Monday, July 29, 2013

From Paris with love

Just when this ol' blog was dying on the vine because we're having a killer summer and I've been too busy riding to screw around on my laptop, we have a new submission to the Fabulous Finger Gallery, and it comes from Oscar the Grouch, who was recently in "gay Pair-ee."

Lest ye think this is another example of Americans misbehaving in a foreign country and giving the French one more reason to hate us, I remind you the photographer is a Spaniard. On the other hand, I think I know whose finger that is, and she could be stirring up trouble.

There's just something about vacations that bring this shit out of people. Hell, time in Paris even knocked some of the Grouch out of Oscar. He sent this photo with a note that said, "From Paris with love. Or something like that." 

I felt a little tear in my eye.

Right back atchya with a wink, Big Fella!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

90 percent mental, half physical

Now that a few days—and a couple of “recovery rides” have passed—the Fireweed 200 is starting to seem like a fuzzy, demented memory. My body feels normal again, and I’m riding my mountain bike on singletrack, which is why I got into this sport in the first place. Road riding? What’s that?

Heather and I re-enter the wind tunnel.

But I keep seeing this picture that my friend Julie shot during the race, and it brings things back.

Heather and I were rolling back onto the Richardson Highway after a break. We had about 150 miles behind us. The headwinds were beating us to a pulp. And there, in the mountains, was a huge blanket of fog draped over Thompson Pass (in the upper-right portion of this photo). That’s where we were going, and pretty much everything about that portion of ride was already a big bucket of suckage. That high, looming fog reminded us that things were going to get worse before they got better.

Most of my epic rides have been in the mountains, where quitting isn’t an option. If you want the pain to end, you have to get your ass to the trailhead. But I’ve never really been sure what keeps a road rider going when the suffering gets bad and he could simply say, “This isn’t fun. This is stupid. Fuck it.”

People have told me that it’s all mental, and I guess it is. For months, I kept reminding myself that the Fireweed was going to hurt, and there would be times when I’d question the point of continuing. I knew that if I’d quit, the feeling of failure would have haunted me all winter. So I didn’t allow it to be an option. There was no doubt that we’d get to Valdez if we could just cowboy up and keep riding.

It hurt, and we suffered in those headwinds. But in a weird way, sitting here in the comfort of this chair, it doesn’t seem like it was that bad.

But that could just be the wine talking because, as Leonard said this week, “That ride was a head-windy bitch.”

Monday, July 15, 2013


Ken and Julie rock the SAG wagon.
The Fireweed 200 ain't easy. Rough pavement and hard climbs beat up your body. Brutal headwinds punish your muscles and your morale. Huge, nasty, wheel-grabbing cracks in the asphalt never let you relax. But a good crew can keep you going with calories, electrolytes, painkillers and encouraging humor.

This year's event is history, and I'm sure I'll have another blog post or two as I sort through the memories, but for now I'll just say thanks to the crew that helped Heather and I keep pedaling when the shit hit the fan. (And it was a big fan, that blew hard.)

Ken is the guy who lives with the mixed blessing of being married to Heather. It's a mixed blessing because he's lucky to be married to her, but he also has to occasionally put up with her agreeing to do silly shit like this with me. 

Julie is the kind person and tough athlete who happens to be one of our best friends. She didn't have to be there on Saturday. But she was, and I was very grateful.

Until a person has experienced endurance events from both the saddle of a bike and the seat of a support car, it's hard to fully appreciate the importance of a good crew, and how hard they work. They do selfless work, tolerate racers' mood swings, and put in long hours to help friends reach the finish line. They are indispensable.

Saturday was a damn hard day. These two are a big reason Heather and I got through the longest ride of our lives.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

On the road again


It's time to do this thing. Road bikes have been devouring the summer while my Fireweed partner Heather and I have prepared for the 200-mile event this Saturday. But the training rides are done and it's time to git down to bidness. 

One more long day in the saddle, which should be made easier with the great crew of her hubby Ken and our friend Julie, then it'll be all mountain bikes, all the time for the rest of the season. I might not see a 23c again until next April. 

There are two things I expect in this ride: Good times, and bad times. And as my ultra-distance-freak friend Leonard has often pointed out, neither one will last. Good times come, and they go. Bad times come, and they go, too. 

The best we can hope for is that Heather will be strong when I'm weak, I'll be strong when she's weak, and we'll both arrive in Valdez tired but safe. At the end of the day, it's all about the ride, and the cold beer after the finish. 

See you in Valdez, muthafuckas.

Monday, July 08, 2013

Chasing Trail

Nothing I could write tonight would be more entertaining than this new video starring Anchorage's Kevin Murphy riding the shit out of the singletrack at Kincaid on a fat bike. Treat yourself to an awesome couple of minutes.

Chasing Trail | Alaska fat bike on Pinkbike

Monday, July 01, 2013

Lessons from the road

The final long training ride is done. Heather and I spent Saturday riding 162 miles to make sure we’re ready for the Fireweed 200. We’re there. H rode like a high-octane machine, and two days after a hard effort, I’m tired but feeling no pain.

Now it’s time to taper. What better opportunity to share the lessons I’ve learned from this experience (so far)?

  • Long-distance riding is a great escape from reality. There’s a beautiful freedom in having nothing to do but ride and eat for hours at a time.
  • A person can get REALLY hungry two days after a really long ride.
  • All bike shorts are not created equal.
  • There is such a thing as too much chamois cream.
  • Use a metric assload of chamois cream anyway.
  • Flats suck. (I already knew this. I just like repeating it.)
  • The food in Hope, Alaska, is pretty good, but it tastes better when you ride there to get it.
  • It’s fun to drink gin and tonics in the bar car on the Alaska Railroad train from Seward to Anchorage. (I assumed this. I just liked confirming it.)
  • Good riding partners are always important, but even more important after 100 miles. If you can end a marathon day with a friend who lapses into giddy laughter at the sheer insanity of it all, you’re doing it right.
  • I’m doing it right.
  • It’s highly entertaining to watch the reaction of “normal” people when you meet them at a roadside rest area, a restaurant, etc., and they ask how far you’re riding ... and you tell them.
  • I miss trail time, and plan to get dirty again very soon. I love bikes in all forms, but I’ll always be a mountain biker above all else.
Let's do this thing. See you in Valdez.