Friday, June 29, 2007

Inner workings of my brain

During waking hours, its something like this:
60% Food
17% Skiing/biking/orienteering/training
10% Other outdoor fun
5% The weather
3% Obsessive planning/my future
3% Random thoughts
2% The task at hand (whatever that may be)

A beagle's thought breakdown could be:
65% Food
15% Walks/sniffercising
10% Getting attention
8% Napping
3% Playing

I see some correlations. I want to go take a nap in the sun now...

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Putney MTB

This race went oodles of times better than the last one. That was probably helped by the fact that it wasn't really technical, and although it climbed a lot, the downhills were straight-forward enough that you could recover relatively well. The course rode a lot like a ski course, which makes sense given that most of the trails were ski trails. It started with some fast single track, and then climbed for a while in a way that made you think you weren't actually climbing, but rather that something was rubbing in a way that was seriously slowing you down. Then you got some downhills, some tricky bits where I almost fell off, and then a long climb that they called heartbreak hill. Go down heartbreak hill, back up the other side, out into a meadow with an awesome view, and down to start the last hill into the finish. A fair bit of climbing, but as I said, fun fast downhills that let you recover decently well.

I got a ride with Jess and Tal, who are experts, which meant I was there at 9:30 for a 2pm race. yay for sitting in the sun all day and then trying to race. I pre-rode the course, and decided that not biking for two weeks doesn't help your legs go round and round in circles. In fact, they hurt, a lot, and I was in granny gear and wondering why it wasn't easy enough. The experts went off, and I sat around in the feed zone waiting for them. Linnea went down hard early on, she hyperextended her knee and banged herself up pretty good, but she said it was easier to ride than walk, so finished the race (4 laps). HARDCORE.

My race was fun, and I only fell off my bike once. I had a spectacular save in the same spot next lap. There isn't that much to say about this race, except that each lap, the hills felt bigger and my legs hurt more. I was in fourth coming through the first lap, and decided that I could make up time, and maybe that wasn't such a great idea because my legs didn't have much to give after putting in a hard effort. My derailleur started skipping a bunch, like 2-3 gears at a time, about halfway through second lap. This frustrated me, because I had made sure it could get into the granny gear (which it hadn't been doing during warmup), and I believe as a result of that I screwed up everything else. But new brake pads were AWESOME; I can slow down now! Overall, the downhills were enjoyable, and after a dip in the connecticut river and some soup at the Putney food co-op, I was feeling pretty happy. Ready to do this crazy sport again!

Saturday, June 23, 2007

You know you need new rollerski wheels when...

These wheels were originally the same size. ~1300 miles was all it took.

Friday, June 22, 2007

West Virginia

Who'd'a thunk it. I went on a company retreat. A little "forced fun". It was actually really fun, although we all had our doubts going in. The central appalachians are one of TNC's more important areas to try and preserve, and we have a bunch of matrix forest blocks (big blocks of unfragmented forests) in there. So, they thought that would be a good spot to go.

We thought it would be more like camping, based on the description, but we were staying in these super deluxe cabins. A/C and everything. There was a bit of mandatory team-building stuff, but mostly we were just playing around. We went on a couple hikes, some nature walks (come on, we're the NATURE CONSERVANCY), and a sweet canoe trip. If you ignored the bugs, the rednecks with shotguns, and the poultry processing plants with pipes pointing into the river, it was a pretty sweet area.

I should mention that chicken poop is a major problem down there. They're finding all these hermaphroditic bass, and they think thats related to the level of chicken poo. So, on our canoe trip, nobody really felt like swimming. This part of WV was also the site of a giant chicken waste spill a couple years ago, causing some massive fish kill further down the river. mmmmmm. But real pretty on top!

Here are some pictures I stole from the internets. The big rocky thing is seneca rocks, which was pretty cool because it was this big sandstone formation that had been sort of turned on its side, so the rocks were really skinny. Like, 2 feet across. You stood up there and almost felt scared of heights. We also got to check out Bear rocks, this place on top of a mountain with bare rocks, and some sweet wetland things. And then a canoe trip. Not bad for a company retreat! And now its the weekend again... I like this life :)

Monday, June 18, 2007

Presidential Traverse

Click on the panorama to see it bigger. From left to right: Washington, Jefferson, Adams, and Madison is just out of site to the right.

Mostly pictures. Great weather, one small rainshower while we were going over Monroe but no storms until that night when we were safely in the tent. 23.8mi, 20000 feet of vertical, 13 hours of hiking. We got up at 4:15, and I was shocked at how light it was. we were moving by 4:45, and kept a nice sustainable pace until we got to Jefferson, where we realized that if we wanted to catch the finish of the Mt. Washington running race (run up the auto road. I think I want to do this next year), we would have to "put a wiggle in it", according to Anna.

So for about an hour, we hoofed it over to Washington, which included about 3.5 miles and another 900 feet of climbing (with a fair bit of descending in there too). We got to the road with about 4 minutes to spare, and got to cheer on Rob and Dorcas, which was pretty cool. At this point, we were at the halfway point, more or less, and it was primarily downhill from here. Oh, what I would have given for some ski poles! We hadn't been spending any time on any of the peaks, except to eat some summit chocolate (greatest idea EVER) and occasionally take pictures, so we spent about an hour on top of Washington. It was a zoo.

Started down to lakes of the clouds, and the descent was as rocky as the ascent I remembered from when I had hiked this in 4th grade. We popped over Monroe (most rewarding peak--14 minutes of climbing and you feel like you're on top of the world!), and then there was a loooooong descent, which we took pretty slowly because our knees were all starting to feel tired. I think I made a mistake in allowing myself to think of everything after Washington as easy, because while there wasn't much climbing, the descending was destroying us.

We finally got to Mizpah hut, after three more peaks, and asked the lady at the hut about the exposure on Jackson and Webster, our last two peaks, because there were dark clouds rolling over, with some patches of sunlight, and we knew that the forecast called for isolated t-storms in the afternoon/evening. She looked at the trail we were planning on taking down, and said, "you know, I normally tell people not to take that trail, because its kind of boring". Boring, you say? Bring it on! So, we were pretty psyched about the "boring" trail for the descent.

On Jackson, we took the victory pose picture, and on Webster, we took the reality pose picture. Then we started downhill, talking about what kind of pizza we were going to get. The trail wasn't nearly boring enough, and the last mile of descent may have been one of the slowest miles of my life. Our knees were killing us. Finally got to the car, and first stop was ice cream sandwiches. Second stop was pizza. Third stop was campsite and sleeping bag!

Great hike, I would highly recommend it, especially if the weather is good. I was very glad that we did it from north to south, because the most strenuous/painful/rocky bits are in the north (over madison, adams, jefferson, and washington), and then after Lakes of the Clouds hut it gets much more humane. Starting from the north also got most of the climbing out of the way early. We did the whole thing in 13 hours of hiking time (14.5 hrs total), of which 6.5 hours was to get to washington and 8 hours were after that. I think book time is somewhere around 16-17 hours, but we also didn't stop much. And the only lasting damage is a little sunburn and some bugbites! But next year, ski poles, for sure.

Thats washington, that cute little lump back there. Yup, we came from way back there. And further. Cool!

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Marketing gimmicks that work

I just bought new running shoes. they're white lightning/mineral green colored. Who WOULDN'T want to buy shoes in those colors??

I also just registered for the GREs. For that price, you should get at LEAST one free meal, a free t-shirt, a rockin' goody-bag, and a post-race massage. I feel like I shall get none of the above-mentioned perks when I take this test. What a ripoff. I suppose on the bright side of things I probably also won't get any bruises, scrapes, cuts, concussions, blisters, sunburn, poison ivy, or mud on my clothes.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Reasons to not fly Northwest Airlines, and a fun family gathering

1. They make you sign your life away to travel with bikes or skis, and then charge you $80 anyway (not that I was flying with a bike this weekend).
2. They make you pay for your own peanuts. WTF???

ALMOST got to go bike racing this weekend. ALMOST.
It was the 85th anniversary of the Brookside school, which is the school where my grandfather was headmaster for 21 years and both my mom and her sisters went to school, and lived, so this was a big party weekend in Detroit. We had an awesome time, lots of laughing, eating, talking, walking, with Gramps being the center of most of the attention, which was great since this was his day, really. It was also great because both me and my brother and my cousins Geoff and Kristen were there, which hasn't happened for god knows how many years.

I even got to see Callie for a bit, the temptress claiming she has a bike I could use in a race and then telling me just before I get on a plane that the bike actually just got rented... so much for that mtb race. Probably for the best though, because we were busy all day Sunday at this Brookside shindig, and it was great to see how cool this place really is. Plus, there was good pie. My favorite was the statue of Zeus (that we almost didn't find) where you stood on a certain flagstone and his eyes would shoot water out at the innocent bystander. hehehe!

I guess it is possible to have fun on a weekend without doing any races or epic adventures. Who'd'a thunk it? If any of you family members are reading this, feel free to send me pictures and I'll put them up. Thanks for a fun weekend! But now its time to do something epic again.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Interesting fact of today

This might not be new, but M&Ms now have a color set that is "earth-toned" or something. Our office manager thought they looked more business-like, although I assured her we would eat any color M&Ms. They're baby blue, cerulean blue, maroon, beige, and dark yellow. They taste really good. Sort of like the regular M&Ms.

On another sugar note, there is all you can eat ice cream at the Scooper Bowl some place downtown. There is a cover fee of something like $7, and then its all you can eat with 11 different ice cream vendors, each with multiple flavors. It benefits some good cause, the Jimmy Fund (?) I think. I haven't gone yet, but plan on bringing a thermos if I go... FREE ICE CREAM!!!! (although its not technically free...).

Monday, June 4, 2007

Pics from the gaps

The weather was pretty crummy, so mostly I just took pictures of these strange folks clad in lycra. This is attempt 1 at the "before" shot. I couldn't figure out how to get the camera off the 2 second timer and onto the 10 second timer... The "after" picture is mildly better:

The top of lincoln gap just before Blazar arrived:

Patrick Dean:

Cary Fridrich:

Aaron Blazar:

Tim Lancaster:

Yours Truly:


And the weather on app. gap (it was similar on all 6 gaps, actually):

The Gaps

This was hard. It may have been the hardest thing I've done in my life, if not, it definitely makes the top 5.

Saturday night, I drive up to Killington VT to meet up with Cary, Blazar, Pat Dean, and Tim Lancaster. With the exception of Blazar, these guys are all pretty serious racers. We got up early and headed to the nearest diner, which ended up being the most overpriced diner I've ever eaten at. $8.95 for your typical eggs/meat/toast? wtf? Anyway, it was pretty good, and we all kind of stuffed ourselves thinking we would need it. In retrospect, that wasn't such a great idea, because we started riding like 30 min later, and I had a giant lump of breakfast sitting heavy in my stomach for the first gap, inducing a lot of burping and not much comfort...

"Thats as tight as I can get it. By hand" --me, at the top of Lincoln gap tightening my cassette...

So the ride started in Rochester VT. We parked at a school, and after much switching of cassettes so that everyone had a 27 (Blazar had bought one yesterday, to the tune of $170, because he didn't have one), we start off. I didn't realize it, but mine was loose. oops. We headed south on 100 and took and immediate right to go west over Brandon Gap on rt 73. This was was pretty mellow the whole way over, although it did get steeper near the top. Blazar basically pulled me the whole way up, after we had dropped back from the climbers. Apparently Dean won that one, but that was all he was going to get as Cary put the hammer down on the rest. Luckily, they waited at the top of each gap.

The descent from Brandon gap was definitely my favorite descent, although App Gap was pretty sweet too. I hit 50mph, which is fast in my book, on sweeping turns that didn't require any braking. Got to the bottom and we tootled along to Middlebury Gap, which started out pretty steep, and then mellowed out for a couple miles. This flat part was really windy- the wind was coming out of the East all day- and Blazar did a lot of pulling. We were quickly becoming climbing buddies. Midd gap got steep again at the snow bowl, and stayed relatively steep until the top. Tim and Cary said they hadn't been waiting too long, but I bet they were lying. Breakfast had finally decided to get digested by the top of midd gap, but I was still feeling pretty crummy. For a moment or two while climbing I considered going back to the cars, I mean, a 50mi ride over two gaps is nothing to be ashamed about. But, by the time I hit the bottom I was ready for the next torture.

We stocked up on gatorade/food at a country store, and then headed north on 100 over the Granville Gulch. I kept trying to get dropped but they wouldn't let me. We were moving at a pretty good pace (for me) -- at the start of midd gap, our average had been 18.7, and after granville gulch our average was 16.9. Of course, 35 minutes at 3 mph zigzaggin up lincoln gap kind of killed that average thing... At the base of Lincoln, Cary Pat and Tim stopped to pee/eat/shed a layer, so Blazar and I started up without stopping to get a head start. Lincoln started relatively stee pfor a short period, and then it flattened out and the road became dirt. This was pretty, and very nice dirt to ride on, no washboarding or big stones. Then the dirt section ended, and the road started to go uphill with a vengeance.

Going up the first section I was convinced it would level out soon. Then Blazar started walking. I did NOT want to get off my bike, because I knew I wouldn't get back on, plus, Colin had said he couldn't bike it, so I had to prove that I could ride it. The hill went up for a long time, and the grade didn't get any easier. I'm not sure my car could have made it up that hill. Actually, I'm sure it wouldn't have made it. Eventually I just started zig zagging, trying to not fall over. Cary passed me at some point looking like he was out for a sunday afternoon ride, just peacefully spinning circles, and soon after Pat went by, wheezing and slobbering but determined not to let Cary out of sight. Eventually I turned a corner, and I saw a long, straight, very steep section of road. Determined not to walk, I started setting little goals, and eventually got to the top of that section where the road turned. And kept going up. I could see Tim behind me, but he was also zig zagging, so not making up that much time. What really sucked is when a car was coming, because you had to stop zigzagging, and that was when I was most worried that I would fall over. But I stayed upright, and eventually got to the top, ahead of Tim (barely, even with my head start), and we proceeded to wait for Blazar, who was back on his bike when he crested the hill.

The descent from Lincoln was dirt for the first part, and somewhat sandy. Gotta love the 23's in deep sand! We got down to the first country store and stopped to buy food and drink, and there was a lady there who was utterly amazed that we were not only doing 130 miles, we were doing it over all of these gaps. Got back on our bikes and headed toward App gap.

Blazar and I quickly decided to just take things slow going up baby gap, or whatever its called--that little gap before the real thing-- and we lost sight of Cary and Tim pretty quickly. Went over baby gap, and hit the real thing. It wasn't nearly as steep as Lincoln, but I know my legs were utterly fried. Blazar had been pulling a lot on the flatter stretches of baby gap, and the wind had picked up again. There were a lot of low-lying clouds, and occasionally you got hit by mist that was being whipped down from the mountains. Going up, that was nice and refreshing, but many of the descents were pretty chilly. I went ahead on one of the steeper stretches to give Blazar a break, and he dropped off a little. There were a ton of switchbacks that seemed pretty steep, and then finally it leveled out and you could see the top. Of course, in seeing the top, you also go smacked by a nice little headwind. You also knew that the road was going to get damn steep. Which it did, although nothing like Lincoln. Got to the top and let out a "F*&%!", which caused some people on motorcycles to laugh at the pain we were putting ourselves through. Cary had been up top for about 10 minutes already, and was freezing, so the second Blazar got there we headed down, on the second sweetest descent of the day.

Another brief stop at a gas station, and we headed south on 100 to hit up the Roxbury gap. This was probably my least favorite. It was steep, and about half of it was dirt, making switchbacks slightly more difficult since the edges of the road were really sandy and I was too tired to hang on to my handlebars, which meant I almost tipped over once or twice. Followed Tim, who was pooped, I think, after Blazar had started walking. He said he really hit the wall on that gap. This one was also the least enjoyable descent--you couldn't really see anything because of the mist, and the dirt road was washboarded in places and had some really big rocks. Eventually we got down to rt 12, where we pacelined it for 20 miles to the start of Rochester gap.

At this point, my legs were absolutely toasted. I was really appreciating the fact that Cary and co were waiting at the tops of these gaps, because otherwise I might have given up at times. We started the final gap, and it was pretty mellow at first. Blaze and I were just taking it easy, trying to drag our wrecked sorry asses over the top of this last hill. After a while the mellowness stopped, and it got steep. Probably no steeper than middlebury gap, but still, we had already ridden 128 miles over the last 7-8 hours or so, with five other gaps, and it felt like hell. Neither of us walked, and Blazar got that gap first. We stopped for a bit, ate something, put on a jacket (the mist was acting more like a light rain now), and headed down. Turns out we were actually on a false top, and the guys were waiting on the real top, shivering... oops. That was a fun, fast descent, with our cars at the bottom, which makes anything better.

So, I think some time off the road bike right now is well deserved, and I'll get my running legs back under me. That was a tough ride, and the fact that we averaged 14.1 mph really impressed me, given that each gap was between 30-50 minutes of 2.5-10mph... I'm glad I didn't walk. And I'm really glad that Blazar was doing this ride too, because it might have been miserable if I had had to ride alone each gap. Pictures are coming, once I figure out how to get them off of Dobie's camera...