Saturday, September 24, 2011

Junk Miles on Surly Pacer = Big Fun

Finding the time and energy to run has been difficult lately. This week the wife and kids were sick so I spent three days as a full time nurse/custodian cleaning up vomit and diarrhea. Its not easy being a dad some days. So today, I had about 40 minutes to grab a quick run or ride. Considering there's nothing even remotely close on the racing calendar I'm interested in, I decided to just go have some fun and take some pictures, logging the so called "junk miles" which by the way I don't really believe in.

The loop I chose to do is one I've done countless times, both running and biking on various bikes. It seems like this could be a regular quickie loop I'll do on the "Green Machine" Surly Pacer. It is just so much fun to noodle around on and then just stand up and sprint for the heck of it. I was having so much fun that I didn't even remember I brought the camera until I was over halfway done with the loop, so on that note, I grabbed a quick shot of the view from the top of Roosevelt Hill west of Nampa.

After topping out on Roosevelt, there are a variety of options. Sometimes I just turn around and do it again for some good hill training. Often I'll turn right and go around Lake Lowell. But today I just coasted on down to the Deer Flat Wildlife Refuge while I enjoyed the sunny weather and smooth road surface (smooth roads are a rareity in Nampa, I'm sure they'll chip seal it soon enough).

Prior to building my Pacer, I was riding around on my Neuvation and experiencing rather consistent speed wobbles going down even moderately steep hills. I can now descend in confidence, as the burly Surly goes downhill like a champ.

There were quite a few boaters on the lake today. However, I have a secret fondness for sailboats, and I feel that if I lived near a coast I'd spend some time learning how to sail a bit. I did nab my merit badge in Boy Scouts for sailing, so I guess I am an expert ;)

If you just walked outside today, you might have a hard time identifying that its late September. The high was in the 90's today and there was the normal summer haze in the air as a result of living in a densly populated valley in the dry west. However, if you pay attention to the cars and pickups putting around with all their decor, you will quickly understand that it is football season and that the BSU Bronco Nation is widespread. Case in point...

After stopping to take a few more photos (most of which didn't really turn out the way I wanted) I took the gravel/rough chip sealed dam road back towards home. The Pacer was lovely on the rough stuff, although I'm still not a fan of riding a road bike on gravel. Perhaps with some wider tires. I'm running 23 mm tires at the moment, but I think I could easily fit
28's with no problem. Maybe this winter.

In conclusion, there really are no such thing as "junk miles" when there's nothing to train for. If its fun, then mission complete. Today it was nice just to soak up a bit of summer on a great bike.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Building my Surly Pacer

I thought I'd take a quick moment and post up a report about my most recent bike build; the fabulous Surly Pacer in "British Racing Green" with a top-notch Sram Force drivetrain. I can't say enough how nice this bike rides, but more on that later...

After my recent experiment/failure with the Neuvation frame, I decided to go with a more traditional frameset with a great pricetag, the Surly Pacer. (Note: Neuvation's wheels are most excellent, but I cannot say I would buy another one of their frames). If you do some searching, you'll find that most people love their Pacers and you'll also find they are wickedly comfortable and capable descenders. You'll also notice that most people build it up as a low budget commuter bike, or as a back-up rain bike for their fancy carbon racing rigs. It fits that role nicely due to its relatively low price (~$460 for the frame vs. $1000+ for carbon or nice riding aluminum frames). It is also capable of handling wider road tires than most road bikes nowadays and can easily be fitted with fenders and down-tube shifters for the ultimate wet-weather beater bike.

I decided though, to take a different approach. My greatest joy as a rider is going out as fast and as far as possible. I wanted a bike that could handle everything I would throw at it and be comfy and stable enough to ride all day if the opportunity arises. Because I don't often go out and noodle along, although I enjoy that also, I wanted a good parts package that would be quick shifting and reliable, while also adding to the aesthetic of the classic road bike I was imagining. I thought about down-tube shifters and fenders, racks, pannier bags, or maybe just going with a cyclocross bike, but ultimately, I knew deep down I wanted a road bike that was good at being a road bike (corners fast and feels nimble). Enter the Surly Pacer!

There are a lot of inexpensive great riding bikes, but the one thing that drew me to the Pacer is Surly's reputation of being a quality bike company that makes bikes where the priority is on the ride. I was also able to buy this from my local shop which I love to support, Cafferty's Cyclery. There is no fluff on this bike. Its not made of fancy materials, features no proprietary components, and by intention is designed to be around for a long time. So long that they don't clear coat over the decals so the frame can easily be repainted 10 years and 3 drivetrains from now when I'm still riding it to work.

Another nice thing I mentioned earlier is the ability to run wider road tires if the need arises. Since I'm of the go fast mentality, I am sticking with durable 23mm Specialized Armadillo Elite tires, but the "FFF - Fatties Fit Fine" sticker is a reminder that the room is there if I want to run 32 mm rubber. I may have to end up changing the brakeset if I do that, and for now I want to run my Sram Force set, so I'll stick with 23-28 mm's. You'll notice below that there is still plenty of room to fit more tire under those brakes. I'll have to experiment to see how fat I can go with my bike the way it is.

So the ride? AMAZING! Today I was riding on a freshly chipped and sealed road and I could not believe how smooth it was. There is no road I wouldn't take this bike down. I'm really tempted to take it out on a long gravel grind this fall if I can find the time. I really don't know why anyone other than a super serious racer would want to ride anything else. I can't believe it took me so long to go with steel. There is no hesitating when it comes time to go down a hill now, although I still may be a little nervous after my Neuvation incidents.

There is some heft to the bike, if you call a 21 pound bike hefty. And that's ready to ride with my pedals, bottle cages, and computer. My old Specialized Tarmac (may she rest in peace with someone out there in ebay land) was built with lighter wheels and a few more carbon bits and was 17 pounds. My Neuvation was 18+ pounds and was much poorer in ride quality. So I guess if I eat a couple less bowls of ice cream each week and ride a little more I probably won't notice a few exta lbs in the frame. So I guess what I have to say to the 'race' bike riding folks like my former self is I'll be passing you on the chip-sealed roads as your fillings rattle out and your bike's cables vibrate so loud you can't hear me coming. And I guess if you catch me on a climb once in awhile I'll at least have an excuse. 3 extra pounds can be a lot. (If you caught that bit of sarcasm there it was intended :)

Sunday, September 4, 2011

"Let it go"

Let's be honest here, I've been feeling a bit down lately... It has been a great year of training and racing. Really, I can't complain much about what I've been able to do in my racing this year. When I look back, its hard not too be thankful for the many good races run and miles logged. For the sake of discussion here's a look back:

  • Les Bois Trail 10k, 40:54, 10th place

  • Dry Creek Trail 1/2 marathon, 1:38, 10th male

  • High Dessert Trail 1/2 Marathon, 1:47, 5th overall

  • City of Trees Trail Series, 2nd place, overall male

  • A Legacy of Service 1/2 Marathon, 1:26:38, 2nd overall

  • Sawtooth Relay, Men's Open Team Division, 1st place

  • Mohican Xterra 19k Trail Race, 6th Overall, 2nd in age group

  • (non race) Wilson Creek Mini-Moab Loop, 15.6 miles and 3000' of elevation gain/loss
So with that look back, one can't help but wonder, "why am I so down lately?" School has started and my training has taken a backseat to doing my job (bummer huh) and hanging with my two little ones and my wife (not a bummer). But even realizing that, there is clearly a deeper issue. I got up this morning and went through my morning run routine of drinking a cup of coffee and puttering around. Debating whether to actually go out and run or just grab another cup of coffee and peruse the craigslist ads again or read the latest race reports, I decided to just go out for an easy 3 miles. At the last second, I grabbed my mp3 player and headlamp (its dark now at 6am, bummer) just in case...

After lacing up my shoes and adjusting the strap on my headlamp (realizing that it's much more comfortable with a hat on) I settled my music choice on Tenth Avenue North and took off. At the end of my road, I had a choice, go up the hill and do my "Lake Loop" backwards for a nice 6 miler, or turn left and go around the block for a boring 3 miles on flat ground dodging cars and subdivision sprinklers. The choice at that point really wasn't a choice at all and I found myself churning up the hill in a gear I hadn't felt in a few weeks. It wasn't long before I realized what was happening; as Tenth Avenue North rang through the darkness and my headlamp flashed, I was bookin' it up the hill.

The thing about the Lake Loop is that in one direction, my normal one, you almost don't notice the hills because they are much more gradual and drawn out with steep downhills coming back. If you run it backwards, it is a much more noticeable hill run and the punchy uphills are met with gradual, almost inconsequential downhills. As I crested the last of the uphills on the loop, I heard a song that told me what was going on:
"You said let it go,
you said let it go,
you said life is waiting for,
the one's who lose control,
you say you would be,
everything we need,
you say if I lose my life it's then I'll find my soul,
you said let it go."

This summer I've been holding on tightly to dreams that are real and valid, but at the expense of other, more important things. For example: you may remember me declaring my goal to finish the Bible this year, well, I can tell you that I've read part of Genesis, and several New Testament books, but most of the Bible remains unread with 4 months to go. If I missed a workout this summer I was a bear to be around and quite often rude. For some people, that may be considered to be "ok," I mean exercise does have a calming effect; however, I cannot let that be my standard because God has made known His standard and that is not it. So I guess the point is that no matter how hard I train, and no matter what races I compete in and place, or even win, I will never be satisfied with life if my only standard is racing.

I think Ryan Hall said it best in his testamony that "Running [or racing in general] had become my god." I know I struggle with this all the time. I simply cannot go anything less that full speed ahead with something, its part of what makes me a good teacher I think, and of course it is part of who I am; but that simply cannot be justification for ignoring my God and putting my family in 2nd place behind myself. As I ran down the last hill on my run this morning, I thought of all the people I hadn't bothered to say "hi" to this summer when I had a chance, all the mornings I came in from a run and wondered what would happen if I ran a couple extra miles, or 10 extra miles, or "if I only had this new bike" or "that new lighting system," "I could really rack up the miles and beef up my training."

One more time I've realized that it's not about what I want or can do, it's through God and my relationship with Him that all things are possible. I cannot rely on my own body, mind, and accomplishment to find fullness in life. Ouch, the truth hurts!

Oh, and my run this morning, the fastest 6 mile tempo run ever on that loop. "Let it go..."

(Check out the following links for a better understanding of what was ringing in my head today...)

Youtube link to song and lyrics for "let it go"

Ryan Hall's testimony