Thoughts and Adventures From Greenlite Heavy Industries

Friday, December 19, 2014

Metal Search

Seattle is a fascinating city and even though I’ve lived here for twenty six years I still feel as though I’ve barely scratched the surface.

A South Hill still life
Earlier this week I went in search of a substantial steel “T” section for a massive pine countertop that I’m making for the third store in my friend Bianca’s chain of Jujubeet juice bars.  You can’t just go to Home Depot and steel and so I had to some digging, but eventually I found myself navigating the maddening dead ends and gravel roads of the industrial area known as South Park in search of Seidelhuber Iron and Bronze Works (this place has been in business for 108 years- one of Seattle's continuously running businesses).

I was a little nervous entering a diamond plated door on which a handwritten sign read “beware yard dog on duty” but once inside the cluttered office filled with equipment from the seventies I met Heidi and she put me at ease.  I described what I needed and she led me out to the yard to find what I wanted amid well-organized racks of angle, square tube, channel and T sections.  I quickly found what I was looking for, Heidi said “how about twenty bucks,” as easy as that I had what I was looking for.

A major aspect of making stuff is knowing where to get the raw materials.  When it comes to metal, I now know where to go.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Bagged and Tagged

Matt just finished up a big production run and they are now all bagged, tagged and ready for shipment.  We now have full inventory at

Monday, December 15, 2014


"I saw no point in being the richest man in the cemetery"
-Peter F. Drucker

If you have forty five minutes pick up Managing Oneself by Peter Drucker. In it's fifty pages are half a dozen things that I wish I'd learned thirty years ago.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Waves for Water Part II

Some more shots from the Waves for Water UCI Cylocross race on Sunday.
The coolest American in bike racing today - Adam Craig

Jamie Driscoll showing his characteristic head lean

Logan Owen leading the front runners

Monday, December 8, 2014

Waves For Water Cyclocross Race

Yesterday Melony and I went down to Ft. Steilacom in Tacoma to watch the Elite racers at the Waves for Water Cyclocross race.  This was a UCI (C2) race, so this was an opportunity to see how the big boys do it.  I especially went down to watch the huck fest hosted by my favorite American bicycle racer Mr. Adam Craig.  Steilacom is fairly non-technical but if anyone could find air it would be Adam.

I was happy to see Ben Berden hold on for the win.  Ben is one of the hardest working guys racing cross.

I'll trickle in a few shots at a time during the week.
Keeping it clean

Elite Men's winner Ben Berden

Friday, December 5, 2014

Howard and the Coffee Factory

What to you get when you combine Howard Schultz (Starbucks) with Roald Dahl (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) - the new Starbucks Reserve here on Seattle's Capitol Hill.
Beans arrive at the brewing station from the roaster via copper tubes
I know it's cool to poo poo the big guys but I have to say this place is pretty awesome.  It's all copper and wood and steel, it's cool pure and simple.

In England they have these things called "follies," basically some unusual, whimsical structure built
The Dunmore Pineapple
by some rich guy as a lark.  He had the money so why not.  Well it seems to me that the Starbucks Reserve is kind of Harold's folly, and like I said it's pretty awesome.

After two bouts of sub-freezing temperatures Seattle is back to her dreary temperate self, and I took advantage of the rising mercury to roll out my bike and ride over to Capitol Hill for a cup.

Locally made chairs
The place was packed with tourists watching Seattle hipsters in the natural habitat.  I love hipster style by the way - but that can wait for another post.  I spent nearly fifteen minutes waiting for a cup of drip - wait they don't have drip so I went for the pour-over.  "Dark as ya got" I said in response to what roast I wanted.  In my opinion the best way to make coffee is to brew a full ten cup pot of drip, so right off the bat I was a little skeptical of what I would get.  A few minutes later a dude in a nice waxed cotton/leather apron brought me over a ceramic cup emblazoned with an "R" partially filled with perfect drinking temperature coffee.  Damn it was good.

I took a seat in a comfy chair, but then it was time to go - my daughter wasn't feeling well at school, time to go into nurse mode.

What I really like about the store is the fact that the furniture is all sourced locally.  The cool waxed cotton/leather aprons worn by all the employees (and there were a lot - on par with an Apple store) are also made by a Seattle company (I wish I could remember the name).  I'm happy that the big dogs are once again looking to the little dogs for craftsmanship and creativity.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

How We Do It

Matt is finishing up a run of pants.  He's pretty fast on that machine:

Every Greenlite product is made in our Seattle workshop.

Friday, November 14, 2014

The Next Batch

Hard at work on the next production run of pants, knickers and shorts.  We're now using a double needle machine; I'm really happy with the results:

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

A Good Finsh

Last Sunday marked the end of my 2015 cyclocross season (I might race the recently
Tangled up at Marymore
announced UCI race in Stellicom but we’ll see) and I went out happy.  The previous race –the Starbucks GP and Marymore Park – was a total kerfungle.  I went down on the first lap and from that point on the wheels had totally come off the bus, I had no energy and almost DNF’d.  Had I not had the team tent to deal with I probably would have just rolled into the parking lot, threw my bike in the car and drove home.  Sunday’s race at Woodland Park proved to be a bit of a redemption.

Coming into Sunday’s race I was worried that I’d lost my mojo, so far I’d had a great season but maybe that was all I had – the tank was dry.  Somehow I’d managed to hold onto third for the series and all that I had to do to stay on the podium was finish in the top ten to hold on; I wasn’t sure it this was possible.

Chris and Doug fighting it out among the foliage
Hard rain and heavy winds had pounded the course all night and when I arrived at 7:30 the course was greasy mud covered in large maple leaves.  The MFG volunteers were hard at work raking leaves and setting tape and by the time my race came around the course was nearly devoid of leaves – but the mud remained.

Eighty one racers packed the starting line – a big turnout even by MFG standards.  Zac gave us the go ahead as a light rain began to fall.  I had a great start was sitting comfortably in third when we hit the first run-up.  Good thing I installed new fangs onto my shoes.  I tried to keep on my toes as I sprinted up the hill in hopes of preventing clogged cleats.  No just luck.  Oh well everyone else is in the same boat.

Woodland is a really good course for me, a big uphill, some flowy downhill and just enough twists and turns to keep you on your toes.  Jan passed me on the first uphill and was gone.  A mystery man was holding second, Luke third, Rob fourth and me fifth.  At the start of the second lap Rob started having problems and I moved into fourth with Dodi hot on my wheel.  Dodi eventually came around and despite my best efforts to hold on he slipped away.

Instead of being deep and grabby the mud at Woodland Park is shallow and greasy.  It also has a propensity to clog treads and pack cogs: by the second lap the dense mud had me reduced to two working gears.

The gear deficit only became a problem on the road section, but it didn’t seem to cost me any places so I really can’t complain.  I’m sure my competition had similar issues.

Near the end I was passed by an HSP guy, I held on to him fairly closely but in the end he took fifth and I settled for sixth.

I have to say that this was a super successful race.  At the start I didn’t know where I stood, but by the end I knew that I was still able to race strong and to make a good showing.  The guys who beat me were stronger on the day and that’s something that I’m totally fine with.

I ended up maintaining my third place standing for the season, something I’m super happy about.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Lil' Mule Project

I've been meaning to build up an Urban Assault Vehicle for some time now.  I'm starting with my old Trek 990 bought used for $450 back in 1989.  I had it powder-coated safety orange a few years ago. 

Phase 1 will be new tires and brakes.  Oh also need to remove those purple bar ends.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Do Something About It

The cool thing about bicycle racing is the Category system.  Basically it makes racing more fun and competitive by pitting folks of roughly (and I do mean roughly) equivalent abilities against one another.  The system is far from perfect and it's not uncommon for a guy/gal to race in a too low category, in the parlance of bike racing the guy/gal should "cat up."

Lately I've been getting my butt kicked by a guy who should definitely cat up.  Now I could complain to the race organizers and request that they send the guy a gentle nudge, but instead I chose this option:

You want to win - work harder than the other guy.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Why So Serious

What I enjoy most about Cyclocross racing is its accessibility.  Here in Seattle the races have a Beginner class, which oftentimes has one of the largest fields of the day.  On the other hand, road, criterium and track events are daunting, no question about it, and few folks have the nerve to just “show up and try.”  Mountain bike racing is a bit more of a come one come all attitude, but even there it’s easy to feel intimidated: “am I a good enough rider to handle the technical portions, what if I get hurt or have a mechanical out in the woods, what if I get lost” these types of anxieties tend to keep newbys out of the race.  In cross the prevailing attitude is (or at least should be): “well what’s the worst that could happen.”
On the flipside the Beginners are often the bane of my existence.

In every race there are probably twelve to twenty guys who are in it to win it.  They train hard, they do a proper warm-up they learn the course, their bikes are prepped and ready to go, in other words they take this stuff seriously.  In a race I’ve noticed that nearly everyone throws down hard, I’ve rarely seen or encountered a person who is just out there on a sightseeing tour, but for those twelve to twenty guys the digging is just a little deeper, the pain just a tiny bit crisper.
On Sunday I was holding off a juggernaut of five strong guys, if I held them off I’d be on the podium, if they absorbed me I’d be in ninth – at best.  I was sitting one point out of second place in the series standings with the possibility – if I managed to hold third – of actually moving into first place, depending on how my two rivals fared behind me.  In other words the race was getting serious.

By lap four I was catching up with the tail end of the Beginner guys who had started a few minutes behind.  I’d yell “on your left” and nine times out of ten the guy would move right and shout words of encouragement.  Once or twice I think the guy thought I was telling him to move left, and thus did so causing me to ride into the tape or into blackberry bushes.
With two to go, I was approaching a short punchy hill with three guys in front.  The good line up the hill was to the left, in the center were slick tree roots and the right-hand turn at the top was too tight if you took the hill on the right.  For me riding the hill was critical if I was going to hold my position.

The three guys each duffed the hill and as I started up I yelled “get out of my way!”  Not nice I’ll admit.  I ended up having to do an awkward dismount.
As I ran past, one of the guys said “hey man you know we’re beginners right.”

I replied “I’m fighting for third here man.”  That’s about all I had breath for.
I’m sure the guy thought of me as a jerk.  Third place big deal. 

For me, at the time, it was a big deal.  I was full on pushing the red line; third place had become all or nothing.
It’s a fine line trying to balance “hey it’s just a race” on the one hand with “this is what I’ve spent six months training for” on the other.  Yeah I know I’m just a Cat 4 Masters guy competing in some local race, but I take this stuff seriously, I put in the time, I put in the effort and it matters.  Next time I’ll try not to be such a dick, but I can’t make any promises.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Riding Into Randy's Crack

This past weekend we Pacific Northwesterners raced Cyclocross at the Warren G. Magnuson City Park on the shores of Lake Washington in sunny and warm Seattle.  I know we all want that cross weather, but sunny skies and seventy degrees is hard not to love.
Magnuson is a mostly flat and fast course with a long paved section, a tricky descent into 
Darryl rocking the rocks - Peter Clancy Photo
“Randy’s Crack,” some twisty grass, a punchy hill, a run-up and a steady climb/bombing descent.  Folks call it a roadie course – as opposed to a technical course – and I suppose that’s fairly accurate.

I lined up with the usual suspects for the Cat 4 Masters race.  After the call-up Terry has us move twenty five yards up the road to a spot that was much narrower than where the initial lineup had occured.  The front row is supposed to be eight wide, we now had ten in the space for a legit six (looks like we had a couple of poachers).  We were bar-to-bar.  I looked left, then right and saw two guys who always beat me off the line.  I figured if I go all hole shot mode I might end up getting run over by at least some of the sixty guys behind me, so my strategy was to hang a little back at the start, let things separate on the long road section and then move up as well as I could.

Native Bob in front, me in distant second - Peter Clancy Photo
My plan was a terrific success and I hit the grass in a solid fourth.  My Bellingham rival was leading strong, followed by Native Bob who was trailed by a guy in a Platypus kit.  Native Bob is a little too strong to be a Cat 4, and I knew if I wanted to finish well I would have to mark his wheel.  When he went around Bellingham I went with him, sadly so did a big Epic guy.  Big Epic didn’t hold on for long and soon it was me and Native Bob.  At first Native Bob was riding a sane pace, strong but not crazy, but then he put on the afterburners and got a good gap.  I went around Big Epic and found myself dangling in the wind ten seconds behind Native Bob and maybe eight to ten seconds in front of the steam roller that was Leavenworth Luke, Dodi, Bellingham, another Fisher guy, Flatbar and Tux (named for his Tuxedo print kit).
Feeling the Steam Roller coming - Peter Clancy Photo
I was thinking about dropping back in order to do some pack riding when a second Epic guy - Little Epic - screamed past.  He’d really put on the gas and got an immediate gap.  Forget dropping back, now it’s chase mode.  Little Epic went down hard at the barriers hard, it looked bad, but he got up immediately and didn’t miss a beat.  I stayed within spitting distance for a couple of laps but by lap four he was too far gone – unless he really exploded there was no way I was going to catch him.  I knew that Native Bob had the gas to stay in front to the line, so at that point I was in it for third.

The final stretch into the finish line was into the wind and I was really scared that the steam roller could all work together to pull me in on the last hundred yards, so I pushed hard up the final ascent, took some risk on the descent and luckily managed to grab the wheel of a fairly strong guy from another category coming down the finish straight.
I had ridden alone for nearly the entire race and was super excited about the podium finish.  That result now pulls me up into second place for the series.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Cheap Energy

Took a long ride yesterday trying to scope out a route for Saturday's team ride.  Stopped in a grocery store looking for calories.  This monster is 430 calories and set me back one thin dollar.  That's 0.23cents/calorie.  Gotta be one of the cheapest forms of energy on the planet.  On the flip side downed that thing and felt like crap for the next 20 miles.  Cause and effect?  I don't know.
Four of these and you could do an Ironman

Friday, October 3, 2014

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The Queen of Cycling is Indeed Cruel

It was bound to happen sooner or later: the old three guys pass you at the finish line after you hauled them around the course trick.

Bicycle racing is not like life. In life hard, aggressive hard work and leadership typically pays off in the end; in bike racing hard work at the front typically results in watching other guys pump their fists in the air.  Who can forget TdF 2014 Stage 15:

In bike racing the mantra is: he who does the best is he who does the least.

Oh I’m sounding bitter.

Truth be told, the MFG South Sound Super Prestige (AKA Stillicoom, AKA MFG #2) was an awesome race on an awesome course. Zac and Terry deserve major credit for putting together what I consider to be stellar course work.

My race started at a fairly reasonable pace and I hit the hill feeling strong.  I was with two guys from Leavenworth, a guy from Bellingham, fellow Islander Dodi, and an unknown fella who was riding strong.  I followed Bellingham and Leavenworth #1 up the hill expecting to be dropped at any minute, but as we approached the final kicker at the top I passed Leavenworth #1 and hit the downhill in second position.  I felt confident on the descent and moved into first. 

I hit the downhill single track at full speed and nearly took out a lady jogger and her two golden retrievers.  It must have been mayhem behind me.  Shortly thereafter another jogger/walker appeared from the woods, I let loose with a huge yell which must have penetrated her headphones as she quickly ducked back into the bushes.

Down on the flats I was passed by the Leavenworth boys.  These guys are definitely road racers and this was a road racers course.  They rotated leads through the tape working hard to drop me.  I figured I’d let them do some work and just hung third wheel.

Chasing Leavenworth #1 at Starcrossed
By the second lap we had it down to a four man race:  Leavenworth #1 and #2, myself, and the mystery man.  Bellingham and Dodi were gapped but not out of the race.  The racing got really good: each guy doing work, pushing the pace, preserving the gap.

A man’s gotta know his limitations and my limitation is the sprint.  Basically I don’t have one.  The course had a quarter mile paved finish and I knew that if it came down to a drag race I’d be eating dust, so I figured that I had to create some space.  My three companions were strong going up the hill, but didn’t seem willing to bomb the descent so I planned make a move at the summit, get a gap and then try to hold the empty space till the line.

In hindsight this was a bad idea as the top of the hill was only about one third of the way through the lap, and frankly if I’m strong enough to ride second, third and fourth off my wheel I shouldn’t be in the Cat 4 race.

At first, however, the plan worked perfectly.  I took a few chances on the tight descent turns and came into the flat hairpins with a bit of a gap (I think that I had a gap, it’s hard for me to look back during a cross race).  At the barriers I was nearly passed by one of the Leavenworth guys.  Now there was my mistake, I should have relinquished the lead and followed his wheel, but I was feeling cocky.

I hit the final two turns hot figuring that this might give me a bit of a lead, and then it was onto the pavement.  Dang that finish line was a long ways away.  I tried to temper my efforts, knowing that I had to leave something in the tank for the line.  Perhaps this was another mistake.  Perhaps I should have thrown down hard early, gotten a gap thus forcing the other three to play catch-up.  One of the Leavenworth guys came by maybe fifty feet from the line, I thought, okay cool hold his wheel and come around at the end.  I made my move to come around on the left and ran into the mystery man passing fast on the outside.  Oh no, the tears were already in my eyes as Leavenworth #3 passed me on the right.  I fought and thought maybe there was a chance for third, but no dice.

In the entire race the only time that I was more the two places off the front was in the final two seconds.  That stings.  Good thing that there is a race this weekend.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Friday, September 26, 2014

Wax Cotton D-Niro

Matt finishing up with the fancy needlework
Oh man I think we have finally nailed it!  Matt just finished up the prototype of a wax cotton version of the D-Niro Jacket.  I still have to sew on the buttons, but that didn't stop me from using it this morning while walking Willow in a rain storm.  The 10oz. Martexin waxed cotton and the cotton flannel lining made me feel like I was wearing a plush suit of armor.  Can't wait to get these moving out the door.

We re-patterned the jacket and are now using French seams which makes it almost completely waterproof.  This is it!

Pic of the Day - Feeling the Heat

Erik after his second place finish at Starcrossed

Monday, September 22, 2014

Cruel and Unusual

Fortunately I’d arrived at the kick-off Cross Revolution race at Silverlake early enough to get in three preview laps.  Two words kept circling through my head as I cranked between the tape: cruel and unusual.  With its sand and hills I’ve always found Silverlake challenging, but this was nuts, the course setters had managed squeeze a little more hard out of an already hard course.

My warm-up was perfect: three pre-ride laps – slow, medium and fast – fifteen minutes on the trainer and a loosen up jog.  My race – Cat 4 45+ Masters – was the first of the day and being the first race of the season the call-ups were according to bib number.  My number didn’t come up until the sixth or seventh round (I’ve never had good luck with these random call-ups) but I still managed to get a second row spot.

The start was a bit slow and I hit the first turn onto the grass in fifth position.  I quickly moved up into fourth and then third.  I was happy holding Jan’s wheel in third but on the second chicane I couldn’t help but pass on the inside.  The guy in front – team Bike Masters - slowed on the climb and I passed him, now I was in the lead.  Leading the first race of the day was pretty cool; I’ve never been in front before.

According to the spectators who were yelling updates it was quickly turning into a three man race: me, Bike Master and Jan.  I saw Jan going the other way on some of the hairpins, so I had some gapage, but Bike Master was on my ass; I could hear him breathing.  I was feeling really good on the technical portions and pushed it maybe a little harder than I normally would, but I couldn’t lose that guy. 

The sand was totally ridable with the secret being hit it fast and let the bike float.  Being in the lead allowed me to ride the sand how and where I wanted.  Coming into the final lap Bike Master made a big move and came around.  The guy was good at accelerating out of the corners, but I could get him on the hills and in the technical stuff.  I stayed within one or two bike lengths trying to walk the line between gassing myself on a pass, taking a technical portion too fast and going down and gunning for the win.

The second to last turn was a hard uphill left and Bike Master went down.  This was my chance, but he was too fast getting back on.  I tried for a sprint but he had me by two seconds.  This was my first podium and I was totally jacked.  It was a hard course, I’d rode it clean, and finished well, what more could a fella ask for.

Pic of the Day - Stoemper Stomping

I like these Stoempers, and it's not just because they have cool colors

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Starcross Lover

Make it look like it hurts - photo by Marsa Daniel
The big Cyclocross event here in the Seattle area is Starcrossed.  It’s our chance to show the East Coast guys that the cross scene here in Seattle is legit.  For the past few years the race has been conducted at the Marymore Park Velodrome, not exactly a great venue, but Zack and Terry do the best with what they have.

This will be my final year as a self-seeded Cat 4, and I want to go out with a bang.  I’d like to get on the podium at least once, and hey if you’re going to podium you might as well podium at the big race.  Since I’d finished sixth place the week prior I was thankfully called up to the front row as the Masters 45+ Cat 4 race had 52 eager guys on the start line.

Nice helmets on those Cycle U guys
Right out the get go I hooked a guy’s bars and either sent him into the bushes or onto the ground, I think it was the former.  I didn’t get a chance to pre-ride the course and so I took the first lap a bit cautiously, but I was in the top six or seven so I couldn’t take it too easy if I wanted to hold position.  Folks were complaining about the dust and ruts but honestly I found the course less dusty and with fewer ruts than in years past.

By lap three I was comfortably in fifth place riding the wheel of a strong guy.  I wasn’t feeling super strong, and so I decided to hang on the wheel for a while to see what might happen.  On the second to last lap my accomplice and I passed the number three guy and from how it looked we had a fairly good gap on the rest of the field.  One and two were out of reach, so now I just had to play it smart and find the right place to attack for third.

Why we race
Number three was not giving up easily.  He gapped me coming out of every turn forcing me to burn coal to catch up.  I figured that I might be able to take him on the final straight to the finish but I missed by one second.  Just missing my first podium was a bit disappointing, but I raced well and in the end was beat by a guy who deserved it a little more.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Ready or Not

Man oh man is it cross season already.  I went into yesterday’s MFG season opener with more than a little apprehension.  Cross is scary because cross hurts.  It’s all out all of the time, there ain’t no pack in which to take a breather; it’s stay hard or get passed.

My goal for yesterday was to put myself in “call-up” position for the next MFG race.  Cyclocross races are started in rows with each row being eight riders wide.  The organizers typically call up the top sixteen racers in order of their standing in the series – a front row call up can make the difference between a podium spot and an “also ran” finish.  At the start of the first race of the season there haven’t been any points awarded, so the call-up is random, typically according to the last digit on your bib number.  My number ends in 2, and yesterday it was the last number to be called up.

The Cat 4 Masters 45+ field was sixty four racers deep, and even though I kind of pushed forward on the right outside I was still starting thirty to forty guys back. 

Despite three sand pits the Sammamish GP course was flat and non-technical, combine that with forty minutes on the clock and you have what I call a “fitness” race.  Even though I fretted about being out of shape the fact of the matter is that I showed up at Sammamish with thirty three road races and a one hundred mile mountain bike race under my belt.  I figured if I could avoid blowing up and simply progressively move forward I’d have a pretty good chance of making my goal of a top eight (thus front row for next race) finish.

Starting forty riders back made a podium finish a nearly impossible goal.  If there were four or five strong guys in front of me it would be super difficult for me to make up the time l would inevitably loose pushing my way through the field.  I figured that I would go super hard at the start and gain as much ground as much as possible on the first two hundred meters of pavement, then yell and push for the first lap in order to get into a top fifteen spot.  From there I could gradually pick guys off during the next four laps.

My initial strategy was to ride the first two sand pits, which I did, but that left me totally gassed as there wasn’t enough distance between the two for me to catch my breath.  I came out of the second sand pit gasping for air and consequently lost any ground that I’d gained by staying on my bike.  I had ridden the third sand pit during warm-up but staying on the bike during the actual race wasn’t reasonable as the tight left turn leading to the beach proved to be a major choke point.

Riding the Sand
My sand running sucked and a friend – Tom Platt – kept passing me on the sand which forced me to work extra hard to catch him on the bike.  Tom and I were back and forth for the first two, maybe three, laps.

Chasing a wheel
I hit the fourth lap feeling spent but still able to ride hard so I decided to ease back a little in order to hold my position without burning up.  Burning up should be reserved for the fifth, and final, lap.  The strategy worked, nobody passed me and I held a consistent distance – maybe fifty yards – behind the guy in front of me.  As I began the final lap, race announcer Randy Solomon, said through the PA, “Cucina Fresca rider Mike McGuffin in seventh place.”  That was some good news: just hold that position and I’d be in the front row next time.

I was gaining slowly on Mr. Sixth Place, and so I decided that it was time to push.  He was faster on the sand, I was faster on the bike.  On the final beach section I really went to the limit high stepping though the loose sand and maybe even managed to gain a little on my nemesis.  I remounted with my body yelling to slow down, and I darn well almost did, but I decided that I’d try to push a little harder, find that little something extra.  I remembered what Jens Voight said about his opponents only being human just like himself, and I managed to bridge the gap.  Just before the grass turn leading to the paved finish straightaway I pushed past on the left side, threw down as hard as I could to get some separation, took a risk by pedaling through the final turn and then put my head down for the sprint finish.  I had no idea where the other guy was but checking out at the results I see that I beat him by one second, so I guess it’s good that I didn’t look back.

Next weekend – Starcrossed.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Words and Phrases

Cool new word:
Trucknuts - one word says it all.  I need to figure out a way to use this more often

Stupid new word:
Biohacking - Sorry there ain't no shortcuts, do the work son.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

High Cascade 100

Alan Brandt Photo
Earlier this season I decided that I would only participate in long course mountain bike races.  In order to be a successful dirt rider you have to put in trail time developing worthy technical skills.  The smoother you ride, the less energy you waste, lower wasted energy equals faster performance.  Everyday life, combined with two the three paved races a week cut into my dirt time, so I decided to step back – you can do a lot, but you can’t do it all – focus on road and criterium racing while tucking in some long trail rides in preparation for the High Cascades 100 mountain bike race in Bend, OR.

Prior to the race I’d only seen Bend under two to three feet of snow, and so I hadn’t realized what a cool summer hotspot the place is.  I love mountain towns – Park City, Whistler, Steamboat, Ketchum – I just seem to feel at home surrounded by skiers, hikers, climbers, kayakers, and bikers – they be my people.  The drive down from Seattle was long and the final hour smoky due to numerous uncontrolled forest fires.  As we passed though Madras (an hour north of Bend) I could barely see the road and I was beginning to get worried – my asthma has been dormant for years but ten hours of huffing wood smoke could definitely result in me lying by the trail gasping for air.

We rolled into town mid-afternoon, picked up the race packet, ate an early dinner and went back to the condo to prepare my food for the next day.  Over the years I’ve tried practically every gel, block and bar on the market and I’ve come to realize that nothing beats real food, so I packed chocolate waffles topped with peanut butter and honey and bacon rice cakes a la the Feed Zone Cookbook.  I also loaded Ziploc bags with Twizzler Bites and sour cherry candy.  I find that if my food is difficult to access (i.e. in a backpack) I simply don’t eat, and so I’ve started using the Bento Box that’s left over from my Ironman days.  The Bento box is strapped to the top tube of the bike, which makes it super accessible; I loaded it with waffles, rice cakes, candy and an old Nuun tube filled with salt tablets.  I also loaded three drop bags with the same.

All drop bags needed to be deposited by 5:30, so I was up at 4:00 and out the door by 5:00.  Melony dropped me at the start line and promptly turned around and headed back to the condo for a few more hours sleep.  The predawn air was wonderfully cool, the sky was clear; it was shaping up to be a spectacular day.  After nursing a cup of coffee – provided free near the start line – and a preemptive honey bucket stop I met up with my buddy Trevor near the start line.

I was feeling good and uncharacteristically calm.  Melony had noted the night before that I didn’t seem to be getting all worked up about this event, which is in direct contrast to usual fretful over planning methodology.  This in fact was a planned approach: I’m in good shape, I have great equipment, I know how to eat and drink for the long haul, so don’t fret and sweat, just do.

The race started in the early morning light at 6:30, we rolled out of town following the paved highway leading to Mt. Bachelor.  Trevor and I had started out near the back of the pack and in true road racer style we immediately began moving up: if you ain’t moving forward you’re moving backward.  We hit the gravel in front third of the group and were immediately engulfed in dust.  Much of the trail was covered in four or five inches of fine dirt powder and it was impossible to avoid eating dirt.  Once I backed off on the wheel in front of me in order to allow some settling but all that did was provide a gap for another rider to fill.  You had to ride the wheel and eat the dust; that was the only way.  Now I see why some guys had shown up to the start line with Home Depot dust masks hanging around their necks.

Trevor took advantage of the early uphill fire roads in order to move up through the pack, while I took a more modest “we’re going to be out here all day” approach.  In hindsight Trevor had the better strategy as once you established your position in the pack I’d be willing to bet that most riders either didn’t fall back or move forward more than half a dozen places.  It seemed like most folks just fell into where they were and stayed there, so it was wise to move as far forward as possible early on.

The first challenge of the race came at mile 13 at an area appropriately named 31 Switchbacks.  The gradient was steep, the turns were tight and close, the trail was dusty and it was wheel-to-wheel the entire way up.  I ended up behind a big burly guy on a poorly fitted bike, he muscled through every turn, and I wanted to say “dude relax it’s a long day ahead,” but instead I left him to his own devices.  We all have to figure out our own paths.

The remainder of the trip to the 25 Aide 1 Station was gradual and flowy, no big issues, just controlled riding on good trails.  I was tempted, once or twice, to start bitching, to bemoan how hard this is, to ask repeatedly what did I get myself into, but I immediately checked myself with a dose of reality: I’m fit enough and affluent enough to be riding a four thousand dollar bike across some the world’s premier mountain bike terrain, just get busy and keep moving forward.

The sixteen mile trip to Aide 2 was rough.  The loose, dust covered, rutted jeep trails were, at times, like trying to ride a bike up a sand dune.  On many occasions I just relaxed my grip, and spun in a low gear through seemingly bottomless powder.  Once again you couldn’t force it, if you pushed the trail pushed back, instead you had to find that zen balance between moving forward and spinning out and falling over.  I pulled into Aide 2 feeling fine, I grabbed a couple of peanut butter and jelly sandwich squares, ate a bunch of pickles and moved on.

The trip to Aide 3 at mile 53 was no problem: gradual climbing nice single track riding.  By now the pack had thinned out and most of my riding was all by my lonesome.  I was sandwiched between a strong gal from Boise and a local dude who seemed to know exactly where he was going.  I ate and drank a lot and soaked up the atmosphere, blissfully unaware of what lie ahead.

Aide 3 was filled with aid station campers – folks who drop their bikes and sit down.  Man you don’t want to do that.  Sit for even a few minutes and rigor mortis sets in.  Also, as any triathlete will tell you, if you think you’ve spent two minutes in transition you’ve actually spent ten.  Stopping is like a time black hole.  I got a chain lube, shoved in as much food as my mouth could hold and moved on.  The real race had officially started.

The first few miles out of Aide 3 were easy climbing on smooth gravel roads, and after a few twists and turns the road straightened out and ascended into the vast distance.  I couldn’t contain the smile; I can grunt up a gravel road as good as most, all you gotta do is find that gear and keep turning the pedals.  Within a half mile my luck ran out – an arrow pointed right, onto single track.  So this is how it was gonna be.

Mile 57 to 70 were uphill single track with approximately a dozen snow portages, and three steep-bank stream crossings.  The fourth stream crossing was where the race director had come in and cut a path out of a snow bridge, the water was about well over mid-calf deep.  We’d been warned not to cross the remains of the snow bridge but hell I’ve crossed many a bridge more dicey than this one, screw it I ain’t wading through that ice water.  As I was crossing someone behind yelled “hey you’re not supposed to do that” yeah yeah I’m already across.  I was at the point of not caring.

My stomach had started churning at around mile 40 and so I cut back my food and increased my water intake.  As a result I think I was bonking at around mile 65.  That trail just kept going up.  The high Cascade scenery was spectacular, and I made it a point to appreciate what I was passing through.

The mile 70 aide station was a welcome site.  Even more welcome was the can of Coke a volunteer handed me.  The place looked like a MASH unit, bikes were scattered willy nilly, riders were either sitting or wandering around.  One guy was walking aimlessly saying “I hit a tree I hit a tree.”  I guarded my Coke like it was some prison home brew.  I spent way too much time at this aide station, a volunteer grabbed my food bag immediately and I loaded up my Bento Box, but instead of riding away I wandered back and forth between the food table and my bike shoving bananas and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches into my mouth.  The mechanic said “it’s all downhill from here” and I chose to believe him.

The trip to the mile 80 aide station was relatively tame, most was downhill on soft dusty jeep trails, there were a few steep uphill sections but so long as you kept your wits about you you could bomb most of the descents.  I was smelling the barn at the mile 80 aide station and stopped only to top off my water bottle.

The next fifteen miles would have been sweet flowy downhill had I not been on my bike for nine hours beforehand.  The section known as Tiddly Winks was especially nice with prefab banked corners and nice groomed kickers, but by this point I was strictly in keeping both tires on the ground mode.  At around mile 90 I second guessed a rock drop and went over the side and down a scree field.  Dang I kept falling, one foot still clipped in dragging my bike as I went.  I lost a bit of skin and now my sails were fully deflated.  Survival mode.

I now was baby stepping my way down anything even remotely technical; all I had to do now was get back to Bend.  At around mile 95 some grizzled old guy was standing by the trail saying “road ahead.”

Another one checked off the list
“What the hell does that mean?” I asked the guy behind me.

“Fuck if I know” was the reply.

Well as it turns out the old guy was saying that we were hitting the paved road back into Bend. 

Once I hit pavement I caught my sixth wind.  I locked out the suspension and put the hammer down.  All of a sudden it was summer and the liv’n was easy.  I was hauling and the only person who could hold my wheel was a hard girl from Issaquah donning a Hagens Berman kit.  We alternated pulls all the way into town.

I hit the finish line ten and a half hours after starting out.  I was handed a cold towel and a Coke, both of which were appreciated.  After a few minutes of sitting around I called Mel.  Thankfully she didn’t make me ride the five miles back to the condo.



Monday, July 7, 2014

Kermesse Racing

My favorite style of racing is kermesse, which blends on road and off road portions on a loop course.  It's based on the rough and tumble early season rides in northern Europe. I see the popularity of kermesse racing growing steadily over the next five years.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Feeding the Long Haul

This past Sunday I took a ninety mile ride with two local hard men, Jan and Ryan; I knew that I'd need to fuel up during the ride and since I try to avoid prepackaged "energy" bars, goos, gels, blocks and the like I tried out some chocolate waffles.  These bad boys were killer.

An internet search on "chocolate waffle recipe" yielded all manner of complicated recipes calling for buttermilk or six beaten egg whites, dude these are waffles not a soufflĂ©, keep it simple stupid.  Finally I found a "mix all this stuff up and pour it onto a heated waffle iron" recipe.  The recipe called for way too much butter so I did a little modifying and came up with:

1/2 cup melted butter
4 eggs beaten
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup  cocoa
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup water

Mix it all up, pour it onto a greased waffle iron close, wait a while and out pops a sturdy, energy filled snack.
I like to make waffle sandwiches as the hollow areas hold in the goodness.  For Sunday I used peanut butter and honey:
I stopped using Zip-loc's for my bike food as I can never get the zip unlocked while riding.  I've gone now to a loose wrap using Pan lining paper, it works perfectly.
Two of these bad boys got me through 90 miles and 7200 feet of climbing. 

Monday, June 23, 2014


Steve, Chad and myself all loaded up into Z’s Ford for drive down to Buckley for the Kermesse race directed by our team mate Michael Pruitt.  A kermesse is a mulit-lap bicycle race that incorporates both paved and gravel sections – kind of a hybrid between criterium racing and cyclocross.  Most racers choose to compete on road racing machines equipped with heavier, more puncture resistant, and oftentimes wider than usual tires.  I elected to ride some old 25mm Continental Gatorskins that have been lurking around the back of my garage.  Tire pressure was a topic of wide discussion; I went with 80 psi.

I took two warm-up laps and was feeling pretty good about my tire selection – they tracked well through the loose gravel, I had no flats despite riding the gravel hard and I rolled good enough on the road.  Three minutes into the race I got my front wheel flatted; remembering my flat at Ballard I wasn’t about to quit so I jogged the mile or so to the finish line (which wasn’t the start line) and got a neutral tire.  I’d seen a lot of flats, and figured that I had a good chance to get back in the race by simply riding a steady ninety percent effort.  On lap two I flatted – rear this time – in roughly the same spot as before so once again it’s run time.

By the time I made it to the pits there were no wheels, no tubes, no nothing so I dejectedly remounted my flat front wheel and began the two and a half mile walk back to the car.  After ten minutes of walking I hit the pavement where the race director offered me a ride to the parking lot.  Back at the lot I unlocked Z’s car and started to change clothes when I noticed the spare wheels Z had brought along.  I popped on the two wheels and took off.

The question was should I wait for the pack to come around or would that be bad form.  That’s what you do in crit races, but this is only an eight lap race, I figured I’d better get moving and perhaps the lead group would catch me.  I rode until they officials told me to stop.  I think I was only one lap down as I only saw the lead group once, but I did take a ride in a car so I figure my DNF is justified.
Da Boyz post race- as bad as my kids with those phones

Friday, June 20, 2014

7/8 Pants

I'm thinking of adding a 7/8 Pants to my line-up.  I think it would look good and work great on the bike, don't know if it works off the bike.  They would certainly show off some cool socks.
Any thoughts?

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Out With the Old

I've been wearing Knog leather biking gloves for about five years now.  I especially like my half finger Evil Knevil's but as you can see they've served their purpose and are ready to migrate to the bottom of my cycling bag.

I now realize that I jumped the gun on replacing my trusted leather friends with this Giro pair as Knog is back in the glove biz.  I know that they had stopped making gloves two years ago, but now they're back.  My next pair of full-finger gloves will come from Knog - now I know what I want for my birthday.
These Giro's are dang nice though, but they'd better be as they come with a $65 price tag.