Archive for the ‘Sports’ Category

2013 Palm Desert Century

Monday, November 11th, 2013

I crashed out of last year’s Palm Desert Century, breaking my collar bone, two ribs, and partially collapsing a lung. This year, I wanted to return and finish what I started.

In the process, I knocked out two goals: a century ride in under 5 hours and a sub-1-hour time trial (the time trial is a 15 mile portion of the course that’s entirely uphill).

The Stats:

PALM DESERT CENTURY 2013
Miles: 99.24
Time: 4:57:28 4 hours, 57 minutes, 28 seconds
Average Speed: 20.0 mph
Max Speed: 29.0 mph

how to ride a bicycle in traffic*

Wednesday, March 14th, 2012

Number one rule for riding a bike in traffic: Be alert.

Number two: Always have an escape route.

Number three: Learn basic bike handling skills.

Number four: Obey traffic laws.

Numbers 1 and 3 might be the most daunting, but they are easily overcome with some practice. This post is largely about number 1: Be alert.

People can and will kill you if you do something stupid on a bike, and sometimes even when you’re doing nothing stupid at all. The best way to counteract this is to be alert.

Being alert is a mindset that is cultivated. It is experience constantly speaking about potential threats. At its core is hypervigilance, and it’s something that is always being learned (consequentially, never fully learned).

Fortunately, learning to be alert isn’t that hard. It takes a little bit of discipline at first, but in time it becomes natural.

The key to being alert is to constantly ask yourself what could happen, given your current surroundings.

Is there a driveway? What might happen? A car might come out very quickly, or a car might pull in very quickly. Be alert: cars may attempt to enter the driveway from the oncoming lane (Left Hook) or from behind (Right Hook). Look out for pedestrians and other bicyclists as well. Always have an escape route.

Are there parked cars on the right? What might happen? They can pull out or open doors suddenly. There will likely be cars approaching from behind. You may need to take the lane so that you have space to react to sudden, unexpected movements. Always have an escape route.

Approaching an intersection? Is there a right turn lane? Prepare for the “right hook”: a car will overtake from your left very quickly, pull in front, smash the brakes, and make the right hand turn in front of you. Worse, they might not see you and simply run into you.

Have an escape route, and know where reaction time is thin: You won’t have time to react to a car’s sudden brake† or sideswipe. Lane-splitting and good bike handling are crucial skills here.

Approaching an intersection? Avoid the “suicide slot.” This is the narrow column of space to the right of cars who have the option to turn right. Cars in this situation behave erratically, and attempting to pass on the right invites disaster:  there’s no way out of the slot unless there is a curb and you can hop it without killing a pedestrian.

Avoid the suicide slot: take the lane behind a car. If you can split lanes safely, split away from a lane with a suicide slot. Always have an escape route.

The suicide slot is most common at intersections, but can present itself at other times. You’ll learn to recognize it. Always be wary of being on the right hand side of any vehicle, especially large trucks, and always have an escape route.

Staying alert means listening to what you hear. The sense of hearing is extremely important, perhaps more so than sight. Car tires have a very distinct sound on pavement. It may seem natural to listen for engines, but tires are a far better indicator of speed and distance.  A trained ear is a great asset for evaluating threats that aren’t yet visible.

On the other hand, being alert means questioning your senses at all times. Eyes and ears can play tricks, so confirm any suspicions before making any sudden movement in traffic.

____________________________________
* This post subject to change. It’s a work in progress.

†Car brakes are more effective than bicycle brakes.

ride report: 2011 palm desert century

Tuesday, November 15th, 2011

11/11/2013 Note: this was sitting in my drafts, waiting to be polished up before publishing. It turns out that I’ve run out of blog-o-polish so you get what you get.

Last weekend, I rode the 2011 Palm Desert Century, and had the time of my life.

Rain had been forecast all week (“a shower”), but by Friday night, the forecasters had all but written off any chance of rain. I arrived just after the official starting time of 7AM and queued up with Wave 4 of riders. Just as we began to pedal, the first rain drops began to fall. The desert is a trickster when it comes to weather.

By 5 miles in, we were all soaked. The valley in which Palm Desert lies had captured a thick cloud of rain and it wasn’t moving until it had dumped its contents on us mortals. No worries though, and by 10 miles in I couldn’t wipe a big shit-eating grin off my face as I pedaled onward.

It was about this time that I thought to start rehydrating, and it was about this time that I realized I had forgotten something very important. A glance down my frame confirmed that my water bottles were sitting patiently at the hotel room, wondering when their usefulness would be realized.

I thought about going back to get them, but I was now approaching the first SAG stop. There was no sign that the weather would clear enough for the kind of heat and wind that makes desert riding dangerous, so I quieted my inner Boy Scout and resolved to stop at all SAG stops for hydration.

Meanwhile, back at the hotel room, my family saw my folly and attempted to drive the course to deliver my bottles and a rain jacket. Their quest ended in futility, and if I had had the common sense to look at my cell phone, I would have seen my wife’s text message and responded that I was OK on my own.

Stats:

PALM DESERT CENTURY 2013
Miles: 101.14
Time: 4:57:28 5 hours, 40 minutes, 21 seconds
Average Speed: 17.8 mph
Max Speed: 30.0 mph

ride report: alpine challenge 2011

Saturday, April 30th, 2011

Owing to construction at the Viejas outlet center, the Alpine Challenge organizers moved the start/finish area to Summers Past Farms and shortened the total available mileage from 72 to 62 miles. The 62 mile route included the trip out to Pine Valley, which previously accounted for the extra 10 miles.

The increasing popularity of the Alpine Challenge necessitated the move to Viejas. Previously to Viejas, the Challenge staged in a nice little park in the heart of Alpine. I liked the park setting, and while the larger Viejas location serves its purpose well, it doesn’t have any of the small town charm of the park setting. I was pleasantly surprised by Summers Past Farm: the grounds are beautifully maintained and there is a small nursery pocketed within a showcase of flora that even includes a small topiary maze. Of course, I can’t allow independent nurseries to go unsupported and came home with a couple of new plants for the yard.

I felt confident coming into this year’s Challenge and started out with guns blazing. The beginning of the ride features mostly downhill stretches that allowed me to accelerate to 50 mph, the fastest I’ve ever gone and a goal I’ve wanted to reach for many years. These downhills are soon replaced with a 20 or so mile stretch of almost constant uphill grade. I passed a lot of folks going up this stretch which added to my confidence, but soon I had passed all of the low-hanging fruit and those in front were in as good, or better, shape than I. Some of those that I had passed would overtake me as the youthful zeal in my legs succumbed to the inevitable buildup of lactic acid and the increasing wind from the East.

Coming back from Pine Valley, I was passed by a couple of guys and I got on their wheel for a little while, but ended up abandoning because I couldn’t see ahead and hit some pretty nasty potholes on the downhills, one of which robbed me of a water bottle. Had I known at the time, I would have gone back to pick it up but it wasn’t until a few miles later that I realized it was gone.

This was the first year that I didn’t stop at any of the SAG support stops. The last 10 miles were pretty rough, as my legs and posterior were ready to be off the machine. However, the East wind was now at my back and even the few uphill ticks weren’t too tough.

All in all, I was a little disappointed that I couldn’t keep the guns blazing throughout the entire ride, but at the same time there were very few times when I drafted other riders, so I’m proud to say that most of the ride was done under my own power.

We were blessed with perfect weather: mild and not too windy. The scenery is gorgeous, especially after our wet winter. Every year I am reminded why I believe this is San Diego’s best organized ride. The challenge lives up to its name, the support is excellent, the entry fee is cheap and goes to a great cause, and includes a shirt, medal, goodie bag, a beer, and a hamburger.

Stats:

ALPINE CHALLENGE 2011
Miles: 63
Time: 3 hours, 47 minutes, 23 seconds
Average Speed: 16.6 mph
Max Speed: 50 mph

der cycle-Küken

Sunday, February 27th, 2011

I wear a rubber chicken on my bicycle helmet.

I sort of have a history with rubber chickens. My friend in high school wanted one, and when he made that confession I was suddenly aware that I needed one too, and that I always had but just didn’t know it.

The chicken on my bike helmet is from a novelty lollipop I bought many years ago. When I saw it in the store I knew that lollipop needed my home. The delicious candy long gone, I couldn’t let the chicken go. For many years, it rested upon my CRT computer monitor and later sadly relegated to a crap bin.

When I built my commuter bike in 2010, I happened across the crap bin and found the rubber chicken. Instantly, I knew that it belonged on the top of my helmet. So I strapped him on with a plastic zip tie:

I have contemplated why I have this chicken on my helmet, because it’s bound to get me noticed by at least a few keen folks on the streets. When my wife asked me why I had it, I sort of dismissed it as a Zen thing or something. I hadn’t fully assembled the Why of the Chicken, but now I’m ready to tell my secret:

I hope that those who see the chicken will recognize me as a fellow human being. I have a wife and a special needs son who very much depend on me, and whom I love dearly. I realize that cycling is a dangerous sport, but I love it so much that I can’t live happily without it, and I want people on the streets to recognize cyclists as fellow humans.

There is a flip side. As I ride, I often glance down and see the shadow of my helmet on the street, and the chicken gloriously perched in eternal joy atop my helmet, and it reminds me that all of you folks in cars are people too, with families and hopes and dreams and everything else that comes with being human.

Beyond humor, the chicken serves two purposes: to remind others that I’m human, and to remind me that everyone else is human too. And maybe it might make a few people laugh in the process.

ride report: 2010 Salton Sea Century

Tuesday, October 19th, 2010

I spent a solo weekend in Borrego Springs to take part in the 2010 Salton Sea Century.

I arrived late Friday afternoon and checked in to the Palm Canyon Resort. The room was big, clean, and a scant 1.5 miles from the starting point of Saturday’s ride. My view looked north at the tail end of the mountains that frame Borrego Springs to the west:


The View from My Room

 

I hopped on my bike to pick up my registration packet from Christmas Circle and get a feel for the ride down to the start/finish line. It’s about a 1.5 mile stretch, and a nice false flat downhill. Which of course meant an energy-sucking false flat uphill on the way back: I made a mental note not to kill myself on it after Saturday’s 100 mile journey.

Upon returning to my room, I found that the bar and restaurant were closed on account of it being the off season or something. Fortunately for me, the time I would have spent chowing on dinner was instead spent picking up the one grocery item I forgot for tomorrow’s breakfast before the market closed at 6:30.

On the way back to my room, I picked up a 3-rolled with guac from the local ‘Bertos (this one was a Jil-) and enjoyed my dinner watching the colors change on the mountains from a chair and table set up on the deck outside of my room. Borrego Springs is gorgeous, no doubt about that.

I spent the rest of the evening drinking lots of water, munching on snacks, and getting the room & bike ready for a quick exit the following morning:


A place for everything, and everything in its place

 

My night’s preparation left me bright-eyed for the 7:00 AM start:


I have can-do blazing out the wazoo!

 

The 100 mile tour consists of 3 laps, each starting and ending at Christmas Circle.

The first lap takes the rider to the top of Yaqui Pass, an upward span somewhere on the order of 5 miles which attempts to demoralize the rider with a long stretch of slight incline before the real climbing begins. I found that I’m much more suited to the steeper part of the climb: I had a hard time finding a good rhythm going up the slight pitch but as soon as the grade steepened my legs found their pace. Once at the top, I turned around for the descent: not very technical but still a lot of fun at 40+ mph.

The second lap is more of a tour of Borrego’s streets, meandering through the mainly flat residential area of Borrego.

Christmas Circle, being the central hub, served as the start/finish line and a SAG stop. I had emptied both of my water bottles on laps 1 & 2, so when I stopped for refills before the third lap, I started to fill both with sport drink when the organizer stepped in and said to fill the 2nd with water instead, as he was worried they would run out of sport drink. This actually turned out to be a good thing for me later on in the day.

The third lap is where the ride really begins. It starts at mile 45, with the sun beginning to show its force. This lap takes the rider 27 miles to the outskirts of Salton City and back. There is a small mountainous range that must be ascended before descending to Salton City, at the top of which is an intermediate SAG stop; this little range, coupled with the heat and unexpected bodily functions, makes for some interesting desert riding.

This SAG stop at mile 62 has a nice view of an eroded canyon:


Canyon at the edge of SAG stop, mile 62

 

Here I am at mile 62, complete with orange pulp and mounting discomfort:


This is me: mile 62

 

What I’m not about to tell you is that all the way out to the SAG stop at mile 62, something was moving in my digestive tract. Without going into too much detail, I thought I had prepared myself sufficiently by voiding everything before I left in the morning. But despite my effort, the fiber in my energy bars and morning foods was mounting an assault. Which I thought I could contain until the end.

After the SAG stop, the road descends into Salton City. At the Imperial County line, the quality of the road takes a drastic turn for the worse: the asphalt has eroded away, leaving a surface riddled with large chunks of gravel and rock. Fortunately, these road conditions only last for about 2 miles, but by the time smoother road appears, the wrists are numb and the legs & rear beg for mercy.

At mile 72, there is a SAG stop and turnaround on the outskirt of Salton City. While stopped, I thought to take advantage of the opportunity to void my lower intestine. But I decided that I didn’t feel all that bad and I didn’t want to disturb the nice young couple with their daughter volunteering at the SAG stop. So I ate more orange slices and refilled my sport drink bottle. The water bottle from Christmas Circle was still stowed on my seat tube.

Turning around meant that after a couple of miles, I’d be back on the 2 mile stretch of eroded highway. This time, however, the sun was hotter and I was moving more slowly owing to the slight ascent of the road. This is the worst type of riding for me, because I need airflow of at least 15 mph to cool me down. During miles 76-82, I was barely pushing the crank over hard enough to maintain 10 mph, and in my head I calculated that it would easily take half an hour to reach the midpoint SAG stop, and I knew there would be sharp uphills to menace my legs. Discomfort in my abdomen added to the heat for a very special feeling of disease.

That’s when I found the God-given purpose for the bottle of water that I got from Christmas Circle: every few minutes I would douse myself with it, and though the water by now was actually hot to the touch, it was gloriously cool as it exchanged heat in the air with coolness.

Finally, I made it to the mid-point SAG stop, where I dismounted and sat for awhile, getting my core temperature under control. They were out of ice, but they still had plenty of water and sport drink, and a service vehicle was purportedly on its way with more ice.

I ended up talking to the volunteer for a bit, and learned how hard the volunteers were working that day. He is a member (and if I’m not mistaken, the President) of the local Chamber of Commerce, and this ride is a fund raiser for them. Unfortunately, some of their volunteers canceled at the last minute, leaving each SAG station understaffed. This man was with his daughter, who was no doubt bored to tears in the hot Borrego sun. At the Salton City stop, the nice young couple had a child sitting in their car with the engine & A/C running, with some markers and paper to help distract from the boredom of sitting out all day.

This post may end up simply a long-winded thank-you to the volunteers that day. They worked really hard and gave up their Saturdays to look after our health and safety on the road that day. Bless them all.

And now back to me.

At this point I realized that the discomfort in my bowels needed to be addressed. At least these porta-johns were a little farther away from the action than those at Salton City. So I clambored into one, and let humility run its course. I feel such sympathy for women: Porta-Johns don’t have much arm room and their surfaces aren’t ones we want to touch.

One big factor in cycling comfort is cleanliness. If things aren’t clean down there, things can get ugly during a long ride. Thankfully, I brought baby wipes with me in a ziploc bag in my jersey pocket. I have always brought that bag with me on my long rides and never needed to use them, and I even debated whether I wanted to bring it on this ride. Now I know to never leave it behind.

So the moral of this story is, even if you’re a man, bring wet-wipes. I do believe that is the most embarrassing way I’ve ever made a point.

After many minutes, it was apparent that ice wasn’t coming soon and I was feeling much better, so I threw my leg over the saddle a final time for the last 17 miles. These miles were much friendlier than the previous, going net downhill from the small range bordering Salton City. The last 5-7 miles teased with a far-off view of Christmas Circle, seemingly just around the corner but actually several miles away.

I finished in around 6 hours, 45 minutes, including SAG stops. Total time in the saddle was 05:50, which put me inside my goal of 6 hours. I’m a little disappointed in how long I spent at the SAG stops, but I also feel like I listened to my body’s needs and made the right decisions out there in the desert, which is far more important.

Here I am, collapsed on the grass at Christmas Circle after a long day in the saddle:


The Porta-Johns really frame the shot

And after the 1.5 mile ride back to my hotel room:


Satisfied after a long day


Sunset over the Palm Canyon Resort

 

dear bee:

Monday, July 26th, 2010

Please refrain from stinging. I know it’s just your nature. It’s what you do, and you are so small and your honey is so prized. But I can assure you that I have no designs on your colony. My intentions are pure, as far as your hive is concerned.

If you must sting, please do your business quickly and be on your way. I am very sorry that you must enter your death throes upon releasing your sting, but quite frankly that is not my problem. I hate to be insensitive, but once again, it’s your nature. I have no control over your physiological traits, and I must at this point remind you that my intention was never to bring harm to your hive. I’m just a guy trying to make his way home.

If you must linger, please understand that while I am much larger than you, I am susceptible to what we call “a case of the heebie-jeebies.” I know it’s unreasonable, but please understand that cases of the heebie-jeebies can actually be quite perilous, especially at highway speed in our automobiles when we suddenly discover a stowaway in its death throes underneath our garments.

Finally, please understand that my bellybutton, while fuzzy and warm, is not an acceptable final resting (or death-throe-ing) place. Remember those heebie-jeebies? We humans are a prideful lot, and I dare say that I am duly embarrassed by the heebie-jeebie dance I exhibited whilst exiting my automobile. I have neighbors, and some have become suspicious. I dare say that today I must have confirmed their qualms about my sanity.

oh hello mr. bunny

Monday, June 21st, 2010

Week 1
Oh hello, Mr. Bunny!
I see you are taking a rest.
You look plum tuckered out.
It’s hard work, being a bunny.
A gutter probably isn’t the best place for a nap,
But you seem so calm and peaceful.
I will let you sleep.

Week 2
Oh hello, Mr. Bunny!
It’s been a week since I saw you last.
Why have you not moved?
You don’t look so good.
Maybe you’re depressed?
That’s an awful long time for a nap.
Do you need help?
Ok, ‘bye now.

Week 3
Oh hello, Mr. Bunny!
It’s been another week, and I daresay you’re not looking yourself.
You could use a shower and probably a nice hot meal.
Coney stew, perhaps?
I am kidding, of course!
But seriously, I think you may have a problem.
I think you could benefit from some psychiatric help.
They make wonderful drugs these days.
All you need to do is get up and greet the day!

Week 4
I see you have taken leave of your napping place.
I hope things are well with you.
There is an odd stain where you once slept.
And a slightly foul odor.
But I suspect your friends have found you
And wrested you from your slumber.
Good bye, Mr. Bunny!

Oh hello, Mr. Lizard!

alpine challenge 2010, or where i completely overestimate my physical condition

Tuesday, April 27th, 2010

I was pretty confident that I would do well in this year’s Alpine Challenge. After all, I rode 7000 miles last year and while I haven’t been on my bike so much this year, I’ve been running a lot; I figured my cycling form hasn’t deteriorated all that much. And I’m pretty sure the 15 extra pounds on my bathroom scale is muscle weight, right?

I should have known something was awry when I put on my Fat Cyclist jersey. It’s the most snug of all my jerseys, and I was horrified at how it looked on me. It’s mostly white with black trim, and being very form-fitting, all of my luscious bulges were hanging out for the world to sneer at. I have never considered myself one who would have a muffin top but when paired with lycra cycling shorts, the jersey left nothing to the imagination. I felt like I was in a wet t-shirt contest, except I wasn’t wet, and the jiggly parts weren’t where they were supposed to be. To put it bluntly, I was too fat for my Fat Cyclist jersey, and it had to go. I sheepishly looked for the most non-form-fitting jersey in my possession, which happened to be the jersey from last year’s Alpine Challenge.

Despite this initial setback, I was still unphased in my plan to stay with the lead group as long as possible and blow the field apart on the 5-mile ascent of the Dehesa Grade. Insert derision here.

Last year, I started away back from the front and had to claw myself up to the front group. This year, I knew to start close to the front. I saw the Descenders and felt shame for my physical condition. I hoped no one recognized me.

Cue the CHP dude with the usual “be safe, follow the rules of the road” speech (man I felt bad for him, everyone was just talking over him. No respect.). Cue the cute high school girls singing the national anthem in 3-part harmony (seriously, good job girls!). And we’re off.

Did I mention how last year I was able to claw my way up to the front? Well this year I was already at the front and I had to claw my way just to hang off the back of the front. Which sucked, because once I caught up to the next last guy, he’d get dropped, which meant I had to work to bridge up to the next last person in the group, who would get dropped. Repeat. Soon I realized I was working way too hard at the beginning of a long ride, and while I felt really good at sprinting, I wasn’t recovering the way I used to.

But I was killing it on the descents (this is where the extra poundage comes in handy), so I was able to stay with a second pack that had dropped off the front for a bit. I hoped they would capitalize on my Mad Descending Skillz (or at least my Mad Obezity), drafting off of me while I flew down, and letting me draft off of them when the road turned back upwards. But I began to feel like a Pariah. On one of the descents, at well over 40 mph, two guys sprinted from behind and as they passed, they pushed me farther to the right of the road than I wanted to be and I had to back off to keep from crashing. Seriously guys? On the Alpine Challenge? Take your aggressive Cat-5 crap to the races. I just want to have a fun day out in the hills. There seemed to be an organized attempt to drop me from their group: any time I took someone’s wheel, they’d slow down and take me out of the group.

Finally I decided to just enjoy the ride and leave them to their testosterone party; besides, the Dehesa Grade was coming up and all of this jostling for position was wasting energy. I would let the Grade separate the men from the boys.

As soon as the Dehesa Grade started, I knew I was in for a long day. My legs just weren’t there, and while last year I had the pleasure of passing lots of guys, this year I was the one being passed. The Grade let me know where my manhood stood, and it was humbling.

I knew at this point that I wasn’t going to make it through the entire 72 miles and decided I would take the turnoff for the 60 mile route when it presented itself. Which was still 15 miles and lot of painful climbing away. I was disappointed that this would be my first year without the extra loop to Pine Valley, but as soon as I made the decision I knew it was the right one.

While I only stopped once last year to answer the call of nature, I had to stop at 2 SAG stations to recover enough to keep going. The Descenders, coming back from the full 72 mile route, overtook me a good 15 miles from the end. I feebly tried to get on their wheel but couldn’t. In a word, I was cooked.

My final time for 60 miles was around 3 hours 45 minutes at an average speed of 15.9 mph. Compare that to last year: 72 miles in 3 hours 56 minutes at an average speed of 18.1. It’s amazing how quickly cycling form turns to mush.

But the event itself is still my favorite. This year we’ve had lots of rain, and all the meadows were green and flowers were blooming. The SAG stops are at perfect intervals, though I’m not sure what’s up with the HEED drink mix. That stuff is like drinking lead.

see you in alpine

Monday, April 19th, 2010

I’m done feeling sorry for myself and I entered the Alpine Challenge. Pretty cool that you can register all the way up to the day of the event, unlike that *other* event. The forecast calls for showers all week but sunny on Saturday.

I’ll try to stay with the lead group for as long as I can but I’m certainly not in my cycling form. I did 25 miles of hills yesterday and while my legs are fine, my neck is a little stiff and my posterior is, to put it delicately, unaccustomed to long periods in the saddle.