Riding for a cause is better than training

Posted in Triple Bypass at 17:03 by RjZ

Organized rides are the way to go. Especially the MS 150. I probably gained about a pound and a half at the two catered lunches, breakfast, dinner and the dozen or so aid stations stocked with cookies, fruit, sports drinks, sno-cones, all served by hundreds and hundreds of friendly volunteers. All this training paid off (at least on the flats…we’ll see what it does on the Triple in two weeks…) because it seemed to me that all those volunteers were working much harder than I was during the two days of riding. Every thing was organized perfectly, and I had a flawless time riding from Broomfield, Colorado to Fort Collins and back.

As for the ride, my idea was to go really fast on the first 75 mile day, and if I didn’t spend all my strength, do the century the next day. In the nearly 3,500 riders it was hard to keep track of riding partners, so I pedaled off early and tried to find fast riders and grab a wheel. The much faster riders sped past me without much ceremony, but there were a few whom I could stay with. I’d lose my new partner at each rest stop, and find a new one going around the same speed pretty soon afterwards. Eventually I caught up with some speedy riders from my own Left Hand Brewing team, and we zoomed into the first day’s finish at a time I could definitely be proud of:

72.15 miles at 19.9 miles per hour average.

Several beers and a catered dinner later, we went to bed in the CSU dorms before the sun was even down. It wasn’t so much the riding that made us tired; it was being up at 4:30 in the morning to get to the start in time.

I didn’t feel like doing the 100 miles on Sunday. “Fortunately,” team Stupid, our intrepid group of three who will finally end this with an attempt of the Triple Bypass in two weeks, all peer-pressured each other into doing it. The extra 25 miles over the normal ride adds quite a few hills and ride up a lovely canyon. Volunteering to do the extra miles means only Team Stupid and a bunch of hammer-head riders go for it. We watched most of them pass us as we leisurely rode up the canyon. We eventually picked up the pace, only a little bit, and each of us felt pretty darn OK considering we’d just completed (nearly) 175 miles in two days. It’s no Tour de France accomplishment, but it doesn’t feel bad either. It wasn’t actually 175 miles, according to the GPS, but well figuratively:

95.56 miles at 15.8 miles per hour average.

All this fun, and it is fun when you’re well fed and hydrated (did I mention beer?) and a good cause! The Left Hand Team alone exceeded its goal of $40,000 raised to help fight Multiple Sclerosis. If any of this makes it so my friend (who trained almost 2000 miles this year and rode the 150 with no problem) doesn’t have to stick needles in her leg anymore, then even the weight I gained will have been well worth it.

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Whale of a failure

Posted in at 9:37 by RjZ

That the death of pop star Micheal Jackson is enough to bring down Twitter, may make a statement about the true value of the micro-blogging sensation. ‘Nuff said.

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All for nothing?

Posted in Triple Bypass at 10:51 by RjZ

Some things are beyond your control. Like your genetics. While I can acclimatize with time, I am sensitive to altitude and prone to altitude sickness. That’s unfortunate when your favorite places are mountains. It’s downright annoying when you train like crazy for half the year to ride some ridiculous bike ride, show actual improvements in fitness, only to find out it was for nothing.

Alright, it’s not for nothing, but as handy as my new found cardio-vascular fitness will be in reducing future insurance premiums it won’t help me with my primary goal: finishing the triple bypass in time for the barbecue. How do I know this? Team Stupid, the team of three guys who I’m riding the Triple Bypass with this year, went out for a trial run. We rode Squaw Pass, the first leg of the bypass, to Idaho Springs and back. It’s a pretty big ride. Only 62 miles, but over 7000 feet of vertical. That’s about half the distance and two thirds of the actual ride itself.

And we were all doing great over the pass too. We were reminded how cold it can be, even with good weather, at 11,000+ feet, but at the bottom of the first pass, I think we all were surprised by how big a deal that wasn’t. But even the helpful tail-wind pushing me back over the pass couldn’t help push out the building headache. I was drinking enough, and had eaten enough, although, perhaps a bit more in both cases wouldn’t have hurt, but the headache and general malaise was slowing me down much more than my legs which, for the most part, still felt strong.

I watched my friends pass me and slowly pull away as I slogged up the mountain, head down, breathing unusually hard. They were waiting for me a few miles from the top near a campground toilet. I visited the facilities and, feeling pretty crappy and gray, I wondered if maybe I needed to throw up. Just facing the business end of a chemical toilet was probably enough to close the deal.

Of course, after tossing my cookies, it made me feel a bit better for a while and I kept up with team stupid till the next stop. There I felt even worse and started shivering and clacking my teeth. Back on the bike for two more miles of climbing, and once again, I actually started feeling a bit better. I didn’t push it and made it over the pass without too much trouble, but certainly not very fast. As we sped down toward thicker air I felt better and better, until I was fine by the time we reached the starting point in Bergen, Colorado.

And that’s when I realized that it’s not the climbing that will kill me (I could have turned around and climbed right back up, now that I felt fine) but just the exerting myself at 11,000 feet. Maybe I’ll take the week off before the ride and rent a hotel in Leadville. It’s the only way I’ll be in good shape for the ride.

Riding summary since last time (notice the increasing average speeds…)

3 June: Time Trial, 17. 7 miles, 19.06 mph average
5 June: Almost a century, 95.5 miles, 16.4 average
6 June: Flats and rollers, 30.7 miles, 16.1 average (ok, don’t look at that one for speed)
9 June: Lunch ride, 13.7 miles, 20.6 average (see, that’s getting somewhere!)
10 June: Lunch ride, 15.7, 19.14 average
11 June: Lunch ride, 18.43, 18.08 average (which isn’t so bad, considering I got lost and it was raining at the end)
13 June: Time Trial, 17.76, 19.36 average
14 June: Ward, Colorado, (9,450 ft), 80,7, 15.5 average (not bad for all that climbing)
16 June, Time Trial, 9, 19.7 average
19 June, Squaw Pass, 62.3, 12.2 average

Whew, that’s a lot of riding.

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Taming the Yampa

Posted in Energy, Society at 10:54 by RjZ

It was hard to find a place to ride a road bike in north eastern Colorado because it’s hard to find much of anything. This part of the western United States is not densely populated. Along the highway passing through it, there aren’t many places to stop. Many people do come here, however, and most of the hotels in Vernal, just over the border in Utah, are booked up. Is it because spring is the perfect season to visit Dinosaur National Monument? Actually, it’s the booming oil and gas industry.

Back in the day, this part of the world was densely populated…with dinosaurs. Today, their compressed bodies pressed over millennia into layers of mud is something we can use to motor our cars right past them on our drive from Denver to Salt Lake City; it’s oil shale.

This mostly untouched wilderness is home to something else very rare, however: the Yampa river. The Yampa is one of the very few wild rivers still left in North America. Today, however, after decades of buying up water rights in Colorado, the Shell Oil company has put forward a proposal to divert a significant amount of the Yampa into a reservoir that would be used to pump oil out of the shale below.

According to Shell, the reserves underneath the Dinosaur region of north western Colorado might rival the proven reserves of Saudi Arabia. Tapping this resource could lead to much needed energy independence from unsavory middle eastern dictatorships. Modern mining and drilling operations result in vastly diminished impact on the environment than they used to. As bumper stickers in mining regions remind us, “if it doesn’t grow, it’s mined.” It’s clear that a categorical refusal to support such activities is untenable.

The question, for me, comes down to which is the more precious resource? Water or oil? I drive a car, and I am not planning to give that up any time soon, but at the end of the day, can it really be argued that oil is more precious than water? Scarcity of water is painfully apparent in Colorado where water rights are a constant political companion and every day citizens are asked regularly asked to reduce water consumption. The earth may be covered with water over the majority of its surface, but the clean kind we can drink and water our vegetables with is like a cool glass of water spilled in the ocean.

We use water in a variety of industrial processes. Releasing oil from shale would be yet another one. Yet it takes about three barrels of water for a single barrel of oil. What will we use all the energy in the oil for? Will we put in trucks to carry bottled water to our super markets? Will we pour it into water treatment plants to create clean drinking water? Will we power industrial desalinization to make ocean water clean enough to drink? In the end, it will be a losing proposition.

And how will any of this help the rare fish and plants living along one of the last wild rivers?

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Road bikes are for roads

Posted in Triple Bypass at 17:12 by RjZ

Not every where is Boulder, Colorado. Before I proceed, I am not dissing the fine city from which you are reading this (even if it isn’t Boulder, Colorado) I am just pointing out a difference. Nothing normative here, just some observations. Get off my back.

Uncharacteristically, I was able to take my bicycle with me during my last business trip. Instead of the usual flying, I was able to (also read forced to) drive, so I thought I’d get some rides in on a real bike instead of some uncomfortable recumbent fitness cycle with a ripped foam seat in the stuffy motel fitness room.

Vernal, Utah is definitely a place to mountain bike, except I haven’t got one of those. On the way to my motel, I saw a bike shop and figured I’d ask them where  a good road-ride is. The looked at me puzzled and slack-jawed but without any answer. I pointed at the sampling of skinny-tired bikes hanging in the store and said “You sell them. Doesn’t anyone ride them around here?” The owner showed up from the back and rescued his employees with a suggestion.

About 10 miles out of town I rode about 20.2 miles out and back on the road into Dinosaur National Park. A great suggestion, I could have extended the ride (if it weren’t getting dark) and it’s beautiful there. The road was good and traffic was minimal. The very rough surface of national park roads leaves something to be desired for finicky road bikers, but that just makes me happier about my 19.1 MPH average.

I pulled into the hotel in Green River, Wyoming with enough time to get another bike ride, but I didn’t see a bike shop on the way in, so my genius tip wasn’t going to work. I asked the hotel reception. She suggested the bike path along the river. I explained that it’s a, um, race bike. It goes really fast. Will I be a nuisance to people walking their pets? What’s the path like? Is it a narrow sidewalk, or is it really for bikes? She assured me it would be fine.

Six miles later, I’ve dodged baby carriages, multiple pets, pleasant old couples and I’ve already ridden on sidewalk, old asphalt, and across a dirt parking lot, but I am done with the trail. It’s actually a lovely trail with views over the pleasant green river. It leads from a park, along the river and to a baseball field and another park. If I were running, it would be perfect. For bikes, not so much.

I left the path and road up the mountain that leads to Flaming Gorge. These are three lane roads which leaves plenty of room for the passing cars to get out of your way while climbing, and the road was so steep, few had to pass me on the way down. Turned out pretty fun at 17 miles and almost 1500 feet of climbing. When I got back the person at reception saw my bike and said something like “Wow, that has really tiny tires. How do you balance on those?”

My mother lives in what I hope will be the wine country of Idaho soon. They have several wineries not very far from her, and there actually quite tasty. Check out Ste. Chappelle for example. I did a ‘reconnaissance’ ride for what I hope will be a Tour du Idaho some day. Well, some day, but right now, Caldwell isn’t as bike friendly as some other places. Really, the ride was just fine, and stopping at the wineries would make for an excellent tour. The roads are mostly flat but there are a few climbs too. Problem was more the (mercifully few) idiot drivers, and the really rough surface roads with essentially no room for a bike. They’re great for tractors, but they don’t get many spandex warriors out that way. I rode 45 miles around the wineries and Lake Lowell, but it felt like much further on that road. I somehow managed an average of 18 mph.

I told my brother about the ride, explaining it was a nice ride, but I need to train on some climbs, and maybe there is a road somewhere with little traffic and, maybe I’ll get lucky here, a smoother surface. “Oh, there are tons of bikes on the bike path along the river. You should go there.” My brother is not a road biker, so how is he to know what I’m looking for. I told him about the ride in Green River, but he assured me this was different. There were lots of road bikers on this ride.

He was partly right. I saw not one single rider the day before in wine/tractor country. Here there were, indeed, a few folks dressed in silly spandex (like me) and riding on ridiculously skinny tires. I assume they were on their way to or from a ride, because this beautiful “bike” path sure isn’t meant for road bikes. The bump-bump-bump of the gaps between the concrete surface didn’t prepare my wrists for the true jamming into shoulders they would receive as the trail passed over the roots of trees.

Also, the trail just ended abruptly. It starts up again, of course. If you’re walking or running it’s no problem, but walking through a muddy underpass on bicycle cleats is sub-optimal.

I found another bike shop and they gave me a hint. It’s pretty much the same place my brother suggested, but with a slightly different route there. I ended up putting in 61.4 miles up, and then well past Lucky Peak. Only six, or so, miles were suffered on the ‘bike’ path, but the ride was excellent. If I had a bit more time, I’d have ridden all the way to what used to be the biggest city in the pacific northwest: Idaho City, and back. And, best of all, I passed some people!

Climbing 900 feet up and past Lucky Peak, a rider on a high-end Specialized blew past me. No big deal; being passed is a fact of life at home. Strange thing was how he just didn’t really seem to be pulling away. Nearing the top, I found I had plenty of juice, so I poured a bit on, and beat him to the peak. Crazy thing is it happened again on the return climb. I triathlete wearing a team ‘U’m Special’ jersey passed my on the climb. He was out of the saddle and sprinting forward, but then falling back. And once again, near the top, I shifted up a gear and rolled right passed him! OK, he passed me on the way down the hill at some dangerous speed, but I still felt pretty good!

I don’t know how much effect altitude has when the difference is from 2600 feet (Boise) to 5400 (Boulder) but I still call it a victory. This never happens in Boulder. This weekend, winding up our 95 mile ride (a respectable 16.4 MPH average), we met an older gentleman riding a vintage steel bike he’d converted to a fixed gear (meaning you pedal all the time, up hill and down, one speed, no coasting!) His lovely retro bike was complete with beechwood rims. I’m pretty sure I couldn’t pass him going up any hills. Now that’s Boulder for you.

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Copying the catcher

Posted in at 17:16 by RjZ

JD Salinger is unhappy. Apparently some hack has taken his Holden Caulfield character from the iconic book Catcher in the Rye and written a sequel, 60 Years Later: Coming through the Rye. Mr. Salinger apparently doesn’t believe that should be allowed and is suing.

I can’t say I think he’s got a case. Granted, Catcher isn’t the public domain yet, even though it was first published in 1951. The United States law is protected for the author’s lifetime plus another 70 years. That seems a bit generous to me, but it’s beside the point here. Obviously I haven’t read the book; it’s not published, but it seems that existing case law may already cover riffing on someone else’s idea. It’s called hip-hop music. If Coming through the Rye’s author used the idea of Holden Caulfield and explored that in a unique book, or sequel, how would that be seen as different from sampling in music? And should it be? Do we want to restrict creativity so far.

Mr. Salinger believes that all that Holden Caulfield is, is contained in his book. He’s entitled to that belief and need not read the sequel if it makes it out. Most anyone who reads Catcher, or nearly any other book, supplies their own epilogue. If this idea is creative enough to encourage others to buy it and read it, how is that harming Mr. Salinger? Protecting his brand and intellectual property is important. Authors need to be confident that their work will be protected and that their creations not devalued by others, but even, and if you follow the link above you will certainly get the implication that this is likely, if the author of the sequel creates a terrible book, it’s hard to see how this would significantly effect the status as part of American culture that Catcher enjoys. It might be even more fun to read if it’s bad!

What do you think?

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Posted in Travel at 13:36 by RjZ

I like to travel and usually put a positive spin on the annoyances and downright dangers one encounters. That’s a bit hard to do when describing the inevitable creeps you will meet when wandering the streets of a city you don’t live in (or even one you do.) Keeping your mind open and your eyes open wider can help you avoid anything too nasty.

I’ve met my share. It’s not always easy to know if a person is a genuine creep or just creeping you out. Usually, they’re interested in selling you something, or swindling you out of a few bucks. Sometimes they might have more nefarious desires, but there are plenty of victims out there, so if you’re not easy enough, they’ll move on pretty quickly. Sometimes, rarely, meeting someone who offers too much attention might be a way to make a new friend. More likely, too much attention from someone way too friendly is a good tip-off for a creep.

Take, for example, this guy. Just north of the train station in Amsterdam is a den of small streets that house all manner of markets selling t-shirts, jeans and sunglasses to tourists and locals. I was exploring this area with no intention of buying anything when an older gentleman approached me and asked me a question. I was 19, I think, and it was my first time in Amsterdam, so I didn’t understand him and apologized that I didn’t speak the language.

He switched to French and asked again. Not sure what to do, I simply repeated that I didn’t understand, this time in very poor French. “Oh, English?” he asked. “Yes,” I said. “Where are you from?” he continued, “English, or American.” I really doubt it was that hard to tell that I am American, but I imagine he must have thought this might be a compliment. “American,” I responded. “And you speak French,” he added. “Not really, sorry.”
This is how it often goes. I bet women already know this, but this is a popular method for people who want something from you to strike up a conversation. They ask questions for which there must always be an answer. Even one meaningless response is a conversation starter, so off they go. In many parts of the world the most common thing you will here will be “Hello, where from?” or some variation. People trying to sell you little camel dolls, scarves, or cheap jewelry will have a better chance if they’re already having a conversation with you.
The Dutch gentleman continued his interview with questions about why I was in Amsterdam and what I was hoping to do there. He seemed harmless enough, but I wasn’t really interested in chatting with someone at the time. I was looking for something to eat and, eventually revealed that, hoping that something changing directions might shake him off.

“Oh, you must have a boterham [cheese and ham sandwich] then, I know a place just up the street!” “Um, I was looking for something cheap….” “Come with me!” I ended up following as far as the sandwich and he sat down with me, but didn’t order anything. He kept talking at me and I kept feeling awkward, waiting for the drug pitch (this is Amsterdam, after all, I wasn’t that naïve) and wondering how I was going to get out of this.

I finished eating and excused myself, learning not to reveal what I had in mind to do next, as he’d surely be planning on doing just the same thing. He finally became more direct:

“Don’t you want to do something fun?”

“Um, no, I am going to go now.”

“You don’t want to see a movie or a concert?”

“No, I guess.”

“Wait, you don’t, um, like…men…?”

“Oh!” I blurted, shocked a little that this was just an older gay guy picking me up. I stifled a laugh and just said “No. Thanks though.”

I just walked off, leaving him standing there wondering if he should have confirmed my interest before he’d spent so much time. It’s not easy to know what to do when you’ve suddenly acquired a new friend in a foreign country. Some are harder to shake than this gentleman, but, well, freaking out isn’t nearly as effective as a firm “Go away!”

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