Saturday, December 31, 2011

last ride, 2011

I'd originally planned to get up early enough to ride to a synagogue for Torah study. But it was c-o-l-d outside at 7 am, and my body rebelled at the thought at riding across town in 32-degree weather. So I snuggled back down under the blankets until well past 9am. Finally, I knew that I really needed to ride somewhere, anywhere, before heading out to the evening's festivities and eating too much rich food. My legs were screaming to go out and spin and my core was screaming to stay home and be a well-wrapped slug.

The legs won out.

I took a loop through Northeast Portland, nothing ambitious but plenty brisk enough; I'm confident that the thermometer didn't get much above 40F all day.

last ride 2011

last ride 2011

last ride 2011

last ride 2011

This ride puts me at a total of 2,281.9 miles for the year. I have to say that although there were no really long rides this year, pretty much all of my miles were good ones, and for sure many of them helped to alleviate what was a stressful and challenging year in many ways. I am truly grateful for every mile I rode this year.
Tomorrow, I begin all over again.
Wherever the roads lead you, I hope that 2012 is a better, brighter year! Happy riding!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

tried and liked: 2011 edition

(A tip of the helmet to the i-BOB list, which began this thread years ago.)

Things I tried and liked in 2011, with an emphasis on bicycles:

1. Training for racing. This meant working out 2-3 times a week at a local gym January through May, and adding some interval work to my commutes once or twice a week March through May (for short-track) and again August and September (for cyclocross).
I didn't have a coach and the frequency wasn't clockwork-religious, but it did help in two noticeable ways: I lost ten pounds (which I hadn't planned on but certainly didn't mind), and I was stronger on the berms at the short-track course, having to dismount and push my bike far less often. I still finished dead last, likely because I was the oldest woman racing singlespeed and because of the asthma, but I finished stronger and felt good about it. On a down note, money is much tighter this year and a gym membership in 2012 seems unlikely. However, I'm back on my feet wrenching bikes and maybe that will help make up for some of the loss of gym time. I am in a different place right now with my racing and, for various physical, emotional and financial reasons, may not throw quite as much energy at it in 2012. In any event, it was interesting to see how intentional training made a difference and I'm truly glad for the experience.

2. Joining a local race club. Racing with Velo Bella got me some excellent discounts (including one for prescription sunglasses, which I continue to be grateful for), and occasionally garnered me some tips from teammates, but all those teammates were out of town in other states, and I only met two of them once at a USGP cyclocross race. It was nice to have the brand recognition -- VB is a recognized regional team in racing -- but it was lonely. So when I was invited by some racing buddies to join a local club they were strting, I said yes. Being part of Team Slow has added a measure of fun to my racing that I have enjoyed mightily, and I wonder how on earth I ever considered racing without that. No matter how many races I do in 2012 I will do them as part of Team Slow, proudly rocking the safety triangle whever Stompy and I go.

3. Not stressing so much about my mileage this year. Of course, I still keep track of my daily mileage; and I will dutifully submit my tally sheet to C-KAP (I broke 25,000 cumulative km with them this year so a certificate is coming my way in the spring); but since deemphasising distance (and especially since deciding that I wouldn't attempt anything longer than a 100km populaire in the future -- big rides just take too much out of me) I am enjoying each ride a little more. My overall mileage for 2011 will probably be somewhere around 2,250 miles, down from my record of over 2,700 in 2007 but still respectable for someone who did not do any really long rides and mostly chalked all that up under daily commuting. I'm content.

4. After trying out a number of different rain jackets and pants (mostly because as the Buyer I had to do product testing), I've gone back to What Works: Burley Designs. Yes, they stopped making their own rain wear several years ago; but smart bike industry geeks bought up the last of the stuff and hoarded it. I have two Rock Point Jackets to my name, and while they aren't the most flattering cut, they are well made and they work. Recently, my successor in the Buyer's chair had to pay a visit to the main offices of Showers Pass (whose Club Pro jacket I reviewed last year -- six months after I wote that review tha jacket began to fail at water repellecy and I got rid of it, optiing for the Burley again). He was wearing a jacket made by a company other than Showers Pass, and folks at the SP HQ frowned visibly at the sight. The moral: when SP moved its manufacturing from Vietnam to China, the quality suffered. They haven't yet recovered from the public perception that the jackets ain't what they used to be. And I've gone back to wearing my Burley. I expect it to last a good bit longer than anything I've tried from SP, and now that I'm no longer the Buyer I'm allowed to have an occasional negative opinion [about bicycle product] in public again. Meanwhile, I am on the lookout for "vintage" Burley rain wear and am buying it up to hoard and to share with friends. Sue me.

Burley Rock Point:

Burley Rain Rider. If you see this jacket in a medium, buy it for me and I'll pay you back:

5. Rivendell Splats, which I bought last winter, have served me well for the most part. They are made in the USA from thick, stout waxed cotton and fit over most styles of shoes. They're also the first shoe cover that is easy to use with a flat pedal. Because they don't cover the ankle, water can seep into your shoe and sock from above; but if you buy your rain pants on the long side you can reduce or eliminate this problem. One of the best things Rivendell has come out with.

6. Chrome backpack. This was the year that I had to concede that carrying things in a single-strap messenger bag was no longer working for my aging back and neck. I've retired the Timbuk2 Dee Dog bag (and will probably sell it); and have switched to a very strong backpack made in the USA by Chrome. I bought this pack used, and it's a tough bag, stronger and stouter than anything being made by T2 now and more so than some of Chrome's newer bags (the subassemblies of which are now being made overseas -- they're going down a similar road as T2) and holds a ton of stuff. I have to be careful not to overstuff it, but when I do it still works far better to carry a load on both of my shoulders instead of one. I expect this pack to see me through several years before I have to give up carrying things on my back altogether.

7. Giving myself permission to feel fatigued, and to adjust my ride as necessary. This is a different approach than I've taken before. But this has been a challenging year on many levels, and one of the challenges has been that I've had to identify when my body is feeling tired as a result of physicality rather than emotional stress. So when I'm feeling really wiped out, I'm tossing my bike on transit and going multi-modal. I've reached a time when this no longer feels like copping out, and I'm geting better at telling the difference between physical fatigue and emotional fatigue. When it's physical I'm listening to my body. If that's part of Getting Older, so be it.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

merry christmas, and happy quiet roads

I enjoyed my Christmas morning bike ride on a day with some drizzle, highs in the mid-40's and quiet roads.
Embrocation, wool-blend knickers, a thermos of coffee in the bottle cage and a slice of lemon cake in my jersey pocket.
Did I mention that the roads were quiet?
That's mostly the point of riding on Christmas morning.
(I imagine it must be sort of like riding a bike in Jerusalem on Yom Kippur.)
Running lights is simply not a problem when there is no one else to be seen for a dozen blocks in any direction.
(And, in a nostalgic nod to the cop who stopped me all those years ago in downtown Gresham, don't worry, I still look both ways before proceeding with caution. Thanks for not giving me a traffic ticket that morning, and I hope you got home in time to enjoy Christmas with your wife.)
I came home 90 minutes later feeling lighter, refreshed and glowing. Then some light stretching and into a hot shower.
The embrocation tingled for an hour afterwards, even after a good scrubbing.
Merry Christmas, and I hope you got to enjoy some quiet roads today too.

Friday, December 23, 2011

working it out by bicycle

Sometimes you need a bike ride to help you work things out.
Mission accomplished.
Better now.

2 o'clock shadow



I am suffering from bike withdrawal.

I missed two days of work due to the Bad Cold (which was really bad, but I'm getting over it fairly quickly).
Yesterday I went to work but Sweetie insisted on driving me there because it was 27F outside and she didn't want me riding in the cold while I still getting over a cold. (She loves me.) I got through my shift, took the bus home afterwards and was still tired.
Today it's supposed to dry (again! Driest December on record) and partly cloudy. I may take a short spin later if I'm up for it, simply because I'm starting to go stir-crazy not riding a bike. After three days off the bike I just start to get grumpy and antsy if I don't ride. Does this happen to you?

Don't worry, if I go out I'll bundle up.

riv wheel

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

it's not the weather, as it turns out

Last night I went to bed with a burning throat and a general feeling of vague illness.
This morning I woke up with the achiness and throbbing sinuses of a Bad Cold, and stayed home from work.
Jury is out on whether or not I'll be able to go to the Klezmatics show tonight but I am leaning towards not going. I still feel awful, and with all the celebrations of the holiday still to come it seems to make more sense for me to stay home and nip this thing as quickly as possible. I am bummed.

Still, Chanukah starts tonight and there's no stopping it.
May you and yours have a lovely holiday.
Chag Sameach!

Monday, December 19, 2011

strange weather

The month of December has been one of the driest on record here in PDX. Lots of cold, dry days with only somg fog providing any moisture in the air. Along with dry days, the air quality has been pretty bad, because there hasn't been any wind to speak of and people are burning wood in their fireplaces and woodstoves for a solid month. It hasn't rained since Thanksgiving weekend. Riding to and from work has been pleasant because the roads are dry and the air feels bracing. But the air also hurts my throat and makes me cough a lot.

Friday, at the end of a morning filled with errands, I pushed myself up the hill to Overlook and my legs felt surprisingly strong. I rested Saturday and Sunday -- we had things to do -- and rode again today, racing briskly to get to work on time and again feeling very strong. But by the time I got to work my throat was beginning to hurt a little. I coughed most of the day, the coughing getting worse and worse. I stubbornly rode home after my post-shift errands, and tonight I am drinking tea like it's going out of style. So far it hasn't helped much. I don't want to stop riding -- I feel better when I ride -- but if this is what's going to happen, I may have to take more of a break.

Ugh. We need some rain, a lot of it, and really soon.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

consumerism is not the answer [to the question they don't want us to ask]

Watching the evening news, I see reports of how the holiday shopping season is so important, that the Saturday before Christmas is often the biggest shopping day of the year and can make or break an entire season for some retailers. The well-dressed talking head on my TV screen tells me that Consumer spending makes up as much as 70% of our national economy, and I stop short.

Seventy per cent?

Seventy per cent of our nation's economy -- which includes funding for schools, roads, public safety, social services and the military -- depends on everyone going shopping. Think about that for a minute. And think about how much that has a bearing on the fabric of our social and communal lives.

You need new clothes now and then. If you work in a job that requires you to dress up, you need them more often because dressy clothes wear out faster (they're just not made as well).
You need to buy toys for the kids for birthdays, holidays and whenever else, because who actually makes toys for their kids anymore? (And if your kids are plugged in, you can't make toys for them anyway, unless you work in a computer factory.)
You need to buy new shoes, not necessarily because the old ones are finally worn out but because they're out of style (and your teenager refuses to go to school in them).
You need to have the latest electronic goodies -- computers and PDA's and cell-phones and everything else -- in part because the new work and educational landscape requires people to be more plugged in than ever, and in part because the computer manufacturers are constantly upgrading their systems so that eventually your 10-year-old computer simply won't be compatible with whatever else The Ghost Of Steve Jobs wants to sell you.
Trick-or-treating, once an activity that took place on neighborhood streets, now happens as often in the shopping malls of America, as parents worried about their childrens' safety have decided that taking the kids to the mall is safer and easier. Of course, the retailers are all too glad to have this next generation of little shoppers running amok in the mall and learning the lessons of consumerism so early.

I work in retail. A specialty type of retail, to be sure; I help get people onto bicycles (and in many cases that means getting them out of cars at least part of the time, so that's good). I promote a healthier way of transportation, and of life. And I get to fix things, sometimes using recycled parts. That's good too, right?

Problem is, it's still all about buying and selling, buying and selling. And I have grown tired of all the buying and selling.

Taking the teaching position this year has been a real help. It gives me something to balance aganist the retail work, and gives me a sphere in which I encounter people in a very different way, a way that is not so quid-pro-quo and doesn't contain such a marketplace mentality. I hope I will get to continue to do this other work as a counterweight to my work in retail.

When you work in retail, it is easier not to ask the question: What would life look like if it wasn't all about buying and selling? What would society look like if consumer spending didn't comprise 70 % of our economy? In what ways would we encourage creativity and conservation instead of the throwaway lifestyles so many of us live now? Would it be possible to enjoy a healthy, decent standard of living if everyone was required to live on less, to be more resourceful and creative, and to rely on our families, neighbors and local communities more for companionship and cultural activities? What if we went back to communal gardens and used them to feed everyone, instead of relying on whatever came wrapped in mylar at the store? What if we had schoolchildren take part of each learning day and spend it working in the communal gardens, learning about science and nature while planting and studying the vegetables that would feed their communities? What if we got away from factory feed lots and raised livestock on a smaller scale, eating less meat and using fewer natural resources in the process? What if we tore up some of our city streets and turned them into bike-ped tracks, and made it more expensive and inconvenient to drive the way they've done in some Eupopean cities? What if we took the "American" psyche, that myth about pulling oneself up by the bootstraps, and simply put it out with the trash? Couldn't we then we use the savings realized from these changes to create a more caring, close-knit, communal way of life where everyone's needs really could be met?

I think so. But I also fear that too many of us would not survive the transition into such a way of life, simply because our lives now are so dependent on those things which prop us up and make us complacent and lazy and too many people would rebel at such changes. If such change were possible, it would not be at all easy, and frankly would be fraught with risk.

As a friend pointed out to me at a gathering a few weeks back, we are excellent consumers of culture, and that may be the problem. Instead of consuming things and hoping that this will let us consume culture as well, we need to consume less and take back our ability to create culture for ourselves and our communities. In that way, we can own so much more while buying less.

Chanukah begins Tuesday evening. The Festival Of Lights is also the Festival Of Rededication, as we celebrate the reclaiming of the Temple and the work that was done to clean it up and re-dedicate ourselves to its service. Perhaps this is the year that I and those around me can re-dedicate ourselves to creating culture, instead of simply consuming it.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Friday, December 9, 2011

it's a long story

The SingleSpeed Cyclocross World Championships took place last week in Sacramento. A fun time was had by all, though it seems some rules were not adhered to by the winners. Add to this that the winners (of the respective mens' and womens' races) were pros sponsored by Rapha, the company I love to dump on, and you have a full-blown turd-fest.

(Thanks for the folks over at Drunk Cyclist for keeping it real.)

Since no one has yet made a t-shirt that reads "F*** Rapha" -- and since there are admittedly few places in my life where I could get away with wearing one -- my vote goes for this little number instead.

Not that I'd ever enter this race myself -- the entry fee is considerably higher than a Cross Crusade race and there is a lot of drinking going on -- the fact is that if you enter a race where the winner is required to do certain things immediately following the race, and you win, then you stick around and do them. Even if those things include getting a tattoo and donning gold lame underwear in public. That the Rapha-sponsored riders disappeared immediately after their races to avoid the tattoo and the undies (and presumably thereby saving the brand from sullying, somehow) is simply bad form.

The bad form was apparently highlighted by the fact that at least one of the the Rapha racers elected to race the event on a bike whose derailleurs had been rendered inoperative (probably with a couple of stout zip-ties), rather than on a true singlespeed bike with only one cog and one chainring. As a singlespeed purist I consider this to be the bigger insult, but I digress.

This is less about the tattoo and more about respecting the promoter's attempts to maintain some semblance of independent, grass-roots bicycle culture in the face of a racing category that is being dragged into legitimacy despite our best efforts. Now that there are national champion's jerseys for Singlespeed cyclocross, things will simply never be the same. But give the promoters some credit for trying to imbue some grass-roots culture into an event that is slowly being sucked into the UCI whether we like it or not. It's not an alleycat; but SSCXWC is also not a UCI/USAC-sanctioned race. I'd say that if you're going to enter, respect what the promoters are trying to do and play by their rules. If you don't want the tattoo, don't enter, or at least don't race to win.

Next year's SSCXWC will be in Santa Cruz, California. The promoters have made it clear that they intend to enforce their rules (meaning that this year's winners will not be allowed to enter another SSCXWC race unless they get their commemorative tattoos). I hear Santa Cruz is lovely in December.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

old bikes are worth saving

On Monday I was presented with a serious dilemma: A customer brought in an old Univega road bike that was his daily commuter. For reasons that remain unclear -- misadjusted rear derailleur? Out-of-true wheel? -- His derailleur over-shifted and went into the rear wheel. A pie-plate spoke guard saved the wheel, but the derailleur snapped in two and the derailleur hanger (the metal tab on the rear dropout into which the rear derailleur threads) was bent over at an almost 70-degree angle. It looked bad.

After closer inspection, I advised the customer that we could try to bend the hanger back but that there was a risk of the metal cracking from the stress of being bent over, and then back; if that failed we'd have to saw off the hanger and either run the bike as a singlespeed or install a Problem Solver emergency derailleur hanger to utilize a replacement derailleur. The customer wasn't interested in running a singlespeed and had limited funds, so he asked us to take the risk and to find a used rear derailleur that could work with his existing drive-train.

Using careful combination of the derailleur alignment beam and a large crescent wrench, I carefully bent the derailleur hanger back into place. Its alignment wasn't perfect but it was straight enough to take another derailleur. I sifted through the box of used derailleurs and found one that would work with his shifters. Ultimately, we had to replace the chain -- it was slightly twisted and would not engage the cogs cleanly anymore -- and straighten the inner chainring, which probably got bent during the mishap.

In the end, I was able to resurrect the bike without forcing the customer to buy a bunch of expensive new parts or a new frame. I did advise him that this would not be a permanent solution; the derailleur hanger was now compromised by being bent repeatedly and he'd have to keep an eye on it. (Judging from the two inches of caked-on road detritus I brushed off the underside of the downtube and bottom bracket shell, I had my doubts that he'd pay much attention before the thing finally gave way for good but at least I did my job in warning him.)

Which leads to my thesis: older steel frames can take a beating and at least 50 per cent of the time they can come back for more. But today, the number of other shops willing to do the kinds of frame straightening that we do regularly is shrinking. (For example, REI no longer straightens frames or forks at all. I learned this when I brought a fork to them several years ago and asked them to double-check my alignment. They cited liability insurance as the primary reason.) And while I understand it, I don't like it. Bike shops used to be miracle workers on a regular basis. Nowadays most of them will steer the customer towards a new part or frame before trying to ressurrect the old frame. I am glad we were able to work a minor miracle for a customer who had limited funds and needed to get back on his bike.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

evidence of participation, PIR/Pro Paddock

Erinne, extreme toughness personified (It's the socks. It has to be.), in classic black-and-white; and me later on at the same spot on the course, in shocking, contemporary color (my, that safety orange IS bright, isn't it?).
There was only one set of barriers at Sunday's race. What's happening to 'cross, people? Now that I've spent so much time working on barriers and they are so clearly a part of my cyclocross destiny, it's time to bring back the Six-Pack! (Are you listening, Brad Ross?)

Photos by teammate Klaus "the Punisher" Ochs. Thanks, Klaus!

Monday, November 14, 2011

racing cyclocross: what it looks like

For the benefit of my friends who don't race or ride off-road much, here's a video of the PIR Pro Paddock course, shot during the opening lap of the Mens' B race yesterday. Taken with a GoPro camera strapped to Matt Westermeyer's handlebar. Thanks, Matt!

Along the way you'll note a few uphill and downhill sections, and stretches where the mud gets deep and mucky. Towards the last third the course gets a bit twisty and turny and lots of fun. (One note: where the guys dismount and run their bikes up and through an opened chainlink gate, they are riding the rhythm section on the moto track, a especially muddy part of the course that was closed to the combined womens' classes because of the inclusion of junior women in our race. So the A's got to race it, and the Mens' B's got to race it, but not me. Waaaaaah!)

This is pretty much what it looks like when I race, except that Matt's twitchy fingers are shifting -- a lot, IMHO -- and when I ride there is only pedaling harder to go faster.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

race report: cross crusade 2011/PIR Pro Paddock

Today was my last race of the year. It was a very good way to end my season.

The rains of yesterday delivered the mud we'd waited for all season. It wasn'y especially wet or gloppy, and I didn't get a whole ton of it on me or my bike; but it was thick and deep enough in spots to slow everyone down and force many off their bikes on runups most could've ridden in dry weather and so it was good enough.

The course was a modified -- some said watered down -- version of the USGP courses I'd raced the last two seasons. Mercifully, the long opening/finishing straight was chopped into two shorter sections that each led racers back onto the grass and mud in between. I jogged up the run-ups. I suitcased over the one paltry set of barriers near the end of the lap. I managed to keep my bike upright the entire time without crashing -- though I came close a couple of times and actually had to manual my rear wheel onto another line in the mud to regain some traction through a tight corner. My bike handling feels like it has improved a bit each year and I've enjoyed growing with the process.

Bonus: I got the dollar hand-up on my final lap! Yup. Someone stole one of the course marker cones, stuck it in the middle of the course on a tight, muddy turn where everyone was forced to slow way down, and stuffed not one, but three dollar bills in the top. I was so slowed on that corner I nearly stopped, and grabbed the money as I did so. My first ever successful dollar handup. Yesssss!

I finished DFL -- a recurring theme in my season this year, as I never finished out of last place even once, in either discipline -- but I felt stronger and more able to ride up things I know I would've walked up last year. Between that and the number of racing friends who've commented on my weight loss, I know that my work in the weight room has paid off and I will go right back to it later this week. It felt good, exciting even, to feel stronger this year!

This was also Stompy's final cyclocross race. While I will probably race Stompy again next summer in short track -- it's an excellent bike, a nimble climber and great in corners -- for cyclocross it's a virutal boat anchor and I've decided to fiinally upgrade for 2012. I'll be transitioning to a 700c-wheeled bike, built around a Redline Conquest Singlespeed CX frameset. I am hoping the considerably lighter bike will make it easier for me to manage the roadie-centric 'cross courses next fall.

I finished strong, and managed to eke out four laps on a muddy course that confounded some of the roadies and made the mountain bikers grin with delight.

I enjoyed a post-race dinner with friends from Team Slow, Crank and other corners of the race scene. Mielle tried to guilt-trip me about skipping OBRA Champs but failed. Ed wants to get together with me in the early spring to scope out the new pump track that's going in out in mid-county; he wants more off-road time before short-track starts. I rode to and from the restaurant on tired but strong legs, reveling in the motion of the cranks turning and the cold, damp night air as I sped home.

Out of 14 races entered this year I had one DNF (due to asthma and fatigue). I am pleased to have seen some improvement -- maybe not perceptible to anyone watching me, since I still finished dead effing last -- but noticeable to me, and that will have to be good enough. I feel ready for a break, and not terribly sorry to be missing OBRA State CX championships or Kruger's next weekend. It has been a very good season.

Friday, November 11, 2011

hype of the week: 1982 crossmen

For my final pre-race hype of 2011, I decided to go big. Here's the 1982 Crossmen doing their closer, Russian Christmas Music. Not much to say other than this is good, solid, kick-ass drum corps at it's hair-parting, cement-cracking best. The gorgeous drill (movement) at 1:46 is worth the price of admission alone. Enjoy the hype, and thanks for watching.

Final race of the year for me will be this Sunday at PIR, on the Pro Paddock course used by previous years' USGP and US Cyclocross Championships. Women race at 2:15. If you're in town come check out what will likely be the muddiest race of the series, because it's actually going to rain.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

sunday's forecast

Forecast for Portland, Oregon - Sunday, November 13:

Showers throughout the day. High of 49F, Low of 41F.

We may finally have honest to goodness mud on the race course.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

repeat after me

repeat after me

(As seen at 21st Avenue Bicycles, Portland)

Monday, November 7, 2011

evidence of my participation: barton park

1 & 2. On the gravel turn:

3. The drop-down (whoopee!)

4. The main run-up (Teammate Erinne can be seen in the middle of the photo: blue helmet, red hair):

Photos courtesy of teammate Klaus (thank you!)

Sunday, November 6, 2011

race report: cross crusade 2011/Barton Park

I skipped this race last year due to a scheduling conflict. I was bummed because it had poured all day and there was tons of beautiful, gloppy mud. Oregon Public Broadcasting had sent out a film crew and shot a video of the race for a story on Oregon Field Guide. It had been an epic day of Oregon cyclocross, and I had missed it. I was determined not to miss Barton again.

What went wrong:

1. The weather. It was -- say it with me, this is becoming a trend for the 2011 cyclocross season -- sunny and dry all day. It had rained the day before, which mean that several short sections of the course were muddy, and there were even a few bonafide muddy pddles here and there; but much of the course had turned tacky by 2:15 and became yet another cyclocross course that favored the roadies. A good chunk of the backside of the course was paved, which for me was a waste of time and energy. Why do cyclocross courses have so much pavement?

2. I did not warm up enough. Between trying to find folks who came to watch me race and make sure they knew where to go, and having to take a few too many bathroom stops in the last hour before my race (I know it's important to hydrate but I may have gone overboard), I had too short a warm-up time. Add to that no good place to go and do hot-laps without being out of earshot of the annoucer, and I was not sufficiently warmed up when we staged up. My fault, and I owned it, and I felt it during the race -- especially on the run-ups, which were steep and rocky. I could not even make a pretense of trying to jog up these things, it was all I could do to walk up them without tilting backwards and falling back down the hill again. Ugh.

3. This one is hard to understand, predict or gauge, but I was out of breath today and had to stop twice to take a huff from my inhaler. Remarklably, while I was stopped another woman saw me pull of the course and reach for my inhaler, then pulled up alongside me and did the same thing. We agreed that the makers of Albuterol should co-sponsor a cyclocross race, since apparently so many Oregonians suffer from allergy-induced asthma. We wished each other well and carried on. I wondered why today it was harder for me to catch my breath, when things had gome so easily at Hillsboro -- a day with similar weather, though several degrees warmer-- and I hadn't needed my inhaler at all.

What went right:

1. Even with the roadie-heavy conditions, the great equalizers -- the little whoopdee in the trees and the big drop-down in the mud -- were back, and I rejoiced. Both were simply too much fun to be so short, and I was very sorry I couldn't take another lap before I'd run out of time. They also distinguished the roadies from the mountain bikers. I was thrilled with the lime that racers before me had established -- right down the middle, with less of an off-camber and more steep -- and took it every time, feathering my rear brake at the bottom to avoid hitting the tape and crashing in the gravel. I love the drop-down and hope it remains a feature of this course forever. Nearly four hours after my race I am still smiling from the memory of the drop-down, it was that wonderful.

2. In spots where the mud got thick, I passed roadies at least three different times. I rejoiced, even as I remembered my manners and told them which side I would pass them on. I love my bike and I love my tires. (And yet, even as I write this, the boys from Crank (who were my ride today -- thank you!) were working on me, trying to convince me to switch to a 700c-wheeled singlespeed cross bike for next year. I admit that the prospect of racing on an aluminum frame (with -- gasp! -- a carbon fork!) would appeal to me for the weight savings. And yet, there are other concerns. I promised I'd at least think about it.)

3. I remembered to look farther ahead on the course in the turns and handled the thin lines through the gravel better than expected, faster and more confidently, and when I spun out because of my mud-centric, too-low-for-pavement gearing, I didn't lose my cool. I just tucked down, coasted for a bit, then resumed pedaling again until I could get to a short, punchy incline and floor it.

4. Sweetie, my Big Sister and my youngest niece all came out to watch me race. My niece hadn't seen a cyclocross race before and was duly impressed. Big Sister enjoyed watching me do crazy things and always likes visiting Barton Park because it's a lovely drive to a lovely locale. They both enjoyed watching me race and cheering me on. Sweetie screamed bloody murder ("Go Slow!") as I passed her at the top of the drop-in and again when I crested the main run-up every lap. I also heard a few cheers along the course from fellow racers who recognized either me, my team kit or my bike (Stompy is asking for his own Facebook page. I keep saying no). Believe me, when people are screaming for you and urging you on it really does make you race stronger. It was also nice that they could stick around and hang with me afterwards while I changed clothes and we watched some of the Mens' B/Singlespeed race together. They marveled (!!?) at the new, glam skinsuits the boys from Crank were wearing. (I hope there will be pictures soon.)

Teammate report: Erinne finished 16th out of a whole bunch of B Women, in spite of racing on a too-big borrowed bike and crashing badly enough to tear up her knees. She's a [bleep]ing goddess, so fast and insanely gutsy. Chris R. was scheduled to race in the Singlespeed race and I'd seen him early in the day with his racing bike, but I never saw him on the course. I didn't find his name in the posted results so I'm not sure what happened (I hope he's ok).

I finished 20th out of 20 racers, and managed three full laps. I finished only five seconds behind the next woman in my category and she was riding a geared bike. Does this make me want to ride a geared bike next year? No, it just makes me want to think about a lighter singlespeed bike. Certainly, bad warm-up and sucky run-ups aside, I have noticed that my legs are definitely stronger this year when I'm climbing those short, punchy inclines, more than enough proof that my weight work last winter and spring paid off. I'll be doing it again this year for sure.

Home now. Feeling sort of mellow, slow and happy, enjoying the post-embrocation tingle in my tired legs (my knees don't hurt this week! Yay!) and the overall feeling of that sweet, gentle, post-race fatigue. I expect to sleep well tonight. I didn't get too many photos, but they'll eventually show up at my Flickr page. If any pictures of me materialze I'll post them here.

My final race of the cyclocross season -- and the year -- is next Sunday. Cross Crusade returns to PIR for the second time this season, this time using the Pro Paddock course that has seen so much use for US Gran Prix (2007-2010) and even a National Championship (2003 or 4). It's not an ideal course for singlespeeders but racing the moto course will be fun, especially if it gets muddy. I am praying for rain.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

hype of the week: "F" drum line

Okay. So my life this week is jam-packed with stuff. Lots to do. Tons of meetings, teaching, music and more. So while I'm looking forward to racing this weekend, it's not the only thing on my plate and I sort of have to cram it into an otherwise action-packed life.

In honor of this reality, I've selected an interesting -- and short! -- drum line video. Nothing fancy or outrageous here, just some good, reasonably clean corps-style drumming. Drumline is unknown, (for some reason the "F" on the jackets is making me think i'ts a school or college line rather than an independent drum corps) but apparently appeared in a Keith Urban video last year and shot this little bit as preparation for that. Some nice visuals that really break down the parts of the battery (snares, tenors, basses, a few cymbal shots though they're not really doing anything special).
I just figured it would be a good idea to strip things down to the most basic this week, before posting the final Hype of the year next week. So today we're getting elemental. Nothing but good beats. Enjoy.

Monday, October 31, 2011

looking ahead: weather for nov. 6

Forecast for Sunday, November 6 (Barton Park - Estacada, OR):


High 47°F - Low 41°F

40% chance Precipitation

It looks like we may finally get some rain -- and mud -- during cyclocross season.


Sunday, October 30, 2011

one gorgeous bike: 1980 Raleigh Tourist

The rewards of returning to the service area at work: In my first week back at the bench I got to tune up this gorgeous Raleigh Tourist three-speed, circa 1980. This was near the end of Raleigh's production of rod-brake bikes, so what we have here is the newest version of a very old design. (Rear rack and basket not original to bike but handy for errands.) I've only worked on rod-brake bikes a couple of times -- they don't come in often -- and they've always been the larger 23" frame size until now. When I test-rode this bike after my work was done, the 21" frame fit me perfectly. it was hard not to have a teeny leetle bit of bike lust.

raleigh tourist rod-brake, ca. 1980

raleigh tourist rod-brake, ca. 1980

raleigh tourist rod-brake, ca. 1980

Massive amounts of wheel-flop, due to very slack geometry; the rod-brakes stopped me in dry weather but I urged the customer not to ride this in the rain unless he could sources some elather-impregnated Fibrax pads. (He promised me he'd ride it on dry days.) Still, an awful lot of fun to ride, and fascinating to work on.

Monday, October 24, 2011

honey, i'm home

Today was my first official day back as a mechanic at Citybikes, after four years of handling the lead buyer's duties.

To review: In a cooperative with an egalitarian wage scale, there are no promotions based on types of duties assigned. Instead, ideally, tasks rotate periodically, both to stave off burnout and to strengthen the knowledge base of the cooperative by offering at least some degree of cross-training of tasks. After four years it was time for someone else to sit in the buyer's chair, and for me to start turning wrenches again.

I arrived at 8:30 am, selected a tag from the job board -- I chose a full overhaul of a used bike, so I could jump in the deep end, as it were -- and got down to work. I was surprised at how quickly my old sense of system and order came back. When I'm asked to do an overhaul of a bike, I read the job tag carefully, and then I like to look at the bike for a few minutes before tearing it down. When I'm ready to begin, I usually work from the back to the front of the bike. I fell into my familiar rhythm, enjoying the quiet of the shop and the sound of a freshly-cleaned and oiled freewheel. I lost track of time, enjoying the focus of the particular task at hand: grease this brake boss, file down an odd burr in the end of new brake housing, get that "hop" out of the rear rim and bring this cheap wheel back into some reasonable semblance of round because the customer doesn't have buckets of money and just wants a bike that's safe and rideable for another year. By the time my co-workers began arriving two hours later, I had completed nearly half the job.

Of course, work slowed down once we opened, because in addition to working on the bike in my stand I was also fielding questions from customers, fixing flats and adjusting saddles and showing someone a new bike. I'll finish the overhaul in the morning.

As I wiped the grease from the tools and cleaned up my workbench at the end of my shift, I spotted something that made me laugh out loud. This was hanging on the main tool board, the one where we keep the bigger tools like frame straighteners, dropout alignment tools and the like. It had a tag zip-tied to it. I pulled it down to have a closer look:

(This tool is on long term loan from JF / It opens beer)

Happily, some things about the work don't really change.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

race report: cross crusade 2011/Hillsboro

Another week of dry weather meant another Cross Crusade course that was flat, dry and fast. I was not excited as the MAX train pulled into the Washington County Fairgrounds station. I signed in, caught up with the fellas from Crank, and eventually parked my stuff. I walked the course to check it out. Most of it would be deadly dull for my little singlespeed bike and painful for my slow little legs; a few switchbacks near the barns and a decision by race organizers NOT to bring back the six-pack (thank you!) but instead to break up the barriers into smaller sections. The stairs were back, though with the dry weather they were almost a non-event.

But the best features for me were the most technical ones:

a. a tall sandpile that, if too crowded, became a run-up for everyone but if you had open space in front of you you could go in fast and ride up and over it...

cross crusade 10-23-11 hillsboro

...with a sharp turn to the left at the base of the downslope on the other side.

cross crusade 10-23-11 hillsboro

b. a shorter, steeper incline that you came at immediately after a hard left turn (and had to pedal through so as not to lose momentum).

I took some photos of the Mens' Master C's, the largest single category at the race. While checking out the course and hanging out, I ran into teammate Erinne, who was not racing today but came out to cheer; and newish teammate Bonnie, who focuses on 'cross and races Womens' Master 35+ B (in short, she's faster than I will ever be). Ed was also supposed to race today, and Chris R. as well, in the final race of the day (Mens' B and Singlespeed). I would not see either of them until the end of the day, and only for a short while. I caught a glimpse of Chris The Blur on the course, and waited a long time for Ed to pass by but he never did. Finally I learned from a friend that Ed had rolled a tire after two laps and since he didn't have spare wheels in the pit his race was over.

I expected to be passed easily by Bonnie, and I was -- we called out encouragement to each other and she pulled away. I hope she had a good time; she certainly looked like she was having a decent race. As for me, well, I basically (and predictably) suffered on the flat, long stretches -- especially near the starting area where everything was hardpacked dried dirt and grass, very bumpy and tough on my hands and wrists -- and in the back are coming out of the switchbacks where there was more bumpy hardpack. Ugh! I also got passed by co-worker Hazel, who raced Beginner Women and finished a fantastic 18/86. (Yes, eighty-six Beginner Women. Large field.)

My first lap was basically about hanging on and trying to get my breathing where I wanted it to be. I carried an inhaler but did not need to use it during the race. The first lap through the sandy hill was, predictably, a total cluster and I treated it like a run-up. The second lap I tried to come in faster but got cut off by a junior who shifted too late and killed our momentum; we both had to dismount and run the rest of it. Finally on my my third and fourth laps I had enough space in front of me that I could go in hot and manual my back end slightly it at the top to keep from fishtailing out.

cross crusade 10-23-11 hillsboro

I was a very happy camper at this point in the course. It made me want to go as fast as I could so I'd have more chances to ride it.

I was also pleased with how I ran every barrier, every time, throughout the entire race. Not sure what I'm doing differently this year from last -- I stopped lifting weights hardcore in late May and the only change in my riding patterns has been to go hard Tuesday and Wednesday, ease up on Thursday and Friday and not ride at all Saturday before a Sunday race. But whatever it is I am gutting it out and running, or at least jogging, every barrier and run-up now. It's not track-star fast, and it's not pretty, and most of the time to get any speed at all through barriers I have to suitcase my bike instead of doing a full-on underam carry; but it's a huge difference from last year and for me it's proof that practice makes better, if not perfect.

cross crusade 10-23-11 hillsboro

Continuing my tradition of dogged consistency, I finished DFL in my category -- 28/28 -- but I finished and pulled off four laps and handled my bike pretty darned well most of the time. Maybe speed will come, maybe it won't. But I still feel deliciously, dangerously empty at the end of these things and the extreme physical exertion is really, really good for my head as well as my body.

More photos here. Scroll to the end of the set for Hillsboro pictures.

Friday, October 21, 2011


Nature's first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leafs a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

--Robert Frost

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

hype of the week: 1992 USMC drum corps

True story: In 1984, I had left school to work full-time. I was living in downtown Portland and working as a bicycle messenger four mornings a week, then heading over to a coffee shop to work the afternoon/evening shift four days a week. They weren't always all the same four days, which helped. Still, I was making just enough money to pay all my bills without having to pick up the phone and ask my folks for help (a constant and looming goal -- it was complicated). I was twenty-one and looking for Whatever Was Supposed To Happen Next.

I had befriended the Gunnery Sergeant who was in charge of the US Marine recruiting station, which was housed in the Georgia-Pacific Building where my mother had worked before taking a transfer to the home office in Atlanta (also complicated). "Gunny", as his office cohort called him, was a friendly, thoughtful man who was curious about me. I obviously had been to college and was intelligent, judging by my speech and demeanor; what was I doing working as a bicycle messenger for peanuts? Sometiems he'd place a call to AMS specifically asking for me to bring lunch for the office staff, and he'd invite me to stay and chat while I ate from my own sack lunch. This happened once or twice a week that summer.

Eventually, I confided in him that I'd had a thing for the Marines since high school; they'd sent out packets to every medalist at the high school state solo contest and mine included information on "The Commandant's Own" -- the drum and bugle corps. My father, an Army veteran who'd served in Korea, had emphatically and surprisingly put his foot down; no daughter of his was going to be a Marine when she was being offered scholarships to college. Since I needed my parents' financial help that first year, that was pretty much that, and I dutifully forgot about the Marines, went to college, and eventually floundered. Gunny was intrigued. One thing led to another and before I knew it Gunny had persuaded me to take a short, 45-minute screening exam "just for the heck of it, no obligation at all". I scored 97 out of a possible 100 -- the highest score they'd seen in the office in months, and about thirty points higher than the average. Four weeks later I'd arranged for some time off work and was on a bus headed to Fort Lewis, Washington, to audition for the Marines music programs.

After I finished playing my prepared pieces, I was told that there were no openings in the drum corps, but that my sight-reading was plenty good enough to land me in a dance band anywhere in the corps, stateside or in Europe. I was very interested. For the rest of my visit, they assigned me to shadow a woman Marine, and she happily showed me around the base, answering my questions and talking a little about her experiences. When she learned that I was over 21, she invited me to learn how to shoot an M-16. After an initial instruction period we went to the firing range, and I followed instructions. I wasn't a bad shot -- all of my bullets hit the target or the backing behind it, though wildly arrayed. But as I squeezed the trigger, I immediately remembered that this was a military organization and that if I joined, I'd be taught how to kill people. It was like being in a theater and the play ended and lights went back up. And I knew that, although I still admired the United States Marine Corps for their precision, dedication and discipline, I would never join them.

"The Commandant's Own" is a pretty amazingly polished organization and I still admire them. As featured guests at a drum corps show in 1992, they wowed the crowds who cheered for them loudly. The acoustics of the Cotton Bowl aren't the best, and their drill is miles behind the drill designs of DCI corps of the period; but they still throw down a very good show, with more than decent brass arranging and some excellent, excellent marching (if these guys can't march cleanly, well, I guess they do push-ups all afternoon). Their intro onto the field is pretty damned cool (and some nice, clean drumming for what would have been considered limited instrumentation at the time). The company front at 2:15 is worth the price of admission alone.
Enjoy, and see you at the races. Cross Crusade goes to Hillsboro this week, and the women race around 2:15.

Monday, October 17, 2011

evidence of my participation: PIR/heron lakes

It appears that some of my best shots this season (including this one taken by T. Quinones) involve run-ups. Blecch. I do not like run-ups, even though I have made myself get tougher on them this year and now actually jog instead of crawl up them. Still, this shot shows how steep this section was -- a punchy incline interrupted by not one, but two barriers placed in the middle. On this lap I timed my [off-camber cornering] dismount a bit too late to get a good carry position under my arm, so I suitcased the bike over the barriers by simply lifting it by the top tube -- a bit harder on the arm muscles but certainly faster -- and noticeably more doable thanks to the weight work I did last winter and spring. It's amazing to imagine that real, tangible results are possible with weight training.

A couple more, taken by J. Bentham, on the off-camber switchbacks following the barrier run-up:

A few random recollections and thoughts:

1. After my race I had the pleasure of meeting Julia from the Eugene team Poplollies, who raced in my category and sought me out to thank me for my blog posts about racing singlespeed. She is thinking very hard about building up a singlespeed bike of her own. I urged her to go for it, of course. I figure as long as the knees hold out, singlespeed is still the most enjoyable way to race off-road.

2. I helped out with the Kiddie Races at lunchtime, basically directing traffic for the littlest kids at the end of their race. It was sweet to watch these adorable, powerful little people push their skoot bikes and tricycles along while adults on both sides of the course clapped, rang cowbells and shouted encouragement. I thoroughly enjoyed the wide-eyed wonder of these tiniest kids urging their tiny bikes along in the tacky mud. Some of them had the most beautiful looks of fierce determination on their faces, while others rolled along happily with gentle smiles on their faces, almost oblivious to anything else but the easy joy of self-propulsion.

3. Although I am not a fan of run-ups, I have gotten better at them this year. And I didn't even do much actual running to prepare for my season. I mostly spent my practice time working on mounts and dismounts and jogging with my bike under my arm or suitcased out to my side, and let my daily commuting and cargo-biking comprise the bulk of my between-season mileage. I'm still dreadfully slow all around, but I really enjoyed noticing the small, incremental improvements in some of my cyclocross skills yesterday during the race.

4. In retrospect, I thought there was too much gravel. Yes, I pedaled through it, and no, I did not crash; but there was still way too much gravel on the race course and, well, that 180-degree, off-camber gravel turnaround was simply stupid. Very few of the women rode the turnaround successfully every lap; most of us had to get off and run through it, or be forced off our bikes halfway through the turn because of poor positioning going into the bank, not enough speed, overcrowding at that spot, or all three. Never mind the finishing straight, which I think was longer than it had been last year and was just bad for a singlespeeder like me. The gravel was probably the worst feature of the PIR course this year.

5. I take that back; the worst feature of the PIR course this year was the complete absence of rain and deep mud. And Washington County next Sunday looks no more promising; the preliminary forecast calls for partly sunny skies and a high in the low to mid-60's. If that's the case, I'll leave the embrocation at home. For heaven's sake, where's the mud? It's mid-October already.

6. Crank -- the bike shop who sponsors Team Slow -- was a gracious host, allowing me to park my bag at their tent for the afternoon. The boys do seem to have a thing for pork, though -- at Alpenrose they offered me pulled pork sandiwiches, which I politely declined. At PIR, they offered me biscuits and gravy with -- you guessed it -- pork sausage. I'm convinced they own shares in a hog farm somewhere. I opted for oatmeal from the nice folks at Bob's Red Mill instead. Still, it's been really nice to hang out with the fellas and to meet their families.

7. Special thanks to pal Crystal and her friends at Metropolis Cycle Repair for letting me do a quick-change into my kit in their station wagon. The porta-potties were too far away and there was not a phone booth in sight. Bless you.

8. One nice thing about the conditions: I didn't have to hose my bike down after the race.

See you in Hillsboro.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

race report: cross crusade 2011/PIR-heron lakes

The day dawned cool, almost crisp, and cloudy. I enjoyed a nice ride down to the venue from my house. By the time I'd gotten to PIR at around 10:15 am, the clouds were breaking up a little. By noon the sun had broken through and I no longer needed my long-sleeved base layer; I swapped in a lighter sleeveless layer instead. The course was mostly dry, with long stretches of gravel and pavement that I didn't remember from last year. What mud there was was dry and tacky. In short, this was a flat, fast course that would be perfect for roadies, and sort of awful for my singlespeed mountain bike. I toyed with the idea of swapping in a smaller cog but decided to leave things alone so I could power up the few short inclines on the course and feel like I'd accomplished something.

At the start line, I scanned the other bikes in my category; I was the only Master 45+ woman racing on a singlespeed; did the other women know something I didn't? Yikes. We were off, and I prayed that I would be able to hang on for 45 minutes.

I surprised myself. Yes, I still finished last in my category (not official yet but I'm pretty confident of the result); but this time the timing worked out so I could push myself hard and squeeze in a fourth lap before it was all over. Anytime I hit the mud, my bike handling felt fine. Anytime I was on pavement, I spun out (and wished I'd swapped in the smaller cog before the race). Anytime I rode through gravel I just told myself to keep pedaling, and while my rear wheel slid under me a couple of times I remained upright. Nicest surprise of all was how I dealt with barriers, especially on the flats. Obviously, the huge concrete slab was a challenge every time, but I forced myself to at least jog at it and all my dismounts there were timed pretty well. (Note to hecklers: consider placing the dollar hand-ups a little farther out from the slab so folks have time to remount before grabbing for them.) Because the course was run in reverse of last year's route, the strongest and most agile riders today were able to bunny hop up to the slab and back down the other side. (Note: I did not see any women attempt this but then I missed most of the Pros/A's race just prior to mine. Several junior men made it, and many singlespeed [men] did so as well.)

Except for the two barriers on the steep uphil, where the cheers of my male teammates helped me get up and over that section every lap, I managed to run over every other barrier -- and the two barriers out in the back section were awesome! The hours I spent in late summer/early fall practicing nothing but mounts and dismounts seem to have paid off. I'm sure I was still slow as molasses, but when I suitcased my bike over that set of barriers each lap it felt almost like flying, and I felt the closest I ever have to a real cyclocross racer.

Team Slow notes: I got to meet the newest of our ladies today -- Suzy is an impressive rider and races Womens' Master 35+ B. Erinne looked so ridiculously strong today; her pedal strokes were smooth and powerful and her long red hair was just flying out the back of her helmet. I saw her a couple of times on the course and she must have lapped me more than once (I don't yet know how many laps each of us completed). I saw Kristin early on; she passed me and I don't remember if I saw her again. I got passed early on by Suzy as well -- another strong rider with great form on the bike.

I struggled, as I knew I would, on the sections of the course that were long, flat and paved -- ick! ugh! -- and felt stronger on the short, punchy climbs and the steep switchbacks. I never managed to get the hang of the 180-degree turnaround in deep gravel -- and on an incline! -- and lots of women got hung up here. The key, as best as I could observe, was to go in fast and take the turn rather high But with so many women on the course there was never enough room for me to get my momentum up enough to make the whole turn, and I got hung up halfway around each time, forcing me off my bike. I couldn't decide whether this or the two uphill barriers were the least enjoyable parts of the course for me.

Because of the dry, warm weather, the off-camber section at the end of the uphill barriers was almost a non-factor. According to various reports, today was the first time the PIR course has been this dry since something like 2002. And while I would have liked to challenge myself in the mud, I felt really good about managing to pull out four laps on a course that really wasn't my cup of tea.

(Me and Erinne before our race. We were both smiling afterwards, too.)

Next weekend: Washington County Fairgrounds, Hillsboro. Another run through the manure-tinged mud and the sheep barns. I am hoping it will rain.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

hype of the week: 1996 phantom regiment

In 1996, the Phantom Regiment took the field with a different look, and a much darker feel than even this all-classical corps had been known for. The familiar gleaming, all-white uniform had been replaced by an all-black version, which gave the corps an almost terrifying presence on the green field. The program, entitled "A Defiant Heart", featured music from Shostakovich's first and fifth symphonies, which are definitely among the heavier works in the orchestral repertoire.

I don't normally put up an entire 12-minute field show for Hype Of The Week, and frankly I'd been sitting on it, saving it, for about a year; but I've been in a sort of heavy space since Rosh Hashanah and decided it was finally time to put this one up. In advance of racing my favorite course (PIR/Heron Lakes on Sunday) it feels right to share this now. I promise it's worth hanging in there for the whole thing.

The show proper begins at about 40 seconds in. Look for great close-ups of snare stick work at 3:32 and 5:21. The most famous theme of this symphony happens at around 7:00. More snare close-ups at 10:00 (dig the stick heights, matched beautifully!), followed right afterwards by some gorgeous drill-writing (check out the huge flags almost floating through the corps without hitting anyone!). The show ends with a massive, earth-shattering company front/wall-of-sound at 11:40, and you can stop viewing there or watch through to the end of the video to see Phantom announced as DCI Champions. It was (and remains), in drum corps parlance, a nearly perfect field show. Watching it again gave me goosebumps, a burst of strength, and even a little hope. Turn up the volume, go to full screen, and be shaken and even moved.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

chag sameach sukkot

Happy Sukkot!

northwest native lulav

(Northwest Native Lulav)

My four species:
--Western Hemlock
--Western Red Cedar
--Douglas Fir
--Vine Maple

In place of an etrog I'm using the seed cone from a cedar. I may have to add a few drops of essential cedar oil but we'll see.

Our praise to You, Eternal our God, Sovereign of all:
whose mitzvot teaches us holiness and who instructs us to take up the lulav .

A local rabbi's comment on the holiday seems especially pertinent for me personally as I am in a time of great uncertainty and not a little worry. "Dwell in a booth," he writes, "You will emerge in strength."
May it be so for all of us.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

my first sukkah

Today, like many Jews on the day after Yom Kippur, I built a sukkah in our yard. Unlike many of my Jewish friends, this was the first time I'd built a sukkah of my own. I'd helped friends in past years (shorter friends especially have been grateful for my long reach) but had wanted to build one of my own for years.

I sketched an idea on some notebook paper, measured the height of the porch (against which I would stabilize the other three sides) and figured out how many poles I'd need. I went to the lumber yard before Rosh Hashanah and brought everything home on the cargo bike.

It went together fairly easily.

my first sukkah

my first sukkah

my first sukkah

my first sukkah

my first sukkah

my first sukkah

Stay tuned for D-I-Y Sukkot, Part Two: The NW Native Lulav (in which I freak out most of the rabbis I know).
Sukkot begins this Wednesday evening.

Monday, October 3, 2011

evidence photo: alpenrose

First lap, run-up. I ran. (I would walk the next two times.) Still raining pretty steadily here.

(photo by vitus1997)

Sunday, October 2, 2011

race report: cross crusade 2011/alpenrose

The weather never got quite as sunny or as warm as the weatherpeople said it would. Which was a good thing.
In fact, about half an hour before the womens' race, it began raining, steadily and lightly. Which was an even better thing.
More rain meant that a formerly hard, fast and tacky course ideal for roadies became, in seveal important spots, a slower, muddier, slicker course better suited to off-road riders. I was happy.
I was slow, but very happy.

A few photos of the course, showing the morning racing (mostly C Men and Clydesdales):

The off-camber run-up behind the velodrome:

cross crusade alpenrose 10-2-11

This got a lot slicker and sloppier by 2:30. In fact, by then, most of the women opted to run the length of the section including the short run-up. I rode as much of the section as I could each lap, but was forced to get off and run the incline because there were just too many women on the course to allow me to keep up any momentum. (Sigh.)

The switchbacks at the opposite end of the velodrome:

cross crusade alpenrose 10-2-11

cross crusade alpenrose 10-2-11

I took the switchbacks a little too hot the first time and nearly collided with another racer cornering out of a descent. Watching my speed the following laps meant that I had to kill my own momentum because there were simply too many other women close by for me to really open things up and muscle up the other side of the switch.

The long run-up was back, and I suffered it each lap; enough said. The long stretch of singletrack behind the velodrome was also back and I really enjoyed bombing down it -- but was surprised, and brought up short, by the women in front of me who rode their brakes the whole way down. (Whaaaa...?) More momentum-killing. Arrrrgh!

No Team Slow men raced today. We were represented on the womens' side by me (Master Women 45+), Erinne (B Women U35) and Kristin (Beginner Women). I never saw Erinne on the course but assume she did well; Kristin lapped me about halfway through the race and I never saw her again, either; but she looked strong. On my first and second laps I passed women (!!!), in the same spot each time (coming out of a short descent, into a turn and heading out along a singletrack straightaway to a little "bump-up" behind the velodrome). Both times I saw someone flounder because of lost momentum or a bad recovery from the turn, and I simply said, "passing on your right", and passed them all the way through the singletrack and up and over the "bump-up". A satisfyingly mountain-bike sort of feel to the passing move each time. Of course, they passed me later on down the road, so we were even. Still, it was thrilling to pass someone in a bike race.

In spite of how slow I felt, and having finished dead last in my category (results not posted yet for the combined womens' race but I'm pretty sure that's where I ended up), I had an awesome time playing in the mud. I'm so glad it rained.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

'twas the night before cyclocross season

Saturday night (post-Shabbat) finds me feeling a little jittery about my first 'cross race tomorrow at Alpenrose.

I've done as much as I can do and still hold down two jobs, eat, sleep and have time with my sweetie:

a. Four weekly cyclocross practices, opened to friends and teammates but each held solo. (I dunno, I guess my neighborhood is a bit far away from everyone, but I have a great neighborhood park to practice in.) They weren't the most disciplined pratices, but I did get in some good practice on mounts and dismounts. My mounts still suck -- very slow and halting -- but there's probably nothing to do about that now except hope I don't hang anyone else up in the process.

b. Some quality time with Stompy, finally! Replaced cables and housing (sorry, its not hot pink anymore; I scored some nice woven metal housing from VO that looks sturdier), swapped in the Conti Cross Country tires and overhauled the headset (I'd done the once-over on the BB and cranks this summer and they still seem fine). Headset cups look a touch dinged up but since I'm only racing five or six times this fall I've decided to roll with it through the season. If I stick with this frameset next year I'll upgrade the headset before next summer.

c. The usual primping and preening of all my ephemera, and pre-packing this afternoon based on the weather reports. Tomorrow's forecast: cloudy, with showers in the evening, high in mid-60's. I opted for bib knickers and my short-sleeved jersey with arm warmers, though I did toss the long-sleeved jersey in and may use it as a jacket. (I wish we could've spring for actual thermal jackets but not enough of us could afford them to make the minimum). I also packed a screaming orange wind-vest I scored over the summer. Plus various accessories (embrocation, chamois cream, first aid kit, pom-poms), a tool kit and I'm good to go.

I'm heading out early in the morning so I can watch the Beginner men, where I hope to see at least one or two of my teammates. I'm nervous because in spite of all the commuting I've done over the late summer I still feel underprepared and out of shape for 'cross season. (Adding to my sense of underpreparedness are the last three days I've spent off the bike because of Rosh Hashanah. Sweetie tells me I'll just be really, really rested for the race.)
I'm excited because Sweetie and several friends are coming to watch.

Last reports indicate that close to 800 racers have pre-registered online. Last year there were over 1,500 registered racers plus over 200 kiddie race participants. 1,700 racers, plus another 2,000 who came to watch. Even with the runoff from folks planning to race only the Molly Cameron series, I think we'll still have more racers this year. I expect my category (Master Women 45+) to be the smallest womens' category but I still expect to see more than 40 women. Alpenrose is always such a cluster.

Here we go. Let the wackiness begin. The women race tomorrow afternoon at 2:00 pm or so.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

must. rant. (damn you, brooks.)

Years ago I came into the possession of a small stack of CTC Gazettes. The Gazette was the magazine for the Cyclists' Touring Club, the national organization of cyclotouring and bicycle transportation in Great Britain. Included in the pages were photos of happy cyclotourists, clad in the traditional (for that time period, anyway -- 1960's and 70's) oxford shirts, knickers (I think they called them "plus-twos", not quite as billowy as the golfers' "plus-fours") and jaunty touring jackets. Of course, their bikes were outfitted with the now-famous transverse saddle bags, which enjoyed a renaissance thanks in large part to the efforts of Rivendell Bicycle Works to import them in the early 1990's. The photos in the magazine show happy men and women riding through the bucolic British countryside, and in general having a fine time.

The photos can be seen in real-life form today. My touring bike has a transverse saddlebag, of course -- I've used them for years -- and Tweed Rides all over the English-speaking world have brought back the appearance and pleasures of a simpler time without the guilt of the class system tacked on.

And now, Brooks has seen fit to bring back the cyclists' touring jacket. In keeping with their current penchant for pushing the boutique vibe, the new jacket retails for 1,000 euros. If you're doing the math that's about 870 Pounds, or a cool -- sit down -- $1,360.00. Yup. You read that right. Thirteen hundred bucks for a jacket.

To be fair, at least a little bit, the jacket appears to be made in the UK -- and perhaps that accounts for its high price. But Brooks has lately been having goods produced in China and NOT heavily discounting the retail prices, because they know they can get away with it. There are people out there who want the whiff of privilege and they will pay $900 for a rain cape, and $1300 for a touring jacket. (If they can afford these things, they already enjoy more than a whiff of privilege. Good for them.) I love Brooks saddles and have been riding them for nearly 40 years. The B-17 saddle on my touring bike is ten years old -- I paid about $60 for it back then -- and still going strong. But it is getting harder and harder to feel good about supporting a brand whose goods are getting more costly and whose marketing approach is getting more and more class-oriented. I'm also glad that in a few weeks I will step aside as the lead buyer at my shop, and I won't have to worry about it in quite the same way anymore.
All this marketing of "cool" is bringing me down. I'm really looking forward to picking up my wrenches again.

hype of the week: 2009 vanguard, "simple gifts"

October 2011 finds me returning for my third season of racing 'cross on a singlespeed bike. Appropriately enough, Hype Of The Week returns for the 2011 Cyclocross Season with this amazing footage of the Santa Clara Vanguard at the end of its 2009 DCI World Finals show. Yeah, okay, it's "modern" drum corps, with 3-valved horns (NOT bugles anymore, sorry) and electronics in the pit (God forbid!); but if you really want to have your face ripped off, run it through some decent speakers with the volume up and you'll probably smile in spite of yourself.

I'm sure Copland hadn't planned on this interpretation/instrumentation of his setting of "Simple Gifts", but IMHO it works.

The women race at Alpenrose on Sunday 10/2, at around 2:15 pm. Parking will be a royal pain, so plan to arrive early and watch the A's/Pro's in the race before mine. See you there!

Monday, September 26, 2011

weather forecast: sunday, october 2

Partly Cloudy - High 66°F - Precip 10%

Can you tell I'm looking forward to my first race of the season?

Friday, September 23, 2011

jonesing for mud

Last night after my team meeting, I came home and surfed the web for a few minutes, looking up photos of cyclocross action.
I find myself doing this every fall, and I suppose it's a part of how I get excited for cyclocross season. Here are a few of my favorite shots:

The runup at Barton Park, a race I missed last year but hope to do this year:

Starting field at Alpenrose. Yes, this many people really do turn out to race the Cross Crusade opener, and this was just the Men C's:

The ride-schlep-runup at the south end of the Alpenrose velodrome, which defeated me on all but my last lap last year:

And finally, me and Stompy at the end of my PIR race last year. The heavens opened up five minutes before the start of the womens' race and turned the course beautifully, gloriously muddy:

evidence of my participation

I am only racing five, maybe six times this fall (Five Cross Crusade races, plus maybe Kruger's Kross if I can swing a ride there and back). I am praying for a really rainy fall because the more it rains, the more fun Stompy and I have.

Cyclocross season has already begun with some Saturday races. The Grand Prix Molly Cameron is underway; Blind Date at the Dairy gets going next week, and PsychoCross is underway in the Willamette Valley. But the grandaddy of them all, Cyclocross Crusade, begins October 2nd at Alpenrose Dairy.
See you at the races.