Social Stuff...

2013

1 Jan: 299.6

13 Mar: 303.1

6 Aug: 306.0

11 Nov: 311.1

2014

11 Mar: 312.8

12 Mar: 310.4

19 Mar: 310.2

30 Mar: 307.6

2 Jun: 306.0

Friday
Mar212014

Finally Getting Back on Track

At 12:30 pm today the countdown officially ended: sunny skies, high temp around 55, and a slow day at work. The stars aligned to allow me to bring out my new training tool...

That's right, I'm finally doing something I've always wanted to get into. And it came about on a whim.

My '07 Scattante has been having some frame issues so I've been shopping around for possible replacement options. This has taken me to Craigslist and eBay countless times in the past several months. As I was browsing frame after frame, I came across a listing for a track frame with a current bid of $30. After considering it for a few minutes, I put in a max bid of $70 and thought nothing of it. A couple days later I received an email from eBay notifying me that I won the auction at exactly $70. I was floored. 

You will notice that it is missing a few things, like wheels, a seat, and even a chain. With further searching on eBay I found a set of wheels that fit my needs: tough, somewhat aero (Deep-V rims), and around $200.

That left me with just a few other parts to purchase, which arrived from Amazon over the coming week: a chain, cogs of various sizes, a cog lockring, and a Park Tool Head-Gear lockring wrench.

I had other parts on-hand from previous replacements or stock-ups: Schwalbe Durano S tires, Specialized tubes, a Forte Pro SLX seat, and Shimano PD-R540 SPD-SL pedals.

And then I had to go to the bike store to buy some rim tape. Duh!

Now that I have a track bike assembled and ready to go... I became a hipster and started wearing weird clothes and drinking PBR, right?

Um... No.

Only 5 miles from my house is the track that hosted the cycling events for the 1990 Goodwill Games, many regional Olympic trials, and several National Championships, the Marymoor Velodrome. It is a fabulous outdoor, 400m concrete oval bicycle track with 25 degree banked turns. Most tracks are shorter, which means banking up to 45 degrees. 

Panorama of the Marymoor Velodrome, Redmond, WAThe key thing here is "outdoor". That 25 degree banking can be downright dangerous in the wet. With that in mind, the only thing I needed was a dry track. This requires a dry/sunny day. In late winter in the Seattle area. Suuuuuure. It only took about a week of waiting.

My new track bike at the Marymoor VelodromeI came down for a long lunch at the track and took in a few turns. There were only a couple people there, including Rob McD, a track racer I know from work. He had some very encouraging words but in the end I was just there to show everyone how slow and out of shape I have become in the last 18 months. 

 

The circus had indeed come to town. No, really. That big white tent behind me is for Cavalia. Think Cirque du Soleil but with horses. One of these days I'll actually go to one of their shows. Anyway...

I did an even 40 laps of interval training: sprint for 1-2 laps, rest for 2-3 laps, repeat. OK, I did have to stop a few times to adjust various things on my bike like stem position, handlebar height, etc., since this was my first time on this bike.

In the end I didn't kill myself. I didn't even embarrass myself, although I tried a few times. Note to self: FIXED GEAR BIKES do not have a freewheel. Trying to stop the pedals at 25 MPH is a BAD idea.

It was a great day. I can't say enough good things about this track. And I'll be back. My next opportunity appears to be Monday, only 3 days away!

On race night the atmosphere around the track is electric. The competition is fierce and the speeds are high.


Marymoor Velodrome during the 2012 FSA Grand Prix

One of our favorite track events is the "Marymoor Crawl" where they have everyone "race" from turn 4 to the start/finish line for up to 2-3 minutes, at which point they ring the bell and everyone does a 1-lap sprint for a $100 prize. The catch? If you put your foot down or cross the start/finish line before the bell, you are eliminated. It is crazy and looks a little something like this-

Sunday
Mar162014

Getting Back On Track: T-Minus 2 Days

The suspense is building... except not as I would like it. As I have embarked on this latest adventure, which I have mysteriously referred to as "Getting Back on Track", it seems that I keep forgetting small details.

First came the initial box...

 

Then a friend showed up...

And then some other frends arrived and pulled a couple of others that arrived last year. What a party!

We'll see where this party ends. I'm hoping by Monday. My kids are just lapping this up.

}B^)

Thursday
Mar132014

Getting Back On Track: T-Minus 4 Days

"What does a dyslexic owl say? How! How! How! He should get together with another owl and the werewolf then all they need to know is when." - Boy #3

That's how my day started. How about yours? }B^)

It ended like this...

Our town is on a plateau with rather steep sides all around. Once you ride off the plateau, getting back up can be a challenge. On the north side of the Sammamish Plateau, where we live, there are three choices, all of which have 1/4 mile sections that with a 10% average grade-

 

  1. Sahalee Way - 1 mile, average grade 8%, max grade 12%
  2. NE 42nd Way - 1.4 miles, average grade 6%, max grade 24%
  3. Inglewood Hill Rd - 1/2 mile, averge grade 9%, max grade 13%

 

There is also 244th NE but it is a little out of the way and very narrow, not my perfect combination. 

Today I was riding home with my eldest son, Patrick, who recently turned 12. He has always been an enthusiastic bike rider and takes every opportunity to ride with me, even when it means riding up big hills. Today we rode from my office to his swim practice via the East Lake Sammamish Trail and then home via Inglewood Hill Rd. I like to dangle carrots in front of him to see if he can push himself a little more.

Today's challenge was a big one: ride to the top of Inglewood Hill Road without stopping.

The reward: a trip to his favorite fast food place, Jack-in-the-Box.

I guess I already spoiled it, didn't I? The last time he rode up this hill, not more than a month ago, he was very proud of himself when he only stopped 3 times. This time he got into a groove and held it all the way up the hill, without stopping or putting a foot down until he reached the top. We consider the Inglewood Beach Club sign the "official" top of the hill, even though the grade isn't completely level for another 20 meters.

For me this represents 3 consecutive days of effective exercise. I cannot remember the last time I did this. Yes, it has been many, many months, probably April of last year, just before my injury.

Tomorrow promises to be a bit wet but we still plan to do some mountain biking at Tolt MacDonald Park at arguably the most last-minute campout ever planned by boy scouts. 2 days notice. Sheesh!

Wednesday
Mar122014

GETTING BACK ON TRACK: T-MINUS 5 DAYS Part II

"Hold on a second... Part II? Why aren't you counting down?"

Well, the Brown Santa decided that the final day is actually Monday, as opposed to Saturday, thanks to some big cold, wet thing called Vulcan dropping immense amounts of snow on a few people in the entirety of the eastern US. That's only a slight exaggeration. 

And now, I bring out the ever-popular Soapbox...

Yesterday afternoon I took advantage of the gorgeous weather here in the Seattle area to go for a jog. OK, it was more like a fast-paced amble. I went on a local trail (the 520 trail, for any curious locals) for a couple of miles, nothing big, and was passed by many cyclists of all shapes, sizes, and colors (Blue shorts with brown jersey? Seriously?)

To the cyclists who passed me, I have 1 word for you: LUBRICATION.

If I can hear your transmission from more than 50’ away, it is time to invest in some Tri-Flow. Or Finish Line. Or White Lightning. Or even the new WD-40 lube if you are too cheap.

The worst offenders? The 5 guys in matching kits that passed me near NE 40th. WOW. It sounded like a flock of birds squeaking up behind me.

Perhaps this is a new bicycle warning system for pedestrians on multi-use trails?

That is all. I now yield the soap box to the more capable voicing of others.

Anyway, back to the countdown. What is it? Well, it's a way to get my health back to where it should be: right back on track. Any other place would be uncivilized.

How many kids ask for this, along with 3 of their friends? Quite a few, actually. FSA seems to like it.

)

Monday
Mar102014

Getting back on track: T-minus 5 days

Where do I start? Let's start with the obvious.Boy #3, demonstrating the proper way to "soak in some rays" on a cold, sunny, January day.
I love my kids. I really do. But sometimes they are incredibly difficult to deal with, both academically and emotionally. One day we are tearing it up at Soaring Eagle Park on some wonderful single-track and the next we are having the biggest battle of whits/wills I ever imagined. I used to be an extrovert until I had kids, each with their unique learning disability that makes life VERY interesting. And I learned a level of humility and patience I never dreamed possible. That much is true.
I love my body. I really do. But in the past 12 months it has put me through hell. And back. And back again. OK, I'm over-exaggerating a bit because I don't have some incredibly bad/terminal illness. A major injury that required surgery. And more sicknesses, trips to the doctor, and even one to the hospital (not for me, BTW) than I care to talk about. Yep, I'm whining again. I think I should be allowed to whine about gaining 50 pounds over the past 5 years. Time to shed that weight. (Hint: things that you "lose" you might find again. I never intend to find this weight again.)
I hated 2013. There, I said it. No races. None! Not even a basic sprint tri. The biggest bike ride of the year I did with my kids. No tours, no centuries, no athletic events. 
But this all stops. NOW. Why?
Because eBay is evil and should always be avoided. Just like Craigslist. 
...and because the correct number is always N+1. 
Monday
Dec022013

Doing it on the cheap - Redeaux! 

In looking at my website stats, my "Doing it on the cheap" post is #1. There is no other post that even comes close, even my Cycle Oregon page has less hits by a 10x margin. And now I present an updated and expanded version of...

Triathlons: Hot to be a Triathlete on a budget.


Triathlons are not for the faint of heart and, apparently, not for the thin of wallet. 

"So Triathlon is the new golf?" I was so flabbergasted that I didn't quite know what to say. This could not possibly be true but there was the data in black and white-

"According to a study initiated by USA Triathlon, the average triathlete is a married 38-year-old with an income of $126,000. Forty-four percent have kids living at home; 60% are male. They spend in excess of $4,000 annually on bike gear, athletic footwear, race fees and nutritional supplements. Nearly half have traveled more than 500 miles for a race."

-Natalie Zmuda, Advertising Age

$4000 a year on gear, race fees, and food? PER YEAR? Seriously? If it doesn't turn out to be a fad then there is significant money to be made marketing/selling gear to triathletes in the coming years. 

...Unless that triatlete is me. I may be squarely in the demographic quoted above but I spend NO WHERE NEAR that amount of money on my craft.

Is it possible to be a triathlete and do it on a shoe-string budget? My answer: ABSOLUTELY!

Let's break it down into the main categories mentioned in the article above and see how you can do it without breaking the bank. To be fair to all you lady triathletes out there I called upon an old friend, Valerie, who finished her rookie race in 2011 and did it for just-over $200!

Finding the Best Deals

TIMING IS EVERYTHING: Best advice I can give you - plan what you need NOW and start researching and window shopping. Notice I didn't say buying? That comes later. If you wait until the last minute to find what you need you will either spend WAY too much (i.e. list price) or find yourself loaded down with worthless gear that doesn't fit or meet your needs.

Once you know what you are looking for, you can take your time and wait for the right sale.

The best time of year to buy gear is the last month of the season and the 2 months following (August-October in North America). That's when shops are clearing out the current year's merchandise, prepping for Inter-bike, and getting ready to stock up on the latest products. If you can settle for the previous year's clothing or gear you can save some serious dough.

Deal Websites: My favorite site lately has been Chainlove but you can also find great deals on Amazon and many others. Also look for "deal of the day" on sites like Western Bike WorksREI, and Competitive Cyclist. These sites are great but if you don't know what you are looking for they are useless. Do your footwork first and they are much more valuable. 

Clearance Sales: The REI seasonal clearance sales, the clearance section of just about any shopping website, and even Performance Bike and Bike Nashbar are a great place to find hidden gems. Case in point: My bike commute shoes are a pair of size 49 Canondale Roam shoes. I found them on a fluke on Bike Nashbar for nearly 75% off (less than $30). 

The Clearance Rack: When I go shopping at any store (clothes, electronics, and especially sporting goods) the first place I go is the clearance rack/section. Some of my best finds have been at REI, the Nike Factory store, and, yes, Target (amazing low prices on basic workout clothes such as base layers for running). Go to ALL of your local bike stores (LBS) and check out their clearance rack/table. You will be surprised what you can find marked down by 80% (like every set of gloves or glasses I have ever worn). 

Race/Training Clothing

I put this category first because it crosses boundaries with the different disciplines on race day and, most of the time, while training as well. 

Tri shorts: A good pair of tri shorts will serve you well on the bike and still be comfortable on the run. I prefer the Pearl Izumi Tri Shorts, men's model of course. List price: $55. If you are going to skimp on something, for heaven's sake don't skimp on your shorts. Do it on the...

Tri top: This is where there is the most flexibility. For short races a normal bike jersey will do but for the longer races you need something that won't chafe your armpits or other sensitive upper-body areas. Once again, Pearl Izumi Tri Top (Sleeveless) is a good choice. List price: $55.

Tri Suit: The even cheaper way to go is to combine the jersey and shorts into a tri suit. The Pearl Izumi Tri Suitlists for $99, $10 cheaper than the shorts and top combination. 

I hate to sound like a broken record for Pearl Izumi but they seem to have a lot of clothes that fit me (size XXL). There are other options out there but they are harder to find and often more expensive. 

That about covers race day clothing but race day itself is less than 1% of the total time you will spend all year in your sport. The rest is spent training. While training, especially on single-sport days, you can wear something a little more tailored for the current sport. If I'm going to spend 120 minutes on the bike doing a long ride I would much rather be wearing bike-specific shorts. There is a lot of flexibility there. I will cover each individually below.

Swim exit to T1, Beaver Lake Tri 2010Swim Gear

Race Swim Suit: See Tri shorts/suits above. For race day there really is no substitute. In big races (i.e. Ironman events) there is an enclosed changing area where you can change into a tri-suit if you desire but not so in shorter/local races. I actually saw a couple of women changing in the transition area of T1 during a race. One would hold up a big towel around the other while she changed, then they would switch. Their T1 times must have been somewhere around 10 minutes.

Training Swim Suit: This is where you can get ultra-cheap. Any suit that fits for swimming, and allows for freedom of movement, should do the trick. I use a cheap pair of swim trunks while Val uses a womens model Speedo suit that she has had for years. 

Goggles: Talk about cheap! You can get goggles for as little as $5. I use the Speedo Baja Goggle which I picked up from a local sport retailer for $10. Just as with any equipment it has to fit. 

Swim Cap: Since these are provided with your race this is one of the few no-cost items on the list (well, almost no-cost, since race entries aren't exactly free). I didn't think much about using a swim cap during training swims until I took a lifeguard class. Those bright-colored swim caps make it MUCH easier to find a lost swimmer underwater, especially when visibility is limited.

Beaver Lake Tri 2010 Swim StartWet suit: This is by far the highest priced item in the swim section. For race day wet suits can be rented in most major cities for anywhere from $40-70, depending on type and length of rental. If you live in an area where you must train using a wet suit (like I do) then purchasing one may be a better deal. These can cost anywhere from $100 to as much as you want to spend. Second hand wetsuits are plentiful around the end of the season via Ebay, Craigslist, or even your favorite retailer (think rentals models clearance). I bought my wetsuit for $150 from Chainlove.com, a 2XU SC:1 sleeveless wetsuit. 

 

Bikes and Bike Equipment

The Bike: There are no other pieces of equipment in your list that will meet the cost of the bike. You can use an existing bike (like Val did), buy a used bike for under $100, or spend as much money as you want (the sky is the limit in some cases). Now, before you run out and spend more than the value of your car on a real tri-bike, remember that even Chrissy Wellington won her first Ironman Kona on a Drop Bars with clip-on aero bars. Of course that bike was a Cervelo P2C tricked out with full Dura-ace groupo and an HED wheelset. Even Lance said, "It's not about the bike." The best place to start is a bike that fits your budget and your body.

A word about bike sizing: Any good LBS should be able to size your bike to you. If you are going to spend hundreds of hours training, commuting, and/or racing on a bike in an aero position a fit is more important than you may realize: as with other repetitive strain injuries, the right positioning and posture can prevent countless hours of pain and thousands of dollars. A post-purchase bike fit is covered by most insurance companies to make sure your bike is adjusted to fit your specific body needs. 

Bike Accessories: After you buy a helmet (required at all races in the US) the basic item you need is some type of hydration (i.e. water bottle and mount). The cheapest are only a few dollars. Other essential items are bike shoes, with compatible pedals, and perhaps a bike computer. My friend Val went old-school with a set of clip-pedals for under $20, which is what I would consider the bare minimum for any race. Without clips or a clipless pedal/shoe combination you cannot capture the energy of upward/backward pedal strokes and will waste precious muscle energy on the down-stroke, which is the same primary muscle group you use when you run. 

Bike Computer: There are a TON of toys you add to your bike, including GPS devices with mapping and directions (I use an old Garmin Edge 705 or Forerunner 310XT), but why not just use your smartphone? If you have an iPhone, Andriod, or Windows Phone then you have all that functionality already. Go download a free fitness app and you will have speed and GPS data. You can even add on a heart-rate monitor to your iPhone for under $100.

Repair Kit: Some racers, especially in the elite class, really go light on their repair kits or even skip it completely. If you, like me, are one those "finish at all costs" type of athletes then a good repair kit is essential but it doesn't have to cost much at all. A basic flat kit, an extra tube, and a CO2 pump will weigh only a pound or 2 and can cost less than $20. 

Bike-specific Clothing (Training): Jerseys and shorts can be a very personal item in terms of fit, use, and style but one thing is for sure: a good pair of bike shorts goes a long way. Or at least it can help you go a long way with lower body impact than a cheaper pair of shorts. Best advice I heard early on: buy a really cheap jersey and use the money you saved to buy the best shorts you can afford. Your nether-regions will thank you later (as opposed to screaming).

Beaver Lake Tri 2010Running Gear

Running Shoes: Along with tri shorts, running footwear is another area where you should be careful about getting overly cheap. Properly fit footwear is the first requirement but it must also fit your running style. A quick visit to a podiatrist or running store for a gait analysis (i.e. how do you run?) will help determine the best type of shoe. I have been wearing Asics Gel Kayano shoes for the past several years and LOVE the feel, although I have been experimenting with minimalist footwear with some success. 

Once you know what works best for you there is nothing to stop you from buying online. My favorite source for shoes has been Ebay. Search for your specific make/model/size of shoe and you can find screaming deals for as much as 50-70% off, especially if it is "last year's model". 

Run-specific Clothing (Training): This is where I get super cheap. My running shorts, shirts, and base layers come from either the clearance rack at Target or my local sporting good store. Total cost: $15 per set. 

 

Race Fees

This one can get a little ridiculous if you are not careful. In 2009 I completed 3 races, 2 sprints and an Olympic distance. My total race fees for the year: $222 ($72, 75, and 75 respectively). 

I prefer smaller, more local events than the larger M-Dot events (i.e. World Triathlon Corporation, or WTC, owners of the Ironman brand). While very well run the M-Dot events support upwards of several thousand racers and cost a lot more than the local non-profit events I usually participate in- 

  • Ironman 70.3 (US prices): $250-300 (depends on registration date)
  • Ironman 140.6 (US prices): $600-700

 

Nutrition

Gels, Protein Shakes, jelly beans, etc: This one is like arguing religion or pizza toppings (very contentious in some cases). No matter your preference in this category you can find numerous vendors our there and, if you shop smart, you can find good deals. Watch the clearance sales and bulk buy web sites for the best deals. I usually spend less than $50/year on nutrition. 

A warning about clearance "nutrition": Watch the expiration date. I bought some Honey Stinger Waffles recently (my new favorite food for distance riding) and found they expired in 6 months after purchase (hence the low cost). Don't stock up big if they won't last.

 

Summary

How much did I spend in 2011? (my last big race year prior to 2014)

Race day gear (per year, as spent in 2011)

  • Race clothing: $0 (bought my Tri-shorts in 2010 for $30, no new jerseys in 2010)
  • Swim gear: $15 (new goggles, wetsuit was purchased in 2010 for $150)
  • Bike gear: $150 (new chain, rear cassette, and front/rear tires)
  • Run gear: $65 (new shoes)
  • Nutrition: $50 (new gels)
  • Race fees: $75 (only 1 race in 2011)

My 2011 total: $355 (i.e. nowhere near the $4000 number above).

How much did Valerie spend on her first tri in 2011? (An off-road Tri in eastern WA state)

  • Race clothing: $0 (borrowed Tri-shorts for the race, but have since purchased a Tri-suit at TJ Maxx)
  • Swim gear: $0 (used existing goggles, no wetsuit)
  • Bike gear: $20 (new toe-clip pedals)
  • Run gear: $80 (new shoes)
  • Nutrition: $50 (new gels, should last into 2012)
  • Race fees: $60 (only 1 race in 2011)

2011 Total: $210

Was this a typical race year for me? Well, almost. My race fees would have been about $150 higher (i.e. 2 races) if I was able to better coordinate my schedule. My typical race schedule is for at least 3 races, 1 of them a half-iron distance (i.e. 70.3 but it's not an M-dot event). My race fees should be closer to $300.

The Race Rookie Year

What if you are new to triathlon and looking to complete your rookie race? Let's assume you are starting from absolute zero and do a little math...

  • Race clothing: $100 (Tri-suit)
  • Swim gear: $20 (cheap swim suit and googles)
  • Bike gear: $600 (bike, clipless pedals, shoes, shorts, jersey)
  • Run gear: $100 (running shoes, shorts, shirt, base layer)
  • Nutrition: $50
  • Electronics: $50 (basic heart rate monitor)
  • Race fees: $100 (typical for a local Sprint/Olympic-distance race, not an M-Dot event)
  • Total: $1020

This assumes you have no gear whatsoever, which is not true for most athletes. 

The moral of the story: you can EASILY spend less than $1000/year on triathlon gear and race fees if you are careful. I will grant that my goals are not as lofty as some. If you are shooting for 1 or more Ironman races this year (140.6) then your budget may be a bit larger. Spending that much time in training puts a lot of stress on your body and clothing which wears it out faster and sometimes requires you to buy the more expensive clothes in the first place.

But for "normal guys" like me (hence the website name) it is very easy to be a tight-wad and a cheap-skate. Just don't tell my wife or she may cut my gear budget even further. }B^)

Tuesday
Nov192013

Quick Update and Detour...

A quick update on my status and a slight detour...

Last spring my son Patrick decided he wanted to try mountain biking. So we packed up our bikes and headed off to a local park to try our hand at single-track. At this point I didn't own a mountain bike so I was riding my commuter bike, a Specialized TriCross Disc. It didn't end well for me, in a way. After less than half a mile of riding in the mud and muck, we turned around. My 1.6" tires were not built for this type of riding. And Patrick beat me back to the parking lot by a sizable margin. The grin on his face was incredible.

So I've been shopping for a new bike. My injuries and other priorities earlier in the year put that on hold but last week I pulled the trigger. I plan to use this bike for fun rides with my son, bike camping, and our big ride across the state (someday). 

2014 Specialized RockHopper 29, my newest ride.

So, the detour... Over on my other website, RideAcrossWashington.com, I wrote up a blog post  detailing my shopping experience and my first real trail ride with my son. It was an amazing day.

Patrick at Soaring Eagle Park in Sammamish, WA

Thursday
Aug152013

Red-Tac Island Hopper Ride Report

Most married men complain about their in-laws, specifically their Mother-in-law (i.e. the mother of their wife). Rather than go into the vagaries of standard social convention, I will end it all by saying that when I married my wife I hit the "in-law lottery." My wife's parents are two of the coolest, most laid-back, accommodating people I have ever met. They are VERY hard working, every waking minute is spent working, even though they "retired" almost 15 years ago when they sold their business. They even come to my races to cheer me on!

My In-laws (i.e. the Grandparents) wait with my boys at the finish of the 2009 Issaquah Tri

With that in mind...

I live in Sammamish, Washington. My wife's parents live in Tacoma, about 50 miles away (the direct route by car). Living in such close proximity allows for frequent visits to the Grandparents. And each year I tell my wife that I want to ride to their house. This has been going on for 5 years now. Well, I finally found time to do it and with a route that was relatively safe. 

My first idea was the direct route, as calculated by MapMyRide. I tweaked it a bit and came up with this route via Lake Washington Blvd, the Interurban Trail, and lots of city streets through Puyallup and Tacoma to the lovely town of University Place.

Yes, there is a town called Puyallup (pronounced pew-ALL-up). It is home to THE BEST FAIR in the world, the Washington State Fair. Oh, and Fischer Scones. Gotta get me some of those... <drool>

Fisher Scones at the Puyallup Fair...but I digress.

Some facts about this route-

  • Distance: 63.25 miles
  • Elevation gain: 1280'
  • Scenic Factor: 4 out of 10

OK, I totally made up the "scenic factor" but I plan to use it again in the near future. Maybe even in this post. This route does ride along Lake Sammamish and Lake Washington, and has a nice view of Mt. Rainier off in the distance, but it is also VERY suburban in nature. The other thing about this route that bugs me is the last few miles into University Place: the bike lanes are virtually non-existent.

So I considered another option, this one involving a trip to Seattle, a couple of ferries, and an island. Oh, and a little Defiance thrown in for good measure. It came out in 3 sections: Sammamish to Seattle, Vashon Island north-to-south, and Point Defiance to University Place.

Facts about this route-

  • Distance: 48.0 miles
  • Elevation gain: 3021'
  • Scenic Factor: 7 out of 10

This route cuts off nearly 20 miles and includes 2 ferry rides, plus it is on trails, side streets, and rural roads the entire way. Piece of cake, right? What I didn't notice about this route was that the elevation gain is DOUBLE the longer route above.

On ride day (Aug. 2, 2013) I rode into work, then took off from my office in Redmond on my way to Seattle. It figures that the day I plan to do my first big ride since my surgery was also the first day in nearly 2 months that we had any rain. Yes, I'm that good at weather planning. The interesting thing about rain in the Seattle area is that people freak out when it rains. You would think that since it rains a lot in Seattle that people would be used to it. You would be wrong...

Riding the 520 trail, westbound through Bellevue, passing cars stopped on the freeway.So once again I was glad I planned to do this route on trails and side streets. The other route would have been a lot more dangerous. I still had a few city streets to navigate as I connected to various trails along the way.

There must be a trail around here somewhere...

Oh! There it is!

Narrow trail in Bellevue, glad there is no traffic!Through Bellevue, the Mercer Slough, and under I-90.

Bridge over the Mercer Slough in Bellevue, WA

Under Interstate 90 in the Mercer Slough in Bellevue, WAUnder Interstate 90 in the Mercer Slough in Bellevue, WAThe I-90 floating bridge across Lake Washington has a bike path on the north side of the bridge, one of the most traveled bike paths in the country. It is a lot of fun to bomb down the hill, get into a tuck, and hammer across the bridge. Unless the wind is blowing in your face and you can barely keep 15 MPH.

I-90 floating bridge from the Seattle side.Once on the Seattle side you have the choice between a leg-burning climb up and over the hill, with a grade approaching 20% in places, or a quick ride through a 1/4 mile long tunnel. It's not a tough choice given the distance I planned to ride.

East entrance of the I-90 trail tunnel in Seattle, WAFrom the tunnel I wound my way through bike paths, making only 1 wrong turn, used a couple of side streets, avoided the ever-present road construction, and found my way to the Seattle Ferry Docks at Pier 50. 

Pier 50 in Seattle, home to the Seattle-Vashon Water TaxiI missed the boat by about 10 minutes so I had the opportunity to relax my legs and take a few pictures.

The Seattle-Bremerton ferry at Pier 50 in SeattleThe Seattle skyline in the background with cars waiting at the Seattle ferry terminal.Flynn waits patiently to board the Seattle-Vashon water taxiThe Seattle-Vashon Water Taxi, operated by King County, arrives at Pier 50 in Seattle.Bike parking inside the water taxi was very easy...

Bike rack in the Seattle-Vashon water taxiThis is where things got interesting. If I had been paying attention to my elevation profile I would have noticed that, once you reach Vashon Island, there is a HUGE climb from the ferry dock up to the main part of the island. I would have a better elevation profile to show off, and may even a Strava segment under my belt, if my Garmin Edge 705 hadn't decided to stop and restart the route in the middle of climbing. Ok, maybe it wasn't "massive" as hills go in this area but it was about a 12% grade for just over a mile, gaining 450' of elevation. 

The island itself simply oozes beauty. I saw a LOT of deer...

Doe and fawn along Vashon Highway on Vashon Island. My phone decided not to focus on anything of note.Anyone wanting to do some rolling-hills training should definitely consider Vashon. I don't think there was more than 50' of flat pavement anywhere on the entire route: lots of rolling hills, sweeping curves, and great vistas of Puget Sound. And halfway through I realized that Vashon "Island" should really be called "Vashon Islands" since it is really two islands smashed together. Remember that climb coming off the ferry? I got to do it again halfway down the island (450' in 1.3 miles) as I passed by this harbor/marina on the west side.

As I climbed the grade in the middle of the island I came across a "roadside attraction", as the street sign put it, which purveyed information about the history of Vashon Island and its exploration by European mariners.

History of Vashon Island in 50 words or less.

Quite possibly the coolest thing about this island is the Vashon Island Bike Tree. I had heard rumors and stories about this bike but nothing does it justice until you see it in person. I was amazed at how small and well-preserved it is. It is actually a kids bike (tires are no more then 12" in diameter). It is definitely worth the trip and very easy to find. Unfortunately someone has removed the handlebars.

The ever elusive Vashon Island Bike Tree, in all its glory.After more rollers than I care to count I finally hit the down-hill grade that signaled the south end of the island. The Vashon-Point Defiance ferry dock was remarkably small and, to my great surprise, uninhabited.

Vashon-Point Defiance Ferry dock with Point Defiance Park in the background.The ferry ride itself isn't that long but it only sails at the top of the hour. This meant I had the chance to rest some more and take a few pictures...

Vashon Ferry dock looking across the water to the Point Defiance ferry dock, with the ferry en route.

With only a handful of cars on the ferry I started out with my bike simply laying on the floor, until I noticed the bike parking area up above.


Ramp leading up to the bike parking area.Bike Parking and seating area on the Vashon-Point Defiance Ferry.By the time I left the ferry, dusk was making it impossible to use my cell phone for pictures. 

Riding out of the ferry dock I found yet another big climb of 450' over about a mile (sound familiar?). And, for future reference, when exiting the ferry at Point Defiance, use the sidwalk to make the steep climb out of the ferry area: the road is a very narrow one-lane affair. As I slogged up the hill (in the dark) the cars on the ferry (all 6 of them) backed up behind me. It was a little un-nerving to hear the pickup behind me spin his tires on the wet pavement as he stopped and started again. I exited the ferry at 9:10 pm so there was virtually no pedestrian traffic. The sidewalk would have been a much safer option.

The next 6 miles were some of the slowest I have ever ridden. The hill at the end, although only about 70', felt like 700'. My legs were cooked. Like "chicken falling off the bone" cooked. When I finally arrived at my destination I could barely stand, let alone walk.

Total distance: 46 miles

Total elevation gain: 3003'

Total time: about 5.5 hours

Total riding time: about 3:20:00

GPS routes: Part One, Part Two

Lessons learned: 

  1. Check the elevation profile and know where the climbs are located so you can pace yourself accordingly.
  2. Bring more food or stop for snacks along the way: the small snacks I brought along were not nearly enough foor for a ride of this length and duration. In hind-sight I should have stopped in the small downtown area of Vashon for a break and some food.
  3. Yep, I'm out of shape.

In the end I'm glad to cross another ride off my bucket list. The views were amazing and it was indeed an adventure worth the effort.

Rubber-side down! 

}B^)

Tuesday
Aug062013

2013.1 Year In Review

"But Lee? 2013 isn't over yet? How can you be doing a 'Year in Review' post in August?"

I had a bit of a slow start to 2013.1. Here are my stats as of Aug. 5th-

Biking info (2012 and 2011 results in parenthesis to compare)

Number of rides: 34 (down from 74 and 125)

Miles biked: 320.18 (down from 734.32 and 1690.30)

Elevation gained: 22,050' (down from 45,902' and 108,485')

Total Saddle Time:  28:21:27 (hh:mm:ss) (down from 57:54:19 and 138:08:35)

Run info (2012 and 2011 results in parenthesis to compare)

Number of runs: 2 (down from 17 and 24)

Miles: 6.33 (down from 58.34 and 91.91)

Elevation gained: 164 (down from 3,574 and 8,274')

Total Run Time: 1:11:00 (hh:mm:ss) (down from 10:11:19 and 17:31:48)

 

Starting weight: 299.6

Ending weight: 306.0 (net change: +6.4 pounds)

 

Races/Events finished:

None.

 

Overview:

Is that pitiful or what? That's what I thought, too. Reflecting back my problems started somewhere about September, 2011, not long after I finished the beautiful ride of Cycle Oregon 2011. When I came home from that ride I weighed about 260 lbs. and felt pretty good. Over the next couple of months I was hit by the usual cold/flus/bugs that my kids dutifully bring home from school, which really knocked me down. I mentioned it in my 2011 and 2012 year reviews as well: I considered them bad years but I was getting progressively worse each year, not better.

I noticed my sleep was terrible: I would routinely wake up in the morning more tired that when I went to bed. Sleeping in until 8 or even 9 am become routine, which left very little time for exercise, let alone bike commuting. 

The last straw was my weight, breaking 300 lbs right at the beginning of the year.

Something had to give. 

The first thing I did was schedule some time with my family doctor. I gave him my sob story and he ordered up a round of tests, which I was pretty sure I knew the results before I would see them (negative for diabetes, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure). What I didn't expect was the diagnosis of hypothyroid and possible sleep apnea. The Doc started me off on thyroid replacement hormone (with follow-up appointments to check hormone levels) and a referral for a sleep study. 

Before I could get in for the sleep study, though, I had yet another set back. I woke up one morning fully prepared to ride into work. I was all dressed for it, bag packed, and ready to go but my body was telling me to stop: something just wasn't right but I couldn't put my finger on it. The next day I woke up with significant pain in some rather tender areas. Since I had had no recent trauma or injuries I went in to see The Doc again. After explaining my symptoms, The Doc calmly said, "Sounds like you have a hernia." After failing the "turn your head and cough" test (every man will know what I'm talking about) the diagnosis was official (Follow that link only if you want the gory details of exactly what went wrong. You have been warned!).

Prognosis: full recovery after required surgery. Recovery time of 4-6 weeks. The words of Bill Cosby were sooooo true, "They didn't tell me they were sewing my knee to my chest!" For almost a month I couldn't walk very fast, stand up fast, or ride my bike. Oh yeah, and I still wasn't sleeping well. I was in sad, sad shape.

My surgery was on May 17th, a Friday. The surgeon was Dr. Eiji Minami, an amazing surgical specialist at Overlake Medical Center, although my surgery was at Evergreen Surgical Center. Dr. Minami was one cool customer: The time from when they put me under to when I woke up in the recover room? Just under 60 minutes. The best part: no sutures/stitches! I am absolutely in love with surgical adhesives (i.e. they glued the incision closed). 

With that hurdle crossed it was back to the sleep study. I went on down to the Evergreen Sleep Disorders Center for my sleep study. After a false-start with a take-home sleep study (i.e. the WORST bloody nose I have had in my life) I went in for a full, in-house sleep study (i.e. not at my house). They connected 24 sensors and electrical leads to my scalp, face, throat, chest, back, side, and legs. I looked really weird. (like this is news)

Wired up and ready to sleepAll those sensors made it very difficult to sleep. I have to say it was the worst night's sleep I have ever had. 

Diagnosis: moderate sleep apnea (not severe but not mild either).

Prognosis: much better sleep with a CPAP machine, which I brought home on Aug. 5th. My first night was 2 nights ago and I have to say it did make a difference in how I felt in the morning. I have high hopes for the future.

How about my rides since my surgery? My first post-surgery bike commute was on June 28th and, wouldn't you know it, the road department went and made all the hills around here longer and steeper! 

I was really dreading that first commute. In the morning I was joined by my son Patrick for the commute in to work. He really likes to ride, even if it involves climbing a big hill to get to my office.

Patrick riding with me to workPatrick riding down "the hill", i.e. NE 42nd WayI was really dreading the first ride up Sahalee Way, even if it is the easier of the 3 options for coming home (lowest grade at 10% but 1 mile long). Fortunately I ran into a friend, Gustavo, who I have raced with twice and ridden numerous times. He offered to follow me home to make sure I actually arrived. That was music to my ears!

Gustavo riding home with me on my first post-surgery ride home.Just as I thought, Sahalee Way was a killer. I struggled up that hill like I have not done in quite some time. I'm sure there were many drivers dialing 9-1 and just holding their finger over that last 1 in case I didn't make it. And then at the top of the hill I found another surprise friend...

Gustavo and Varugis waiting for me at the top of Sahalee WayAnother friend from work, Varugis, a very dedicated bike commuter and fast hill climber, just happened to meet up with us. He took the "brutal" NE 42nd Way climb up the plateau and passed right in front of Gustavo. Thankfully we barely paused to say hello, otherwise I might have fallen over from shear exhaustion. They stayed with me until I passed their subdivision (they live in the same neighborhood).

Gustavo and Varugis splitting off to head homeI was sooooo thankful they were able to ride with me. There is something about shared-suffering that makes it a lot easier to bear. 

Since that day I have ridden to work 6 times, one of which was a long trip to Tacoma to meet up with my wife's parents. (report on that to come later)

And so, on August 6th I am declaring the start of a new year, which I am calling 2013.2. What does this mean? It means I am hitting the reset button and setting some new goals:

 

  1. Ride more miles in 2013.2 than I did in all of 2012.
  2. Do at least 1 Sprint Triathon.
  3. Ride to the Company Meeting.
  4. Do at least 1 "jog home" commute, where I jog the 8 miles home from my office.
  5. Do at least on long ride, such as Tour de Blast (at the request of Gordon)

 

Lessons Learned

 

  1. CPAP machines are awesome! Not terribly comfortable but mine does help me sleep.
  2. My motivation is clearly tied to the quality of my sleep.
  3. Go to The Doc earlier next time, without waiting 18 months and gaining 40 lbs.

 

Now to get started on jogging. This should be easy, right?

}B^)

 

Wednesday
Mar132013

2012 Year in Review

And you thought 2011 was bad? Straight to the stats... 

Biking info (2011 results in parenthesis to compare)

Number of rides: 74 (down from 125)

Miles biked: 734.32 (down from 1690.30)

Elevation gained: 45,902' (down from 108,485')

Total Saddle Time:  57:54:19 (hh:mm:ss) (down from 138:08:35)

Run info

Number of runs: 17 (down from 24)

Miles: 58.34 (down from 91.91)

Elevation gained: 3,574 (down from 8,274')

Total Run Time: 10:11:19 (hh:mm:ss) (down from 17:31:48)

 

Starting weight: 288.4

Ending weight: 299.6 (net change: +11.2 pounds)

 

Races/Events finished:

Issaquah Triathlon (Sprint)

Ocean Shores Sprint Triathlon (Sprint)

Federal Escape Triathlon (Olympic)

 

Overview: (see the race reports for details)

My own advice to myself from last year still rings true: "Be a man! Take some Pepto Bismol and ________!" (Fill in the blank with every event I missed last year)

Wow broken record time? Another quote from last year: "No more excuses. This year was lame. Next year will be better." I say that every year. How will this year be different, considering I am already way behind last year, which I said was a bad year?

Last year started out strong but ended poorly. My poor performance in the Federal Escape Olympic forced me to rethink everything. I spent most of August with family trips and other non-training activities to regroup. Then in early September I had a minor setback: I broke my toe just before going on a long ride into Seattle (more to come on that later). Breaking my toe (only a minor break) was just the wind up. When the pitch was actually delivered I struck out big time. That strike out was our back-to-school schedule, which I am still trying to figure out. 

In the last 3 months of 2012 I rode my bike a grand total of 10 times. No so impressive when you consider that in the same period in 2011 I did 33 and in 2010 I did 25. 

This year I'm starting out slow and just now beginning to see how to coordinate my ride/training schedule with all the personal appointments (i.e. pickups/drop-offs for the kids' classes, swim, sports, etc). The next few months will really tell the tail. It really scares me that I am less than 90 days from the Issaquah Tri (my traditional first race of the year) and my training is horrible. 

But I have an ace up my sleeve...

Patrick at the start of the Federal Escape Kids' Tri...Or rather a young man. My son decided that he wanted to do the FULL Issaquah Sprint Tri this year! I promised him that if he trained hard enough he could do it and, not only that, I would stay with him to make sure he finished the race. A sprint tri is a big jump up from the little kids races he has been doing. In 2012 he finished 3 such races and barely broke a sweat. So far this year he has significantly improved his swimming and can do 250 yards in the pool without stopping (a personal best for him). He has a long way to go but is well on his way. 

So what happened to the Grand Columbian? I decided top drop this race in July after the Federal Escape and good thing I did! The broken toe incident (ride report coming later) happened less than a week from when I would have been racing in my first half-iron distance race.

Did I do Cycle Oregon 2012? Short version: no, I didn't get off the wait list. My strategy of waiting until it sold out backfired. I was so far down the wait list that there was no chance of getting into the real ride. Too bad, since 2013 appears to be not nearly as exciting (i.e. I most likely will not do it).

Lessons learned:

  1. Broken toes suck. Must join the "protect our toes" society.
  2. I need to find a new way to deal with illnesses and still train. More to come...
  3. Focus earlier in the year on distance running and cardio volume.
  4. My best and more consistent results are still from bike commuting, which I try to do 3-5x per week during the spring/summer and early fall months.
  5. Commuting home on foot on Fridays are a great way to get in an 8+ mile run once a week. That will start in April.

 

Rubber side down...