Thoughts and Adventures From Greenlite Heavy Industries

Thursday, June 27, 2013


Last night I attended a memorial service for a local cyclist named Jerry Shafer, who was killed last weekend in a bike/car accident.  Jerry was a very influential guy in the cycling community, and sadly I only knew of him, rather than actually knowing him.  During the memorial, which was held at the Redmond Velodrome, a number of folks took the microphone to share memories of Jerry.  One guy used the term “legit.”

I’ve been searching for a word to describe how I feel about why I do the things that I do.  I spend a lot of time, money, thought, and effort on athletic pursuits, despite the fact that I am no gifted athlete.  In fact I’ve never won any athletic competition.  So if I’m not going to win why do it.  Why push so hard?  Why spend so much energy?  I now have an answer: I want to be legit.

For the past three years I’ve been deeply involved in bicycle racing.  In bike racing hitting the ground is just part and parcel of the sport: you will hit the deck the only question is when.  When it comes to falling I’m not really worried about possible physical trauma, but I am worried, very worried, about being the nut who causes a crash.  The cycling community is tight knit, and it’s a long road living down the reputation of being a bozo.

Being legit means earning the respect of your peers.  “Earning” is the keyword in that sentence.  You earn respect by showing up ready and willing to work hard for your teammates.  You earn respect by putting in the time to develop your technical skills.  You earn respect by accepting your bad days for what they are – bad days.  You earn respect by racing hard while simultaneously supporting not only your teammates but your opposition – winners don’t turn their foes into losers.

Being legit is one of those elusive goals: something you strive for, move toward, but may never grasp.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The Right Way

The Calm Before the Storm

Ironman Coeur d’Alene was this past Sunday; I was happy that my friend Lori was racing because that gave me an excuse to drive over and experience the race day energy.  During my races I got so focused on my own little tiny world that I tended to miss all the positive vibe around me, but when I’m a spectator I’m totally tuned in.  The amount of focused, forward-directed thinking at these events is truly palatable.  Personally I love it.

Men in Green and Women in Pink
By tradition all Ironman races begin with a cannon shot at 7:00 AM. Once that cannon goes off all hell breaks loose with a mass start swim: 2500 fit amped up athletes going into the water within the first twenty seconds of the race.  The Coeur d’Alene start is particularly dramatic as the beach is narrow and the water is deep from the start – no wading it’s get in dive forward and start stroking.  It’s a unique site, I can’t think of anything quite like it.

2500 athletes on the beach
So here’s where the bummer comes in.  This year the wise decision-makers decided to start the race at 6:35 with a “wave” start.  Basically what a wave start does is to spread the field out according to self-seeded swim times, and it’s used at nearly all non-Ironman events.  “Non-Ironman” are the two key words there.  An Ironman is made up of several basic building blocks, one of them being the mass start swim.

I’ll admit that the wave start at this year’s race was executed flawlessly and I’m sure that a lot of the athletes appreciated the tamer, more stress-free start, but in my opinion it denigrates the experience and it erodes, just a little bit, the definition of Ironman.

Reinhold Messner and Peter Habler were the first to summit Mt. Everest without supplemental oxygen.  They had trained for decades in preparation; they endured, they suffered and in the end they succeeded.  Today any old turd with sixty grand and zero rope time can hire a guide to literally drag them, sucking from an oxygen mask, to the summit.  Are they in the same “club” as Messner and Habler, I say no. 

We Americans have wholeheartedly bought into the idea that easy is best and that the safest route is the only route.  I say if you’re going to do something do it the right way, and that oftentimes isn’t the easy way.  

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

My Big Backyard

Chris looking stern on his 1989 Novara
Funny how we can get so caught up in our day to day routines that we miss all the cool stuff around us.  Yesterday I managed to get to two places here in Seattle that I normally don't even pass through: West Seattle and Georgetown.  Georgetown has to be one of the hippest places on the west coast.  the place is brick and mortar, I mean literally, breweries, foundries, machine shops, the place is a real hard hat zone.  I love that early twentieth century industrial architecture, It was no-nonsense but you can see the pride in construction - a job done right.  I'm glad to see that this historic portion of Seattle is finding a place in a twenty first century city.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Chronically Accute

Three years ago I stopped doing endurance sports, and entered the more fast and furious world of bicycle racing.  Twenty plus years of long course running, riding and mountaineering accostumed me to what I call “chronic” pain: pain that doesn’t hurt all that bad but pain that you have to live with for hours on end.  Bike racing, by contrast, has what I call “acute” pain: intense but short-lived suffering.  I’ve come to prefer the acute pain – get in, go hard, get out.

I now find myself in possession of a position at the starting line of the 2013 Leadville 100 mountain bike race, and consequently have found myself back in the endurance (i.e. chronic pain) game.  Last Saturday I got a taste of this pain at the 2013 Echo Valley Mountain Bike Race – 60 mile division (the course was actually 63 miles).
A smile goes a long way in a long race
Prior to Saturday the furthest I’d ever ridden my mountain bike was 50 miles, so I was entering into uncharted territory.  Road biking and mountain biking are as different as Harley riding and motocross.  Sure there is some overlap, but not much.  Mountain biking, especially mountain bike racing, searches out every little weakness, every little thing that you might have let slip a bit, and then it throws it in your face.  The biggest obstacle is cramping.

I don’t know why, but nearly every mountain bike racer that I’ve talked to experiences cramps – in nearly every race.  For me it’s only mountain biking and it’s only during races.  Go figure.  Some say it’s low hydration.  Some say it’s a deficit of electrolytes.  I’m not so sure about jumping on either wagon.  Obviously maintaining hydration and electrolyte levels are important, but personally I think that the best way to avoid cramps is to increase muscle strength.  So that’s why I need to end this post and pedal down to the gym.