Thursday, July 24, 2008

Mexican Food

What does Mexican food have to do with shammy time, you might ask? Everything, that's what. I challenge you to find me a cyclist who doesn't like Mexican food. I don't think such an individual exists. If a self-proclaimed cyclist told me that he/she didn't like Mexican food, I'd seriously question his/her credentials as a cyclist. The two are inextricably intertwined. Let's put it this way, the Venn diagram would look something like this:

Okay, you get the picture.

Since most of us spend the last hour or so of a long ride thinking about which Mexican restaurant to go to after the ride, I'm going to help everyone out by providing a few tips. Keeping with the theme established in my "Top N reasons to commute to work" post, here are the top N things to look for when selecting a Mexican restaurant:

*The sign: if it looks like they have hired a graphic designer when creating their sign, then keep on driving (or better yet, riding). All of those colorful and hip signs are really just a sign of a bad Americanized Mexican restaurant with a lot of cheese and big portions (see 1:45).
*Interior and exterior decor: If they do have decorations, it better be done on the cheap, and the cheesier the better. Any image of La Virgin Maria is a huge bonus. When it comes to decorations, less is more. Think of it this way. Racer's Cycle Service is like the good Mexican food of bike shops. I don't know that I can give Racer a bigger compliment than that.
*Child care service in the front: most good Mexican restaurants have at least one little kid running around in the front. If the restaurant has been around long enough, then that same little kid is now running the cash register. The kid is typically related to one of the workers at the restaurant, but not necessarily the son or daughter of said worker. He or she may be a nephew, a cousin, a granddaughter, etc., because Mexicans know how to take care of one another. We could learn a lot from them.
*Prepaid phone cards adorned with Mexican flags: most good Mexican restaurants sell them by the dozens.
*Booth converted into an office: I went to a great Mexican restaurant recently where one of the booths was actually converted into the restaurant office. They had a filing cabinet, a laptop, ream of paper, cup full of pens, a printer, etc., all setup in the corner booth, right next to the booths that everyone else was eating in. I thought it was a nice touch. At least the guy who ran the place could say he had a corner office.
*Order your food at the counter: At most good Mexican joints, you order at the counter, not while seated. You really think you're going to get good Mexican at a "sit-down" place?
*Mexican TV: The TV is always turned on so that the workers have something to do during the down times. Usually, it's a Mexican novela (soap opera), unless of course one of the Mexican clubs has a Futbol game scheduled.

Note that we've already gone through quite a bit of the list, and we haven't even gotten to the food. If the restaurant has passed the majority of the above points, then it's usually a foregone conclusion that the food is going to be sabrosa (delicious).

*Chips and Salsa: This should be an obvious one. If the chips taste like they came out of a Doritos bag and/or the salsa tastes like it came out of a bottle of Pace Picante Sauce, or if the base of the salsa is made from tomato paste instead of real tomatoes, you may as well cut your losses and go somewhere else. The problem is that I'm usually so hungry by this point that I usually have resigned myself to eating bad Mexican food for the sake of getting some quick calories. Taharumara (perhaps the best Mexican in Utah) serves no less than 15 different salsas, and they are all muy rico.
*Beans and rice: Sometimes you make it all the way till the actual meal before knowing whether you are at a good Mexican joint (imagine that). Your first bite should be of the beans and rice. Do the beans taste like they came out of a can? Can you easily stir them, or are they so thick that your entire plate moves if you try stirring them? Does the rice seasoning look like it came from some pre-packaged mix? If so, you are in for a long day.
*Cheese: I've had the good fortune of eating in the homes of probably close to 100 different Mexicans. As shocking as this may sound, I don't think I've ever been served cheddar cheese at the home of a "real" Mexican. Now, I'm not saying you can't have a good Mexican dish with a little Cheddar or Colby Jack. I'm just saying that if they have to put a ton of cheese on it, they're probably trying to hide something. In case you're wondering, most Mexicans I've had the pleasure of dining with use a crumbly dry white cheese that is sold in 2 inch tall by 4 inch wide wheels.
*Cream: The other item I've never had at the home of a "real" Mexican is the thick
sour cream that us "gabachos" put on our baked potatoes. What you want is "crema Mexicana", that dribbles off your spoon and onto your food. If it looks like they applied the American-type sour cream with some sort of cake decorating tool, you may as well leave your tip and go to Taco Bell, because I'm telling you right now that you'll probably get food that is just as good (or bad) for about 1/4 the cost.
*The Nth way to select a Mexican restaurant: Pine-Sol(R). Although this is the first thing you notice as you enter a restaurant, it is also one of the most important, so I saved it for last. If you walk into a Mexican joint and you are overcome by the smell of Pine-Sol, you are golden. All of the above factors are insignificant in comparison to the smell of Pine-Sol. Ask any Mexican lady what she cleans with, and she'll tell you Pine-Sol. Restaurant owners wouldn't trust their cleaning crew (which also happens to be the same people who cook and run the cash register) with anything else.

Feel free to add the (N+1)th method for selecting Mexican restaurants in the comments.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

I really don't want to keep taking shots at Cadel, but...

... he just makes it so easy. Check out the raging bull at 15 seconds.

Too bad Cadel can't attack in the alps like he does against the reporters. Obviously a very tough rider though. He'll probably still win the tour, so he'll have the last laugh.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Weekend Warrior

Started out the weekend by heading up A.F. canyon to camp with the family. We camped above the Timpanooke campground, probably close to the bear attack. Amazing how it suddenly got easier to find empty campsites up there! The next morning, we hit up Silver Lake for some fishing. Other than one bite, we had no luck. A bunch of trucks and ATVs were driving along the north shore of the lake where we were trying to fish despite clear signs prohibiting motorize vehicles. As the first one came by, my daughter says to me, "daddy, do they not know the rule?" We hadn't mentioned the signs to her yet, so I asked "what rule?" She says, "the rule not to drive on the beach?" (to her, if we're by water, we must be on the beach). Amazing how my 3-year-old can figure it out, but a bunch of hicks driving big trucks can't.

I happened to bring my bike along, "just in case I needed it." The family was ready to call it a day, so I sent them home without me and I took the scenic route home. Up Tibble Fork, down Joy (aka, East Fork South Creek) and back up to the summit, down the "Jurassic Park" trail (aka, Aspen Grove Summit Trail) to Aspen Grove, played around on the race loops at Sundance for an hour or so, cruised down the Provo Canyon bike path and hopped on the Bridal Veil Falls trail (aka, Betty) which took me to the mouth of Provo Canyon, and rolled home. Yeah, I think I'm going to like it here in Happy Valley, although I can't help but wonder what is making everyone here so happy if they aren't mountain biking. Riding up Tibble Fork was the hottest ride of the year... until I climbed up the Bridal Veil Falls trail a couple hours later, which is now the new hottest ride of the year. Climbing up a steep rocky desert mountain trail in full sun exposure at 4pm after 3.5 hours in the saddle is a pretty good test of will power. Gotta love it when you are fighting off heat stroke with refreshing swigs of 120 degree water. I think water bottles must act as mini green houses. Good times.

Since I don't have pics today, I'll share more love for Cadel with you. Why is this guy so grumpy? (Fast forward to 25 seconds to get to the good part):

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Go Vandevelde! Cadel? Not so much.

I always wondered what Christian Vandevelde and Chris Horner would do if given the chance to ride for themselves. I always figured that Horner would be the stronger of the two, but I suppose we may never find out for sure since Horner hitched himself to the wrong horse when he joined Astana. Vandevelde has definitely made the most out of his chance to show what he can do, and I hope he kicks everybody's teeth in over the next week or so.

On the other hand, I just can't get myself to root for Cadel Evans. Maybe it's because he comes across as a whining little b!t@# every time he gets interviewed. I know he used to be a mountain biker, but I think he became more and more uptight until he eventually became a roadie by default (man, that was a low blow toward roadies, and for this I apologize... but not so much that I'm going to delete it). Although I've only sporadically been following the tour this year, I've come up with a rock solid theory for what Cadel's problem is: Cadel used to be a hobbit-like creature, but he's now slowly morphing into a Gollum-like creature. Stay with me here for a minute. First of all, you have to admit that there is a vague resemblance to Bilbo Baggins in this picture:

Second, ever since he obtained the the yellow jersey, he's been hording over something like it's "the precious." However, it's not the yellow jersey that is the precious. Instead, it's that little stuffed lion that comes with the yellow jersey. Check this out. Here's a picture of him just before he starts making out with the stuffed lion:

When asked about his affection toward the lion, he replied (and I'm not making this up): “It’s a pretty special teddy bear to have. I haven’t seen my wife for two weeks and I’m running pretty low on affection.”

Um... Okay.

If you don't think I've proven my point, then here is the clincher. Check out his response when someone tries to touch "the precious." Make sure you watch till then end:

WTF!?!? If you listen carefully, when he is scurrying off like Gollum at the end of his little hissy fit, he's muttering "don't touch the precious... oh, the precious."

From what I've heard, when Cadel is not talking to the press, he's supposed to be a pretty cool guy. What these people fail to realize is that they are talking to him when he is in Smeagol mode rather than Gollum mode.

I wonder if his teammate and countryman Robbie McEwen ever gets the urge to give Cadel a roundhouse kick when he starts whining about something while they ride next to each other in the peleton? With Robbie's impressive bike handling skills, I bet he could pull it off flawlessly:

Go Vandevelde!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Perfect 10 picture share

Post-race delirium:

Big thanks to Mark, his teammate Racer, and especially Shae and Richard for all their help during the race

Sunday, July 13, 2008

"I can't ever hide; the trouble's on the inside"

From hours 6-10 of the Park City Perfect 10, the above lyrics from a song by an old band named "The Origin" kept going through my head. I think that this line summed up my race pretty good. I had no idea who I was even racing against (other than Brad), so even though it was easy hiding from the other racers, there was no hiding from the ongoing internal battle of whether to do that extra lap or to pull the plug and call it a day.

I jogged the le mans start and hopped on the bike. I was in a long line of riders, and the pace was pretty mellow. When the trail opened up a bit, I made some passes, and settled into what I thought was a good pace for me. It turns out that considering I had another 10 hours to ride, I went out too fast for the first 6-7 laps, and I ended up paying for it for the rest of the day. Probably a common first-time-endurance-racer mistake. I got slower and slower each subsequent lap until I could probably have been walking during those last few laps and gone faster than I did riding them. It was almost embarrassing how slow I was going by the end. After 10.5 hours, I'd put in 13 laps and finished in 9th place of about 30 starters in the solo category. According the Perfect 10 website which claims 7 miles and 900 feet of climbing per lap, I rode 91 miles and climbed 12700 feet. Admittedly, my bike computer shows that the posted distance per lap was inflated a bit. I think I'll go with their stats though.

During a large part of the race, I swore I'd never do anything like this again. I had every twist, steep climb, and even rock memorized, and by the end, I dreaded each one of them, despite the fact that I was raving about the course for the first few hours. However, quickly after finishing I found wondering if I could have done better if I would have gone out easier and finished stronger. Who knows, maybe it would have all come out the same in the end with fewer laps at the beginning and more at the end. I guess there's only one way to find out for sure. Next time I do an endurance event, for the first 3 hours, I'm just going to repeat to myself "this is not an ICUP race, this is not an ICUP race" in an effort to slow myself down. In the end, it was great practice for the AMC coming next month.

I'm posting my lap info more for my benefit, because I won't write them down anywhere else. The lap times are a bit off because sometimes I'd often be a mile into the next lap before remembering to push the lap button, and I wasn't consistent about when I'd push it during my pit stops.

Lap Time Ave HR Max HR
1 39 ?? ?? (I forgot to wear my HRM during laps 1 and 2. I'm sure it would have shown what I already know - that I was pushing too hard)
2 43 ?? ?? (Pit stop between laps 2 and 3 to grab HRM)
3 40:26 155 172 (Why was I pushing my heartrate to 172???)
4 43:59 155 166 (Pit stop between laps 4 and 5)
5 46:02 156 169
6 46:31 154 165
7 45:17 150 160 (Extra long pit stop between laps 7 and 8)
8 1:03:36 146 157
9 53:10 145 158
10 50:57 144 156 (Pit stop between laps 10 and 11)
11 52:12 141 153
12 50:58 140 150 (toughest lap)
13 49:34 144 155 (I actually had a boost of energy halfway into lap 13)

*Average Heart rate over last 11 laps: 148

Food consumed:
*1.8 gallons of Carborocket
*4-5 PB&J sandwiches (as gross as this may sound, a bite of a sandwich soaked in Carborocket goes down pretty easy)
*1 Cliff Bar (too tough to swallow during a race)
*5 Gu's
*4 bags of Cliff Blocks
*4 bananas

Friday, July 11, 2008

Are we all crazy?

I tried explaining to my co-workers my plans for this weekend. Start racing at 7:00am, ride in a circle for 10 hours, and whoever makes the most circles wins. They just didn't get it. I wonder why? It makes perfect sense to me. I think one guy even accused me of being crazy. I wondered about this accusation for a while, but then I found this video from last fall that reassured me that us cyclists are completely normal:

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Top 'N' reasons to commute to work

I was reading Ryan's take on commuting, and I started coming up with a bunch of reasons why commuting to work rocks. In fact, I'm going to list N reasons to commute, where N equals however many reasons I end up coming up with:

*Because Chad swears that commuting is his main form of training, and he's sorta fast.
*Because now when I see and pass a traffic jam, it secretly makes me kind of happy.
*It makes that new $2000 bike totally worth it. The money Ill save in gas will pay for that bike in a mere 5.37 years (my commute is only 5 miles round trip, assuming I go directly to and from work (see the Nth reason)).
*Provides a good excuse to take the elevator to and from your office, because we all know that taking the stairs is for suckas.
*You get to put your nose up at all of those gas guzzling SUVs.
*Taking pride in beating all of those gas guzzling SUVs to the next stop light.
*Your odds of getting killed on a bike (1 in 348,347) are less than being killed in your car (1 in 19,216) (yes, I realize I'm skewing these statistics in my favor, but that's what statistics are for).
*Because how often will someone try to run you over with a lawnmower if you are driving in a car?
*Let's say your commute is 16 miles per day. You've eliminated about 5000 lbs of CO2 from the atmosphere each year.
*Because riding a bike to work seems to make my coworkers more tolerant of the fact that I wear shorts to work. Yes, you read that right. I've been wearing shorts to work for the past month.
*The N'th reason to commute to work: Because it completely changes the meaning of "honey, I'm heading to work." Now, if you happen to take a detour around the Alpine Loop, or go shred some of the singletrack above your house on your way to work, it's all just part of going to work. Not that I'd ever stoop to such a despicably low level in order to get a ride in (in case you're reading this, Wesla). This gives you an idea of how my commute might look on a morning in May if I were to take a quick detour on my way to work:

Since N can be any number, feel free to add to this list in the comments.

Monday, July 7, 2008


In my write-up of the Tuesday night Solitude race, I mentioned that I think the Solitude race is the most challenging of all of the ICUP races, but that for some crazy reason, it is one of my favorites. After racing the ICUP version this Saturday, I still stand by both points. This was the toughest race I've ever done. Granted, I've never done any endurance races, so my perspective is pretty limited. The beating this course dishes out just never stops. The climbs are brutal, and have some technical spots that require some serious focus and determination to clean. The descents are fast, twisty, rocky, rooty, loose, and rutted. This is the type of course where a moment of inattentiveness can end a race early (sorry Chad).

The race started at what seemed like a fast but reasonable pace up the paved road. I tried to push the pace, but not so much that I'd blow up early. The usual suspects started pulling away up front and I settled into a spot somewhere in the middle of the pack at around 9th place. At the beginning of the descent, I passed Ryan (I think that's his name), who was remounting after a crash. We descended together, but he was able to drop me on the lap 2 climb. Laps 2-3 were somewhat of a blur. Pain is about all I remember. Pain and playing leapfrog with Brad. Oh yeah, and a lot of granny gear. After blowing up a few times on Tuesday, I decided to shamelessly use the granny on Saturday's longer race, and I think it helped me to ride a consistent race. Even seeing Brad pushing his big gear while I spun in the granny was not enough to make me feel bad for using such a puny gear. At the top of the 3rd lap, I caught 1 guy in my class right before the single-track, and that provided some needed motivation. I almost caught another guy, and I tried to follow him on the downhill, but he was able to motor through those initial rollers a little better than me. I tried catching him on the climb up lap 4, but was surprised that I couldn't real him in. It turns out that he crashed out somewhere on the descent on lap 3.

On the final singletrack climb on lap 4, I was hurting, but had enough in the tank that I planned on finishing strong. On one of the first steep loose sections, I caught a lapper. I announced my presence, and maybe made him a little nervous because he spun out and fell in the middle of the trail. I was close enough by then that I had no choice but to clip out and put a foot down. As soon as my foot touched, my right calf and left quad both started to seize up. I clipped back in and started pedaling in hopes that I'd work the cramps out. I had to go easy for a little while, but was eventually able to start pushing again. Turning left at the half-lap turnoff was a reeeallly good feeling, because that last climb on the full lap that I got to skip is just brutal.

I descended to the finish line with the "just don't crash" mentality, and fortunately I didn't. I rolled into the finish hoping for top 10, and to my surprise I finished in 6th. I think this course took its toll, because there were quite a few more starters than finishers. I know of at least 3 DNFs, and there may have been more. I consider this my best finish so far (even if it came thanks to a few crashes, mechanicals and noted absences), so I guess it's just more reason to love Solitude.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

I need a bigger suitcase

Does anyone know where I can find a bigger suitcase of courage? I planned on digging deep into my suitcase of courage last night during the Solitude race, but realized that it was already empty during parts of the 2nd and 3rd laps. I think if I can just get a bigger suitcase, I'll be good to go.

The race started out on the pavement, and I settled into the middle somewhere, expecting a nice long initial climb up the road for the first lap, like in the ICUP races, in order to battle for position. Before I knew it, we all funneled into singletrack where it was a bit tough to pass. Oops. I was able to get three passes on the first singletrack climb, and really felt like I was chomping at the bit once we hit the pavement again. I made a couple more passes on the road and started the descent.

Upon entering the second climb, I instantly felt like the snap in my legs was no longer there. When we got to the steep sections, I really felt like I was going backwards. Once I got to the road, 1 or 2 guys caught and passed me. I made up some time on the descent and even caught the guys who passed me on the first part of the climb. I really started feeling it at the top again, and once we hit the road I didn't have the power to stay with the group. There were 5 of us that were all bunched together near the top of the climb. Guess where I finished among the 5? You guessed it. Fifth. I finished 7th of 19 in the expert B group, which I suppose I should be happy with. The frustrating part is that I know that if I could have kept up the pace at the top of the climbs, I could have been in the hunt for 3rd, as I was only 1 minute out of 3rd place.

The race makes me excited but nervous for Saturday. Solitude, in my opinion, is the toughest course on the ICUP circuit. It's also one of my favorites, so I guess that makes me insane. There is never a time to relax. You are always either climbing a fairly technical climb, or descending a balls-to-the-wall descent. Last night, I did 3 small laps. On Saturday, I'll need to do 3 BIG laps plus 1 small lap. Ouch.

The highlight of the trip was during the drive home. I carpooled with Mark (who raced with the pro's last night), his wife and his pops. We pulled up to a light next to a guy in an SUV with his window down and stereo pumping out some watts that would have put Landis on steroids to shame. Any guesses as to what he was listening to? Fitty Cent? Eminem? Dr. Dre? Those would all be good guesses, but all incorrect. He was rockin' out to "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun", by Cyndi Lauper. Look, I don't care which team you're playing for, but if you're a dude and you're blasting out to "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun", you're going to get laughed at. To his credit, at least he was loud and proud. When that song comes on and I'm driving, I immediately roll up my window and turn the radio down. Oh wait! Um, I mean I immediately turn the radio to a different station.