Tuesday, June 29, 2010

bike race hangover: not pretty

Today I am utterly fried.
All I want to do is go to bed and sleep for two days.
My feet are swollen, my arm has a tender blue lump where it hit the tree, and all my joints ache and feel stiff and slow.
(No, I didn't stretch after my race. Didn't have a chance because I had to cool down, eat a sandwich and go to my next volunteer assignment twenty minutes after my race ended. Note to self: next year, cough up the bucks and pay to race because 90 minutes of volunteer time is too much based on my recovery needs.)
I am really, really feeling my race today.
My racing age is 47 but right now I feel twenty years older.
Of course, this is an experiment: I've never tried to race every week for seven weeks before.
I hope it doesn't feel like this every week.

Monday, June 28, 2010

race report: PIR short-track # 2, 6/28/10

Yesterday I rode roving mechanic support for Sunday Parkways North. I had a grand time, riding three loops of the route as a volunteer and then most of a fourth loop with Sweetie after my volunteer shift was over. A little over 20 miles on the day, plus a bit of sunburn on my arms (I forgot to re-apply the sunscreen), but they were slow miles and I felt pretty good. I went home, elevated my feet for the evening and slept reasonably well.

Today I went to work, and left early for the short-track race. The day was cool and dry, with high temps in the low 70's and already cooling down again by 5 pm. I got there a little later this time and couldn't ride more than some of the single-track stuff before my registration shift began. I did an easy warmup, and pulled into the start area about ten minutes before my race -- where I was thrilled to discover that there would be at least five of us in the Womens' Singlespeed race. We talked excitedly and were interrupted by the race official, who asked us if we wanted to start with the Mens' Singlespeed, or start with the Cat II 45+ Women. A lack of consensus on our part relegated us to start with the other women, which none of us really minded. The Mens' Singlespeeders are ridiculously fast and they would only run us over trying to get the holeshot anyway.

I wasn't worried about the parts of the course I didn't get to ride -- how much can they change the moto section, anyway, right?

I should've worried. Tad B. And Company threw in some nasty hairpin turns that went straight into off-camber inclines; if I didn't have my cranks in the right place I would hang myself up on the turns, which I did twice. And then there was the whole back-and=forth, back-and-forth thing; The course had been laid out in multiple rows across the rhythm section, meaning that every time I thought I was nearing the end of a lap, I had to turn and go back across the moto course in the opposite direction. There were at least five of these turnarounds, which I found mentally exhausting. I still had to get off and push my bike up the steepest berms on the moto course but managed to power my bike through most of the inclines in the single-track section, and up onto the tabletop each time (where that happy little drop-down greeted me on the other side). The moto section itself was dusty and dry, and the wind kicked up mouthfuls of dust that dried out my throat in an awful way.

The carved-out gully between the trees was waiting for me -- but this time the route was run in reverse of last week, meaning I had to not only get through the gully, but then had to immediately muscle up a steep, short incline to keep my bike from getting stuck in the thing.
I managed this feat only twice out of four passes. The third time I crashed into the tree on my left side (there's a lovely bruise on my arm now) to avoid being hit from behind by a Cat II guy who was trying to pass me. The last time I was so spent I stopped well before the obstacle and ran across it with my bike.

(Yeah, I know. Total Weenie Action.)

On my third lap, with less than ten minutes to go in the race, I suddenly had to pull over and stop for more than a minute. I stopped on the far side of the out-and-back on the grass, behind a short tree where I could pull off, sip some water and catch my breath without hanging up other riders. I felt an urge to pour a trickle of water down the back of my neck as I was swallowing a gulp. Big mistake. I was shocked by the cool water on my greatly overheated neck and gagged on the water in my throat. Then I felt a wave of nausea come over me, and my mouth began to salivate heavily. I gagged some more, and felt horrible for thirty slow, agonizing seconds. Oddly, nothing significant actually came up, and after another moment, I felt suddenly better and was able to resume pedaling.

My final lap was a nothing less than a triumph of will over a loudly kvetching mind and body, which kept asking me "why are you even DOING this?"

I responded, "because back at the start all the Singlespeed Women agreed that we all had to finish tonight. And I AM finishing, so shut up and pedal."

To my utter amazement, I completed four laps.
Results are here.
I don't mind finishing in last place because as you can see, the category IS growing; and besides simply being able to finish every week, that is really what I want.

Two down, five to go.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

sunday parkways needs you!

The second installment of this season's Sunday Parkways is running tomorrow.
This year, five Parkways events are planned. The first, held last month in NE Portland (and including MY neighborhood this year!) was an unqualified success, attracting thousands of people to a 7-mile, car-free loop. Tomorrow's event will feature neighborhoods of North Portland, including some of Portland's oldest and most beloved city parks: Arbor Lodge, Kenton and Peninsula (including the Peninsula Rose Test Garden). As ever, there will be live music, dance, games for all ages and plenty of room to bike, walk, skate and skip rope.

sunday parkways '09

sunday parkways ne 2010

In short, Sunday Parkways is on its way to becoming a Portland institution.

But in order for that to happen, it needs everyone's help.


Sunday Parkways, even with so many hundred fo volunteers each month, still costs the city of Portland a lot of money to produce. This year, because of the recession and a budget shortfall, the city doesn't have enough money to run all five Parkways events without falling into the red.
This is where YOU can come in.

If you live in Portland and want to enjoy Sunday Parkways, consider kicking in a little change as a sort of Thank-You for the party.
If you live outside of Portland and want to take the message of Sunday Parkways to your town, consider kicking in a little change as a sort of rental fee for the details.
(After all, Portland's Sunday Parkways is a direct descendant of the Ciclovia from Bogota, Colombia, a fact we aren't shy about.)

To make a donation to Sunday Parkways, go here:


To volunteer at Sunday parkways -- they can always use more help -- go here:


I'll be in North Portland tomorrow, working the Roving Mechanic scene on my Surly cargo bike.
Maybe I'll see you there -- happy riding!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010


portland mtb short-track 6/21/10

(Photo by Shane Young, used with permission.)

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

race report: PIR short-track xc # 1

The good: I got to PIR at 4:30 and took a short practice lap before my volunteer shift began at 5. The moto section of the course was awful, with recent rains turning the mud into a gloppy, slippery mess in the rhythm section and around the banked turn. My tires were caked brown after one lap and I stopped, not wanting to burn up before the race. I used the volunteer shift to rest and recover from the practice lap. As I'd left the house earlier that afternoon Sweetie had given me a good reminder, courtesy of Christopher Marlowe: "Comparisons are odious." I kept that message front and center in my head as I rode my parking lot warmup laps in the presence of younger, slimmer, fitter riders. Forget about them. I was here to ride my own race.

The bad: at the start line, I looked around for other Singlespeed women, identifiable by their 600 series number plates. I saw only two besides myself. A whopping three of us had signed up for the new category. Crap. After all the behind-the-scenes networking I'd done over the winter, I was deeply disappointed. I hoped that the race promoter wouldn't judge the outcome too harshly until the series was finished in August.

The ugly: Mens' Singlespeed and Cat II 45+'s were each given their own starts. Cat II Women 35+ and Womens' Singlespeed were lumped together for one start because, well, there were only three Womens' Singlespeed riders. I found myself near the front of the pack and when the signal was given to start, the woman immediately to my right jumped for the holeshot like a rabbit -- and our handlebars tangled up for sickening moment. We untangled quickly but I nearly fell down in the process, and it took me what seemed like a million precious, long seconds to right myself and start pedaling. (Thank goodness I wasn't clipped into clipless pedals or it would have been much worse!)

I was far behind the field until the first neutralizer, a sharp turn around and through a couple of trees where a little bottleneck had formed. I was surprised to find myself catching up to the back of the pack. It wouldn't last, and I knew it. Still, that moment of surprise was exhilarating. This must be what it feels like to be able to actually race with other people, I thought. Then, realizing that I was falling behind again, I pushed that thought away an focused on just surviving.

My lungs burned. My legs screamed. I was so out of shape it was ridiculous. I kept pedaling, through the twisty singletrack and up the off-camber transitions in the trees, finessing the sculpted dip between the two trees that I'd tried out at the course trial (and which had been made more challenging by being routed at an angle this week, but I still handled it). Then, onto the moto course. Ugh. SO hard! I dismounted and pushed my bike a few times when I lost momentum, and by the end of the first full lap I had to pull off to the side of the course and take a minute to just stand there and catch my breath so I wouldn't puke. I wound up doing this several times during the race and hoped it wouldn't disqualify me, but I was feeling simultaneously wonderful and horrible and had to listen to my body. Each time I recovered I was able to push myself a little -- up berms, over the steep BMX-style drop-downs and around the banked turn towards the end of the lap.

Half way through my second lap. I saw Sharon of Team Beer standing on the edge of the course with a thrown chain. She asked if I was carrying any tools with me. I shrugged, smiled sadly and shook my head as I crawled past. If she didn't get it fixed she was done, DNF'd on a mechanical, and that meant there were only two Singlespeed women still in the race. I hoped she'd find a way to get it fixed and get back in.

Meanwhile, I noticed that, even though I was suffering far more by racing against faster riders, I was also benefiting from the presence of so many Singlespeed riders, because we all knew how to approach uphills the same way and seemed to sense this in each other. I found that I had more time and room to get my momentum up to take more of the uphill sections without dismounting -- and that now, my gearing choice actually made sense on this course.

The last lap was the worst, and every fifty to one hundred feet I negotiated with my brain to stay in the race while all the time my body was screaming to stop. Strangers and friends shouted at me to keep going, keep going. At the top of the rhythm section, a course marshal encouraged me, "Come on! You're almost there!" And I was. I suffered through the final run around the banked turn, around the out-and-back loop and to the finish line. And suddenly, there was the race official telling me to pull off, that I was done. I was, of course, Dead Effing Last to complete the course. But I finished, and I was given credit for all three laps. So I was happy.

This morning, results were posted over at the OBRA Web site:

 Singlespeed Women
Pl Num Last Name First Name Team Laps
1 602 Postera Shawn 4
2 600 hamon Beth Velo Bella 3

Obviously, Sharon didn't get back into the race, and so only two of us finished the course. I have an odd mixture of happiness and disappointment. Happiness that I hung in there and managed to ride the whole time, disappointment that more women didn't sign up for this new category. I hope there will be more of us next week.

Monday, June 21, 2010


This weekend, Sweetie and I went to the wedding of a friend. Her new husband is nuts about karaoke, so he hired a DJ who would provide music suitable for both singing and dancing to after the ceremony (which was conducted by Sweetie; the bride was her oldest friend from college). A glass of champagne helped me to get up and sing to the happy couple (when I wasn't looking at Sweetie and making all googly-eyes and stuff). The couple and wedding guests gushed, Sweetie blushed when I sang at her, and a grand time was had by all.

I have been off the bike since last Wednesday. Allergies, barometric pressure-induced wheezing and our trip Outta Town to attend the wedding mean I have mostly sat on my ass for the last five days. During our final two days in the warmer and drier climate, my wheezing subsided and the cough faded almost entirely. As SOON as we entered the Willamette Valley, all shrouded in clouds and fog, the wheezing returned and so did my cough. Sweetie is concerned that this is not allergies, but the possible development of asthma, which is exacerbated by cold and damp air.

I can't even handle the prospect of that possibility.

Tomorrow is the summer solstice, the longest day of the year. Mid-summer. And it's been so cold and wet for the last six weeks that I really don't feel like summer has really arrived yet. On top of that, the short-track season begins tomorrow night. And I know that there is really no way I can race. My lungs cannot handle it, my body is not prepared, and if I go out and try to race tomorrow I will probably DNF early in the race and cough and hack to death. So tomorrow I will go and do my volunteer shift, and probably not even try to race. I am frustrated. I would like things to warm up and dry out and I would really like to stop wheezing. I will call the doctor tomorrow morning and see what they say.

Meanwhile, here's a lovely teaser for the series, courtesy of the nice folks over at http://www.portlandracing.com

STXC-10 'WHATS YOUR NUMBER' from PDX Race Videos on Vimeo.

Monday, June 14, 2010

bounced checks: an opportunity to renegotiate terms

So I went to PIR tonight after work, to volunteer and learn the ropes of registration.

Of course, I brought Stompy along. As I got off the light rail train and rode the mile or so to the short-track area, I negotiated with myself, really with my body:

"So here's the deal. I've already signed up for this, and that includes volunteering every single week (in order to race for free, but it's not exactly free because I'm giving my time). So as long as I'm there and volunteering I'll bring Stompy along. On nights I feel like total crap I will not race. On nights where I feel like I have a little in the tank, I reserve the right to say I might race. On the few nights where I actually feel like I've got thirty minutes in me, I will definitely race."

There are seven weeks in the season. I figure if I can manage five weeks of racing -- based on my current form and the recovery still to be done from the staph infection -- that would be enough to make me really happy. If I manage to finish at least three of those five races -- in a new and much harder category -- I'll be satisfied. I can live with satisfied.

So tonight I took a very short, very slow practice lap of part of the course. I began on the moto track, went for the steep uphill that marks the laps, and proceeded off the moto course and into the singletrack area, where I threaded my way through the trees and around some off-camber stuff. By the time I'd gone halfway through the singletrack section I was really tired and starting to run out of breath. I pulled over, let faster riders pass me, and continued on to a little "neutralizer" -- a feature where a deep gully had been dug wider and re-shaped, with two trees close together on either side. You had to either ride through the gully or clear it, and not hit the trees on either side. I slowed down, listened as the course marshals advised me to get way back behind my saddle, and then I finessed it (because I certainly wasn't going to jump it). It felt good. It felt fun. I wanted to go back and do it again but by then I was pretty much out of gas. I went off the course, circled back and watched some other riders do it. Yup. Definitely a fun feature. I hoped I'd see it in a race.

I rode half-heartedly a little farther around the course, and then suddenly my body said, "enough". I was spent. I got off the course, rode the gravel drive back to the registration area, got some more information for next week, and went home, feeling both happy and terribly nervous. Happy, because I'd gotten to try a little pre-riding; and terribly nervous, because after tonight it's all racing and all for real, and omigod what was I thinking signing myself up for a harder, tougher category where my races are now ten minutes longer?

..::slam head against tree multiple times::..

Meanwhile, I saw the fruits of my labor tonight when Dot handed me my series plate.
And in spite of my fear at being so dreadfully out of shape, I smiled.

first number in series

Sunday, June 13, 2010

my body is plotting against me

What do you do when you make plans and your body tells you otherwise?
What do you when you write checks your body can't cash?

At the end of my first season of racing -- short-track and cyclocross -- I was tired, fried really, but elated. I'd raced five short-track races and four cyclocross races between June and December, and while I didn't set the world on fire I could see improvement and growth each time I went out. By early December I was exhausted but happy, and ready for a break. I limited my riding to daily commutes that were mostly a combination of bike and bus, and decided I'd begin to focus again in mid to late February. Then, I plotted a schedule of commuting, practice rides in the mud, and yoga and crunches alternating every other day. meanwhile, I discussed my needs for more consistent bedtimes and a good night's sleep with my partner. She was supportive and said she'd do all she could to help.

Then the pesky health issues began. In late February I began to feel fatigued and noticed a lack of interest in riding more. By mid-march I knew I was having a Crohn's flare-up, and took steps to deal with it (short-term steroids, bland diet and careful attention to reducing stress and getting better sleep). I struggled to keep doing stretching at home, though the core work went by the wayside.

As the flare-up was beginning to subside in mid-April, my spring pollen allergies kicked in, and I wheezed and hacked like I had a two-pack-a-day habit. I carried an inhaler with me and sucked on it daily, hoping that I'd acclimate soon and no longer need it for the year. In late April I rode a metric century, one I'd planned with a friend weeks in advance; the effort exhausted me. I didn't ride for three days afterward and ultimately needed more than a full week to recover from the ride. By then it was May and the rains came -- making for the wettest May on record in Oregon in decades. I got sinus headaches as I tried to adjust to the bouncing barometric pressure, which couldn't stay still for more than a couple of days. The yoga pretty much went to hell at this point. But with all the rain, the pollen calmed down and I began to feel like riding more -- a Smith and Bybee Lakes loop here, a Sunday ride with friends there. I began hoping against hope that the worst was behind me.

Then last weekend I went on a ride in balmy, 65-degree rain, the muggy warm kind that isn't usually seen in Oregon (though more may show up now with global warming). I felt good enough on Monday to do a full commute. And then on Tuesday I woke up with my throat swollen to the size of a grapefruit and by mid-day the chills, fever and sweats kicked in. I went to the doctor, where an infection was diagnosed and antibiotics prescribed. Then the weather turned warm, and the pollen returned -- and for the first time ever, I needed my inhaler for more than an introductory period during allergy season. At this time, I'm waiting for the antibiotics to be done so I can begin to treat the yeast infection that is always a byproduct of taking antibiotics. meanwhile, I have a four-day weekend off the bike next week, when I'll be busy with a friend's wedding.

The short-track series begins the day after I'm done with all that, and I will be nowhere near ready to ride, let alone actually race.

In short, every time I've tried to get back on track and focus on my riding, nature and my body have had other ideas. What the hell is this about? Why is my body conspiring against me like this? Why has it been so hard to get myself into some kind of shape for the kind of riding I want to do?

I rode today for the first time in almost a week. It was sunny and warm, in the mid-70s, and we rode with friends to see a ballgame at the stadium downtown. I carried my inhaler and sucked on it as needed, which was several times during the course of the day. Every time I climbed the stairs at the stadium -- to get refreshments or find the restroom -- I felt out of breath and weak. Obviously, I'm just getting over being really sick, and maybe riding all the way into town was pushing myself a but too hard. But feeling the shortness of breath, feeling so weak -- it worried me. I can't remember a time when I've felt this way so often during one season.

Short-track season begins next week. I am not ready for it. I am strongly considering backing out, telling the guys to please find another volunteer and if I feel up to doing some of the later races I'll pay for them out of pocket, one at a time. I worry that volunteering and racing every single week may be biting off more than I can chew. And it bothers me to feel this way. This is not what I had in mind when I assessed my first racing season and decided I wanted to come back and do it again.

But without health insurance and access to a doctor more regularly, I don't know what else I can really do for myself here, except to probably scale back my efforts. I cannot push myself to try and do this and go to work every day and have time and energy for my Sweetie and do whatever else I want and need to do in my life. I have to admit that there is not enough of me to go around this time. And I have to pick something to put aside for now.

It feels like chickening out. it feels like being weak. And yes, I am physically weak from being sick, but it is so hard not to be able to follow through like I wanted to. It sucks.

I am feeling really sad tonight because I know what I will need to do tomorrow.

Friday, June 11, 2010

can we be real?


Here we go again:


If you scroll down to the comments you'll note that too many of the readers have little faith in law enforcement and the courts (which recent handed down a sentence of probation to a driver who threw his car into reverse to hit a guy on a bike last year, leaving the bicyclist with severe head injuries).

I'm glad they found the motorist in this case, but I admit that I, too, have little faith in the justice system to address the imbalances between bicyclists and motorists whom the law insists must "share the road".

How many of you have wished that justice for scofflaw motorists who injure bicyclists got something closer to Instant Karma to deal with? How many of you have fantasized a bike mob going to the home of a motorist who killed a kid on a bike (because he was drunk, or careless, or raging) and got off with [bleeeeep]-ing probation, and, well, calling him out and demanding that pound of flesh?

I have. I admit it. I dream of this every time someone kills or seriously injures a bicyclist with a motor vehicle and gets little or no meaningful punishment.

Suspending someone driver's license is meaningless. people drive with suspended licenses all the time.
Sending the driver to a few days of "Anger Management" counseling (as was the case in a few recent road rage cases) is useless when most experts agree that such counseling needs months of application to begin to have a positive effect.
Fining the driver is useless if s/he is unemployed.
In all these cases, irresponsible and dangerous motorists always seem to find ways to get behind the wheel of a car and start driving again. And sooner or later, another bicyclist or pedestrian is killed because of a driver's stupidity, ego, or rage.

When the hell are we going to pass a Vehicular Homicide law in Oregon?

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

message from my body: nothing in the tank

For various reasons, the best-laid plans of this particular mouse got waylaid -- by work stresses, lack of consistent sleep, and mostly by a succession of pesky health issues. So I didn't build up the strength or distance base I'd hoped to in time for short-track season, which begins with a course trial next Monday night.

By early May I realized that this was going to be the case, so I adjusted my sights, and hoped I could simply survive the races on the strength of my daily commuting (averaging 40 to 50 miles a week, with a few higher-mileage weeks tossed in here and there whenever I did a longer recreational ride). I even took Stompy (version 2.0) out a few times, to play at my local park and get used to the new frame.

But those pesky health issues just kept getting in the way.
In late February and most of March it was a flare-up.
In April, the beginning of the pollen acclimation period (during which I must carry an inhaler and sometimes am so short of breath I have to skip riding altogether).
In May -- the wettest May on record for Oregon -- headaches and sinus clogging episodes as the barometer swung wildly back and forth.
And now, in June, some kind of infection.

I came home from the Portland Riv Ride on Sunday feeling tired but pretty good.
Monday morning I began to feel a little bit of a sore throat and another sinus headache coming on. I treated it with over-the-counter aids and rode my bike to and from work.
Tuesday, I woke up feeling tired and achy, and my throat was beginning to swell. I felt like crap and took the bus. By 1 pm I felt so awful I went home early. Cue fever, chills and sweats. I spent a feverish night alternately snoring loudly and jerking awake in a drenching sweat.
Today at the doctor's, still feeling awful, and my neck now swollen to the size of a small watermelon, I croaked out my symptoms.
"Probably strep, or maybe some kind of staph", said the on-duty doc at the clinic. "I'll prescribe antibiotics and you should notice a difference within 24 hours. But probably you should stay home from work another day to make sure you're not contagious, and don't go back until after you start on the pills."

The prescription is being prepared and I'm waiting for it to be ready so Sweetie can go pick it up for me. Meanwhile, I am staring at the picture of me from my final short-track race of last year, where I managed to not only survived but managed to eke out a third hot, dusty lap.
I frown at the photo. I do not feel anywhere that strong this year, and wonder if I should even race at all. What IS my body trying to tell me?

I contacted the organizer and advised him not to count on seeing me at the course trial. He emailed back and wished me a speedy recovery. Meanwhile, I am thinking about what else the doc had said, what it could be if the antibiotics don't start to work within 24 hours.

"Did you get your booster shot for Mumps-Measles when you were 18 or 19?" she asked.

I had to think about this one, remember all the way back to the tumultuous spring of my senior year of high school (was that really almost thirty years ago?) when my Dad had moved out, my Mom was beginning her long downward spiral into the quiet depression that would accompany her the rest of her life, and celebrations around my pending graduation were decidedly muted, as if wrapped in cheesecloth. It was a lot to remember.
Mom did take me to the family doctor the summer before I began college, to talk about various practical things like birth control and how to avoid catching colds in the unrealistically close quarters of the college dorms. But no, there was no booster shot before I went away to college.
"No," I finally said. "I didn't."

The on-duty doc handed me a small sheaf of papers with info about Mumps, and told me to call if I didn't notice a difference within 24 hours of starting the antibiotics.

Meanwhile I wait, and sip my tea.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010


Reports of a devalued Euro are sending EU"Euro Zone" countries (those who adopted the universal currency) into paroxysms of joy, or at least hope:


Personally, I couldn't be more disgusted. In yet another sign of my weariness of retail and my abject horror at the entanglements of a global marketplace, I read this and related articles. When I got to the part about how devaluing the Euro will help "Euro Zone" countries boost manufacturing and exports -- particularly of luxury goods, according to some reports -- all I could see in my mind's eye was an endless landscape of mountains of stuff. I was seeing the end of the life cycle for goods that had not yet been made.

Devalue currency.
Make more stuff.
Ship more stuff around the world.
Sell more stuff.
Overspend (with credit cards or whatever) in a flush of optimism (cue, "Happy Days are Here Again").
Consumer debt spirals out of control.

Am I the only one who sees where this could go, again?

Yeah, throw a party. Feel free. Parties never last and eventually someone has to clean up the leftovers.

It's hard to be excited about my work when I know that on some level it contributes to this mess.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

portland riv/b'stone ride

Some weeks back, I proposed a Portland-area Rivendell/Bridgestone Owners' Ride. People responded favorably and a date was set. About a dozen folks responded in the affirmative, with one late cancellation last night due to family events.
I awoke to a pissfest of a downpour outside my window. No worries, I thought; most Rivendellians come prepared, and a little rain wouldn't both them, right?

I showed up at Peninsula Rose Garden and waited. By 12:10, there three of us: me, Lynne and Cal, who'd brought his bike with him on a business trip from southern Oregon after hearing of the ride. We stood around, introducing ourselves and admiring each other's bikes.

Cal's Saluki:

portland riv/bstone ride

By 12:15, no one else was in sight and we decided to just take off. In a warm, muggy rain we enjoyed a gentle, drippy loop through Sabin, Alameda, Cully, Hollywood and Grant Park neighborhoods. Along the way we talked, admired good old houses and gardens, and taught Cal about group ride leading techniques -- living where he does, he says he does most of his riding solo. Eventually, we looped around the back of Rose City Park golf course, crossed over into southeast Portland and ended up at Ladd's Circle.

Three non-wimps at Palio:

three non-wimps

We tried going into Palio Cafe but every table was in use, mostly hogged by dour-faced single-occupants with laptops; so we continued on to the Lucky Lab Brewpub where I enjoyed a hot bowl of Chicken Bento and a glass of Stumptown Porter (my favorite), and we chatted some more, with Lynne pronouncing everyone who'd skipped the ride as "wimps" and we had a laugh about it. It was drizzling lightly when I said goodbye and headed home, damp and happy.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

review: rivendell windshield

(Toe update: it doesn't appear to be broken and this morning I can wiggle it. It's not quite as painful as it was yesterday but still a bit sore. I will spend the day mostly off my feet and hope that helps. Thanks to all who wrote.)

A couple of months ago, I had the opportunity to order a new Rivendell product for a price that would be lower than the actual retail. The catch was that I had to be willing to buy sight unseen. Meaning only a vague description and no other details. The description was something like, "I'd wanted to produce this item back in the day and actually designed it years ago but couldn't bring it out until now..."

The price was within my budget and I'd come into a tiny bit of "play" money, and I like supporting Rivendell when I can, so I bit. What arrived in the mail a couple of weeks later was a flat piece of orange ripstop nylon with a cutout at the top that made the thing look like an enormous bib. It was a windscreen, something to put on without having to don a whole jacket and clearly designed by someone who lives in California (because when it's cold enough for a windbreaker in northwest Oregon you generally need the whole jacket).

I stared hard at this massive orange bib. What had I just blown twenty bucks on?

I stuffed it in my bike bag and promised myself to give it a try soon.

Two weeks later I had my chance. The forecast had called for early morning drizzle followed by clearing and sunbreaks, meaning that my full-on rain jacket would be overkill for most of the day. The rain had stopped when I was ready to ride to work and it had warmed up to the high 50's. I pulled out the windshield and put it on.

(self-portrait at arm's length, with MUSA railroad shirt underneath.)

First of all, it's big. Really big, like for a guy who's at least six feet tall (and remember that guys generally have longer torsos, so it was big and long). Obviously designed for the fellas, or for an extremely well-endowed woman. At 5' 7" and of merely average build, I am too small to fill it out convincingly.

Second, it's well-made, using windstopper fabric that isn't waterproof but would certainly be drizzle-resistant and sewn with durable thread and clean, finished seams. In Oregon the "water-resistant" possibility almost doesn't matter, since drizzle up here is often a prelude to steady rain, but I digress.

Third, the thing really IS cut like a large bib, with two neck pieces that wraps over the shoulders and around the back of the neck and tie together with an elastic cord. There's another elastic cord at the bottom, which is designed to attach to -- what, the handlebars? The bottom buttons of one's shirt? -- it's just not clear. Being small enough to get away with it, I pulled the cord taught and was just able to tie it around the back of my waist in a small bow. This seemed to work well enough and was certainly better than tying the bottom to my handlebars. (I will replace the bottom cord with a much longer shoelace and tie it around my back in future uses.)

Finally -- it looks goofy as hell. Since this was promised in the advance press I don't feel cheated in the slightest. I got what was advertised. But I do feel mildly weird wearing this thing in public. The weirdness is offset by the fact that, well, the thing actually works. it keeps the worst of the wind off your front, which means you stay warmer on the ride without getting overheated.

So is it a smashing success? and will I use it again? Sort of-maybe-a little, and probably.

Here's another shot of someone else wearing the windshield (I've cropped out most of the rider's face to protect his privacy):

I've included this photo so that you'll understand why this fits a slightly larger guy much better than it fits me. On him, it actually looks kind of sensible, and looks like it actually belongs in his kit of useful bikey things. On me, it's just too big; and I'll probably do some alterations in order to get more use out of it. Once the alterations are finished I expect this garment to make a LOT more sense for me, and I expect I'll use it more after that.

I would say that this garment makes a lot of sense if you live in places where it doesn't rain as many months of the year, and where cool, breezy mornings are the norm. (Um, Chicagoans, rejoice?) It also makes a good middle layer underneath a jacket on colder mornings. In short, it's a sensible accessory that will fit nicely in my bag (it packs down small and flat) and will be handy when I need it. So it's money not wasted after all. (Retail price after The Grand Unveiling went to $24. Available at http://www.rivbike.com.)

Friday, June 4, 2010


This morning I was awakened by the ring of the telephone a little after 6 am.

Forgetting that our answering machine had died, and thinking I only had four rings to get to the phone before the machine kicked in, I jumped out of bed and stumbled groggily and clumsily to the phone. On the way out of the bedroom, my foot jammed hard into the doorway. I yowled in pain, answered the phone, and when I hung up I yowled some more. I fed the cats and limped back to bed, where I lay awake for an hour feeling the throbbing in my toes (specifically, in my fourth left toe) grow bigger and stronger. Finally, I got up and made some breakfast, got dressed and prepared to go do a short receiving shift at the shop. As I slipped my left foot painfully into a sock and shoe, I noticed that the purpling had begun on my fourth toe. I opted to go multi-modal (bike-bus combo) both ways to ease the stress of putting weight on my toe.

I limped through my shift, wincing at the pain which was manageable but still very evident.
As the hours passed the pain definitely grew worse and by the time I left I was really feeling it. I got home, vacuumed the carpet because I'd promised to and wanted to get it done, sat down and took my shoe off to have a look.


As I type this I am sitting in a pair of sandals, the only shoes I can wear right now, because when I finished vacuuming and took off my shoes, I saw that my fourth left toe had swollen a bit and had turned an amazing combination of colors. It looks like a three-year-old found the markers and went crazy with blue and purple, adding a touch of dark red for that high-concept effect. I can bend it, but the top is extremely tender to the touch and if I put pressure on it it definitely hurts. I'd go without the sandals but then I'd bump my toe into something (I'd done it twice already before getting the sandals out).

Without health insurance -- that's still the story for at least thirty million of us, so no hand-wringing, okay? -- there's no way I'm going to the ER to have it X-rayed. For now I'll assume it's not broken (please-oh-please-oh-pleeeeease), just very badly bruised. Bruises can be very painful all on their own, right?

The thing is, if it IS broken that definitely delays my entry into the 2010 racing season. It also puts an overall cramp in my style at home and work and, well, I'd just rather not go there.

Color me bummed.

Thursday, June 3, 2010


Last night after work I went and watched some road racing on Mt. Tabor. The race was one of the stages of the Mt. Hood Cycling Classic, a multi-day stage race.

The racing itself was fast and thrilling. Between sixty and seventy riders sped around the short criterium circut on the paved drive through Mt. Tabor Park. The combination pf high speed, close bunching and wet roads from the morning's deluge accounted for several crashes, including one that happened right in front of me (In most cases, the riders got up and rode away, and as far as I know there were no serious injuries).

and they're off

I found several folks I knew from the local race scene who greeted me cheerfully. But I don't know any of them terribly well, and found I had little to talk about with them; so I just stood by while they gabbed with each other and we watched the racers make lap after lap around the park.

final laps

In the end, I left a few laps before the race officially ended, wanting to make it down the hill before the traffic got too thick. I made my way home and retired with a weird mid-season allergy attack and a fatigue that was more mental than physical.

Today I feel, well, sort of slumped. Obviously, I can't even begin to compare myself with the elite male riders I watched yesterday; they're professional racers who eke out a living racing the domestic circut and they get paid to be fit and lean and focused. I also recognize that, because of the many factors in my life that prevent me from focusing that pointedly on becoming a stronger, fitter athlete -- age, Crohn's, my day job, music and other things I care about -- I probably don't have too many seasons of racing in me at this point.

It's much more than starting later in life, it's a life lived focused on largely unathletic pursuits and having surrounded myself, for the last three decades, with people who live pretty much the same way. The fact that I commute daily by bike and average roughly 2,500 miles of bike riding a year is no big deal to my most avid bike buddies, who race and tour and in general ride till their eyes fall out. But to my closest friends and family those 2,500 miles a year make me look like some kind of rock star. It's a strange place to inhabit, this netherworld of in-between, and it makes it hard for me to devote more of myself to a faster, more performance-oriented kind of bicycling on a regular basis.

Then, too, I've managed to find myself in the corner of the racing world that cares the least about how well I race, or even if I finish dead last every time. In our local short-track and cyclocross scenes, there are certainly those who care all about winning; I'm just not among their number, and never will be. Does that make me any less an athlete? Or can I remind myself that the point is to go out and do it, to participate, to celebrate riding my bike as often and for as long as I can? I look ahead to the impending short-track season (which starts in less than three weeks) and I know I am out of shape, really no better off or any stronger than I was at this time last year. The combination of allergies, fatigue, poor sleeping and the rest of my daily life has made it hard for me to establish a regimen and stick to it. Even yoga and curls fell by the wayside weeks ago as my sleep patterns failed to return to normal.

I don't feel physically sick, I actually feel mostly okay -- just completely unprepared to go out and kill myself for 30 minutes of racing for seven weeks in a row. The only thing that's easier this year is that I have a sense of bike-handling I didn't have this time last year, and I hope that will help. But I find myself flitting back and forth between nervousness and a weird apathy about the upcoming races, and I'm not sure what that means.

Sweetie's work will keep her quite busy the next couple of days and I find myself with a little free time to take Stompy out for a mid-day romp tomorrow. Perhaps a few laps in the mud will do me some good.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

northwest folklife, 2010

Sweetie and I went to the Northwest Folklife Festival over the weekend. We go every year, and in past years one or both of us have performed. In recent years we both went as "tourists" -- it was nice to just go and partake and not have to lug around a ton of instruments or other stuff for a gig.
But this year, I was invited to sit in with a group of U-Dub (aka University of Washington) students and play some klezmer music at The Big Jewish Show, an annual showcase of Jewish music at the festival. The students formed a group called "Yeshivas Goldenshtyen" ("Disciples of Goldenshteyn") and were led by grad student Ethan Chessin, an excellent trombonist and soon-to-be high school band teacher.

About a week ago, Ethan sent out an email with links to lead sheets. Among the recipient addresses were the names of several Portland-based, professional players -- among them our friend Jack ("Yankl") Falk, who has played klezmer music for decades and is pretty well-known as a major contributor to the North American revival of the genre. (Jack and his wife co-founded the radio show, "The Yiddish Hour", still running on KBOO and now co-hosted by Sweetie and couple of our friends as a collective effort.)

When I downloaded the lead sheets, knowing there'd be no drum parts (and not really needing any), I printed out the clarinet parts. Since the clarinet is a primary melody instrument in klezmer, I'd get all the information I'd need about how the tune would go.
Unfortunately, when I opened the files, there were no metronome markings (those little things at the upper left of the chart that say "quarter note equals 90" or whatever). Without a tempo I had no idea how slow or fast these tunes would go, and would have to wait until the short rehearsal to find out more. Fortunately, the group was nicely filled out with both students and professional players (mostly from Portland), and we made a pretty big sound that was reasonably tight.

Ethan had invited me to join the group a few weeks back at a jam session at the Krakow Kafe in Portland. He'd asked if I could bring my whole kit, but I managed to convince him I could do everything he wanted with just a snare drum and hi-hat -- I did NOT want to schlep an entire drum kit around the Seattle Center! My partial kit worked just fine (though I did miss having a bass drum to help lay down a firmer beat. The only real bass instrument was a tuba and he didn't always stick to downbeats), and the ensemble sounded surprisingly good on the cavernous stage of the Bagley Wright Theater.

yeshivas goldenshteyn

Nicest of all for me was the opportunity to get to play with Jack, something I'd wanted to do for quite awhile.

beth & jack

The gig was a lot of fun, and I feel inspired to seek out other playing opportunities as they might arise.

(For all you equipment wonks: Royce snare, 6-lug, Remo amabassador coated head; cheap hi-hat combo with Zildjian bottom and Hohner top cymbals; Pro-Mark 5A "pro-round" sticks, vintage Ludwig "white plastic" model brushes.)