Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Wow, 2008 is already over....

Well, I can’t believe another year has come and gone….my eldest daughter the other day was commenting on how fast the year has gone by and said “is this what happens when we get old?”…..Yes, I guess it’s true. It does happen as we get older. I can remember actually being bored by the time summer vacation ended when I was a kid. Now I’d kill to have 3 months off with nothing to do.

It’s been a good year and my family has been truly blessed. My youngest is doing well down at UC Santa Cruz. She’s pulling good grades, is having fun and somehow seems to be keeping it all in balance. Obviously inherited those traits from my wife as I was a total spaz until I was married and had kids. (actually for the most part I still am a total spaz)
My oldest is turning out to be an exceptionally good mom to my grandson. She’s calm and patient and kind. Again, thankfully I married someone further up the genetic food chain as I have none of those qualities.

My wife continues to put up with me and my bicycle, I mean hobby.

As far as riding goes, this year for me was a little different than last. My motivation was a real challenge and I’m sure I have a lot less miles than I did last year. (getting in to my jeans further proves that fact) The interesting thing is I’ve done a lot more mountain bike riding than road riding this year. And it’s been a blast.

Going forward into 2009 though, I’m thinking I’ll be spending more time on the road bike. Mainly out of wanting to survive (and even possibly enjoy) the commitments I’ve somehow gotten myself in to.

Right now, I can handle a pretty moderate mt bike ride, but I definitely need to ramp things up pretty quickly... In March I’ll be doing the Solvang Century. Pretty sure the last time I rode my bike 100 miles was this same ride last year.
April will be the Tierra Bella Metric that we always do on our single speeds. I may even join my buddy Chris this year and do it on the fixed gear….we’ll see.
May will be the Tour de Cure which will be another full century. This is one of my favorite rides as we do it with a group from work, it's a lot of fun and supports the diabetes foundation.
June will be mainly spent climbing every hill I can find in preparation for the Death Ride in July. (I have to finish this year, or I'm selling all my bikes and taking up golf)
August will be a nice easy month :-) gathering up as many miles as I can so that in September when I do the California Coast Classic from SF to LA I won’t suffer. (too much anyway)

The Coast Classic will probably be the end of my organized rides for the year. I think after that I’m going to just want to ride my mt bike and drink beer…..which will lead me right back to where I am today….200+ lbs and trying to breathe while wishing I had bought larger sized pants….

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!!!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Infamous Yankee Swap (aka white elephant gift exchange)

Last week, the Thursday night group decided to do our ride with lights on the bikes and to follow the ride with a potluck and gift exchange.
Seeing as eating tends to be one of the key ingredients with this group, the potluck definitely didn’t disappoint. We had fresh lumpia, chicken curry, fried rice and who knows what else….pretty sure I took in way more calories than I burned during the ride. (which is pretty much par for the course)

Next came the infamous Yankee Swap. You know this one, it’s where you bring a gift that doesn’t suck, you all take turns opening gifts, some of which are pretty cool, people have the option of stealing from each other and in the end you hope you get a number that allows you not to get stuck with the gift that does suck….
At least that’s how I remembered it…..

Turns out this group doesn’t do it that way. Everyone brought cool gifts and the challenge, when it would be my turn, would be deciding whether I wanted to steal one of several cool gifts that had already been opened or open something new in the hopes that it was even cooler.

Evidently Jack had the same idea and unfortunately (or fortunately, I’m not going to pretend I know the answer to that) he chose to pick an unopened gift and got the one gag gift in the bunch. At least I’ve been telling myself it was a gag…..if someone brought it thinking there was someone in the group that wanted that….well, I guess I just don’t know any of these people well enough….

(As a side note - even the gag gift came with a nice bottle of champagne, so maybe it wasn't a gag....)

So, now seeing that there was indeed potential for this to turn out less than perfect, I decided to steal a gift. (One in the hand two in the bush and all that) I ended up with a very nice bottle of wine and a baggie of homemade toffee......

All in all a very fun evening and even though I have yet to take my new bike on a real ride it’s always good to get out for an hour or so….even if I did stay on the pavement.
(PS don't even ask about the red velvet thong......some of us are still trying to come to grips with that one....)

Monday, December 22, 2008

Winter: a blessing and a curse…..

Well, it’s officially winter and the rains (and snows) have come. (finally)
When I was younger and skied a lot I used to love winter and fall was just an interruption between hanging out in the summer and skiing in the winter.

The past couple of years though, since I’ve begun biking, fall is one of my favorite times of the year.
I ride a lot in the summer and the long days and warm weather are great for that. I especially like riding in the early morning.
In the fall though, the weather is just perfect for riding. It’s never blisteringly hot, the day starts out cool and usually warms up nicely, the trails are usually not as crowded and scenery and the trees with their leaves mostly gone can be very surreal looking.

Winter on the other hand is a hard time of year to be a cyclist. It’s cold, it gets dark early, and it’s either currently raining, has just rained or is about to rain. Add to this the fact, that I’m basically a wuss and you come up with an equation that leads to me not riding much.
The interesting thing is that I really rely on my riding to help mellow out my attitude and even out my moods. If I’m having a rough day, a ride helps me leave it on the trail. If I’m depressed or stressed about anything, there’s nothing that helps smooth out the bumps like a little exercise induced suffering.
With the holidays here, the stress level goes way up, but with the rain, the ability to go out, get on the bike and blow off some steam diminishes drastically. It’s no wonder I’m so cranky this time of year…..(not to mention the increase in my beer consumption)

The upside is that if it’s raining here in the bay area, chances are it’s snowing in the mountains and while I don’t’ get up to ski as often as I used to when I was a kid, I still love it.
It’s actually very similar to mountain biking…
There’s a certain level of fitness required in order to really enjoy it
There’s a certain and very controllable level of risk involved - If you want to hang it all out there and let it rip you can. If you want to take it easy and just glide down the easy stuff you can do that as well.
The more skill you have the easier it is
The ability to pick your line can be critical (esp on a rigid ss)
The penalty for exceeding your abilities can be swift and painful

So, the rain here in the bay area sucks. Many trails are washed out and not ride-able, it’s cold and damp even when it’s not raining and it’s easier to talk myself into opening a beer by the fire than it is to go out and get on my bike... BUT, I will get a few ski days in and hopefully those will make up for the lack of riding.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Thoughts from the first ride back and on the new bike….

Well, now that I’m done building the new 29er have pretty much exhausted my patience in trying to tweak it and finalize it. I decided the only thing left was to go out and give it a whirl. I know, I know the doc said not till next week, but it was either go for a ride or go insane and invade a small country….

First let me start by saying, last night was one of the coldest nights I’ve ridden in a long time. Pretty sure it was in the 30s. My goal was to get out of the house and on a bike firstly, secondly was to give the new gal a test run to see how everything felt.

Not sure if it was just the timing or the fact that it was so cold, but most of the riders must have decided to stay home where it was nice and warm. I only saw one other rider. I did see at least a dozen joggers though. (just goes to prove that cyclists are crazy, but runners are flat out nuts)

The arm felt pretty good which I expected since it really only hurts when I straighten it or rotate it. Neither of which I did on the bike. The one bumpy downhill section didn’t feel so great, but it wasn’t too bad. (Not bad enough to keep me off the bike anyway)

Now, for the bike... This is my first ever ride on a 29er and although it’s set up fully rigid and single, this gal gives you a really smooth ride. It just rolls and where the washboard section on the first downhill usually rattles me fairly well on the SOMA, this thing was much smoother.
The other big difference is just how stable she feels on the downhill. I’m assuming it a combination of the bigger wheels and the longer wheelbase. (of course according to their website, Vassago says it’s their wet cat geometry which could be the case) But where the SOMA was almost twitchy this thing is like my old 205cm Rossignol ST’s on a long steep groomer…..they just flat out fly down the hill with nary a chatter or a twitch….

I haven’t weighed the bike yet, so I’m not sure total weight, but just by lifting it, it feels a little heavier than the SOMA which would make sense with the bigger wheels and larger frame/fork. It’s not that much heavier though.

The ride was a short, test ride – both for my arm and the bike – so I wasn’t able to really run it through it’s paces. I mainly wanted to make sure that the idiot that built the bike tightened all the bolts and adjusted the brakes…..and it appears that I….I mean, he did.

Tonight, if it doesn’t rain, we’re doing the lake loop and I’m going to give that a shot. Probably the abbreviated version but that still involves the big climb and a pretty decent downhill portion so I’ll be able to get a better idea of the new bike’s personality.
Of course, with 18 layers of clothing and my big winter gloves, I may not be able to tell if it’s a smooth ride or not….

Friday, December 12, 2008

2 weeks to the day later……

Well, it’s been two weeks to the day since “the incident” and I still don’t have full use of my left arm. (You’ll notice that by naming it and putting it in italics like “the big war” or “the great depression” I’ve managed to make it sound more interesting than if I had just put “the day I fell off my bike”)

There’s no pain, and if I keep it in the sling during the day, I almost forget I’m injured.
For example, I just about finished the build on the new bike yesterday and was feeling good about getting back in the saddle…..until of course I straddled the bike and reached for the bars!!! Um…ok…so maybe I’m not quite ready to ride just yet.

As a side note, they’re now saying the storm door has opened and Tahoe is going to be getting some snow (finally) which is good. But there’s no way I can ski, which is bad….I gotta tell you this getting old crap is for the birds.

One positive aspect of this injury is that, knowing I can’t ride, I’ve really altered my schedule on the current build. I don’t have any of the desires to “hurry up and get ‘er done” as I have had with past builds. I’ve resigned myself to taking my time and building it up EXACTLY the way I want it.

What’s also interesting is how not having a deadline has affected my beer intake. Taking my time and working to make sure my new bike comes out perfect has led to spending a significant amount of time “analyzing the esthetics” of the bike….(which really means sitting there with a beer in my hand staring at the bike)

I have found that an evening in the garage is no longer just a one beer event. It usually means at least two, sometimes three beers are ingested in the hopes of triggering the optimal creative attitude when sitting and staring at the bike.
Not that this is time wasted of course. For instance, Monday, I installed the disc brakes and rotors only to later take off the rotors so I could paint the centers red to match the headset and seatpost clamp.
Tuesday, I installed, then removed 3 different sizes of zip ties for the cables only to pull them all off last night and order some clips instead. They just didn't look right.
Yesterday, I installed the tubes and tires and mounted up the wheels only to pull them back off because the tires are used and they didn’t show up very nice in the pictures as well as the fact that the logo of the tires isn’t lined up with the valve stems.(tonight the tires will be washed and new photos taken)

Granted, this is time that could be spent cleaning the garage, hanging Christmas lights or doing other chores in and around the house, but I guess it’s fair to say I’m mildly obsessive and the bike is taking all of my creative faculties at the moment. I just wouldn’t be able to focus adequately on any other task to give it the proper attention it deserves. (that’s my story and I’m sticking to it)

Tomorrow I’ll be waxing each of the spokes on the new wheels. Yes, I know they’re brand new, but a good coat of wax is required for adequate aerodynamics…..

Monday, December 8, 2008

Third Time’s A Charm….

Well, after meeting with the orthopedics doctor (physician’s assistant technically) the good news is the arm is NOT broken. The bad news is I still can’t get on the bike for another couple of weeks. She says I just jammed it badly and that after one more week of no lifting and no load bearing exercise, I can start working on range of motion stretches.

Happily after x-raying it again today, with the swelling having gone down, they don’t see anything broken. She did point to one little “thing” (no idea what she was pointing out) she said “you do have this little thing floating around in there and if it becomes an issue we may have to address it at some point in the future”. (ok, that doesn't sound great)

What I don’t understand is why doctors (or physician’s assistants) feel the need to inflict pain needlessly. When she came in to the room she asked me if I had any pain. I explained that it only hurt to extend my arm or to rotate my wrist. At which point she grabbed my arm and tried to extend it!!! SERIOUSLY??? ARE YOU KIDDING ME???

Of course, being a man I couldn’t cry (very loudly anyway) so I calmly said, yes, that causes me some discomfort (at least it my head it was calm. What came out may have sounded like a a grown man screaming at the top of his lungs)
After I had calmed down and the sobbing had subsided, she must have decided I was pretty tough and have a high pain tolerance, (or she just likes making men cry) because she decided to rotate my wrist. (again, it may have sounded like a wounded banshee, but I think I pulled off the macho tough guy thing pretty well)

Well, long story short, I’m not quite good to go. No lifting, no weights, and no riding. I did get her to agree that if I was just taking it easy around the block I could get back on the bike in 2 weeks…..(at least that’s how I heard it)

A 50/50 chance….

So, the weekend before last I crashed on the mountain bike. The next day with my elbow swollen to the size of a grapefruit, I went to the doctor. After looking at it….seriously, he just looked at it. Never touched it, bent it, asked me to move it or anything, he sent me for an x-ray. After the x-ray, I was put back in the room and waited for the prognosis. The doctor came in with the picture in his hand, proclaimed the arm “definitely broken” and had me put into a partial cast and set an appt for today with the orthopedic surgeon.

Well, the Monday after the initial visit, I emailed my regular doctor to let him know what happened and to see if he could find out anything else.
Wednesday rolls around and I get an email response from my doctor that says, “Rich, sorry to hear about the elbow. Good news though the x-ray doesn’t show any broken bones”

Now, I’m obviously not a doctor and I didn’t get to look at the x-ray (not that I would know what to look for even if he had shown me) but how is it that two doctors can look at the same picture and see two different things? Either there’s a break or there’s not right?
I mean wouldn’t the phrase “obviously broken” indicate something that is totally visible on the x-ray?

The good news is that today I go see the orthopedic surgeon so she’ll definitely confirm there’s a possibility that maybe there’s a chance that either one or the other opinion could absolutely be possibly correct…..

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

DATMBA – Part Duex…..

Once we got to the Tractor trailhead we started climbing….and climbing…and climbing.
I actually ended up walking a fair portion of it and was pretty tuckered out by the time we reached the top.

At this point we had a decision to make….go back the way we had come or ride down Ridge to Sawpit and then back. Well, down Ridge to Sawpit took us further from the truck so I opted for going back down Tractor (did I mention I was tired?)

So, after an e-gel and a couple handfuls of trail mix…off we went. And it was awesome. The first section is fairly steep and muddy and there were some pretty crazy jumps (which we went around). It was fast and swoopy and I was thinking to myself how much like skiing it felt….find your line, get in the groove and let ‘er rip….

It was further down the trail that it really became like skiing…….you know how you always get hurt trying to get in that “one last run”….well as I was grooving down the trail loving life I spotted a log …ok, probably more like a branch (and despite what Tracy says, it was NOT a twig)
I attempted to bunny hop it but evidently my lack of enthusiasm (or energy) allowed my rear wheel to hit it, slide down the length and throw me from the bike in the blink of an eye.

Luckily for me the ground was nice and soft and damp. (although it did taste funny) I landed on my left side and despite knowing I shouldn’t, I put out my hand to break my fall.
Well, as I got up I was pretty sure something was messed up. I couldn’t really extend my left arm and when I moved it I felt something “grinding” in the elbow.
Figuring I’d better just get back on the bike and get to the truck I took it easy and just coasted the rest of the way down Tractor to the fire road and started the climb back to the truck.

At this point I realized that our good buddy Chris is a liar. Yep, bold faced liar. I distinctly remembered him saying that it would all be downhill back to the truck and it was definitely not the case. And I could tell this because every time the trail headed uphill, I’d have to get off and walk. I’d sit and spin as much as I could but when it got steep, I wasn’t able to pull back on the bars at all with my left arm because it would hurt like….well you know.
Adding to that, my left leg kept cramping up. Not sure if I was really that cooked to the point of cramping or if I hit it on something during my dismount, but it was sore.

I felt bad because I know I was holding everyone up every time I’d get off and walk, and I’m usually not such a wuss (ok, that’s debatable) but we eventually made it back to the truck and the ice chest…
Nick had also had a nice little dismount and slammed his shin pretty good....

After taking off the jacket I found it was a little swollen, and was starting to stiffen up, but, after administering 2 Tylenol and 2 beers, I was feeling good. I still let Jack drive home though….

Seeing as it was Friday night, there was no way I was going to emergency. (have you ever seen the Kaiser emergency room on a Friday night?) so Deb called and got me an appt at the minor injury clinic for Saturday afternoon.

Obviously it pays to know people (Deb just spent a month at the Hayward minor injury clinic training all these people) as soon as we walked in everyone started saying hi to Deb, they took me right in and I was in and out within an hour…with a fractured radius and a partial cast.

More pictures

More More Pictures

Tuesday, December 2, 2008


That’s DayAfterThanksgivingMtBikeAdventure for those of you that don’t know.

This little adventure, the 4th annual to be exact, was really something a couple buddies and I thought up so that we wouldn’t feel guilty about an extra slice of pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving.(loaded with whipped cream of course)

The goal of this ride, in addition to burning off as many calories as possible, is to explore someplace we’ve never ridden before and this year we picked the Soquel Demonstration Forest.

We set a start time of 10:00 am and had 8 riders and 1 hiker show up for the fun.
It started out cool and foggy and like last year’s ride at Montebello began with a climb up the road.
The road soon turned off to a dirt fire road though and the climbing continued.
The fog was creating an eerie scene with riders up ahead fading in and out and the trees reaching over the road….all very surreal to be sure.
Eventually we reached the top of the fire road and took a break. I came pedaling up at the very rear (from stopping to take pictures of course) and saw our group along with a few other guys and their dog. They were all decked out with long travel bikes, pads, full face helmets and all that other stuff guys that go fast wear.….obviously not part of our group.
And, thankfully, they left first since I guess they realized our group would only be holding them up.

Chris had said that we would do all of our climbing in the beginning and that way everything back to the trucks would be downhill (we’d find out later he’s a compulsive liar)

So, after looking at the map and discussing our route, we began the fun portion of the ride….the downhill.
I haven’t really ridden too much single track and even less really technical stuff and this was all of that. It was narrow and steep and fast and there were log piles, jumps, ramps, even a teeter-totter.
I would imagine the group in front of us with the long travel bikes and full face helmets had a blast, but even traveling at a “reasonable” rate of speed, we were having a fantastic time.
We went up and over the logs piles, we went around the jumps, We navigated the steep muddy hills, the root sections, the staircases and even did the teeter-totter. (Well, I did the teeter but lost my balance and rode off the side before the totter portion)

When we finally got to the bottom of the Braille trail – I’m sure it’s called that because it’s so steep I was scared and had to close my eyes most of the way down – we were muddy and some of us were battered a bit but all of us were grinning like the cat that just ate the proverbial canary.

It’s funny how in the heat of the moment a normally sane person can make such bad decisions…I proved this point perfectly when, as we were sitting there basking in the glory of an awesome ride, I said, “lets do another loop”.

Well, obviously some of the group still had the ability to make a rational decision because half the group went back to the trucks while TRACY, Chris, Mark, Nick and I decided to “climb” (understatement of the week here) Tractor trail back up to the ridge and do one more loop.

Now, in my defense, I was still operating under the assumption Chris had told the truth earlier and that there wasn’t much climbing left to get back to the truck. If I had known we had another few miles of UPHILL back to the truck, I may have skipped the last loop.

Oh well, in for a penny in for a pound I always say so the four of us started off for the next loop which included a nice fast fire road downhill to the Tractor trailhead. ( to be continued....)