Saturday, May 30, 2009

Sundance Spin, 2009

The Sundance ICUP race had another great turnout. Is race attendance up this year, or is just me? While waiting in line with BikeMan Tim, we came up with a theory that since everyone is losing their jobs, they have plenty of time to ride their bikes. Or maybe it's the Lance Armstrong effect. I have since come up with my own theory. Now that Adam is racing again, everyone wants to be able to look back and say, "yeah, I raced against Adam once... back in o' nine. He was in Expert and I was in Sport, but yeah, we lined up together..." Yeah, that's gotta be it.

The pace started fast, as it always does. I had a tough time getting things going off the gun. Normally by the top of the pavement, my HR is already at 180. This time I was in the mid 160s. Not sure if it's due to a mediocre night's sleep, or maybe I just need to work on my warmup routine. After the race, I heard a lot of people comment on the size of our group - that when we started it seemed like half of the staging area took off, and that we almost looked like a grand tour peloton heading up the road. It was fun to be part of such a big and fast group. It made the entire race exciting.

I finally started to wake up on Archies, but progress was difficult. I was 4th wheel in a long line behind a guy with a yellow tag. We all had white tags, and I think the pros had black tags, so maybe he started with the wrong group? Anyway, he wasn't going to yield, so the group in front of us gained some time. If he was on in our group and just had the wrong tag, well, I guess that's just part of racing.

I felt pretty good on the climb to the top. When I crested, I couldn't see anyone behind me. I quickly caught a dude that was just crawling on the DH. This time I was third wheel behind him. We must have asked to pass 10 times, but no dice. By the time we got near the bottom where we finally could pass, everyone I had gapped on the climb was again lined up behind me. It was frustrating to lose that time, but again, I guess that's all part of racing. 1st lap, 35:39.

During the second lap, I didn't feel like I blew up, but my time of 36:52 indicates that I faded quite a bit. I was a little bummed that the guy on the DH passed me on the climb, but stoked to see Adam L. came by. He's made a lot of progress just within the past few weeks. Fortunately, Adam was eventually able to convince the DH guy to let us by during the descent, so not as much time was lost. I caught Chad A. on lap two, and he and I ended up riding the rest of the race together.

The odd thing about the third lap is that I felt like I faded, but it ended up being faster than my 2nd lap with a time of 36:07. Archie's just killed me on the 3rd lap because I didn't have the upper end power for the rollers and rocky/rooty sections. Adam gapped me and I let UMB Mikey go by me (what a concept - letting the faster guy go by on the single track). Chad and I climbed the rest of the way together. He gapped me a bit at the top after he passed a lapper, and I could feel some cramping coming on as I pushed that last section to the top to catch back on. I was barely able to hold his wheel on the way down.

We exited onto the pavement and Mikey was just ahead. I was only able to stay with Chad about 1/3 of the way to the top and he pulled ahead. I came around Mikey and he suddenly woke up. He raised the pace and as I tried to follow, the cramps came back. Mikey was cramping too, but was able to edge me out.

Finish time of 1:48 or so (according to my computer). Shaved over 3 minutes off of last year, and was around 7.5 minutes off of the winning time. I consider this to be an improvement, but the Expert class is improving faster than I am. For example, this year, 6th place had a time of 1:41:48, compared to last year's 2nd place time of 1:41:45. Anyway, I finished 21st out of 34 finishers. I was mainly just happy to keep the rubber side down in light of my recent clumsiness (I hadn't mentioned here that I crashed again on the last Wed. night race).

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Memorial Day Play-By-Play

5:40 - Alarm goes off. I look out the window to see dry streets. The race is on.

6:00 - Eat two pancakes and a banana. The breakfast of champions. I'm excited not to be sick to my stomach like last week, which turned out to be a stomach bug I probably caught from my son, but which I'll always blame on the Carl's Junior Bourbon Burger I ate 7 hours later (even typing it makes me a little queasy).

7:23 - Chad calls as I'm heading to the car and tells me that the race is delayed an hour. I go back inside, feed my kids breakfast, and take a 40 minute nap. I contemplate whether taking a nap before a race will negatively or positively affect performance.

8:10 - Wake up from nap, get my crap, and head out the door.

9:30 - Warming up and eating shot blocks. Trying to keep on top of the race course changes due to the wet conditions. I'm chomping at the bit, and I'm jacked up on carbs.

10:15 - Word spreads that my race is delayed till 12:30. Which I interpret to mean more like 1:00pm or so.

10:36 - I check in with Wesla. She doesn't sound thrilled with the idea of watching kids by herself all day. Can't say I blame her.

10:42 - I'm contemplating what to do. I run into Mark who has decided to skip out on the race and go on a ride with friends instead. Riding with friends and keeping the misses happy? Decision made. I turn in my tag, transfer race registration, and head up to Sundance.

noonish - Start riding. We have a great group, including Dan, Mark, Kyle, Art, Kevin, and a couple of spouses. Trails are in near perfect condition.

12:42 - We're having a blast using all of that race energy on the Sundance trails. I'm excited to be feeling good again - as good as I've felt since before RAWROD, which seemed to be the beginning of a bit of a downward slide for me. Even when feeling good, it's tough to keep Dan, Mark and Kyle in sight. Those dudes are fast.

12:50 - We're on our second lap. Dan and I have a conversation about giardia, colonoscopies, and tape worms. Don't ask.

1:29 - Mark and I get separated from the group while talking about who knows what. We start down Boneyard for a quick out and back on Archies before I head home. If the name "Boneyard" isn't enough foreshadowing for you, I don't know what is.

1:32:14.2 - I'm suddenly supermanning through the air at approximately 19 miles per hour.

1:32:14.3 - I realize that my left pedal hit a rock back there, which is the reason I'm flying through the air.

1:32:14.34 - I look ahead and notice that I'm heading for a pile of jagged rocks.

1:32:14.39 - I think to myself that my streak of good luck has finally come to an end. Like all mountain bikers, I've had my fair share of crashes, but up until now, I've somehow always managed to land in the dirt. Not this time.

1:32:14.42 - As my face approaches the rocks, I wonder whether Wesla will still love me once I'm grossly disfigured. Does my health insurance cover reconstructive surgery? Will I be able to enjoy the afternoon BBQ if I'm missing most of my teeth? Okay, so none of these thoughts actually cross my mind. I was mostly just really freaked out about my eminent face plant.

1:32:14.50 - At the last possible moment, I lurch to the right to divert my face. I land full force on my shoulder instead. Any later and I would have landed on my face. Any sooner, and I would have likely rotated too far and risked breaking my collarbone. Luckily for me, I only ended up with a torn jersey, a "strawberry juice" colored wound (as described by my daughter), and a swollen shoulder.

1:36 - Back on the pony for the out and back on Archies. Mark wonders why he invited the beginner along. He graciously stops short of recommending I enroll in one of the "learn how to mountain bike" classes offered by Sundance for the bargain price of $100/hr. It would probably be money well spent.

2:12 - Arrive home, right on (the original) schedule.

The rest of the day - Ice my shoulder and enjoy two gluttonous meals. My shoulder is sore, but not even bad enough to keep me from riding today. I'm a lucky man, who really needs to stop riding like an out of control novice. Mark pointed out that bad things come in threes. Between this crash, my crash at Soldier Hollow, and a slow-speed crash while trying to clean a move with the other Mark a few weeks ago, I hope I'm done.

All in all, it was a great Memorial Day. And for better or worse, I once again have the battle wound to remind me of the good times.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Riding Behind the Wheel

Tell me I'm not alone here. Every time I drive to a ride, I spend the first five minutes or so after the ride riding behind the wheel. On my way home, I'll find myself doing things like:

1) Using all brakes or all gas. Sorta like how my dad drives all the time.
2) Trying to maintain speed around turns.
3) Leaning into turns. This helps a lot to be successful with #2.
4) Squeezing between obstacles in the road (e.g., cars).
5) Ignoring those annoying painted lines in the road and picking the best line instead.
6) I've even found myself pulling up on the wheel and lifting up on the pedals to absorb a bump. Again, another huge help.
7) Three lane drifts around switchbacks (corners).

Okay, so maybe not that last one. About 5 minutes into the drive, I realize I should stop riding and start driving. It's a good thing I don't have to drive to many rides anymore, because I'm about 10 times more likely to get a ticket during the first 5 minutes after a ride than any other time. Or even worse, my superpower may be used against me one of these days.

So that about sums up my drive home from the Draper race course today. As far as the race course goes, I'll start by saying that I loved the old Draper course. I even loved the street crossings, which added to the character of the race. Most of all, I'll miss BBQ alley.

So how 'bout the new course?

Well, it rocks. A few have voiced some concerns about it, but after riding it, I think it will still rank as one of the best and most fun courses in the ICUP. It's tough to beat the Clark's climb. The Ghost Falls DH is amazing. I did it once last year and remember it being bumpy and non-flowy. Now it is buff, banked and buttery. "The Wall" will give you one last chance to pass. The steps section and the stretch right above the steps bridge is a fun little techy section where you are guaranteed to either gain or lose seconds. Yeah, passing will be an issue, but what else is new?

I wish I could ride Ghost Falls 10 more times before Monday. There are turns that you can take faster than you would think, and there are others near the bottom that are easy to over cook. Home court advantage could be big for all you Draper-ites.

Have I mentioned how great the ICUP is recently? Nearly every course is amazing.

And whatever you do, please use caution while riding behind the wheel...

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Bring Your Head Up

This morning I was busy nursing my wounds from Saturday's carnage:

(I would have shown you a third picture of where I took the brunt of the fall, but I didn't want my blog to be labeled as a porn site. Also, notice in the top-left background that a few flesh wounds doesn't mean you should stop commuting to work).

It got me thinking about how lucky I am to have a hobby like mountain biking. That's right, licking my wounds made me think of how lucky I am. Over the past week or so I've had a few conversations with some old friends that I don't see very often. The conversation usually turned to what each of us were up to. It seems like the response of choice for most of my friends was:

"I'm keeping my head down."

"Keeping my head down", in case you're wondering, is another way of saying "I'm working my ass off", or "Trying to get ahead." I used to ride with some of these guys, but it doesn't sound like any of them have been out in months or even years. I secretly felt a little bit bad for my friends' obsessions with getting ahead, and I avoided telling them how much fun I've had on my bike, skis and snowboard this past year (even though they probably would have thought my time would have been better spent getting ahead).

Don't get me wrong, it's important to work your ass off. Especially right now when you never know if you'll have a job next week. I look back on the 7-8 years I spent up at Utah State (my #1) and the U of U (my #2) , and there were plenty of months where I "kept my head down" without ever bringing it up. I'm grateful for these times, because it laid a good groundwork for the rest of my life.

However, in hindsight, my best memories from my years in Logan are the times I did bring my head up. Riding the Jardine Juniper and Bunchgrass trails, hiking to the wind caves with my wife, and taking a semester off to travel Europe with the misses. I'm grateful to have the memories I do have, and I wish I had even more of them. Too many memories are of me sitting in the Engineering computer lab.

So feel free to work your ass off. Just don't forget to bring your head up from time to time. If you're not enjoying the journey, it's time to take a step back because the journey just keeps going and going.

Whoa, this suddenly turned into my most preachy post ever.

So anyway, to get back to the beginning of this post, the burn/sting from my my leg, arm, and hip serve as a reminder from my crash. Maybe it makes me a narcisist (I think all bike racers qualify to some extent), but I sorta like that painful feeling. It reminds me that I'm alive. It reminds me that I brought my head up last weekend. It reminds me that I'll be bringing my head up again on Monday. I won't win, and my chances of a podium finish are slim, but sure as hell beats keeping my head down.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

ICUP Soldier Hollow, 2009

The race started and I was feeling pretty good off the gun. On that very first little stretch of single track after the pavement, a gap formed between the fast dudes up front and the rest of us. I was fourth wheel in our group and felt I had the legs bridge the gap, so I made a couple of passes once the short double track downhill started. I was still only second wheel, and I got a little carried away in the moment. I tried to make another pass on the inside of that really sketchy right-hand turn before the trail starts to climb again. I was in the weeds and I was about to lean back and make the corner when my front wheel got caught in a rut and got washed out. I was down before I knew what hit me.

I don't know what hurt worse. The actual crash or the shower when I got home. Washing out road rash (or in this case, trail rash) never feels good.

I hopped back on the pony, and fortunately Craig pointed out that I left my water and sunglasses on the trail. Yeah, I was a little dazed, not even realizing I had lost my shades. I hopped off, cleaned up the yard sale, tried to shake off the crash and got back going, but not before going from a good position to dead last.

I'm still beating myself up for making such a rookie mistake so early on in the race. I had 26 more miles to make that pass (like, for example, the double track climb right after where I crashed), and I picked about the worst possible time to try it. Instead, I spent the next 26 miles paying for it. It took a bit to clear the cobwebs, but once I did, I went out a little too hard trying to catch back on. I made a few passes, but really blew up on lap two. Motivation went down, my hip hurt from the crash, and I wished I was racing Sport again so I could call it a day.

Finally on lap three I got some energy back. It was much too little too late, but I was able to make a few passes. Although my 3rd lap time wasn't great, it was my fastest lap of the day by a minute.

Even though this is a tough course, I'm actually looking forward to next year. It's fun and challenging. I raced it two years ago as a Sport and I felt that the course got the best of me, and I felt like it got me again this year. Next year, Soldier Hollow is going down.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Wednesday Night at Soldado Hueco

So I started getting sick about a week ago. After RAWROD, I felt pretty spent, but I had a lot of good riding opportunities (i.e., the wife and kids were busy with things that did not include me), so I took advantage. I never felt like I recovered from RAWROD though, and when the kids got sick, I eventually succumbed as well. Who knows, maybe I caught the swine flu.

Hold on for a minute.

Okay I'm back. I just checked the symptoms of swine flu:

lethargy - check
fever - a mild check (I haven't had a bad fever since I was 5)
cough - check
runny or stuffy nose - check
diarrhea - um, maybe
body aches - not really
headache - check
sore throat - not really
chills - not really

Then I checked the symptoms of the regular flu and turns out they are the same. Whatever.

Anyway, last night I was finally starting to feel better. Being that overexertion was the reason I got sick in the first place, common sense would dictate that I not do the Wed. night race at Soldier Hollow. So naturally, I did the opposite.

Headed up with Nails and Shae (who are probably having swine flu symptoms by now) and lined up at the back of a huge pack. The plan was to go out easy and see how I felt. That plan was quickly discarded as I tried to stay with the group in front of me. My legs initially felt heavy, but came around pretty quick. I felt crappy most of the race from the waist up, but my legs felt fine. Boring factoid: My heartrate was at 178 or so for most of the climb, which is quite a bit higher than a normal race for me.

Made some passes on the climb, and got into a good battle with Trouble Maker and Brandon. I finally got around Brandon at the top and made a gesture like I was going to push him off of his bike. I should have done it for real, because he ended up passing me on one of the fast straight-aways near the bottom of the descent. He put a 5 second gap on me and I was never able to close it. I finished 5 seconds behind Brandon, and then TM came in 5 seconds later.

I don't know that I can say I was any slower than I would have been without battling a cold. It was a great race that seemed even more fun than the last time I rode it (2 years ago). My 43 minute lap means that the race on Sat will last 2:15 or so. Ouch.

A bunch of us hit up Mi Ranchito after the race. Although Mi Ranchito misses almost all of the things to look for when selecting a Mexican restaurant (a definitive list provided by yours truly), the good company more than made up for it.

Feeling okay today. I'm coughing more today (probably from the dust I was sucking in last night), but overall I'm feeling better. So I have a question for y'all. When you're feeling sick, what do you do? Sit around all day? Ride easy? Ride normal? Does it matter in terms of when you'll start feeling better?

Monday, May 11, 2009

My Superpower

Some of my friends have superpowers on the bike. For instance, Mark is so strong that people actually call him "Nails." Then there is the "man of steel", who does amazing things with steel tubes and rides with a cape. Its seems like most of the people I ride with these days can climb walls (on their bikes) like spiderman.

Although I don't have any bike-related superpowers, my superpower is still pretty freakin' cool. Somewhere between the superpowers of my friends and the superpowers from the Mystery Men, like Mr. Furious, the Shoveler, and best of all, Flatulence Man ("whoever smelt it, shall forever dealt it").

Anyway, my superpower is the ability to inflict instant karma on other drivers. Allow me to demonstrate with two true stories:

Story # 1:

I was heading north on Redwood Road at around 6200 S and was about to turn east on the I-215 on-ramp. It was dark and snowing heavily, so most everyone was using extra caution. I was in the center of three lanes and needed to get to the right lane. There was a long line of traffic in the right lane, so I slowed down and patiently waited for an opening. A good opening presented itself, so I turned on my blinker and slowly merged over. Turns out that the prick 100 feet back in the lane I was merging into decided that I didn't deserve to get on the freeway 3 seconds before him. So he gunned it, went into middle lane to get around me, and then swerved in front of me close enough that I had to put on the brakes to avoid hitting him.

The problem for him is that he didn't have quite enough road to pull this off. At least not on a snow day. After he cut in front of me, he had to turn even sharper to the right to make the on-ramp. And then he had to correct to the left to stay on the on-ramp. The coefficient of friction between his tires and the slick road wasn't quite high enough to handle this kind of maneuvering (that's the undergraduate explanation, anyway).

He started fishtailing, corrected the other way, etc., etc., and eventually was barreling off the right of the on-ramp. Unfortunately for the prick, going off the right side of the on-ramp meant dropping down a 20 foot steep hill into a field. He rodeo'd down the hill and through the field, and crashed through a chain link fence and finally came to rest next to a long row of storage units.

Story # 2:

Back when I lived in super-hip Sugarhouse rather than tragically unhip Orem, I was "just driving along" on Highland Drive one afternoon. I'm not sure when Highland Drive was constructed, but I can tell you that Brother Brigham would not have been happy if he ever tried flip a U'ie with his four oxen pulling a wagon down Highland Drive. If Brother Brigham was around, I bet he sent the designer of super-narrow Highland Drive down to settle Milford or something (no offense if you're from Milford).

Due to its narrowness and the need to accommodate all of us Sugarhood yuppies, much of Highland Drive consists of two lanes of cramped traffic in each direction with no middle turning lane or shoulder. I'm in the left lane and need to get into the right lane (again). This time, I'll fully admit to nearly cutting off the dude in my blind spot. I saw him at about the same time I started to cross the white line and and I got back into the left lane and gave the guy the "I'm sorry, my fault" wave (not a "what the hell" wave or a middle finger wave). He came up beside me and I gave him another "sorry" wave to acknowledge fault. No harm no foul, right?

Well, not in his mind. He starts flipping me off and cussing me out. Both of our windows were down and we weren't going too fast , so I heard every word. I replied "sorry man, chill out." He dropped a few more f-bombs and another middle finger. I won't write down my next reply word for word, but I'm pretty sure I told him what he could go do to himself.

In the midst of the maylay, a UTA bus had pulled over to pick someone up in the right lane. As described above, there is no shoulder on Highland, so the bus was in the A-hole's lane 100 yards or so ahead. He certainly wasn't going to let me get in front of him at this point, so he punched it. The problem was that there was another car in front of me that he decided he also had to beat out for good measure. I can't be entirely sure, but I think the car in front of me sped up a little once he saw the jack-A trying to cut him off. Do I even need to finish this story?

The motard tried to merge, but there wasn't really anywhere for him to go. He clipped the front end of the vehicle in front of me and sent them both into a bit of a spin. Miraculously, no other cars were involved, but the collision seemed to cause plenty of damage on both cars.

It's easy not to end up like these two fools. Just don't be a jerk while in your car. At least not to someone like me whose superpower is to inflict instant karma while driving. Don't even get me started on the number of people I've seen pulled over by a cop right after flying by me at crazy speeds and/or cutting me off.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

We'll Scream and we'll Shout

Anytime my brothers and I get together, our conversation inevitably gravitates back to the shenanigans we used to get into as kids growing up in the WVC. We grew up on the street that seemed to have more than its share of kids participating in shenanigans. My brothers and I were best friends with the Riggs kids down the street, and together we were the ringleaders of shenanigans. An entire book could be written, but I'll focus this post on one story.

Church had just let out, and we were walking down the hallway, literally bouncing off the walls. It was me on the left, my older brother in the middle, and then Boogie (the youngest of the Riggs kids) on the right.

I digress: I'm sure you're thinking I'm using the name "Boogie" to protect the innocent. However, the kid's parents started calling him "Boogie" instead of his real name when he first started walking because he looked like he was "Boogieing." What kid doesn't look like he's boogieing when he starts walking? I have it on good authority that people still call him "Boogie" to this day, even though he's got to be pushing 30. He was a good kid. The moral? Be careful what nicknames you give your kids.

My older brother has always been quick on his feet. Especially when it comes to shenanigans. We were approaching the primary room, which had an open door so we could hear all of the primary kids singing "Jesus Wants me for a Sunbeam", or something similar. My brother couldn't help himself.

As soon as we reached the door (which was on Boogie's side), my brother suddenly shoved Boogie through the the primary room door with all of his might. Boogie flew into the primary room and before Boogie knew what hit him, he crashed down right between the Sunbeams and the primary singing leader (bless her heart). The piano player stopped playing. The kids stopped singing. The singing leader was speechless.

The only person who knew how to react was my brother. He slammed the door. And instead of running away like most kids would have done, he ran up to the door, jammed it with his foot and leaned up against it.

5 seconds later, we heard someone running across the primary room. Then the doorknob turned and someone was pushing on the other side. And then we heard pobrecito Boogie screaming and shouting and pounding on the door.

After 10-15 seconds of this, it really was time to start running. My brother and I took off down the hall and I don't think we stopped running till we were safe and sound in our bedroom.

I can still picture Boogie wailing on that door in the primary room. I'm just lucky that Boogie moved away when I was 12, because a few years later and I'm sure he could have been wailing on me without much problem.

Monday, May 4, 2009

I am so smart. S M R T

Most people would consider me a fairly tech-savvy person. After all, I have a degree in Electrical Engineering, and I work for a software company which, among other things, is a market leader in backup and recovery software (both for consumer and enterprise). What's more, I own a Mac, which makes me vastly superior to all of you PC users, at least in terms of how technically hip I am.

With these stellar credentials, you have no doubt guessed that I am diligently backing up all of my valuable data on a semi-weekly basis, in case something bad happens (even though NOTHING bad ever happens to a Mac, which makes backing up my data unnecessary). You have guessed wrong, my friend.

Until now, every piece of valuable digital data that I possess, including photos, music, video, and documents is sitting exclusively and precariously on my Macbook pro hard drive. A little while ago, I was "just riding along" and my Mac suddenly stopped working (which paradoxically never happens). It looked like a hard drive failure, so of course I was freaking out. I took my Mac to the Mac store, and after a few days found out that the problem was actually with the operating system (which is flawless, in case you haven't heard), which was easily reinstalled without damaging the data on the hard drive. Whew!

After that close call, I rushed home and ordered a 1 TB external hard drive so that I could finally start backing my data up. It finally arrived (3 MONTHS ago), and has been sitting in a cupboard up until last night. Hey, I've been really busy. Just read this post from Rick. It's basically the same sort of thing.

Yesterday I heard of some friends losing all of their data, so last night I finally unwrapped my external HD and went to work. While I was looking into the best way to backup my data, I decided to do a little housekeeping on my computer so that I didn't backup a bunch of data I didn't need. I deleted a file here, a folder there, etc. And since it had been, um, forever since I deleted my "Trash", I did that too.

I was finally ready to backup my data. I selected my docs, my photos, videos, and my music. Wait a minute, where did my music go? To make a long story even longer, my music had been deleted. All of it. And my trash emptied. As in forever.

So lets recap here. Before last night, I had never backed up my data. I had also never actually lost any data. Then, as soon as I decided to do the responsible thing and backup my data, I somehow managed to delete all 12 Gigs of music that I owned. Forever. Because I am a freaking genius.

Excuse me while I add some lighter fluid to myself (which I've already started on fire).

I installed some software on my Mac that is supposed to recover files that were emptied from Trash. It has been scanning my Mac's HD for the past 5 hours or so. Pray for me. And send me your music.