Saturday, February 26, 2011

I Got the Call: "You're Going to Wisconsin, so Pack Your Randonneur Woolies!"

As you might imagine of a lifelong trade unionist, I was ready for that call. Wisconsin is now emblematic of the struggle between corporate powers--like the Koch brothers--and working people. I wanted to be in the thick of it. This is a struggle without borders. Folks are flocking to Wisconsin from all over joining the tens of thousands of Wisconsin protesters, because that's how Americans have always protected our rights.

But there is a randonneuring connection for me. The randonneur who has taught me the most about randonneuring, and mostly on lonely wooded lanes during the middle of brevets and often at night, is a public sector worker. He told me about his job in the way we randonneurs do on a brevet when it's just us two. I think he and others like him are nothing short of public heroes. There just aren't many people who choose to be Special Education School Teachers in the public school system. Could you do it? Could Wisconsin Governor Walker do it?

All my life I have relied on public sector workers: teachers, of course, but also health care workers, garbage collectors, snow plowers, street workers, social service workers, tax collectors, city planners, engineers, NASA employees, the Armed Forces, forest and other natural environment protectors, letter carriers and mail handlers, food safety inspectors, parks employees, transportation workers, and police and firefighters. Apologies to all those I haven't called out here.

Where would I be without them?

This struggle has been ongoing for a long time. But the rhetoric has changed dramatically. Corporations, and in this case their Republican governors and state legislators, are blaming public sector workers for our current financial woes.

So yes, when I got the call to go to Wisconsin I took it as my very minor paying back for all the good that I have received from our collective endeavor we call democratic government and the people we hire to make that endeavor work. Damn right I'll go and protect their right to bargain collectively for their wages, hours and working conditions. I don't know a one of them that is getting rich working for...well, ultimately, working for me.

Now as to the reason for all this brinkspersonship, I think we must analyze root causes.

Does Wisconsin Governor Walker think everyone has forgotten the housing crisis that was a direct result of unfettered and unregulated greed: derivatives and the making of fortunes for a few at the expense of millions who are losing, or are in danger of losing, their homes? Or the resulting tanking of our overall economy and the acommpanying stubborn and painful unemployment? Or the serious decline in corporate taxes that are contributed to state coffers due to tax loopholes and such? Or the decline in the percentage of taxes paid by the wealthier?

Scapegoating is an old tactic, and it seems that public sector workers are now being set up to be the goat so that we'll turn away from sensible ideas like re-regulating the financial industry, closing unwarranted corporate tax loopholes, and investing in ourselves, our infrastructure and our future.

Well, we'll see. Governor Walker has been caught on tape acknowledging that he and others had considered bringing in troublemakers. The Governor of a state admits to considering bringing in agents provocateur? The American people don't cotton to elected officials who conspire or stoop to pretense.

The fact of the matter is that the Wisconsin public worker unions have agreed to all of the Governor's economic demands so that he will get his balanced budget, even though as I say they are not to blame. But to continue to insist on eliminating their rights to collective bargaining is going just way too far.

I'll have more to say about this soon (hopefully from Wisconsin), but there is another randonneuring connection. My orders to fly to Wisconsin included the following phrase: "be advised to pack warm clothes and coats !!!" I could have figured that out, but you know where my mind went: wool randonneuring clothing, baby!

Wool upper undies, CHECK!
Wool lower undies, CHECK!
Wool cap, CHECK!
Wool balaclava, CHECK!
Wool mittens with fingerless option, CHECK!
Wool glove liners, CHECK!
Wool socks, CHECK!
Wool arm warmers, CHECK!
Wool knee warmers, CHECK!
Wool iconic blue Seattle Randonneurs long-sleeved cycling jeresey...well, I think I'll keep our cycling club out of it.

In the meantime, let's take a hard look at the decline in tax revenue from corporations due to unwarranted tax loopholes that don't generate jobs. Let's remember why we're in this financial morass. And let's not let the downturn turn us into self-haters. It is We, the People, after all, not We, the Corporations.

Keep it united,


Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Times They Are a Changin'

The times aren't really changin'. It's the sunlight at the particular times that's changin', and boy, you can really feel it now. As Dr Codfish told us Northwesterners at the beginning of this past weekend, we had great weather. Translated, that means it was sunny!

When it's dark and gloomy, a few more minutes of end-of-the-day light goes unnoticed. But when it shines, it's great, and you're reminded of how much later it remains light.

On Monday night (Presidents Day), I took off from the house at 4:30pm and returned just before 6:30pm. It was light until just near the end of the ride. I'd have never done that same ride a month ago. It wasn't like that soft, sultry June evening ride at 9:30pm, but it was delightful.

And that got me to thinking about how it was February 21, this evening ride of mine. When is it that our time springs ahead again? I know they've been messing with that (in our favor) for a while. And guess when it is this year?

March 13!

Yippee!! And the first day of Spring is March 20. Wow, this is getting great.

And on Presidents Day, the day of my evening ride, it was exactly 180 days until Paris Brest Paris. The clock is ticking, and the days are thickening!

I guess the times they are a changin'...on March 13, ready or not. I, for one, will be ready to spring ahead!

Chart courtesy of Wiki.

Keep it changin'


Monday, February 21, 2011

Training with LSD: Long Slow Distance

Joe Henderson wrote a treatise in 1969 promoting the promise of running long and slow and for long distances. Go slow to get fast was the idea. That's Joe, above, from his website where you can find his treatise--complete with a revised Introduction--all in one place.

Wikipedia summarizes the theory thusly:

Long slow distance (LSD) is a form of aerobic endurance training in running and cycling.[1][2] Physiological adaptations to LSD training include improved cardiovascular function, improved thermoregulatory function, improved mitochondrial energy production, increased oxidative capacity of skeletal muscle, and increased utilization of fat for fuel.[1] Ernst van Aaken (1910–1984), a German physician, is generally recognized as the founder of the long slow distance method of endurance training.

The theory certainly has its detractors, but I like the notion of fewer injuries and focusing on the enjoyment of one's sport rather than the pain-for-gain approaches. I'm not saying it's for everyone and certainly not claiming any proficiency about training, but I do assert it is an attractive approach.

One of the runners that Joe writes about is Tom Osler, about whom I posted here a while back. As with Tom, I was turned onto to Joe Henderson by Ian Jackson, but again, that is a story for another day.

Given that I'm of a certain age, I also enjoy the context of Joe's writing. It was a time of change, rethinking, and shatterings of the status quo. It's refreshing to me to capture that sense of all thing's possible again. Not that Joe gets into that, more that if you went through any of that time you can catch a whiff of it. Those times were certainly a counterpoint to today's days of retraction.

Joe, like Tom, writes about endurance running, but all is applicable to endurance cycling, at least I think that's true.

I'm also just now getting into this book that came out in 2007 titled Base Building for Cyclists: A New Foundation for Endurance and Performance by Thomas Chapple. He also argues that if you build your anaerobic system up by going hard all the time, you do so at the expense of your aerobic system. This is too bad, he says, because you can build and build and build your aerobic capacity over years. And once you do that, you train your body to burn fat, so that when you really need to burn carbs for anaerobic performance you've got some available to burn.

Or at least that's how I'm getting it. My response is to go even slower instead of striving harder. At least for now as I work to build that base. Again, remember I am a neophyte when it comes to all this training stuff, so use your own judgment.

Keep it challenging, but slow, man, slow,


Saturday, February 19, 2011

I, Cyclist, Go for a Run to Cross Train Again

Here's our crew, my son Mike, DartreDame and SingingCyclist at the World Wraps after our respective runs. Dartre did the most she's done. The SingingCyclist had a fine run, and Mike and I did a walk/run combo to ease me into running.

What a beautiful, sunny day we had in Seattle today. Game night with the VARK's this evening!

According to the chart on introducing running into a cyclist's base training, I'll be doing 50% running with my walking next week.

Mike and I got new running shoes at Jock and Jill's so we toured around the Green Lake area. All the Seattlite's (two and four-legged) were out for a shot of Vitamin D today. Lovely.

Keep it sunnified,


Thursday, February 17, 2011

I, Cyclist, Go for a Run to Cross Train

I did it! I ran!

All that talk with Duane Wright on my recent 300k and running inspiration from DartreDame got me out there running along Lake Washington. And it was good.

I liked the freedom, and the physicality of moving different muscles than I'm used to moving.

I won't go into all the reasons why cross training is alleged to be so good for athletes excepting the most popular: injury prevention. That alone is a pretty good one, but if you'd like to read a little more:

A few of my previous posts about cross training opportunities:

Wow, I had no idea I'd drilled down into this cross training idea so much. Problem is looking at that list, the only ones I have done more than a few times of late are the ones that have to do with firewood and double as chores.

Well, at least I keep my aspirations crossed and varied.
Photo courtesy of Wiki.

Keep it injury-free,

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

My Valentine: Our Cross Training Coach

My Valentine, Pramila Jayapal, with my second-favorite Cross Training Coach, Cornel West.

My Valentine is of course my wife, Pramila, also known here as DartreDame.

I call her our Cross Training coach because she trains us to synthesize what we might initially believe are disparate disciplines into a greater whole. Take her Seattle P-I column published today titled The Root Causes of Immigration. In it she links poverty, the North American Free Trade Agreement or NAFTA, agriculture, global and village economics, immigration, unionization, and our very humanity...because in fact they all are linked. I commend this column to you with enthusiasm. There is nobody putting this all together like she does.

Many find Pramila's writings, speeches and organizing inspiring. And it truly is. This ability to translate what's going on, break it down and put it back into a whole that causes folks to act with passion for the greater good is a unique gift. It is Cross Training Coaching.

But, since she's my Valentine, Dartre's also my inspiration. And for me, Dartre inspires in many ways far removed from this cross training of our intellects with our souls I've just been alluding to.

Her latest inspiration for me comes out of her recent taking up of running. It's been a trip sharing the running pains--of all kinds--that she's been dealing with as a re-athlete, much as I have had to deal with in my re-athleticism via cycling and randonnering. But every day Dartre runs, she comes back more excited, rejuvenated, committed. It is fun to be around.

So it got me to thinking...maybe I should incorporate some running into my cycling base training. No sooner did I get to thinking that very thought than I turned the page in the current book I'm reading, Base Building for Cyclists by Thomas Chapple. What did I find? Nothing other than a chart for cyclists who want to begin adding running into a cross training program.

Very practical. And humbling. Check out how slooowly Chapple encourages you to go. A whole lot of walking before ever really running much. Probably smart advice.

Well, truth be told, she did inspire me, but I haven't run at all yet. I think I'll start tomorrow. OK, by the chart that means it will be walk 5, run 3-5, walk 5, run 5. OK, got it. I'll report back later on how it went.

I am very proud of my Valentine. She is taking on tough stuff. Convincing a world that barely ever pauses that we better take stock and take action for our collective welfare. And, she's conquering her own inertia by taking stock and taking running action. Both are inspiring.

Now, I just have to keep an eye on Cornel West. He sure is holding my Valentine pretty darn close. If he weren't my second-favorite Cross-Training Coach, I'd be worried!

For more on Pramila and the organization she founded and leads, see the OneAmerica website.

Photo by Jack Storms. Check them out, great Seattle photographers!

Keep it crossed,


Sunday, February 13, 2011

There's Moles in Them Thar Hills!

According to the Seattle Times, moles will fill every available piece of likely mole habitat in the Northwest no matter what we do. And that's OK with me.

And more than that, moles are hundreds of times more powerful--relatively speaking--than our ginormous tunnel boring machines we're currently employing here for light rail tunneling and sewer tunneling purposes.

Wow! And, do you know what a group of moles is called? A labor of moles, of course. I posted here a while back about our clever names for various animal groups, and this one is new to that list. As a union organizer, I'm particularly fond of "a labor of moles". Nice ring to it.

For a graphic about moles and how they compare to our massive tunnel boring machines (one of which got stuck and was abandoned by the contractor) check out this link.

Dave Pehling of the Washington State University Extension Office in Everett, is a mole expert. Both photos courtesy of the Seattle Times.

When I was a kid I remember finding a nest of moles in a little crevice up against our foundation wall. Perfect little hairless digging machines. Cute in their laboriously moley way!

Is there an animal counterpart to the bicycle?

Keep it underground,


Friday, February 11, 2011

2011 Paris Brest Paris 300k Qualifier, Check!

I just finished the Oregon Randonneurs Winter Grab Bag 200k/300k Brevet last weekend, and I have a few observations. First, the picture above is of longtime randonneur, Duane Wright and his trusty fixed gear Peugeot as I dropped him off after we finished our 300k brevet.

Here are my observations:
  • Good thinking on scheduling a 300k so early!
  • Why on earth would you put the 200k folks finishing up in the same room with the 300k folks trying to gird their loins for the last 100k? Just kidding, it was cool, but it did test my resolve! Good PBP practice.
  • Great route idea of three 100k-ish loops all starting and ending at the motel. Perfect for drop bag convenience on a winter day.
  • Fabulous food and drink plying.
  • Great spirit of encouragement and conviviality!
  • Thanks for keeping the potentially really nasty weather away. Looking back, I feel guilty for cursing the wind at one point when I ponder how bad it could have been.
  • Marcello and his family were fabulous hosts who understood our needs and anticipated meeting them!
  • I'm glad I've been doing my R-12.
  • Even though it is February still, the frogs were making serious love calls all day and night.
Now my observations about the gentleman with the Peugeot pictured above:
  • Duane first did PBP in 1995.
  • He runs marathons all the time.
  • He dances.
  • He is a photographer.
  • He is a great conversationalist concerned about the world and all others.
  • He likes to savor.
  • Duane did this 300k, and many other brevets, on his fixed gear bike.
  • I was clever enough to ask Duane to ride the final 100k with me before I left that warm motel room and ventured out once more into that dark night.
Truly, Duane was a delight to ride with. I had heard tales of Duane, and had gotten the gist of those stories about how he often uses all the allotted time for each brevet. But like all stories, they capture some of the truth, but miss other pieces. The only real point of deviation between Duane and me--and we realized this on the drive back to our mutual hometown of Seattle from Newberg, Oregon--was that on this particular Super Bowl Sunday, he hailed from Wisconsin and I was from Pittsburgh! Ah well. Congrats, Duane, your Packers bested my Steelers this day, but thanks for riding into and out of the night together. That's what I love about randonneuring.

And for the record, I now have my 300k PBP Qualifier in the checked box!!

For a sampling of Duane's own ride reporting, here's a link to a 600k pre-ride report from ten years ago! Damn near pre-Internet days.

Thanks again, Marcello, Susan and all you Oregon Randonneurs for your hospitality! And, thanks, Duane, for your companionship!

Keep it qualifying,


Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Randonneur Handlebar Bag Stiffener à la Dr. Codfish (and others)

I got the idea from The Dr Codfish Chronicles Blog by Paul Johnson, but others have been onto this coroplast idea too. Will de Rosset posted about building the handlebar bag itself from nylon with a coroplast top frame for stability while keeping it extremely light weight, and then my neighbor across the street, Dylan the blogger behind if i had a bike blog..., built up his very own coroplast handlebar bag together with his partner Grace. Beautifully constructed and finished! And of course, old reliable Kent Peterson has already posted on this subject with his artfully crafted coroplast handlebar bag.

No way I was going to go that far, but I did have a hankerin' for stiffening up my Gilles Berthoud bag for the same sag-prevention reasons that Dr Codfish outlines. I love my bag stiffener, and it was a fun little project.

See that little gap between the white coroplast liner and the canvass of the bag in the right side of the photo above (the front of the bag)? I discovered last weekend it is the perfect new pocket into which I can slip my little plastic bag containing my brevet card! With this arrangement, any time I get the obsession to look "one more time" to make certain I still have my brevet card I can scratch that niggling obsessive itch. Very satisfying!

I also really like the way it brightens up the interior of the bag for finding little lost items.

Here you can see that I bolted right through the coroplast with the decalear-mounting bolts.

This is a photo of a Gilles Berthoud decaleur from the Peter White website.

Thanks, Dr Codfish, Dylan & Grace, and Will! Also, all you other unknown-to-me coroplastic pioneers. I may not be an early adopter, but I do know a good idea when I see one. And all these stiffening benefits without the need of any prescription. Positively stimulating!

For other posts about handlebar bags and their racks, please see:

Keep it stiff,


Monday, February 7, 2011

Fendies on my Fixie

The top photo is a close-up of the component parts of the "Spring Thing" I bought from Velo Orange to help convert my old Fuji fixed gear from 700c to 650B. As you can see in the second photo (from the Velo Orange website), this contraption allows for the proper installation of the rear fender on horizontal dropouts by allowing for adjusting the distance from the front of the rear fender to the chainstay bridge. Also, one can install a wheel where otherwise there is little clearance by pushing the fender forward a little. Clever.

Clearly, you could build up your own "Spring Thing" yourself, but I hadn't even thought of it until I saw the Velo Orange "Spring Thing".

Here, you can see the "Spring Thing" in service.

Here is the rear wheel now properly fendered.

Front Wheel.

Now, I just need to figure out a new rack/brake interface. Not quite happy there.

Keep it springy,


Saturday, February 5, 2011

Water, Water Everywhere...But Is It Safe to Drink?

This Katadyn "My Bottle" purifying water bottle was given to me by a thoughtful coworker. She had meant to give it to me before I left for India, but I boogied before she could.

But my mind quickly went back to a cyclo-touring trip DartreDame and I did a year and a half ago in Eastern Oregon. The guidebooks and map indicated that we could get water at the campgrounds, but not so fast succotash. No such water!

It led to landing a story from a bunch of Elk hunters about their encounter with a nearby Wolf pack. We got this story when I asked them for water for our bottles.

But this bottle solves that issue because there were countless streams we crossed and soaked our bandannas in for cooling purposes. And what about on certain brevets?

Interesting possibilities. Probably weighs more than the SteriPen, but doesn't depend on batteries. Dependable. I like that. I see experimentation in my future.

Keep it pure,


Thursday, February 3, 2011

Don't Forget Pune!

This photo is from another Indian randonneuring blog appropriately titled: Randonneuring in India. It is about the adventures of the Pune-based randonneurs. As has been pointed out to me, it was the Pune riders who pulled off India's first brevet and not the Bangalore folks. For more on the city of Pune, see this Wiki site.

I will not be drawn into this rivalry, but as you'll see from their website, the Pune randonneurs are a hardy bunch and riding in true rando style. Lots of big smiles with a sprinkling of dazed faraway looks. Very familiar!

OK, I will be drawn in to this extent: the Bangalore folks claim they have the most active cycling scene in India. I'll let them all take it from here. In any event, they are all building the cycling community in a nation of over a billion folks!

Keep it rivalrous,


Tuesday, February 1, 2011

A Curious New Banner, Part 2!

I forgot the most important part of yesterday's post about my new blog banner: Aaliyah's website, so you can see the variety of her work. Above is a piece from her Heart collection.

Please do check out her website here. To see my post that has more of her work, a little bit about Aaliyah, and about my new Curious Randonneur blog banner, go here.

Keep it pumping,