Tossing and Tortured 'Till Dawn

I come back to you now, at the turn of the tide.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Oh, cereal, how I love you. I'm glad malt-o-meal tastes as good to me as the "real thing," because I go through quite a lot of it. And, three cheers for BOGO!

While I'm talking about things I like, instead of complaining like I usually do, let me tell you fairly limited wisdom I've learned in what is now officially 2 years on the bike:

* Post-ride naps are awesome. I think if I had 4 hours to train, I'd take a 3-hour ride and a 1-hour nap instead of riding the whole time.
* A wind vest is the most versatile piece of clothing in your closet, especially for the kinds of temperatures you're going to face here in the pacific northwest. Bonus if it has pockets in the back.
* After that is smartwool socks (huzzah!) leg warmers.
* That reminds me: CYK, folks. Cover Your Knees. SRSLY, if it is below about 65 degrees, at least knee warmers are the order of the day. I almost always use full leg warmers.
* 100 PSI is just as effective as 125 PSI (in "standard" 700x23 road tyres), but much more comfortable. YMMV if you're a heavier rider.
* I eat lots of cheap Costco boxes of fig newtons and granola bars rather than shelling out for "energy" food. Seems just fine. Chris calls this the "mac and cheese of ride food."

I miss what appeared to be spring. I guess someone shot the groundhog...

Monday, February 26, 2007

Some Cycling Some Not:

First of all, George Hincapie has to have the worst luck, ever. I mean, ever. You all remember what happened to George in last year's Paris-Roubaix? His steerer tube cracked, leaving his handlebars connected to thin air, and wham, there goes the race, the shoulder, and two months of racing. Then, at the Tour de France, he didn't really have what he needed in his chance to not work for a certain Texan. THEN, when he was about to win the Eneco tour, he did this. Or, had it done to him, rather.

So, he gives up on winning the tour, decides to focus on the classics, and what happens? First race of the season, in February, in California, whammo! Touch of wheels, broken wrist, whole classics season down the drain. Flush! No good.

Life Lessons Learned at Grocery Stores:

For better or for worse, my "school job" for the past far too many years has been working at grocery stores. I'm convinced that everyone should work at a grocery store at some point in their lives -- you learn a surprising amount about human behavior. I mostly order and stock, um, groceries, but I do it at night and often I'm the only one there, which means that I've got to ring up the occasional customer in this small-town-feel unincorporated area of King County, just outside of Seattle.

Today's life lesson is tobacco cultural stereotypes. I don't smoke, and don't advise that you do. But, if you are smoking Newports, the odds are very good that you would tick the "african-american / black" box on a survey. Why is that? Is there some kind of marketing strategy about this?

Or how about Parliaments? I cannot even think "Parliament lights" without doing so in a Russian accent. Yes, there are a number of Russians and Ukrainians in my little area, no I am not slick enough to tell the difference on sight, and I do not think I have ever sold a pack of these cigarettes to a ... crap, I can't think of a way to say "not a member of a former Soviet state" without sounding like an ass. But the question remains.

But, really. Most all tobacco is one of 3 major corporations, plus Lorillard. They've all got a fistful of brands under their umbrella. What do they do, decide that they're going to specifically target particular brands to particular subgroups?

Friday, February 23, 2007

Like Clockwork:

Yes, this post is about riding my bike. I haven't had a computer on my bike since I ditched my ibike a couple of weeks ago. But I added up the mileage that I did, based on the hours on my training log, and a fairly modest 17.5 mph average, and came up with 381 for the past week. Wow. That's kind of a lot, especially when I think about last year. The training is coming along pretty well; I don't just think about riding and then whine about it, I get out there and do it. And then whine about it, if it's raining.

Tuesday was about 3 hours on the fixed gear, joining up with the REI pseudo-crit for some serious leg-speed work for an hour. No speedo, but you can't really go that fast on 69 gear inches. People looked at me like I was crazy when I'd drag them across gaps pedaling at 150 rpm or so, but there was no way I was actually going with the attacks with that small of a gear.
Wednesday, 2 and a half hours on the tacoma waterfront. Slept in on what was actually the most beautiful day of the week.
Thursday, 4 hours, 2 of them killing myself in the 53x14 or 13 at about 65 rpm, keeping the heart rate at a steady "zone 3," or kinda hard. Sloggity slog slog.
Today, a relaxed 5-hour ride, through Milton and Fife and Edgewood and every other tiny little town in the southsound area. It's impressive how quickly things get rural when you get out of town. Then, through industrialville to meet up with The Kid, because there is someone that I CAN call "the Kid," in Tacoma. The Kid was only good for an easy hour or so, through point defiance, since his knee is still pretty messed up. I feel for you, man...

Last season, I had the problem of Not Really Doing Anything in the base period. I'd just ride, for 2 and a half or 3 hours, at a steady pace. People say things like, "that's not training, it's just riding your bike." While at that point, I was at point in my fitness where any riding was probably good riding, it still feels a lot better to really train, and not just pretend to.

When I look at my training log last January and February, it's full of lots of messages whose essence are, "this sucks." At the end of December 2005, I hurt my knee pretty badly as I was just starting my season, and started too fast, apparently, as well as not protecting my knees. More on that later. Through January, it basically hurt the entire month, and that made training no fun at all. Sure, it would get a little better as I rode on, but I really should've backed it off more. Then, just as the knee was starting to feel a bit better, on 9 Feb 2006 I got hit by a car. I wasn't nearly as bad off as I could've been, but it made me seriously sore, my knee acted up more, and also my bike was wrecked, leaving me with a very knee-unfriendly fixie as my only ride. Needless to say, I was feeling like ass.

I'm so happy it's turned around this year, and need to remind myself that it's not all luck.

This reminds me, as well, I need to get back to making a training log that says more than "4 hours. Moderate pace." That's kinda all I've been writing lately.

Finally, blogs that are just piles of text aren't fun at all. So, let's throw some pictures in.

This is my fixed-gear bike. I like it. Pretty basic, overseas-made steel frame, no surprises, but it was cheap and I think it looks pretty sharp for the price, which wasn't much.



Check out the track ends. This means "dropouts," except since they are horizontal, the wheel won't DROP out at all. So, they are track ends. Some people think that huge shield thing is kind of dorky, but it makes me feel a bit safer.




These are one of my favorite things recently: Northwave Celsius winter cycling shoes. And you're darn right they are muddy! They are plenty stiff, quite walkable, warm, and waterproof. Goodbye, booties! Although, since they are waterproof, if water DOES get in, through the cuff, they become a big puddle of icy water in a hurry. Water cannot get out without you very comically removing and upending the shoe. So, if you have no front fender, and your leg warmers aren't big enough to cover the shoe's ankle, that's no good.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Pet Peeve of the Day:

I have a few, but the first one that comes to mind is really, really simple: peppermint. Who likes this stuff? Does ANYONE really want it? I'm not a huge fan of any mint, but when I do need to freshen the old breath up, what's the point of peppermint when spearmint and wintergreen (whatever that is) are readily available? I've never known anyone who takes the red stripey kind over the green stripey kind.

And, also, the Award of the Day goes to none other than Bill Gates. I will readily admit this: I was wrong about you, Bill. As an apple convert, I was pretty anti-Microsoft for a long time, and still dislike a lot of their software products. What's more, back in high school, I thought Gates was a greedy bastard who was only interested in bettering himself and showing that he was the man. When he married supermodel
Melinda, I thought, of course, that's what billionaires do.

But the Bill and Melinda foundation is about the greatest organization the world has to offer. While the US government is doing -- whatever it does -- B&M, now with a lot of Warren Buffet's assets, too, is the driving force in curing a lot of the world's worst diseases. Who else in the western world gives a crap about malaria?

I have never been so happy to have egg on my face.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Yesterday I did a great job at accomplishing my training goals: stay awake for as short a time as possible, and eat a lot.

My sister used to complain that I got the "skinny genes," and my rest day food gets me wondering how much of tastes are genetic. As a broke, vegetarian bike racer, I find myself eating a TON of bread, pasta, and oatmeal, all of which is just fine. As far as "traditional" junk foods, like fries, chips, and doughnuts go, I find myself completely uninterested in them.

Apparently this isn't the norm for Americans. Fatty and salty do little for me.

On the other hand, I have the capacity to eat copious amounts of various flavored, congealed sugars. I don't really like chocolate or ice cream (the heresy!), but can put away a pound of red vines in no time. What's up with that? It's pretty well always been this way. Any candy products that contains sugar almost exclusively, and I'm there. So, last night, I went and collected some mike and ikes, some red vines, and bags of those little "apple slices" and "peach rings" that convenicence stores have for two for a dollar. Inflation seems to have missed these babies, since they have been 2 / $1 since I can recall, whereas regular candy bars have gone from 49 cents to 89.

I am just glad I was given flouride treatment for my teeth as a youngster...

Monday, February 19, 2007

Californication:

Are you watching the Tour of California? If not, check it out on OLN cum Versus, 10pm EST every day this week. Different schedule on the weekend. Yesterday was the prologue, a short, punchy time trial down the Embarcadero and up Telegraph Hill in San Francisco. Last year's winner Levi Leipheimer took the thing by a single second. Watching it, the thing that struck me most was the crowds lining the streets: they were huge. I've heard some estimates that 300,000 people were watching this thing. People wondered what would happen to American interest in professional cycling in the post-Lance Armstrong era. One of the things we need to REALLY be fans, though, is races on our own soil, a history and tradition of cycling to call our own.

Without century-old races like Liege-Bastogne-Liege and massive traditions like the Tour de France, we have to start from scratch. The organizers of the Tour of California have done just that, and if you already like bike racing, you should show your support. If you don't like it yet, give it a try. I promise, it's more exciting than your Desperate Housewives.

Anyway, yesterday as I watched Levi Leipheimer suffering up Telegraph, the thing that stood out to me was the SOUND of the crowd. The cheering drowned out the announcers, and you could clearly hear the crowd chanting "LE - VI! LE - VI! LE - VI!" That's awesome.

When I tell people who I meet every day that I'm into road bike racing, some of them know what it is by saying, "oh, you mean like Lance Armstrong?" Yeah, kinda. But many also have to ask me a couple of times if I mean motorcycles, and others are completely confused.

Check it out. A bunch of guys in multicolored spandex can be pretty cool. At least, I hope so.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

I have a backlog of far more interesting posts, but no energy to really deal with them right now. This isn't supposed to be just a random collection of ride reports. But still -- it was 62 degrees today. That's wow nice.

Tomorrow I don't get to ride, and it's scheduled to rain.

There were more than 20 of us, I think, a pretty serious blue and white armada. We did 80-something-miles. With the exception of a very nice Cat 7 move by one guy that caused a (thankfully harmless) crash, everyone was going pretty good, just a nice, mellow, all-day pace. Perfect base miles, in places I've never been, with snowy mountains in the distance, farmlands and open roads, and a pair of bald eagles low overhead at one point.

What more can you ask for, really? I wasn't even cold on the descents.
I have a backlog of far more interesting posts, but no energy to really deal with them right now. This isn't supposed to be just a random collection of ride reports. But still -- it was 62 degrees today. That's wow nice.

Tomorrow I don't get to ride, and it's scheduled to rain.

There were more than 20 of us, I think, a pretty serious blue and white armada. We did 80-something-miles. With the exception of a very nice Cat 7 move by one guy that caused a (thankfully harmless) crash, everyone was going pretty good, just a nice, mellow, all-day pace. Perfect base miles, in places I've never been, with snowy mountains in the distance, farmlands and open roads, and a pair of bald eagles low overhead at one point.

What more can you ask for, really? I wasn't even cold on the descents.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Today's brief bit of humor:

In an e-mail to me: "With a name like 'Tyler Stetson' what are you doing bike racing? You'd be a star on the pro rodeo circuit, and you'd REALLY get to be on TV."

I'm not much of a TV watcher, but I did catch last week's semi-premiere of "Lost." In it, the good-guy-pretending-to-still-be-a-bad-guy pretends to the other bad guys that she has captured one of the good guys, who then reveals he's not really captive at all by beating up the guard. To the guard's unconscious body, the good guy then remarks, "I can't believe you fell for the old wookie prisoner trick!"

Okay, okay, Han, you put these on him.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Time for tired: because that's what I do on Mondays.

The Award of the Day goes to Jimmy, who is the man, and did not even complain when I showed up at 10:00pm with 2 bikes to build before the morning's ride. Okay it wasn't as dramatic as it sounds, but still, my mechanical skills are not exactly up to the challenge, so he's pretty awesome for helping out. We got my DBR all cooled out, finally eliminating my 2 pet peeves about it -- the weirdo FSA "wing pro shallow drop" handlebars, and Rival shifters that worked just fine but whose aluminum blades stood out among the rest of the black-and-carbon bike. Pics shortly.

Picked up my Portland State team kit. Photos also to come, of more interesting people than me wearing it, even. This year it's made by Pactimo. The overall quality of the stuff is pretty good, except for the fact that it is made for midgets. I mean, seriously midgets. I ordered a size Small in everything, like I always do, because Yours Truly weighs 140lbs soaking wet on a heavy day. The jersey and shorts were basically fine, but the skinsuit needs tire levers to get into and the arm warmers are more like thumb warmers.

Kevin also wore his skinsuit to the team photoshoot. Because he is a dork.

Portland is a really beautiful city. I think I like it more than Seattle. The new Portland Tram is up and running, and I was sad that I didn't get to take it for a ride. They are really trying hard to make the Portland public transportation a slick, integrated system, and now they have got the ever-expanding Streetcar, the Max, including the new Yellow Line to the Expo Center, and of course the trusty busses. The problem with the Tram seems to be that, though it's free (rather, subsidized) for OHSU patients, students, volunteers, and a few others, it's $4 to take it otherwise. 4 bucks for a 5-minute tram ride? Okay, that's round trip, but, whatever. They say they honor Tri-met annual and monthly passes, which are partially subsidized for students, so that's nice, but it doesn't seem like basic transfers from the streetcar or MAX will work. Granted there was expense in building the thing, but a bus ticket is $1.70. I see what they are doing -- an all-zone bus ticket is up to $2 now, thanks to fuel cost, and the transfer lasts 2 hours, rather than what appears to be a one-use, all-day rountrip on the tram.
But this is my point: the tram is bicycle accessible, which is cool. If you take your bicycle up the tram, you probably don't need to take it down. Riding to OHSU might not be a very hard climb for a bike racer, but if you are a commuter wearing street clothes, it is enough that it would be annoying and get you all sweaty.

I like the idea of a $100 annual pass for both the streetcar and tram. I would buy that, even if I only took 'em occasionally, just for the convenience. Let's face it, I have never actually BOUGHT a ticket for the streetcar, the few times I've taken it.

The Ride -- the Portland State team went for a ride on Saturday that had a really cool turnout. There were some 20 riders at the start, making for a pretty serious pack that rolled out to Sauvie's Island at a nice, conversational pace. It was really great to see the team expanding, especially the number of women on the team. I've always said the gender imbalance in cycling doesn't make much sense to me, and it will be sweet for the team to have more than two of those bicyKILLERS out at the races. Besides, when you have people shouting, "Pillage and burn!" from the sidelines, how can you go wrong?After the loop, those in for a lighter day wheeled on back to downtown and succeeded in missing two things: the rain that must be obligatory on a Portland ride, and what I think is the hardest longer climb in the Portland area: McNamee road, which is a tiny little 120-degree left off of Highway 30 nearish to Cornelius Pass. Sucker is about 4 miles long, and has several little psych-out whoop-dee-doos that make you think you're done and add to the total elevation gain. We found it courtesy of Eric from the Trek / VW team, who was riding with us. It's pretty darn steep for the first mile and a half, and I got to a little dip and thought I was done, waited for Pete from Garage, and realized we were NOT done when there was another rise and Jimmy comes flying by us in the big ring. Jimmy realized the climb was STILL NOT DONE as I came flying by him in my own big ring, and then died. Eventually the three of us were all at the top, pretending we weren't completely tired, with wondering what that climb was and why I'd never been up it in the time we HAD been living in Portland.

Did I mention that Eric was on a fixed-gear? Apparently his team bike for '07 has not come in yet, so he was riding around on his paddy wagon. Dude is crazy.
It rained a bunch, there was lots of wind. We climbed some more, and we went home.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Passwords -- what type of password do you use? Am I the only one who just makes crap up, and doesn't use the same password for everything? Most people seem to use birthdates and stuff, or names and easily recognizable words. Perhaps it started from an early paranoia of being "hacked," but mine always end up like this "dn309mz2" Usually there is some easily recognizable pattern on the keyboard if you get right down to it, but that only makes sense when I think about it. It's little motion-mnemonics, like 03oekdmc. See what I did there?

Contact lenses -- can somebody PLEASE explain the biology of this to me? I wear contact lenses, but only while riding my bike. If I put my contacts in during the afternoon, I don't really like it, but it's not really so bad. However, on days like today, when I have to put the lenses in within 1 or 2 hours of waking up, they BURN LIKE HELL when I put them in my eyes. What's up with that? It's not anything related to the contacts, since it doesn't matter if they have been in the case for 12 hours or 36 -- or even if they are brand new, for that matter, though that helps. What gives?

The 50 degree barrier has finally been broken. I don't even know what the official results of the groundhog were, but winter seems to indeed be over. This is Seattle, so I expect rain, but what impresses me is just how important 10 degrees is. Last Saturday, our ride started out with partly cloudy skies, temperatures in the low 40's, and everybody was pretty comfy, wearing less than full winter kit. Then, the rain hit, and though I don't entirely understand the meteorology of it, this was that type of "cold rain," that feels like it soaks through you completely, completely destroys your entire will to live, for the moment. It's pretty dismal. 39 degrees, the bank said as I shivered for home, and even after a warm shower that I absolutely did not want to step out of, I was STILL cold. This week, it's been hovering right around 50, and I am just shocked how much of a difference that makes. It's only 10 degrees, right? On Tuesday I got rained on quite steadily for the whole ride, but it didn't seem to matter -- I just kept ticking off the miles, letting the rain run across my glasses and down my face, wringing out my gloves occasionally, being happy about my new Northwave Celsius goretex cycling shoes, no problem. Compared to the purgatory that Saturday felt, it's wonderful. I fully expect to get soaked plenty of times in the coming months, and covered in the sand that seems to permeate EVERYTHING in the puget sound, but it's all right.

Can you believe road racing starts in only 3 weeks? With the amount of time most of us have lost training over the madness that was this winter, I wonder how well people will be feeling come Mason Lake, et al. We will see...

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Pet Peeve of the Day:

I may have already complained about this, but it's seriously stupid, and it seems EVERYBODY's cell phone does it these days. I'm talking about the rigamaroll it you've got go to through just to leave a message: "hello, this is so and so with such and such a company. I'm not available, but, if you'd leave your name, number, and a detailed message, I'll get back to you just as soon as I can, thanks for calling." Now, on a good old fashioned answering machine, you'd hear a BEEP, leave your message, and be done. Instead, Miss Computer Voice says: "Please leave your message after the tone. [didn't your caller just SAY that?] Press 1 to send a numeric page [Has ANYONE ever done this?] When you are finished recording, you may hang up, or press 5 for more options.

Since all cell phones also have caller ID, the odds are that at some point through going through all of this crap and starting to leave a message, the party you tried to call will have called YOU back, at which point they will be listening to the same crap on your phone, and either leave a message, or hang up and have to listen to YOUR message, and then you will call them back while they are doing THAT, and...

I've seriously had to go through that game with people about five times. I am convinced that it is a conspiracy by the phone companies to get us to waste more minutes.

Sure, you might say, hook up a regular answering machine. What, to my cell phone? Oh, get rid of the cell phone? I wish, but it is REALLY nice to have the ability to call people when I'm on my bike, both for emergencies and missed connections.

The end point is that It would NOT be that hard for phone companies to make it so that, if you had your own pre-recorded greeting, they could dispense with that whole computer-voice crap. They just don't want to.

Also, stokediam, you linked to my weblog -- thanks! -- but there was a bit of a typeo there, you get a dead link. I think an extra slash, or something.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Sleep time, anytime.

Lately, I've been keeping a pretty odd schedule. I work nights, sometimes, and days sometimes, and I train in that 6 hour window that it's actually light out and not frosty. Somehow, I'm not collapsing completely with fatigue, and I attribute this mostly to my most impressive superpower: sleeping. I can sleep basically wherever, anywhere, so long as I am not actively immersed in cold water.

I've learned that other people can't do this. That sucks. How do you make life work when you don't just laugh seeing those sleeping-pill commercials?

I'll get home from work, sleep for 4 hours, get up, ride my bike, come home, sleep for 3 more hours, and then go to work. Yes, of course, there is eating and showering and stuff in there too, kiddos. Of course, this has its disadvantages. If somehow I do NOT take a nap after my ride, somehow I will find myself about to take a nap regardless of where I am. Class, or anywhere else sitting still, is the second-worst of it, second only to being in a moving vehicle. THANKFULLY, if someone has conscripted me into driving, I'm no so affected, but if I am a passenger in a car for more than 30 minutes, I guarantee you I will not be awake. Even if it's light out. ESPECIALLY if it's light out.

Blondie complains sometimes that I nap too much. That's okay, she's by far the cutest sunday paper cartoon lady out there.

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I don't know if the "New Blogger," nee "beta," has this fixed, but it's kind of annoying that I can't even do a search on my own weblog, short of clicking on every month worth of archives. How can I know if I have ALREADY whined about something or not?

And, did you realize I have been ranting on here for two YEARS now? Wow. I feel old.