Monday, June 23, 2008



As I mentioned last week, its allergy season here in the Pacific Northwest.  The time of year where all plants decide at once that it's time to reproduce and dump their genetic material in the air for everyone to enjoy.  Being outdoors this time of year its tough, especially if you are participating in an aerobic activity.  The pollen clings to your skin and invades your body which in turn produces a seemingly never ending quantity of goo from your nose.

Growing up in the Northeast, I truly didn't know what "hayfever" was until I moved here in '92, and I really didn't understand how bad it would be until my freshman year in college down in Eugene.  Allergies were so bad that year that the campus health center ran out of allergy medication by mid May.  I spent much of that spring indoors trying not to suffocate on my own snot.  Good times.

Since that time I've been able to arm myself through a variety new world drugs, old world remedies, and trial and error to combat the assault on my body.  So without further ado, I present to you "The Aggregate Cyclist's Guide to Being Outside During Allergy Season", or TACGBODAS for short.


  1. Figure out what you are allergic too.
    • Some people go to allergists to do this.  Personally I went by the "see what pollen was high on days I couldn't breath" method. is a good resource for pollen forecasts and to see how much it sucks to be where live.  Ryegrass and I don't get along.
  2. Habitually take your allergy medication starting a few weeks before your "allergy season" begins.
    • Many allergy medications work by suppressing the histamine system in your body and take time for them to build up to peak effectiveness.  Some people react different to different allergy medications.  I stumbled upon Alavert a few years ago and it works very well for me.  It's also over the counter and can be found in bulk at Costco.  (Score!)
  3. Get a nasal spray to use at night before bed.
    • A nasal spray like FloNase or Nasonex can help open up airways at night and allow you to sleep better.  These are prescription drugs so talk with your doctor before allergy season starts.
  4. Carry Benadryl or a generic equivalent.
    • I keep a few tabs of Benadryl in my saddle pack after breaking out in hives on my legs after one ride.  The little pink pills rule for shutting down a allergic reaction quickly and can be helpful if you get stung by a bee while out on a ride.  Since it has a tendency to make you sleepy, I don't suggest using it as your primary allergy med.
  5. Wash your hands and face frequently, and especially after being outside.
    • Pollen is sticky and will cling to your body after being outside for any period of time.  If you get pollen on your hands then rub your nose or eyes, instant snot!
  6. Shower at night before bed, even if its just a quick rinse off.
    • Clean the allergens off your body before you go to bed.  This will allow you to breath easier at night.
  7. Change your pillowcases frequently.
    • Your head sits on this all night.  Keep it allergen free!
  8. Bathe your pets more frequently.
    • Outdoor pets are notorious pollen collectors.  If Fido or Fluffy is an outdoor pet and you like the play with them, be prepared to suffer.  If you don't like bathing your pet, adhere to TACGBODAS rule #1 after touching your pets.  Don't let them sleep on you either.
  9. Get a "neti-pot" and learn to love it.
    • This is my number one weapon against sinus gunk.   A co-worker suggested it a few years ago to help combat the onset sinus infections, and I use it now during allergy season as well. Some people can't get past cleaning out their sinus in the privacy of their own bathroom.  Get over it.  It's a lot better then having snot run down your face in public and carrying collection of used tissues with you.
  10. Take local bee pollen and / or local honey.
    • Another gem from my co-worker.   The theory is that in taking bee pollen and honey, you introduce the allergens into your system at a low level and over time your system builds up a tolerance to it.  The key to this is that it has to be local bee pollen or honey.  Local bee's frequent the local flowers, trees, and grasses.  Best bet to get this would be at your local farmers market.  (They key to this is the word local.)  This is one that I haven't had much luck with, but I've heard others swear by it.
  11. Stay hydrated.
    • This is a good practice in general, but I listed it here for good measure.  Antihistamines and especially decongestants dry you out.  A runny nose dries you out.  The warmer temperatures that cause the plants to release pollen dries you out.  Drink water, avoid alcohol.
  12. Don't rub your eyes
    • They may itch now, but rubbing them will only make it worse.  Flush your eyes with cool water, or put eye drops in to help reduce the irritation.

I hope a few of these nuggets of knowledge will help you during this time of year.  It's entirely too nice to stay indoors.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Plains, Trains, and lack of Automobiles

...lack of Automobiles

While we are still in the grips of what most people in the area are calling "June-uary", the past week has actually seen blue sky, sun and temperatures usually found in mid May. We all tell ourselves that summer is almost here and with it will bring more typical weather, but that remains to be witnessed.

The lack of rain did however allow me to commute by bike to work a few days last week. Traci and I normally carpool in during the rainy weather (read: 75% of the year) as we work a half mile from each other. From a gas saving standpoint, having only one of us commute in by bike doesn't make much sense, so its either both of us or none of us on the days we are both in the office. However, on days when we normally would have the need to take two cars and the sun is out, I can hop on my bike!

My commute is short. So short that in years past I've said it wasn't worth riding in due to the amount of time it would take to get ready, ride in, park the bike, shower, change, and get to my desk. However with a bit of a paradigm shift on my part, I've made it a much more doable and causal thing. No longer do I don the lycra and ride at mach 1 to get the office. I've taken a more simplistic approach. I dress in what I'm going to wear to work that day, get on my bike and just ride in. The only "gear" I wear is my helmet, shoes, and occasionally my gloves. I've stashed a pair of sandals in my office to change into once there.

I'm lucky enough to work in an office where wearing shorts is commonplace during the nice weather. On days where it's a bit chilly in the morning I pull over a pair of Castelli bike messenger knickers which while baggy, cover my war-torn knees and keep out the wind. My ride in is tame. Recovery pace at maximum. The goal is to get to work safely, not sweaty.

So far its been a successful endeavor. So much so that I've even been able to swing through my favorite coffee shop in the morning to get my usual iced-Americano. (Which conveniently fits into my seat-tube water bottle holder.) I arrive at the office and wheel my bike into my cube. Technically I shouldn't as its a "fire hazard" for morons who decide to stand in the corner of my office during a fire. Our building has no security guards.

My paradigm shift is not unique. I've seen a large number of people on the road the past few weeks on bikes, wearing what you'd see at work. I hope that the people driving by see us and think "Hey, I could do that too."

Plains, Trains...

When I got home last night, I was in a fairly low energy state for some reason. I wanted and needed to go out for a ride, but had little motivation to do so. Upon walking through the door into the house, I steeled my resolve and starting picking out clothes to change into. I'd ride my bread and butter 25mi loop, and I'd go hard. I wanted to set a new fast time for the route, to break last years 1h14m30s finish.

As I dressed, I mentally thought out the course. I needed to ride quickly, but not stress myself for the first few miles to get my legs warmed up. Cornelius Shefflin Road is always busy this time of day. Ride extra cautious for that quarter mile and recover a bit. The wind will be howling out past Roy. Make sure to come to a complete stop in North Plains or Barney Fife may come after you. I top off the tires, and walk out of the garage. It's 4:40 and I tell Traci I should be home no later than 6:00. No more than an hour and twenty minutes of pain. I'm shooting for closer to a hour and ten.

I stick to my plan for those first few miles. Small chain-ring, high cadence. The wind isn't too bad, probably due to the cloud cover that has lingered most of the day. At the turn to Leisy Road, I get into the drops and shift to the big ring. My heart-rate is stable and the legs don't feel half that bad. I ride through row after row of blueberry plants hint at a delicious summer to come. The blueberry field gives way to wide open plains of ryegrass. A small gust of wind blows across the field stirring up an evil tan cloud in its wake...

I happen to reside in a beautiful area that has a backwards river. (The Willamette River (will-AM-it) is one of a handful of rivers in North America that run North rather than South.) The river valley and surrounding areas are lush and fertile and wonderful for growing all sorts of things that produce ungodly quantities of pollen this time of year. "Spring colds" are common among the inhabitants. Symptoms usually include coughing, wheezing, itchy eyes, itchy skin, runny nose, congestion, snot, hives, and the desire to claw ones eyeballs out after extended exposure to outside air. This coupled with the valley's inhabitants desperate desire to be outside after 9 months of rain causes a fairly volatile mixture. After living for 15 years in this area, I've created a multi layered approach to combat the assault on my system. (Which I promise to post later this week.)

I push my way through the histamine minefield, keeping my HR below anaerobic threshold and eventually approach Roy. Roy is a tiny farming town, dominated by a community school and church. It also has a set of train tracks that runs through it in which I've never seen a train on in the fifteen years I've been riding in this area. Imagine my surprise as I crest a small rise in the road and see a logging car train rumbling down the tracks. I coast down to the intersection and stop behind the car waiting there. The sun has broken through the clouds and is hot on the black arm warmers I wore. I take the opportunity to strip them off and stuff them into my jersey pocket. I take a long pull from my water bottle and check the time. It's only eight past five. I've covered just shy of ten miles in twenty-seven minutes. I look to the west and see the last few cars of the train round the bend. The delay was short.

I settle back into my rhythm in the drops, working different gearing-cadence combination on this long flat to find the balance between fast and sustainable. I start to notice that I put out a higher wattage at a higher cadence and smaller gear versus pushing my bigger gears. Out of Roy and towards the glider park I ride. There are few cars on these roads and those you do see are plenty used to the cyclists in the area. Mountaindale road goes by in a blur, a combination of the pace of the ride and the pollen mines my eyes have detonated.

I grumpily pass a pair of cyclists on West Union. They are riding two abreast and make no efforts to move over as I call out my approach. I know they know I'm there. I've been watching them look in their mirrors for the past quarter mile. It gives me some satisfaction as I see them quickly shrink in the distance behind me. The irritation is replaced by the deep ache in my legs the last half mile of West Union. It's a false flat, and the wind has turned into my face. I pass by the school at the corner, the unofficial milepost 20 of my route.

The wonderful thing about teammates is you inevitably run into them on the road. I pass Russ P. going the other way on Helvetia. He's been off the bike for a bit nursing a back injury. We shout to each other upon recognition. Its good to see him riding again. Helvetia becomes Shute, and the stretch of road vanish under my wheels. I turn down the homestretch on Evergreen. I push hard, the small tailwind and familiar road picking up my pace. I concentrate on my HR numbers, looking for the exact moment where my breathing goes into anaerobic. 167 seems to be the magic number.

I cruise into my neighborhood, treating the winding corners like how I'd treat a criterium race, bike leaning over in the corners and body out of the saddle. I hit the garage door opener as I pass the house and circle around to cool down. The clock reads 5:53.

After dinner, I pull down the ride numbers. Total time was 1h13m, but I was stuck in Roy for a few minutes due to the train. Moving time was shy of 1h9m for an average speed of 21.8mph. New PR. While I didn't set a new FTP or 20minute max wattage, I did achieve a new max wattage for everything from 21min to 1h 13m. My strengths don't play to these long sustained efforts, but I know by working at them I can hope to improve my overall performance.

My mood however, increased dramatically.

Monday, June 16, 2008

The Numbers Game


33 is my race age. It's a no-man's land of age in OBRA.  I qualify for Masters sometimes, but not others. 10 is the number of years I've been married as of this coming Friday.  11 is the number of years I've been at the company were I work.  A full third of my life.  Woah.

180lbs is my weight goal for this year.  It will be a 15lbs decrease from where I was last year and a substantial decrease from where I was two years ago.  1970 is the net number of calories I can theoretically eat on a daily basis and not gain weight.  While it doesn't always prove true, its a goal to shoot for.

265 was my Functional Threshold Power the last time I tested it. I bet it's probably higher now, but I haven't yet had a test prove that to me.

13 is the number of years I've had a broken pancreas.  2 is the number of years I've had a "bionic replacement". 15carbs:1unit of insulin is the ratio I live by. (Literally.)

1.114 and 1.116 were the Original Gravity (adjusted) for the first and second 5 gallon batches of beer I brewed.  When the beer is ready, it should be floating around 10.5 percent alcohol by volume.  100 is the percentage of said beer I plan to share with my teammates during cross season.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Spring Storm, Part 2


(Note: This is Part II of the story, Part I can be found here.)

I try to distract myself from the miserable conditions by visualizing the climb ahead.  Spin, don't mash.  Stay under LT, accelerate through the harder sections of the climbs.  I notice I have a tailwind on the ride out.  The ride home might really be painful.  I approach the base of the climb, a left hand fork in the road that in less than a half hour will assure me that my month and a half of racing on the flats haven't hurt me too much.  In theory.  I've climbed once in almost two months, and it was the previous Saturday.  I take a big swig of water and notice that I haven't touched my bottles since I left the house.  I never drink enough when it's raining.

I make the turn and set the interval on the CPU at the sign.  I've already shifted down into my small ring, a pre-emptive reminder to spin my gears.  The first minute of any sustained climb is a shock to my system.  I stay under a wattage I know I can maintain for five minutes  while my body adapts to the stress.  I unzip my jacket and jersey and wish I brought a hat with a brim on it for under my helm.

The road levels for the first of many times, and I feel good.  The rain continues to fall steadily, but I'm long past the point of getting any wetter.  My wool socks squish in their shoes on every down stroke.   I concentrate on the sound, maintaining the rhythm of the noise throughout the climb.  I finally crest the first climbing section, into midpoint of the ascent were the road flattens out and actually descends a bit.  The fast twitch muscles in my legs cry out in glee as I shift up to the big ring and get out of the saddle.  I know I need to push harder on the flat than I would up hill.  No rest for the weary.

The road pitches up again and the pavement changes.  While chip seal is rough, the water tends to seep into it and travel in the carved grooves of the road.  The upper half of the climb has the wonderfully smooth pavement but the water is a sheet across the road, running in tire-covering rivers in some places.  I want to run the big ring, powering through this section, but relent.  I know the hardest part of the climb is ahead and I'm beginning to tire.

I think of my teammates, using the images of stronger climbers ahead of me to pull me along the long run up to the Horning's Hideout.  There's something about this section that saps my body, the top always just out of sight to the left.  I've blown up on this section many a time, always pushing too early only to die as the road kicks up in the final hundred meters.  I pace myself this time, riding once again below my five minute max.  Spin the gears, accelerate the legs, shift up.  The pattern continues a few times and I feel the lactic burn in the legs for the first time.  I decide to ignore it knowing there is another false flat just over the rise where I can recover some. Hitting the flat I shift into the big ring for the second time, using my momentum to carry me along while the legs flush themselves.  My heart rate is running close to my early season max, but I know from recent races I have another few bpm to spare.  Regardless of the overall result of the climb, I achieve a mental victory.

Ahead I see steam hanging over the road.  The rain has let up some in this section and the radiant warmth of the pavement is making the air thick.  I pass a few houses beyond Horning's and ride through an unseen cloud of smoke that smells like pot.  At least on the way down it will go by faster.

The last few sections are painful.  I know each false summit by heart, but hope I somehow was further up the road than I actually was.  I reach the last false summit and switch to my large chain ring for the last dig.  The road ticks up and turns to the left at an off camber, it's deceptively steep.  I come up out of the saddle and immediately feel my rear wheel spin.  Wasted watts.  I settle to push the big gear seated, my legs protest but I know the pain will be over in under a minute.  The road flattens out, and I can see the finish through the scattered trees off to the left.  A final dip and a short climb to the pair of phone poles that have served as the finish line for countless club rides.  I try to push through to sprint for the line, but I hear a car behind me following me slowly.  I have no idea how long it's been there.  I coast through the finish and end the interval on my CPU.  I hit it a second time just to be safe.  I felt good about my climb, but won't know the true results until I get home.

The car turns into a driveway of the lone house at the top of the ascent.  There are no dogs today to greet me.  I chuckle thinking of how bad they would smell.  The hounds are in their kennels, content to stay under their overhangs and out of the rain.  I stop long enough to take a long drink of water and zip up my layers.    The descent is cold and dangerous and I'm once again thankful I brought the wind jacket.  The ride back isn't as lonely.  I have my squishing socks and oddly warm knees to keep me company.

I make it home shortly before 6:30 and smell dinner cooking in the kitchen.  Traci laughs at me for the sound I make as I walk from the garage into the laundry room.  My knees burn now that I'm in warm air and I get to the shower quickly to scrub the goo off.  A short while later the heat just switches off.  I can understand why people use the stuff during the winter.

It's not until later after dinner that I pull down the data for my ride.  It's a mixed bag of results.  I've set a new PR by a 1m50s, but my 20m max wattage and average wattage for the entire climb is almost identical to what I did back in March.  The numbers don't add up in my mind.  I head out to the garage to find my bike is relatively clean.  A quick rub down with some Simple Green and a rag takes care of the grime on the frame and chain.  I drop some chain lube and run through the gearing until I'm satisfied with the results and pack it up for the evening.

The next morning I mention to my friend Todd how puzzling the results of my ride were.  The potential answer came quickly to him.  Maybe it wasn't power, it was the power:weight ratio that made the difference.  When I get back to my desk I check my weight log for the 6th of March, 187.5lbs.  I weighed in at 183.7lbs the morning of my second climb.  The 4lb difference in my weight meant that while the wattage I produced was nearly identical, the ratio was higher and I was able to carry myself faster up the hill.  The difference of 4lbs isn't much on the flats, but could it be that over the long steady climb it was the difference in almost two minutes?

While I'm pleased with my progress, there are still a number of questions I have, and little data to make an accurate conclusion.  A third test is in the cards, probably in late August or early September.

Eventually I'll compare points on course to see if I rode noticeably faster on some sections than others.  With these small nuggets of information I can hopefully arm myself to weather the next storm up Pumpkin Ridge.

Saturday, June 7, 2008


Today's ride actually started last night. Our club has a "tradition" of celebrating first Friday at one of the multitude of brew pubs downtime. While the event is open to all, typically it’s a gathering of many of the members of the race team plus a few light hearted souls who come down to have a good time. Last night, the place of gathering with the Lucky Lab on Quimby. The Lucky Lab is a chain of pubs in downtown that have a fondness both for dogs and cyclists. It's not uncommon to see both bikes and four legged friends in the confines of the pub.

The beer of choice last night came in a pair of varieties. Lucky Lab had an Organic Red on tap, in addition to an amazing Wheat Porter that the happened to have on tap the last time we were there in March. Wheat beers are evil. One of my favorite beers happens to be Hefeweizen, which is an unfiltered wheat beer typically served with a wedge of lemon. It's amazing refreshing on a hot day. It also has the caloric weight of half a loaf of bread. As someone who is very conscious of his weight for training purposes, the thought of drinking a loaf of bread makes me cringe. As a beer lover... lets just say the beer lover won last night.

The gathering itself was great. I got the opportunity to catch up with a few of my teammates I haven't seen in a month due to life's hectic schedules. As the evening wore on, a few of us ganged up on our teammate Dan and convinced him to do the longer team ride that took place the next morning. We swore up and down that we'd ride with him and not hammer the climbs and make sure he didn't get shelled OTB of the group. The constant badgering and pints of beer finally wore down his resolve and he agreed to ride with the team the next morning.

This morning arrived about an hour and a half before I wanted to. I've told myself numerous times over the past year and a half to not drink the night before a big ride, but it is definitely a major weakness that I have. Fortunately I took it easy last night and woke up only mildly dehydrated. Traci and I looked out the window as we made our breakfast and muttered about the un-summer like weather. We can only hope that now that the Rose Festive parade has happened the weather will get better.

We made our way over Longbottom's to meet up with the rest of the club. Today was the memorial ride in honor of a fallen club mate, Tim O'Donnell. It was roughly a year ago that Tim was struck by an out of state driver who's license to drive had been revoked and killed. While his death was a tragedy for both our club and the cyclist community in and around Portland, I'd like to think it helped spark a long needed revolution of traffic reform in this state. Once at Longbottom's we met up with other members of our club to ride in Tim's memory and present his widow Mary O'Donnell with a framed club jersey. After some solemn words and somber reminders of the hazards we as cyclists face ever time we ride, we split into our groups and hit the road.

Since this weekend had no road races on schedule, the team had put together an impromptu long ride for this date. On short notice the ride organizers changed our route so that we could participate in the memorial send off. It's times like this that solidify my love for this club and the team. On the docket for today was a ~70mile out and back to Timber, Oregon. The route is a favorite the group, and holds a special pace in the hearts and memories of a number of us. Dan had made it out to the ride, with tales of Irish Car Bombs after the Lucky Lab. A number of us made an on-road pact to take it easy once things heated up.

About 10 miles out of the start we hear the unforgiving sound of a tire going flat. Mitch, one of the members of "the pact" rolls over to the side of the road as the group rolls on. A number of us stop to wait for him, knowing that we'll eventually meet up with the rest of our group. After a few minutes we have the tire inflated, but the damage is too severe. Mitch has to pull out of today's ride and limp back to Longbottom's. The six of us remaining get back on course, noting the low hanging clouds and spotty rain in the hills ahead. The group I'm with are great people, and all folks I've ridden with many times before. We set a hard, but sustainable pace, knowing there was little chance we'd catch the group ahead, but riding hard for the sake of doing so. One of us comments that most of the riders Dan was planning to be with were in this group. We ride through rain and back out of it. The changes in temperature and humidity causing us to don and remove vests and rain jackets on road. We pass by the Timber store with out slowing, knowing that the return trip will stop there for a re-supply of water and snacks for those who need it. While the miles leading up to Timber road were relatively dry, our turn onto the road was met with a heavier rainfall. Our small pod of riders press on quietly, hoping that the next bend or rise in the road takes us out of the rain cell.

Javad breaks the silence and points out tire tracks in the wet pavement. We figure the pack is less than 10 minutes ahead of us. The road makes the right hairpin and kicks uphill. Now the fun starts. We tick out a quick pace, each of us trying to find our legs and monitoring our bodies response to the effort. Greg and Jason recover first and open a gap on the rest of us. Sustained climbs aren't my thing and I watch them slowly gain ground on me. I resolve to ride within myself and press on. Kender and I trade blows over the next mile, testing each others legs in a battle of the Bostonians. We can see Greg and Jason just up the road but don't gain any ground on them. As we near the top I dig once more trying to get separation from Kender and maybe open up a bike length on him before he responds. He's riding strong this year. The summit comes into view and I see Jason and Greg sit up as a pair of riders are approaching from the other direction. Dan and Robert had turned back due to a run in with some loose dogs. A short bit later Javad and our lone hardwoman Kristin roll up the hill and summit. We pull off to the side of the road and enjoy a freak break in the clouds. The sun warms our bodied and blinds us at the same time. Steam rises from the road.

Five to ten minutes later the rest of the team comes into view from the other side of the hill, a snake of black and blue digging for the summit. We cheer them on as we'd cheer on pro riders, urging them to the top. I move out to the center of the road and extend my arm in a mock finishing line. Steve and Todd dig deep running neck and neck for the prize, smiling through the pain of the labor. Steve pips Todd to my outstretched hand and give's me a high-five as he goes past. Mitch Lee, ever the work horse rolls past me with a huge grin on his face. The rest of the team rolls up and over the top, some not waiting for a regroup. The chase in on. The ride down Timber road to its start is a blur. Small pods of five to six riders stretched out over a half mile. One of the reasons we ride this road is the utter lack of traffic. The entire time we were there we had a single car pass us.

As expected we stop at the store to refuel. The group changes its route back to avoid climbing the backside of Clapshaw. We had already gone over it once today, but the backside is brutal with some 16% grade sections. Oddly enough its a hill I like climbing.

The trip back was punctuated by flat tires. Small groups breaking off from the main so no one rides alone. I drop back to help out Kristin, who had not only ridden with us, but had rode a good 15 additional miles out to the start. We ride together through the fields of Roy and are soon joined by Kender and Couzens. We are all cooked, but know the ride is almost over. The pack finally regroups a few miles down the road when yet another flat tire happens. Such is riding in the wet weather.

A bit under 4 hours after we left, we arrive back at Longbottom's. We order our food and take a much needed rest. In a blink of an eye an hour goes by and we groan as we get out of our seats. The coffee shop has always been good to us. We thank the staff and head out in ones and two's.

As I roll home, I think about the days ride and what it meant for the club and the team. I decide to crack open a beer at dinner for Tim, and Timber.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Spring Storm, Part 1


It's been roughly three months since my last ascent up Pumpkin Ridge Road.  During that time I've trained hard, raced hard, and seen some great results

Pumpkin Ridge Road, North Plains Oregon
across the board with my fitness.  I decided to use Pumpkin Ridge as my measuring stick for my fitness right now.  The climb is roughly 6.5 miles, containing a few moderately steep sections and a good number of false summits.  It's the type of climb that wears you down over time if you go out too hard too early, but also allows you a bit of recovery and respite if you work the sections correctly.

Back in March, my wife and I rode out on an oddly sunny and cool afternoon, skipping out of work a bit early to get the climb in.  We rolled out to the base of the climb, not stressing our bodies too much to put in a full blown effort on the climb.  At the base of the climb I gave her a good luck, set the interval on my CPU and started my way up.  About 28 minutes later I hit the top, lungs searing, legs burning, and thrilled to have shaved a minute off of my PR on the ascent.  I was greeted at the top by a trio of friendly dogs who live at the last house before the road goes gravel, along with a chorus of the dogs kenneled there who are not allowed to say hi to the bikers who stop at the top.  Their howls are my victory chorus, and my affirmation that my training so far this year has been on track.

I spend a minute or two at the top, don my wind vest and roll back down the hill to meet up with Traci.  I'm shocked and thrilled to run into her much further up the hill than I originally expected.  I slow as I approach and see a big grin on her face, she's spinning along at a great pace and breathing comfortably.  "You're doing great!  Really close to the top!" I call out as I turn around and catch up to her.  We ride together to the summit, me settling into the position I normally ride with her on the climbs.  I call out encouragement, letting her know how many false summits are left.  As we get to the final rise in the road, she pops out of the saddle and powers to the top, eager to finish the climb strong.  The dogs come out to greet us once again, forgetting I was there not 5 minutes earlier as dogs often do.  Traci's time is much faster than her previous climb and she feels great.  It's been a good day for both of us.

We sit at the top for a few minutes to enjoy the waning sunlight.  It's still early in the spring and the setting sun's rays are not as strong as they were when we set off.  We check our bikes, and roll down the hill.  Traci's a strong rider on the descents and I let her take point.  She cuts fast lines through the curves of the upper section.  Halfway down, the pavement changes from the smooth road all cyclists love to the chip seal we loathe.  We both sit up and share a look of disappointment.  The bottom section has the best corners, but the road conditions aren't safe to take at the speeds of the upper sections.  We hit the flats and roll home, happy to have had a great ride.

Today things are different.  It's June, and it should be Spring.  The sun should be out strong and late into the evening.  I should be leaving work early to sneak a ride in, but it's 4pm and I'm still at work and heavy grey clouds are visible as far as I can see.  I manage to make it home by 4:30, and frown at the few raindrops that have fallen on my windshield.  Traci greets me at home, she's been nursing a knee injury over the past four weeks and is seeing some progress in her recovery.  I change into my gear, deciding to try out some new embrocation that was recommended to us this weekend by Dimitri at Veloce Cycles.  I get into the garage, and open the garage door.

I'm immediately greeted by the scent of rain on warm pavement.  "Yeah, I'm going to need my jacket." I call over to Traci, who is standing in the doorway.  I'm already changed into my gear, with this minty smelling goo on my knees...  I might as well ride.
I strap on my helmet and affix my taillight to my bike, setting it to flash in the most annoying way possible.  Checking the time, I work out a rough estimate of how long I'll be out.  Its 4:50pm and I figure I should be back by 6:30.  I roll out of the garage and into the muggy air.  The rain is light and relatively warm, but steady.  The jacket was the correct choice.

The warm up ride over to the base of the climb is lonely.

(Part II will be posted soon!)

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

This is The Aggregate Cyclist

Aggregate: [adj.,n. ag-ri-git] formed by the conjunction or collection of particulars into a whole mass or sum; total; combined.

I'm a cyclist. Riding was my first mode of transportation, my first bit of independence. Today I train and race. It has become a the center of a large community of friends, many of which I now consider family.

I'm a numbers person. I'm lucky in this respect as the genetic lottery which is life dictates particulars that I need to monitor. I love looking at the chaos of raw data to discern a pattern or find a subtle trend.

I'm a lover of good food, especially when it's something my wife has made. I never ceased to be amazed at the magic she creates from what seems to be the most mundane of ingredients. As always, good food requires a good beverage. Beers, wines, sake, and mixed drinks all have a special place in my heart.

These are just some of the particulars which make up the collection that is me.

This is The Aggregate Cyclist.