US flag out of his backpack and gave it to me. He gave me a talk about proper ways of displaying the flag and we discussed that for a while (about two short exchanges which seemed to be about the best he would do). He then decided it was time for me to go and told me to "say one for Uncle Sam," whenever I saw the flag.

Odd. I'd like to know what goes on in some people's heads. If I had to make a diagnosis I'd say schizophrenia (based on his inability to see things for other than what they are, though this doesn't mesh well with his artistic aspirations), but it might just be drugs. Who knows? It was actually kind of enjoyable though difficult for me to have a conversation with him. I've seen him hanging around quite a bit so maybe I'll get to talk with him more. Anybody need a flag?

Bike stuff:
I'm starting to get used to riding the Rocket. I've finally got the seat at the right height and I'm starting to remember how to ride a full-suspension bike. I hit a couple of tough technical climbs in the area (very short, but steep with no way to carry momentum) and re-learned how to use my gears and body weight. The headlamp is also taking some getting used to. The long ride I'm doing this weekend should teach me how to conserve energy on the bike. Something I haven't quite figured out with this bike. The bike also feels a lot sketchier on gravel and loose stuff than my Crosscheck. I feel like my tires are going to wash out in the corners. Maybe it's the higher CG or perhaps it's the suspension that is taking some getting used to.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

A couple of classic dreams

I just had a dream that I was arrested for running a subversive website. I was caught because I rode the Rocket 88 in to work which is the only bike I have licensed. The police found my bike, impounded it and waited for me to show up at the station. In the dream I fell for it.

I also dreamt that I was at work and one of my co-workers had flooded the basement up to the ceiling by plugging the drain. I kept working while wearing scuba gear, flippers, and an inflatable PFD. I was annoyed primarily about all the cardboard getting wet.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Why aren't YOU out riding?

I finally managed to fit in a ride. Last winter while I was training (or pretending to train) for the Arrowhead I plotted out a loop through town. The idea was that if I'm tired, it's dark out, snowing, or I just don't feel like a real out of town ride I can do this loop and still manage to get some riding in. It links together all the in town singletrack, a lot of bike paths, a little gravel, and some hilly roads to make an at least 12 mile workout. I really don't know how long it is, but it took me about an hour to complete it tonight on the Rocket. I've now ridden it three times. Each time I've been sitting at the computer, read someone's "why aren't you out biking" comment, stood up and gone biking.

I found out yesterday that a friend of mine was in a pretty bad cycling accident on TOMRV last weekend. Apparently he went down while descending a pretty big hill. I don't know all the details, but he broke a rib, punctured a lung, and suffered two seizures on the way to the hospital. He's conscious, though sedated, which is at least something good. I've never ridden a bike with him, but from kayaking and XC skiing with him I know that he has the right attitude to pull through something like this.

Head injuries scare me. I've met too many people (mostly through work) whose lives have been affected by them. It's one thing to be physically disabled, but to be mentally disabled is incredibly tragic. Sometimes the person before the accident and afterwards seem like different people (I won't delve into philosophical and psychological ramifications here). I don't have much reason to think that this has happened to my friend, but it worries me nonetheless. Take this as you will, but most of the people I've known with serious head injuries were riding a motorcycle without a helmet when it happened.

I'm getting way behind on book reviews. A couple of Rushdie novels and Guns Germs and Steel are in need of reviewing. I've also been reading quite a bit of sci-fi lately. The good stuff, Philip K. Dick and Frank Herbert, not fluff. Dick's troubled characters and unique time imponderables along with Herbert's sociological insights have kept me too busy reading and away from writing. Maybe I'll have to do a series of one-minute reviews or something like that.

Monday, June 12, 2006

I'll never qualify for RAAM at this rate.

Guitar Ted's ride has been moved to the 19th of August. I just might be able to attend. I think I'll try to get Friday beforehand off from work and ride up, then ride back on sunday. Lets see, that'd be 100 miles on Friday, 150 on Saturday then another 100 on Sunday. 350 miles in about 60 hours with sleep. Do-able, but tough. I think I'll give it a shot.

Perhaps I shouldn't be so cavalier about it. I didn't manage to do the 120 miler that I was planning on for last Saturday. Lots of little things came up that, when taken together, prevented me from riding. I needed the rest, but on the other hand I need to ride too. I haven't ridden since Memorial Day, two weeks ago, and that was just a 40 mile road ride. Nothing to brag about.

Over the weekend though I got a good look at some gravel roads in the NE part of the state. There were some pretty nice hills and great views up there. I was hoping that G-Ted's ride would head out that way, but it doesn't look like that'll be the case. I'll have to make it a bike destination someday.

Tomorrow I start my Rocket 88 only training. I'll be riding the Rocket to and from work and on every other ride I do until 9-Mile. I need to get used to the way the bike handles and figure out if anything needs to be changed before the race. I'm thinking about some SRAM X-7 and one of those funky Titec Jones bar ripoffs.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Back on the blogger wagon

I've been breaking my resolution, such as it is, this week. Now it's time to catch up with the blog and see about some bike riding. First the news:

An 18 hour LAN party/bachelor party last weekend kept me off the streets. I haven't done anything like that in years. Endurance computer gaming is tougher than endurance biking for me. Good to see old friends though. Civ 4 is a pretty okay game, but I'm a little sick of it.

Work is as crazy as ever. A guy came in today with a "Winnipeg Centennial 1874-1974" sticker on his old Sekine. He was trying to peel it off. I thought it was a shame to waste such a nifty sticker myself.

It looks like I'll be doing a 120+ mile gravel ride this weekend. I'm biking to Cedar Rapids on Saturday and then hopefully getting a ride back by Monday morning. Tomorrow I'll have to photocopy some maps so I don't get too lost.

Speaking of long rides, Guitar Ted's endurance ride later this summer sounds like fun. I won't be able to make it though as I'll be in Michigan that weekend. I like the idea of more semi-organized rides popping up in the area. Perhaps I'll have to do my own someday. Perhaps Paul could do his Stratford century ride or something.

Joe Partridge also made some good points about travel time vs. event time. His rule, as stated on G-Ted's website is:
Sounds like fun, but I have a new rule: I won't drive to ride unless the total ride time is greater than the total drive time. That means TI is in (26hr drive, 27+ hour ride) but DK (26hr drive, 16hr bike) is out. The GTEF (Guitar Ted Endro Fest) is also out.
I made a similar rule for myself after an ill-concieved kayak trip to North Carolina and Georgia. I don't think that my rule is quite so strict as Joe's though. Fun/experience time is also counted into my equation. Thus for me DK was: 10hr drive <>

Friday, June 02, 2006

What else did I miss?

Hopefully everybody stopped by the shop today for the Cannondale demo. Rumor has it there was even a new Cannondale 6 there. I don't know for sure because I was chained to the bench for 10+ hours today. So if you didn't see me at work today it just means that I was working on someone else's bike.

I've been slacking on the blog these last few days. It may continue to be that way for a while. I'll see if I can divert some of my attention to writing, but I just don't know right now.

The real trick to writing a blog in my opinion is not what to write, but rather what not to write. I could go on about personal details or trivial incidents of my day for pages, but that wouldn't be appropriate for me. Certainly it is appropriate to the medium. What is a blog if not a place to publish whatever you happen to fancy? A place to rant and rave, say sappy and inappropriate things to perfect strangers.

But I know better. Many of my opinions are better left inside my head. There's no need to get others concerned, infuriated, or bored by them. Not only that, but a blog is not anonymous. People read this and thereby know something about me. I have some control over what people know about me and what they don't. I tell some things to some people and not to others. If I publish my thoughts on the internet I no longer have control over who reads them, who knows about me. Therefore you'll never read my innermost secrets on this blog.

I've taken up enough of your time for one day and revealed more of myself than I probably should. I'll try to get back to something less trite tomorrow.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

It's a go for 9 Mile

I signed up for 9 Mile today. It looks like it'll fit in my schedule and I guess I can put up with the crowds that are likely to show up. My major trepidation is that I'll get into trouble with passers like I did two years ago at 7 Oaks. Some speed demon tried to pass me too close while yelling "on your Right" too late. Sure enough, I panicked, swerved and nearly took us both out. He had a few choice words for me.

I accept some of the responsibility. I have to remain in control of my bike. I should have just kept riding straight and all would have been fine. However I think that much more of the blame goes to him. I think this guy was on a team and pretty fresh (otherwise he wouldn't have been going so fast), but he has to know that there are some solo guys out there who are taking their time and a little tired after 18 hours on the trail. I can't be expected to be especially quick and alert at that point. Second, he should have let me know he was coming a little earlier not when he was already beside me. Third, we were on a pretty narrow section of singletrack and I'm not sure there was really enough room to pass. There probably was, but it was close. In my opinion he should also have waited for some sort of confirmation from me before proceeding, something like moving over (which I had been happily doing all day) or saying "okay." At least that's what I try to do while riding paths in town.

I understand that it's a race and all. Maybe I'm the one out of line here. I'd hate to be the dumb guy who cost him 1st place, but I don't think that's the case. Whatever the case, I'll try to be more alert at 9 Mile where I'm bound to be passed dozens of times. I'll also bring a bell.

How'd tutoring go?
Glad you asked. It went okay I guess. It's tough to teach someone who isn't on board with the philosophy program. Sometimes I wanted to say: "read it again and pay attention this time." It's probably too late for his first exam, but what he really needs to do is improve his reading comprehension. He needs to not worry so much about the big words and try to figure them out from context. He also didn't seem to like it when I said things like "Well, you could argue this two ways." Really I figure the first session is more about finding the problems rather than quick solutions. Besides, reading Kant is always tough.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Another weekend without internet access

I've been a little lax in my riding lately so the 40 mile road ride I did with Nick this morning was great. Not a big deal and we didn't try to race or anything (the heat wouldn't have allowed it anyway), but just some good miles. I seem to be pretty much recovered from Dirty Kansa. The saddle sores are about healed and my legs are just great. The unfortunate thing is the sunburn that I have from riding without sunscreen today. It's not hurting too much yet.

Seven Oaks was once again rained out. One of these days I'll make it out there on a dry day.

It looks like I'll be tutoring a student in ethics for the summer. I'm not really sure I'm up to the task, but I'll give it my best shot. The first assignment is Kant and Mill. Mill is easy enough, but Kant has to be the most difficult philosopher out there. I re-read some important works from both this weekend. Kant is certainly easier this time around (probably the 4th time). Not that he's easy, just easier. Ethics has never been my strong suit, but I think I can get the points across. I just hope that my tutee "gets" philosophy. Some people don't quite understand what the deal is: that there is no right or wrong answer (per se), just sound or poor argument. This guy seems smart enough. I think that he just isn't comfortable with how different a phil. class is from any other discipline.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Dirty Kansa: Nutrition, Equipment, Strategy

There were two considerations in my nutrition strategy. The first was the heat. I wanted to make sure that I wouldn't get dehydrated or low on electrolytes. In order to do this I filled both my Camelbak and waterbottle with Ultima replenisher drink mix (raspberry flavor). The stuff tastes good and works for me. It's supposed to contain B vitamins which are purported to improve endurance. Whatever it does I was happy with it. In the second half of the race I switched to Elete because the additive was easier for me to carry than the powder. It seemed to work okay, but I prefer the flavor of the Ultima to flavorless Elete. It's like that old dandruff shampoo commercial: "Both have effective dandruff fighting medicine, but only Selson has something extra that tingles." Ultima tingles with flavor. Ultimately I think I drank about 9 liters of liquid during the race. That seemed to be about the right amount. I just drank whenever I thought of it, whenever I felt tired, or felt a headache coming on. Unlike some other racers I did have to stop and relieve myself several times during the second half of the race. That's a good sign I think.

The second component was the food. I decided early on that I'd eat something every 10 miles of the race. Usually I ate one of the fig bars that I had stashed in my jersey pockets. Since I carried them unwrapped and loose they were easy to get to and stuff in my mouth. I can't stand having to open and dispose of wrappers while I'm trying to concentrate on riding. It took me a couple of tries to get the hang of eating them without getting out of breath. The thing to do is chew as quickly as possible and then swallow. Follow quickly with a drink and everything's fine. If I try to chew on it for a while and take my time with it then I end up trying to breathe through my mouth while eating which is a bad idea. Sometimes I'd have an energy gel. Usually I had these when I was stopped or had just completed a hill or major milestone. I probably only had 5 of these during the race, but they were a welcome change from the fig bars. At Cottonwood Falls and Eureka I ate something like 2 fig bars and a gel. That seemed to work for this race, but for something longer like a 24 or TransIowa I think I'd need to eat some real food at some point.

I chose equipment pretty well for the race. The Surly Crosscheck with 42mm tires was about perfect. I had a mountain bike ready for this ride, but I decided not to take it based on course reports and the fit of the bike. Sure it was rough and my forearms and rear-end paid the price, but I don't think that the mountain bikers fared any better. I was expecting the downhills to feel sketchier on the cross bike, but I never felt out of control and rarely had to touch the brakes. I just had to watch where I was going.

The tires I chose were a pair of cheap Cheng Shin wire bead 42mm tires I found in the trash. There is absolutely nothing special about these tires. I wanted to run WTB Mutano Raptor 44mm tires, but I didn't manage to order them in time. They certainly would have been lighter, but I'm not sure that they would have been better in two other categories: durability and rolling resistance. The Cheng Shins have a lot of rubber on them. It would be tough to get a puncture type flat on a tough tire like this. Since punctures are what took down a number of competitors I'm glad I chose to go heavy. On the other hand Dave Simmons ran the course on Bontrager 32mm tires and didn't have any flats either. Maybe we were both just lucky. The Cheng Shins are also fast rollers on pavement. They don't hook up particularly well in the dirt, but that wasn't a real worry for this course. The knobs have an almost connected center tread and that's just what I needed on the 30 miles of pavement on the course.

As for clothing the only items of note were my gloves. I used Ironman Pro gloves by Spenco. I picked up these gloves after having had some carpal tunnel-like symptoms after 24 hour races. I didn't want to be unable to use a wrench for a week after long rides so I tried them out. They work very well for me. My hands did get sore and the gloves were uncomfortable during the second half of the ride, but I didn't have any numbness and that's what counts. The use of drop bars and Cane Creek brake levers might have contributed to my success here too.
My only equipment failure was my Jandd seat bag. At some time during the race the bag fell open and I lost my favorite Park tool kit on the backroads of Kansas. If anyone found my tool wallet let me know would you?

Race Strategy:
My race strategy was simply, "going is faster than stopping." Rather than stopping for breaks in every town I picked the ones that I needed to stop in and ignored the rest. Thus I didn't stop in Council Grove or Olpe. I didn't generally stop and rest when others did so alongside the road either. Whenever I did have to stop I made it as quick as possible and got right back on the bike. By doing this I think I kept up with a lot of riders faster than I am.

I didn't really intend to go out as hard as I did at the beginning. Like in TransIowa I was at the front for a while, but unlike TI I wasn't feeling up to it. I'm glad that I stopped trying to keep up pretty quick, but I should have fallen back earlier. During the first half of the race I averaged just over 15 mph, but for the second half I averaged just under 11. Sure some of that was the wind and the fact that all of the stopping I did was counted in the second half, but I don't like that I slowed down so much. I'd like to even it out more next time. I started to notice that I was slowing down around mile 120. Perhaps it's that I'd never done a continuous ride longer than 130 miles (I did 150 once, but had a 2 hour break in the middle). I wonder if I didn't pace myself well enough for the first half. It's something to work on I guess.

That about wraps it up for Dirty Kansa. I look forward to next year. It was a great, well organized race and there wasn't much to dislike. I personally liked the course markings and maps. I thought that they were great. Much easier to navigate than TransIowa. I know a few people got lost, but that, I suppose, is part of the race. I don't want these long gravel races to turn into orienteering tests. Leave that to the adventure racers.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

To 9 Mile or not to 9 Mile

The question of the day is: Should I compete in the 24 hour race this July in Wausau? No, I won't be national champ, but it might be fun. I've got to decide soon so as to save some money on my registration and start training right away.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Dirty Kansa: Cottonwood Falls to Finish

At Cottonwood Falls I tried to get everything done as quickly as possible. I wanted to get moving again. In the past, at 24 hour races, I've stopped for too long and stiffened up or fallen asleep. I didn't want that to happen here. I was surprised at who was still waiting around at the checkpoint. Paddy was still there, along with Dave Simmons. There were about 6 people overall who had gotten there before me. I was pretty happy about that. I refilled my Camelbak and bottle, ate a couple of fig bars and a gel and was ready to go.

Dave and I decided to ride together for a while. We rode together for a while and chatted about the Arrowhead race and TI2. It was pretty flat with good roads for a while. About mile 100 things started to get hilly and the gravel got rougher. We crossed over our first cattle grate and into open range territory. I seem to be a pretty good climber and so the hills didn't phase me, but rather gave me energy. At times I gained some distance on Dave, but I couldn't keep it. It wasn't really my intention to drop him so I was okay with it. Soon we crossed over Interstate 35. It was interesting to think of people speeding through the area at 70+ mph, not noticing anything, while we were crawling along at barely 10 mph and enjoying it immensely.

We caught sight of someone ahead of us. I thought it was Paddy. He had left shortly before us and whomever was ahead was riding some kind of mountain bike and was climbing like a singlespeeder (or so I thought). Before we could catch him though we saw someone coming up from behind. I had no idea whom this could be, but Dave thought it was Paddy. (Can Paddy be in two places at once? A question for Paul.)

Around this point we started up a long incline. Actually we had been climbing more than descending for some time, but now it started to get serious. It was never super steep, but it went on for longer than anything around central Iowa (not too hard to find I guess). As we got to the top the rider behind caught up with us. It was Paddy. Dave was right. He said that he had gotten lost and wasted about 45 minutes. Considering that he had only left 15 minutes or so before us he must really have been moving. He passed us as we got to the top of the hill and began to ride along the ridge. Dave chased him and I tried, but my body wouldn't let me. I knew that if I chased I'd be cooked for sure. We also caught the rider ahead of us here. It was a guy on a Salsa Dos Niner, geared too. I guess my intuitions about the single speed thing were wrong. I rode just behind him for a while, but he was a little faster on the rough roads and he soon dropped me.

This ridge was the highlight of the ride. It was more like being above treeline in Colorado than being in Kansas. There was just grass and rocks, lots of rocks. The bedrock poked through in many places and it made it seem almost like a moonscape to me. Very different from what I'm used to back in Iowa. The area was studded with oil rigs, some operating. That sort of added to the mystique. I saw a few pickups with trailers alongside the road, but didn't see anyone around. It took me a while to figure out that the trailers were for horses and that whomever was up here was going around on horseback. Some terrains really are impassable by motorized vehicle. I wonder if a Pugsley would do.

After riding on the ridge for a while we hit the downhill. This was a terrific downhill: fast, rocky, long, somewhat twisty, but there was never any need to brake. I felt really confident descending, but was convinced that I'd soon have a flat tire. I didn't have that flat and soon I was back pedaling along in the flatter valleys. Soon it seemed, I was out of the open range and back in civilization. The roads widened, became smoother and I was able to pick up speed a little and not get beaten up by the rocks.

It didn't seem like long and I was in Eureka. I thought I was home free on pavement all the way through town , but I was wrong. The race organizers had routed us down the (seemingly) only gravel road in town. It was rough and had some double track if I recall correctly. At the Casey's I caught up with everyone else. Paddy, Simmons, the guy on the Dos Niner along with a few others. I refilled my Camelbak and since I was out of Ultima powder I had to use the Elete capsule that I had with me. It didn't taste as good, but I think it got the job done. Dave gave me some of his Sun Chips and I was soon on my way.

Paddy had left just before me and I knew that Simmons was right behind. Soon though Simmons passed me and then, not long after, a rider on a black Crosscheck passed me. I felt like I was losing ground, but there was nothing to be done. I knew that if I started to push hard here I'd never make it the remaining 50 miles. I rode alone for a while. There was a long 8 mile stretch into the wind, but once I started I hardly noticed the wind. I just kept chugging along. About halfway through the 8 mile stretch I caught the guy on the Dos Niner. He was standing in the middle of the road talking on his cell phone. I asked him if he was okay and he said he was. I wonder what he was doing. I thought at the time that he might be dropping out.

Towards the end of the 8 miles was the worst water crossing of the ride. A short steep downhill into a rough, rocky stream. I was forced to brake and slow down for fear of losing control or pinch-flatting. Right afterwards though was a super-steep uphill. I had to stand and grind and still I barely made it. From the tire tracks it looked like others had had problems too. Some tracks weaved side to side more than I'd think was efficient.

As I reached mile 170 the hills started up again. There were some nice views and I saw some bird that was small, black and white, had a long tail, and liked sitting on fences. Kansas sure does have a lot of interesting birds. I was getting pretty tired of riding a bike so it was nice when Joe Partridge caught up with me and said he wanted to ride together. He said he was happy with his placing (2nd single speed) and just wanted someone to talk with and make the time go faster. I guess I'm not much of a talker, but it was more company than I'd had for about 50 miles.

We stopped in Madison to top-off our bottles. I only put in about a quart. I figured I could make it the 25 miles to the finish with two quarts in the Camelbak and my 20oz. waterbottle. On the pavement around Madison I dropped Joe for a while, but I never seriously entertained the idea of leaving him behind. First, I knew he could catch me, second, why should I get rid of the only company I'd had in hours. Joe and I helped each other (he helped me more than I helped him) stay on course for the rest of the ride.

Just after mile 180 somebody on a full-suspension bike screamed past us. I hadn't even known he was behind us. I wanted to chase him, but once again, knew I couldn't. The idea did cross my mind though. I had intended to start pushing my pace with 20 miles to go, but now it didn't seem possible. It was getting dark as we rode into Olpe, the last town before Emporia and the finish. There were some huge stadium lights across town. It looked like a baseball game might have been going on. Baseball still seems to be popular in Kansas which I think is pretty cool even though I don't care for it.

We almost missed the last turn at mile 190. We couldn't see any of the markers we were expecting, but the map and our mileage said it had to be the one. The last 10 miles were daunting. I know I ride 10 miles every day; sick or well, awake or tired, every day, but thinking about 10 miles was just too much for me. Luckily Joe saw some fireworks in Emporia (I never did see them) and started talking about his time seeing a meteor shower on TI1. The talking helped to keep me from thinking about how far we had to go and before I knew it we were rolling into Emporia on pavement.

It almost seemed too short. We rode through town and found the hotel and finish line where we had started in the morning without a problem. There were quite a few people there to greet us and someone took our bikes for us. I was disappointed for Cory and Guitar Ted. As soon as I saw them I knew that they must have dropped out. I really wanted to see those two finish.

I know that I could have kept riding, but I was happy to be done. I showered and joined in the finish line festivities.

Tomorrow: analysis of my equipment, nutrition, and race strategy.