Saturday, November 29, 2008

Sunrise or Sunset?

The Fat Cat is letting go of the mountain. He cannot lead the Grimpeurs anymore and is relinquishing command. It has been fun, but, all good things must come to an end. (Although some might question whether it was good or not.) The site will be open to all who wish to post their climbing exploits or any other type of ride related diatribe. The Password is "Grimpeur" and the user name is Make good choices and be careful out there.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Icicle Bicycle

Tuesday's ride was the type the Grimpeurs were founded upon. The mountain top was dressed in her finest white linen, shaming the dreary wet countenance of her lowland sister. This was a day when a man who numbers among the least in pure, clean cycling prowess can vault to the top out of sheer stubbornness and stupidity. It was a day for Masochism; it was a day for mirth. Let me take you along for the ride.

It 's cold and rainy at the mountain's foot. The rounded peaks are obscured with grey and white. Twinges of excitement surge through my gut- or is it foreboding. That things were happening up there is not in doubt. That this would be a solo ride was also assured. They are few, the ones who relish such things as this.

Sounds and sensations, dormant through the summer tableau of clean pavement and clear skies, leap up from the road. The crackle of turning rubber on fresh, black ash; the cries of fingers, not yet warmed by the stoking of the core; the crisp smell of the air, rushing through mouth and nose; the wistful sound of the winter wind, tumbling about bare limbs and exposed hollows. These gifts are not given over with disregard like the lazy summer breeze.

Halfway up and the snowline is breached. There's always a special feeling in the transition, like stepping off the last rung with Neal, or Lance, for that matter, moving from one world to the next, leaving mere mortals below. A thin trail stretches out behind, a loose tether to the safety below. Looking back, the wavy lines of an imperfect technique bring to mind the tracings of an EEG. The diagnosis is clear, dementia.

Up in the clouds, near the top, a calm beauty lulls the wary upward and onto the thin stripe of asphalt along the mountain's backbone. She has been saddled, yes, but broken?

No longer under the protection of furrowed shoulders and slowing grades, the old girl turns and bears her teeth to her rider. They are blinding white, row after row of razor sharp needles. They ride the gale, tearing at any breech in Gortex armor. The faster one runs, the harder she bites. In the midst of the battle, a point of science comes to light. Though the skin of the face may eventually grow numb in the cold and throw off the pain, the sclera of the eye- it never dulls to the icy onslaught.

So, head down, switching from one half open eye to the other, I plow forward, blind and oblivious to the labile surface below. Ernestina is newly shod, clawing for purchase. She has my full faith and trust like few others. The heavier the weather, the more determined I am to make my destination before heading back to the calm and safety of four wheels and sealed cabin.

As I slowly loose the battle between heat generating climbs and energy sapping falls, I am the brief annoyance and bewilderment of dozens of pickups and SUV's, laden with hunters and the occasional carcass. I laugh to think of myself, fodder for many a fireside tale. Between the yarn of the impossible shot and the great buck that got away, they'll speak of that idiot on a blue bicycle, riding the crest of a snowstorm.

One last obstacle throws itself up. For the first time in a long time I stop on the slopes of Mud Pike, not because of want, but because I have to. Who would have thought it to happen on the descent, rather than the climb? The great white way is covered in scalloped lines of fresh ash, unsullied by the spinning behemoths from Detroit and Japan. I race down through the flakes, more than half blind, trusting memory, my tires and the road crew's work. At that moment, I want nothing more in this life to put that last four miles behind me as quick as I can. Halfway down, the chilling scream of the mountain, her needling teeth and the unrelenting squeezing of brake pads on frozen rims take their toll. Hands and arms become rigid in the cold flight. I stop and dance along the roadside, ginning up enough heat to facilitate the muscles to work again and the skin to feel.

Finally, the bottom. The road is wet and dirty as is the air. Not at all the welcoming I had envisioned. One more bout of dancing in the parking lot and thawed limbs gain me access to my little, white, Swedish cocoon. Immediately, I can't wait to fight the battle all over again.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Cross n Kids

The Fat Cat and a couple of other Grimpeurs hit the mountains this weekend for the Bruceton Mills Cyclocross. Truth be told, the Cat was already up there the day before, helping with the course design and set-up. Let me dissuade you now of any altruistic notions regarding the Fat Cat. He showed up Saturday to a desolate hillside, devoid of a course, because he got confused as to the race date. He even had a raucous contingent of spectators on the way that had to be turned back. So, he took the day he had negotiated for weeks and rode around on the back of a quad, sticking orange flags in the ground with frozen fingers. His chief contribution was to ride sections and say, "that's too hard." Hey, the course started out as downright cruel to the adipose challenged. But, the guys were able to make it fun yet challenging in the end. Thanks Don, JR and Marc.
On race day, being that he had burned his free day, the Fat Cat decided to take one of the grimplets up to the race for a little sled riding and heckling. Leo had a blast. He threw snowballs at riders and spectators alike in-between swooshing down the hills with his new friend Bella, drinking hot chocolate and running the course. I advise anyone who wants a good family adventure to head up next year. The venue is great. The course is on an achingly scenic farm in the mountains. There was a raging fire, a heated garage, chili in the crock pot and drinks in the cooler. The sled riding was right in the middle of the course so the kids didn't miss a thing and the parents could keep an eye on them.
In fact, everyone could tell the Fat Cat was itching to get out there all through the B race. Being that Leo was in view of the whole course, the bikes just happened to be on the car from yesterday, and the A racers were egging The Fat Cat to join them, he took Bella's Mom up on her offer to entertain Leo.

The course was mostly thawed and a bit soupy by the time the A race started. The Cat rode like he was on a wet noodle. The faster pussycats rode away in the first few yards leaving the Cat to "chase". It was actually liberating to know that there was no way to stay out of last place. Ride your own race, that's all.
The only time the Cat strayed from this strategy was the only time he got a mouthful of Bruceton toothpaste. In a taped off section of tight turns, he felt the leader bearing down on him for the first of many lappings. Not wanting to be an impedement, he gave it all he had coming into a muddy banked turn. Pulling off would have been a better idea. He washed out right in front of the guy and they did a little mud wrestling. The Cat would be feeling bad about it but one of them thar rabbits did the same to him later. The Cat hit him with a little stiff arm just to keep himself upright. Is that bad?
I could go into the pain and difficulty of it all but I just deleted it. Not feelin it. With Leo cheering me on every lap, the back fatigue and other such discomforts didn't seem all that bad. He was better than any banned substance would've been. (For all you literature types, I know I switched person liberally as well as other transgressions throughout. Just go suckle on some E.B White for a little and you'll be okay.)
Gotta wrap this up so let me say this: anybody who was thinking of racing or just watchin' this year but couldn't drag their butts up the mountain should start making plans to take the family out to this event next year. You'll be glad you did. Leo said he thought it might have been his best day in all his six years.
Oh yeah, great trophys and swag too. But, where was the Lantern Rouge award!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Dirty Girl

It was a cold and lonely Thursday. Nothing wrong with that. I had my girl and she wanted to find some trouble, get dirty.

When Earnestina and I arrived at the Sabraton meeting place, the only other bike within eye-shot was under some itinerant restaurant worker in blue jeans. Birdman had flown off to FLA and Lord MonkeyButt bailed due to the weather and flat out laziness. The rest were unaccounted for- presumably huddling together against the cold.
Riding alone in winter always lulls me into lapses of fancy. I find myself floating in memories of each hill I climb, both buoyed by improvements and weighed down with losses. Some climbs slip away unnoticed in the haze of semi-consciousness while others pull me back to reality. I stopped twice on Breakiron.
Before you get your chamois all twisted know that it was not of necessity, but of science. Believe it or not, my telephone has grown an inclinometer. Being left to my own devices on this wintry day, I thought to take some measurements for my fellow grimpeurs. I spent the bulk of the hill bitching under my breath about faulty apps because the readings were unreasonably low. "I know that damn section is more than 13 degrees," I muttered to the wind. It wasn't until halfway up Nicholson until it hit me. Slopes are measured in % grades. Faulty brains, not apps- sorry Steve Jobs. I'll try again some other day.
But, I do have some good technical information on the hills. Map my ride has changed the display for their ride profiles. Now the profile is divided up into percent grade sections. For a long ride they are useless because a gradient section can encompass an entire hill and read 0%. But, the smaller you make the course, the more accurate the readings become. For example, a mapping of the whole of Breakiron will give readings that are a bit low, because they are averages of a certain distance. You can see this on the link to the right. However, I mapped out a small section of Breakiron, the one from the bike path to the open field and, lo and behold, grades of twenty percent (Check the little box in the upper right hand corner below the distance indicator to get the graphic.). I knew it. I don't think the measurements exceed twenty percent on the site. Mudpike also has 20 %'ers. See, these hills are hard. And, they get harder with every holiday ham and Christmas turkey.
Up at the top, Earnestina wanted to take Sand Bank Road and get off the asphalt. Even up there, the forest was already in a late winter dress of sooty snow and barren trees. Not at all inspiring. If fact, expecting to see boughs bending with white caps, I was a little depressed. That is why we took the bike path down, to find a little lost beauty.
Halfway to the bottom, we encountered the only other biker of the day. As I was extolling the virtues of the cross bike to myself- no worries about flats, etc., we came across a mountain biker kneeling mid-path. He was fixing a flat. Oh, well. After a little conversation about the group ride of one I was on and his plantar fascitis, he and his fixed flat were left in my whirl of snow flakes.
All in all it was a pretty good ride. I chose just the right clothes, right down to the t-shirt under my helmet, and was never cold. The solo effort hid the effects of my extra 4 or five pounds and the one or two ride/week training schedule. Unfortunately, Saturday's cross race should shine a white hot light on the fruit of my apathy. At least I'll make prime fodder for the hecklers.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Stream of Conciousness

Huntington West Virginia is the fattest city in America.

The above picture is not Huntington. It's just an obligatory high contry photo form stock footage.

My wife went to school in Huntington so I spent a lot of time there. The people are nice, but morbidly obese. The exception is Ritter Park, in the more affluent part of town.

Obesity is defined as 30lbs overweight. In a culture where over 50% of the residents are obese, a person who is at an ideal weight, especially if they have moved down the scale to get there, will be told they are too skinny and asked if they are sick.

Cyclists have been called the sickest healthy people in the world. This is because of the extreme stress and attendant stress hormone release that can suppress immune function. They are “on the edge,” if you will.

Abdominal exercises and related infomercial gimmicks will not “subtract inches from your waistline". You may get a six pack but it will be hiding under that same old Milwaukee goiter.

Abdominal exercises will strengthen your core. This will help reduce back pain and injury. Do them for your health, not your looks.

A lot of people try and make a lot of money repackaging the same core strengthening exercises with pretty names, programs and equipment.

Weight loss is easy- calories in versus calories out. Will power is tough.

Sisyphus syndrome: a loathing of tasks that, once competed, only recur again and again. For example: washing the dishes. I coined this name some time ago to describe my constant need to force myself to do mundane tasks.

Weight loss/ fitness can sometimes seem like a Sisyphean task.

Fear can help. I don’t recommend it but—allowing yourself to get morbidly obese and having to walk a 21 speed bike up hills can make you spit out a donut or two for years to come.

This is where I'm going to live when it all comes crashing down. You, my fellow Grimpeurs, are invited to join the community.
Cozy inside, eh?

Tuesday Grimpeur passed 5000 visitors. I know other sites may do this in a day but it is more than I thought we’d get. Four or five guys was the expectation.

The site has had visitors from every continent save Antarctica. Still waiting for McMurdo to come around.

All the visit indicators for the site in foreign countries never grow beyond the 1-9 size. I imagine the disgust on some Frenchman or Italian's face when their search engine misdirects them here.

I just hope none of the hits from the Middle East are from Albert Qaeida. (Now watch me get bumped off the net again.)

You can go ahead and comment on the insensitivity of that remark.

I was surprised when several areas outside of Morgantown suddenly blossomed to 100+ status. Thanks to all.

If you are from out of town or out of country and feel misrepresented as one timers. Go ahead and drop a few lines. I’d be glad to hear from you.

Some people are very verbose online—offline, not so much.

It is raining a lot lately.

I like riding in the rain…once I get myself out there. (see Sisyphus syndrome)

Fixed gears are for kids…or for those who wish they were kids. Maybe I should get a fixie?

Bikes are fun.

So are kids.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Too Cold? Read It Instead of Ride It.

I know I haven't given you, dear reader, much over the past couple of weeks. Sorry, life often intrudes and choices have to be made. I'll get something out this weekend. But, as consulation for your loyalty, I have something for you.
If you like extereme sports, especially those involving a bicycle, this is sure to be a good read. The girl writes an intersting and well crafted blog. I followed it last year during the Iditabike race and couldn't wait to check it each day. Here is the link to get her book The proceeds go to backing her next extreme endurance race.
I think Jill has the potential to support a biking lifestyle as it deserves via her writing, if the blog is any indication. I'm gonna buy a copy so that I can have a small part in someone livin the dream, baby. That and a slice of some good prose.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

More Race Video

Ryan took this video at the barriers. There is a pretty good spill at the end. You can see the Fat Cat in all his formless beauty. Not exactly throwing caution to the wind. I'll post any more media that might pop up here.

Here is a novel view. It came from a seat mounted camera. Can you tell that people were really excited about this race? It got more coverage than the Vuelta.

More pictures. The Fat Cat, Aerobinator and Birdman are in the deck.

Monday, November 3, 2008

The Race of the Dead

Saturday the grimpeurs joined in on the craze that's sweeping the nation, CYCLOCROSS RACING. Aerobinator came in third in his race for the orders highest placing. Other members riding around in circles at Marilla park were Sidewinder, Big Daddy Birdman, Slider and The Flanders Fat Cat. Phallose was there to commemorate the auspicious occasion on digital media for all posterity. You can check out a very nice race montage video on his blog, The Misanthropic Cyclist's Forum For more video fun, check out Sidewinders helmet cam footage com/watch? v=MNvH7LfFxkA.

Big Daddy Birdman carving the corners.

Aerobinator giving the barriers what for on his way to a podium finish in his first cross race. Don't you just hate him.
Contrast the above with The Fat Cat's demonstration of how not to tackle the barriers.
But, at least he didn't do that.
Speaking of tackling... This guy looks more like a linebacker than a cyclist!
Here's how it should be done, a regular bicycle ballet.
Ahhh, a bit of West Vurginia flavor--The Hill Of Death.
This guy, Wes, some big time cross champion from the East Coast, cruised up the monster like it was a speed bump. He was amazing to watch.
The Fat Cat's form got a little better towards the end and he failed to claim last place. Officially he was 4th from the bottom. He contends that the officials made a mistake and he was on his eighth lap, not seventh. His reasoning is that he only saw Matt and Birdman pass him once, he knows he lapped the one guy on a mountain bike ( he marked him at the beginning) and he is pretty sure none of the women ( who started later) caught him except the all-powerful queen of cycling, VeloBetsy. Nevertheless, he could also be suffering from oxygen deprivation so no protest was filed. Does it really matter? The point is that everyone had a great time. Cowbells sang, children laughed, Gunnar heckled, beer cans clanked, and the sun shone bright on a great course. Congratulations to first time promoters Slider and Gary with design and construction assistance from Gunnar et al. The camaraderie was so great that when, Bill, an "A" racer from Pittsburgh ended up in this place--
the Fat Cat saddled him up on Earnestina and gave him his shoes. It was nice to see the girl doing what she was born to do.
That's about it for now. You can check out the race results at Can't wait till next time! Cyclocross is just super.
Oh, one more thing. The Fat Cat probably wouldn't have gotten his fat rear out to the race had it not been for some guy in Iowa. He was so excited The Cat just couldn't let him down. Thanks Blue Colnago.