Friday, December 9, 2016

Pondering Location and Home

I am currently on a last minute trip to provide assistance to relatives in California. The trip has mostly been about manual labor (something my body rebels against, yet I seem to always find myself involved in somehow), but there have been a few moments to slip away to find some reflection and recovery time. I've made trips to this location many times over the last several years and grew up not far from the area, but I've noticed on this particular visit that there are more cyclists on the roads than I've taken note of in the past.

The weather is cool here in this area (cooler than I remember for the time of year, if I'm honest), but still far warmer than it is presently at home in Colorado, so I can't help but wonder if this is a usual occurrence and I've just not noticed it in the past, or perhaps it's more to do with not being in the area often enough during this time of year.
I never seemed to have a camera handy when the cyclists went by, but I managed to catch this fellow riding a couple of days ago.
As I've found time to slip away, I've taken note of the large number of people on bicycles. At first, I was simply noticing commuters on the roads, likely using the bicycle as transportation. Then, I noticed what appeared to be individuals out on more of sport, group rides, and most recently I came in contact with several, separately traveling, touring cyclists with bicycles loaded up. Each were dressed a bit differently, but this is one of the few parts of the country where I don't find it odd seeing a cyclist in shorts and sleeveless shirt in December. It's making me dread my return home to below freezing temperatures and snow!

It's amazing to me how cycling infrastructure has changed in this small community as well. Each time I return, I notice more bicycle lanes or find new paved trails. As is the case in many areas, I did note that several of these paths or trails tend to end abruptly and without warning, causing me to wonder why the municipality didn't continue to pave the path for cyclists. Perhaps it is in the works and if I were to come back in a year's time, things would look different yet again.
This trail was fantastic, but ends just around the bend at a signal and forces riders out onto the busy road with motorized traffic.
Unfortunately, I don't think I'll have that opportunity. My family that is living in this area is preparing for a move out of state in the spring, so I likely won't have reason to visit this small community again.

Between this trip and a recent e-mail conversation with a reader, I've been pondering the things that make a community "right" for an individual. I've always loved this area because of the mild climate, and seeing more cycling infrastructure come alive causes me to appreciate this community all the more. When I was growing up, it was a very small farm community and few people actually lived here, but it has grown and changed, and I appreciate the changes that have taken place. It makes me want to live here.

Of course, there is bad to consider here as well. For instance, this area has been particularly hard hit by the California drought and has seen little in the way of rain, even though both southern and northern California have had a bit of relief with some periodic rain. Additionally, it's an expensive place to live, particularly for a community that has little in the way of providing income. The people who survive seem to be 1) farmers, 2) entrepreneurs, 3) independently wealthy, or 4) retirees who moved to the area before it got outrageously costly. I can't help but wonder what people do to make a living when they don't fit into the above categories (and they do exist). I suppose living anywhere is possible, and there is always give and take.

If I were to pick out my ideal community to live in, I think about the qualities I would want it to possess. Things like cycling infrastructure/bicycle friendly businesses and access are high on the list, as is the ability to earn a living, cost of housing and cost of living in general, temperate climate, friendly and open residents, dog friendliness (I take my pooches just about everywhere with me), and the list could go on.

As each year passes, I also realize that I likely have limited time to share with older family members, and a part of me always wants to be closer so that visiting isn't so infrequent. So, I begin to ponder the idea of following those that leave and wonder if there is a happy point that meets somewhere between my idealized mental list and absolutely none of the items I would want in a city or community.

So, I find myself posing the questions to you, reader. How do you feel and what do you think about your chosen home location. Where do you live, and what do you like about your community? Is it small or large... or somewhere in between? Did you grow up in the area or move to your current home town in adulthood? What keeps you in your community? Have you visited other communities that you prefer over your own? What prevents you from moving? I would love to hear about other places around the country (and even outside of the country) and how you and/or your family arrived or chose your place of residence. Meanwhile, I'd better get back to work!

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Happy Thanksgiving!

On a recent Flickr hunt to find a specific photo taken several years ago, I came to a conclusion that I hadn't realized until the evidence was right in front of me. Apparently, I have a "spot" in which I like to stop to take photos while out riding. I'm sure it's not as uncommon as it may initially have seemed to me, but I found it interesting that with nearly every bicycle I've owned (that wasn't used only as an around-town bicycle), I have stopped to take a photo at some point in almost the exact same location.
This photo originally stood out because everything seemed so green for the time of year.
It could be proximity to home (the location is only about 8mi/13km away), making it an easy stop off spot on most routes, or perhaps it's simply that I am drawn to something in that particular area that causes me to veer off and stop. I tend to shy away from routine, so it rather surprised me that I have developed an unconscious but regular habit of stopping in this spot - for whatever reason seems to grab me in the moment.
When I came upon this picture of the Velo Orange, I realized it was the same spot I'd stop with the Crown Jewel above to take a photo.
I suppose it's true of many things in life though. It's easy to develop routines without even realizing it's taking place. The older I get, the more I realize it's a part of life and unless I remain vigilant and aware, I can easily fall into habits - whether they are positive, negative, or neutral. Sometimes though, I cannot help but wonder if routine is really so bad.
The water was disappearing from the lake in this picture, but it is, once again, the same spot I'd stopped for so many other photos.
With Thanksgiving upon us, I understand that it is the start of the holiday season for us in the United States. Some look forward to it with great anticipation, while others dread these final weeks of the year for a variety of reasons. I think most of us have traditions or routines that we expect during this season though, and I find myself very aware of my own expectations and habits.
This looks like a different location, but it's actually just a few feet around the corner from the same spots photographed above.
Today, for example, I baked pies in anticipation of Thanksgiving. This year, it was decided that pumpkin and apple were the flavors of choice. We, in our household, do not have a "usual" for this holiday, with the exceptions of making a few homemade pies and having a good workout at some point in the day. I have always enjoyed that our tradition is non-traditional, but it seems that we have still managed to find ways to sneak the expected into our routine.
Not the pretties of apple pies, but it smells good! :)
It has reached a point today that our non-traditional drill has become the tradition and routine of our home, so, even trying to bypass the expected habits we have inadvertently created our own, making a different-from-some-others holiday, yet still somehow routine. It may not be the same as others will celebrate, but I love our developed-over-the-years traditions, and I look forward to getting on a bicycle at some point during the day, even if it's just to wander the unusually empty roads.

Wherever your Thanksgiving finds you, and whatever traditions (or not) you may have, I hope you find enjoyment and peace and that you are able to celebrate, if only for a few minutes, on a bicycle. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours from the Endless Velo Love household!

Monday, November 7, 2016

Flung from a Bicycle

Recently, both Sam and I have struggled to find time to do much of anything outside of daily requirements. While Sam usually takes his bicycle to work (and occasionally rides to work though it's a bit far, but doable if planned), lunch time riding has become a necessity in order to keep his cycling legs. He's able to get in 20-ish miles during his break and not have concerns about riding in the dark when he arrives home.

I am always a bit anxious about Sam's rides because of the amount of motorized traffic on the roads surrounding his work location and the lack of sufficient shoulders or bike lanes to use. He has made his peace with the situation and doesn't seem to mind it, but has told me on more than one occasion about close-call situations with drivers. I'm always thankful that he's paying attention, but in the back of my mind, I cannot help but be concerned that one moment of inattentiveness could result in his injury.

On one of his work rides recently, Sam was pedaling at about 25mph/40kph when he was abruptly thrown from his bicycle.
Thankfully, grass was there to somewhat cushion Sam's tumble... after which he skidded across the sidewalk below.
He felt a bump and then his tire hit the curb while he went over the handlebars and (thankfully) onto some grass, after which he skidded across a sidewalk on his right shoulder.

As he described the tale upon his return home, he assured me that no one had hit him, but when he went to check the road to see what had happened, he noticed that there was a large chunk of asphalt sitting on top of the asphalt that he simply hadn't seen while riding on the road. 
Although it is a small bit of crumbled cement pictured here, the rubble was actually a large chunk when it was hit.
The thinner tires of the bicycle just weren't able to kick the debris out of the way, which resulted in the above debacle.

The next morning, Sam was concerned that he had possibly broken something, so he went in for x-rays and an exam and was told that nothing was fractured (again, thankfully), but he had partially torn some of the muscle around his shoulder. He was and still is quite sore, but he will heal and be back on the roads again without much delay.

What troubled me most about this tale was another matter that has been left out thus far. As Sam recounted his story to me, he mentioned that another cyclist had been riding not far behind him, certainly close enough to have witnessed the scene that had just transpired. But, instead of stopping to help or even to ask a quick, 'Are you okay?' the other rider opted to just pedal by without a word.

I have always felt a certain unspoken camaraderie among other people on bicycles. Knowing that we on bicycles are all at a disadvantage when it comes to direct contact with 2-ton motorized machines and often insufficient roadway for riding, I cannot imagine watching the above scenario play out in front of me and then pedaling away as if nothing had transpired. True, Sam was not hit by anyone, but the other rider must have watched as a body was flung from his bike and skidded across the sidewalk.

To turn a blind eye and leave without a word is reprehensible. Even if I had been driving a car or walking by I would have stopped to check on the individual (for the record, there were no cars or pedestrians in the vicinity at the moment of impact). It's simply a basic human response though (or at least that's what I used to think) to check on an individual who is potentially injured. We don't abandon people who may be severely wounded or have head trauma on the side of the road. It doesn't matter if we have the ability to physically assist with a wound or not.

When I think about what could have happened to Sam, how severely he could have been injured, I become more than a little perturbed that another human could leave an injured person and think nothing of it. While I understand that riding during lunch hours is a common occurrence and often people are under time constraints to get back to their jobs, there is no excuse for not having some sort of interaction to ensure that Sam was well enough to get where he needed to go.

After the crash, Sam's front tire/tube had suffered from the impact, and he walked the bicycle the few miles back to his office. Surprisingly, other than the burst tube and no-longer-functional front tire, the bike escaped pretty unscathed. I was thankful that he was on a steel frame rather than his usual aluminium option because I'm not sure it would've withstood the impact as well, and may have caused even more harm to Sam in the process of the crash.

I suppose more than anything, this instance reminded me that we are all fragile. Although Sam came home from his hospital visit proclaiming that he is indestructible, I think he was actually lucky to have escaped an unfortunate mishap with an injury that will heal fairly quickly. I'd like to think that the lack of interaction from the other cyclist was a one-time occurrence, but I've witnessed other instances over the last year during which people on bicycles have ignored someone on the side of the road and I am hoping this is not a trend for the future.

What about you? Have you ever witnessed an accident involving someone else on a bicycle? Did you stop or proceed on? Have you ever been injured while riding? Did anyone stop to check on your well being? 

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Oh, Yeah... I Still Have a Blog

Today, I woke up remembering that I have a blog that has been neglected. Rest assured, my inattention is (mostly) unintentional. Thank goodness this space isn't a small child or animal. My goal over the next few weeks is to actually work on a couple of posts. There are just some things that have been lingering in my mind or that I've wanted to share, but as usual, life has taken on too much of my attention and having an opportunity to simply think for more than a few minutes is rare.
*Image from Etsy... It's a currently available palette knife painting, if you're interested.
Locally, we've also been blessed with an actual, for real, autumn season (I'm not sure I've seen this more than one other time during our near-14 years in Colorado). We've seen no snow - at least not here on the range below the mountains, and even rain has been scarce. It's a strange feeling to experience 80F degree days at the end of October because usually snow begins quite early, and almost always at this juncture we've seen the white powder glistening on our roads and roofs more than once. Snowboarders are off crying in a corner, but I've found it quite enjoyable - and necessary - for some things I've needed to get done outdoors. I'm hoping it hangs on just a bit longer so that I can complete the necessary tasks and then the boarders can have their pow pow

Anyway, I did want to put up a quick request; well, actually, I have two. 

First, I don't care to get political here in this space, but I just want to remind everyone in the U.S. to go and vote this election. I am highly concerned about this one in particular as it has to be one of the most disconcerting I've witnessed in my lifetime, but for those who like to constantly state that "your vote doesn't count," I would just like to say that people have fought hard to have the ability to vote and there are many individuals across the world who would welcome the opportunity to have his/her voice heard in an election. So, take a few minutes to learn about local ballot measures, and certainly take more than a few minutes to learn about the presidential candidates, and then cast your vote.

The second request is also in regard to voting, and this one will really take just a few seconds of your time. In fact, it will take longer to read the paragraphs below this than to offer your vote.

Locally, there is an organization that assists the homeless on our streets. They provide varying sorts of assistance from helping with temporary housing, clothing, and so on. I have a friend who also recently started a program to give bicycles to those on the streets. She gets community members and businesses to donate used mountain bikes or parts and then has other volunteers assemble and tune the bikes. The organization then locates individuals who can use the bikes for transportation and sets them up with lights, locks and so on.

This organization (H.O.P.E. - Homeless Outreach Providing Encouragement) is currently in the running to receive a $7,000 grant from First Western Trust. They are in the finalist stage, but they need votes in order to win the grant, and they have some catching up to do in numbers. If you would be so kind as to take a second and click here, you can help them reach their goal of getting some assistance to support their new sheltering service.

You can vote once per day every day until November 10, so if you vote today, you can go back and vote again tomorrow and so on, and you can also help by getting friends and family to take a moment to go and cast a vote for HOPE. It doesn't matter where you are in the world - every vote really does count.
*Image from HOPE. You can vote by clicking here and selecting HOPE
When you arrive on the voting page, it will ask you to enter your name and email address (I have not received any spam from this - I believe it's just to ensure that no one is voting multiple times in a day). Then, just scroll the page and look for HOPE (it's a purple logo, like the one shown above) and mark the box. You may get a pop-up asking for your phone number, but you don't need to enter anything in that box for your vote to count.

I appreciate you taking the time to help this worthwhile organization! I'd also love to hear how autumn riding is going for everyone out there, so, let's chat in the comments when you have time.

Friday, September 30, 2016

It's Not You, It's Blogger

Just a quick note. It seems that Blogger is having a major issue that started yesterday and has knocked out a lot of blog-roll lists. I did not remove this feature, so I apologize if anyone uses this as a means to keep up to date on reading other blogs.

If you were on the list and are now not, or if you can help me recall any of the missing blogs (or if you weren't on the roll but would like to be added), please let me know because I cannot recall many of the blogs that were there and I stupidly did not keep links anywhere beyond that list. There are a handful that I was able to recall, but I'm sure it's going to take a bit to get them all back.

Thanks for your patience (and in advance for your assistance with getting things back where they belong)!

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Barn Burner 2016: A Lone Cowboy

******As mentioned recently, Sam raced in the Leadville Series, Barn Burner MTB race in Flagstaff, Arizona. He has prepared his thoughts on matters before, during and after the race, but I couldn’t help but throw in a few thoughts from my end of things about 800 miles away. So, Sam’s thoughts are in regular type, while G.E.’s thoughts are in italics throughout the tale below to help make sense of the transitions from one person to the next. Additionally, there aren't a lot of photos since Sam was riding and therefore only took a few photos before the race, so the remainder are available courtesy of the photographers at the race.******

Tempting the gods, once again
If it hasn’t been clear, this year has been a wreck for me as far as the Leadville series goes. At the end of 2015, I entered the standard lottery (which is an opportunity for anyone to put his/her name and $15 in a virtual hat and take their chances with having their name pulled to be a participant in the Leadville Trail 100 in August without having to actually race as a qualifier).

My name was not chosen.

There used to be a couple of in-state options that were qualifiers for the LT100, but there is currently only one (unless a person wants to pay to play or do the stage race series just prior to the official race): the Silver Rush 50. This race takes place approximately 3-4 weeks prior to the LT100 and I had placed all my eggs in the SR50 basket. That race went okay, but I of course blew it when it came to the coin kickdown, realizing too late that the system rules had changed.

So, a couple of weeks prior to the Barn Burner, I decided I would try to shoot for the 2017 LT100 by racing in Flagstaff. There seems to be better odds at this race because there are fewer people, and fewer still who actually race the entire course. While I was at it, I figured I would do it single speed – because - why not?

Unfortunately, this trip would be a lone one because G.E. had to work and I had to head to Las Vegas the morning after the race. So, I made the drive solo. [G.E.’s Note: Beyond what is mentioned, we have not had the best luck on these trips taking our dogs either, so it was just easier to have Sam go on his own to ensure he’d actually get rest prior to the ride.]

The Barn Burner is a 4-lap, 100 mile race and gains about 8000 feet over the course. That is, for those who are racing the full course. There are other options for riders to do 4-person relays, 2-person relays, and partial course options.  None of these qualify a racer for a chance at Leadville, however, so I would be attempting the full course on my own.

Lap 1
We started the race in a “Le Mans” start, basically standing about ¼ mile from our bikes and then running to the bikes after the gun went off. This actually went better than I would’ve thought. No one was trampled and it allowed the herd to separate out a bit.
*Photo courtesy of Athlinks
I was blazing. Seriously, I was feeling good. The weather was perfect and it wasn’t anything like my last attempt at this race two years ago.

The start is rolling, but mostly downhill until about the 10-mile mark, at which point we had our first sustained, albeit short, climb. This was where I first encountered one of the other single-speed guys.

He was fast and leading in front of me, so I decided to take advantage of this and held his wheel. He had a nice, rigid, carbon-framed bike with a fat tire on the front.

He refused to interact with me.

I held his wheel until about mile 17, where the second, longer, sustained climb begins. For some reason, he backed off at this point and I went around him. He seemed to be looking at his heart rate monitor, but I couldn’t quite figure out why he’d slowed down.

Around mile 22, there is a very short, ultra steep climbing section before we begin a super long downhill. All I could think was that I knew where the guy I’d been tailing was and regardless of his position in the race, I needed to keep him behind me.

This worked well for about another mile until he suddenly appeared again and blew right past me, just before we finished up lap one.

Crap.

At any rate, lap one went well and I finished in sub-2 hours (1:49, more exactly), and I was starting to think I could roll the whole race in around 8 hours (ha, ha – such a foolish thought!).

At this point, I was just sitting down in front of the computer to take a look at where Sam stood in the pack of racers. Even though I wasn’t able to travel with Sam, I was free during the actual race time, so I wanted to try to keep an eye on things as the series has set up an online system that allows people to see where racers stand after each lap. It’s not ideal, but it at least gave me some idea of where he was during the race.

As I checked in, I could see that Sam had come in at under two hours for the first lap and he was in fourth place in the single speed division.  Not too shabby, I thought. 

Then, another thought slipped into my head… Sam could actually place and get on the podium. Wow! That had never even been a remote possibility in past races, but I didn’t want to jinx things, so I let the thought go quickly.
*Photo courtesy of Athlinks
Lap 2
Reality bites. I didn't stop at the start/finish aid station. I figured I could hit the alternate option out at the half way point on the course. Shortly after I passed through I realized I had lost my second water bottle. I seem to have a real issue with this because of my small frame and the fact that my second mount is placed under the downtube, so I often lose bottles on rocky descents. I should have stopped, but it was too late now.

At this point, I was still chasing the fat-front-tire, single speed guy (To this point, I had seen no others), and he was still strong. However, we were all slowing down.

We went through the couple of sustained climbs, rocky downhill, and a quick rest stop. Then, back to the super short, nasty uphill.

We arrived to the same spot where fat-front-tire had nailed me on the last lap and he backed off again. I took advantage and poured it on as much as I could without having gears or much energy. We were now about 45 miles in and the temperature weather-wise was starting to heat up. Again, I thought to myself that I had to keep him behind me and I couldn't stop unless I really, really had to.

At about this point, Sam's mom and I were conversing via e-mail and virtually watching in our respective locations for Sam to come in from lap two. I was sharing that if he was able to speed up just a bit over lap two, that he could move into third place, which would give him a spot in Leadville next year without having to sit through the after-race lottery to see if he'd get a spot.

However, the big problem was that no one was there at the race to tell Sam that he was so close to moving into third place, and therefore he would have no idea where he was in the standings. I tried to explain that this is what is so difficult about going alone and that all we could do is just hope that he did his best. 

I ended lap 2 at just over 2 hours, making the half-way finish time about 3:55. I was still on-track to finish sub-8 hours (at least in theory). I knew that in reality I needed to be further ahead than I was though in order to make the 8 hour estimate, so my guess was that it just wasn't going to happen. I could just tell at that half way point. Plus, the temperatures had warmed and I had only one bottle, not to mention I had not ridden my single speed mountain bike at all this year.

As I waited, watching the monitor to see when Sam would come in, results suddenly updated. Sam was in THIRD! I cried. Not a bawling sort of cry, but an out-of-happiness-slightly-teary kind of cry. I was so happy to see that he was able to move up into the third spot and started to think again that he really had a chance of qualifying for Leadville without the trickle down from the lottery pull at the end of the race. I just wished that I was there so that I could tell him that he had moved into third place and to encourage him to keep moving. I was nearly certain that he had no idea where he stood, which could mean trouble as he became more tired toward the end of the race.
*Photo courtesy of Athlinks
Lap 3
I hadn't seen fat-front-tire guy, but I kept thinking that I didn't want to stop and give him an opportunity to pass me again.

The course was becoming all-too-familiar. In some ways, it's nice to know what is approaching, but in others it is very draining to know what I'm in for as I continually looped around this course.

At the half way aid station, I made a single, frantic stop to refill and then kept rolling. Shortly after pedaling away, I saw a new-to-me single speed competitor, and he was strong!

We spoke briefly and mused about gear ratios before he took off and passed me easily near the end of the third lap.

I had things to do during the day, so I wasn't plastered to the monitor all day. I had an idea of how long each lap was going to take Sam, so I could step away and do the tasks I needed and come back to check on him at about the every-two-hour mark. I knew he would slow down for each lap more than likely, based on prior races, but there's always that little part of me that thinks somehow he will speed up. Of course, deep down, I know how tired he would be and that the same is true for most anyone as the race goes on. The pace, in reality, is going to slow.

As I waited for third lap results, I hoped that Sam was able to keep his position, or possibly even move up. When the second place person came in and I saw that it wasn't Sam, I just hoped he'd be able to maintain the third spot.
End of lap 3 finish times and standings. I will point out that the number one single speeder was ridiculously fast! He had already finished as the rest were starting their final lap.
I quickly saw that Sam had dropped out of third and back into fourth, but he was only 34 seconds behind for that lap. Agh! I wished more than ever that I could get to Sam to tell him that he was SO CLOSE and not to give up on the final lap. But, all I could do was wait and hope that he had some inclination as to where he was in standings.

Lap 4
Don't stop to pee. I kept telling myself that, but I had to stop.

Some way, some how, the other single speed guy was behind me (I wasn't sure how this happened). I took off from the aid station in the hope of keeping him near me (or behind me as was the case at the moment), but after a few miles near the middle of the lap, I knew there was no way to keep with him. He seemed so fresh!

As I would discover after the race, he was part of a duo racing single speed and was not my competition at all because he was riding half the course, so I was chasing him in vain.

Lap four continued without much drama. I was dead tired and as usual I didn't want to eat any more GU.

Come on, Sam. I know you can do it. I was actually talking aloud to the computer, as if it somehow controlled where Sam was and how quickly he was moving. I practiced telepathy skills. Sam often knows what I'm thinking when he's in front of me. Maybe he could hear me if I tried to will him to move faster? 

The dogs and I sat huddled around the screen. Daddy can do it, right? I asked them. They stared blankly, panting, but somehow, I want to believe, understanding that something was going on and that I was definitely waiting for something. They gave me their paws (retrievers seem to like to do this), as if offering some sort of comfort to me in my heightened state. Maybe it helped because I relaxed a bit and decided that no matter what, Sam had raced this course far better than in the past and that was something to be extremely proud of, no matter the results.

I came in to the finish with a time of 8:33, which was pretty much where I had mentally put myself finishing about two laps prior. But, I knew that sub-9 hours gave me a big belt buckle [G.E.'s Note: There are two belt buckles for this race. One is larger and is given to those who finish sub-9 hours, and the smaller one to those who finish in the course cut off time of 11 hours.], which was exciting.

There on the screen in front of me, the results updated and the number three spot had finished. Sadly, it wasn't Sam. My heart sunk a little, I have to admit. He had been so close and I couldn't help but feel guilty because if I had been able to be at the course, I could have told him where he stood and maybe it would've helped him stay motivated. 
I finished in fourth place for the single speed guys. Eleven minutes behind the number three finisher. Sadly, I didn't podium, but it was the closest I have ever been and an hour and a half improvement over my last Barn Burner race.

I called Sam as soon as I saw his finish time. I didn't know if he'd answer or even if he had coverage to accept a call, but I wanted him to know his finishing spot, if he hadn't been told yet. The phone went straight to voicemail. "I'm so proud of you!" I blubbered into the phone. "You did SO well!! You were very close to being third place, and at one point you were in third, but I know you gave it everything. If you get a chance, call me, but if not, I hope you get a spot in Leadville during the post-race ceremony."

Sam's mom sent a message a few moments later. 
"Sam's going to be so disappointed," it read. 
I replied, "Why? He did tremendously well! He finished fourth and nearly an hour and a half better than the last time. There would be no reason for him to be disappointed. He did awesome!" 
"But, he didn't get a spot in Leadville," she retorted.
"He's not out of the running yet," I said. "Give it time. He may still have his spot."

Funny enough, after I spoke to Sam, it wouldn't have mattered if he'd finished third or not because for this race, the only finisher in single speed who was guaranteed a spot in Leadville was the one who finished in first place. 
After-race drama 
Now, the real drama began. The conversations, listening to others, waiting - so much waiting - and eventually, we were all just wanting the awards ceremony to begin.

Pretty much everyone was finished with the race, but we were waiting on the "last ass" (Leadville Series name for the last person over the finish within the allotted time frame) to come through. This person rolled in just prior to 6pm and a couple more brave souls came in about 10 minutes later. I can't help but feel for people who are so close to finishing and just don't quite make it in the time frame.

I was in the beer garden area seated next to a 20-something guy, his dad, and some friends of theirs. It took me a moment to realize that one of the friends in this group was the guy in front of me who finished just prior in the single speed division. All of them had been talking a lot of smack for over an hour about other racers and their would-be LT100 corral positions, even though no one was even in yet and we were all in the same wait-for-the-lottery-pull boat. It's interesting that they wanted to celebrate their position when they weren't even into the race yet.

After the award ceremony started, they continued their smack talk, particularly in regard to women. It was all starting to get under my skin. [G.E.'s Note: While both Sam and I are both generally roll-with-it sort of people, Sam tends to remain quiet in these sort of instances, whereas I probably would've either said something smart-ass to these guys, or, if nothing else, been giving them some serious stink eye. Sam tends to take on a much subtler tactics. Which is why I'll never have to bail him out of jail for causing a raucous, and why it is far more likely that the opposite could potential be a real-life possibility if the situation had been reversed.]

The number three finisher was called up to the podium for the single speed division and I watched from my 4th place chair in the beer garden. It really wasn't bitterness I was feeling, but I wished that people had a bit more dignity and respect for others.

Drum roll
We finally get to the lottery portion of the awards and everyone who finished in under 11 hours, who did the full 100-mile course, and who wanted to try for the LT100 put their names on a tiny rip of paper and dropped them in a lost and found hat with the race director so that he could have someone pull names randomly. At least I was paying attention this time and didn't miss out on the opportunity to put my name in.

There were 25 slots left for the rest of us and there were about 50 or so people who had put their names in, so I figured that put me at somewhere around 50/50 odds of getting in.

Names started to be called. A number of people were getting in and everyone except for a couple of fools who put their names in the hat and then walked away were accepting the spots (The person has to be present to get a spot, so I'm not sure why they did this). Fifteen were left, then 10. My name hadn't been called. Then there were seven left. My odds were narrowing in. At number six, they butchered my name (as usual), but I was in. I had actually made it and this suffer fest had paid off.

A little after 9p, my phone rang. I don't think I even said hello. 

"Did you get in?" I asked frantically. I couldn't help it. I had been waiting for what felt like an eternity to hear if Sam had accomplished the second half of the goal with the Barn Burner race. "Yes," he finally said, and then Sam proceeded to fill me in on what had taken place. 

One of the most entertaining parts to me about the end is that the whole crew of guys I'd been listening to, including the number three single speed finisher I'd been sitting with earlier, all of them talking so much the whole evening, and not one of them made it into the LT100 through the Barn Burner. Which isn't to say that they won't get in, but it didn't happen at this race. A part of me couldn't help but think it was a bit of their shit-talking Karma coming back to them.

The only guys who made it in on single speed bikes were the number one finisher, who was untouchable the entire race because he was insanely fast, and me, the slow, short, old, hadn't-ridden-single-speed-all-year, no-name-bike guy with some eBay bargain Reynolds wheels. But I will take it.

Notes and Thoughts
This was a sad/lone trip during which I rented a room on Airbnb and didn't speak to humans for the majority of the time in Flagstaff, then had to immediately drive off to Las Vegas for work for four days, followed by the return drive home. It was a drain!

I have proven to myself  that I'm better on single speed during these endurance mountain bike races than when I'm geared. I seem to push myself more. There's also a part of me that enjoys being a bit of a spectacle because there aren't as many who do this.

It's ultra hard to know where I am in the standings during a race when I'm on my own. I much prefer having someone with me.

Chasing someone is super motivating, even when I'm not actually competing with them and I never actually see my true competitors.

Another race has come to an end. I think it was a great one to finish on this year, given the hiccups with racing this summer (There have been others beyond this series that haven't yet been documented here), so I'm so glad Sam was able to finish the season on a positive note, and I know he's looking forward to going back to Leadville in 2017. 

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Coffee, Pumpkin, & Bicycle Stuff

A random conglomeration of quick thoughts for today.

Coffeeneuring is close to starting. I attempt this every year and always concede half way through because, 1) I really can't have much caffeine in my day or I'm even crazier (and shakier) than usual; 2) I don't like to take every trip alone. So, if you're local and you have also wanted to try coffeeneuring, get in touch and perhaps we can meet up as a small group who'd like to explore local (or semi-local) coffee shops via bike through October and November. I have no stops particularly in mind, but there are many to choose from just in our local downtown area, or we could look at traveling a bit farther out of town too. I'm open - just get in touch and we can work out details.
We have a lot of pumpkin coming up in the garden (or at least, it's a lot to me having planted only one small seedling) and I'm curious if anyone has pumpkin recipes that you'd be willing to share?  I have a fantastic pumpkin pie recipe, but that's about where my use of pumpkin ends. I'm actually considering freezing it and using small amounts in dog food over winter, but it would be nice to use a bit more for us human-folk as well.
A couple of weeks ago I tweeted a photo of my bicycle basket with garden vegetables and melon that I was taking to friends around the city (I was about half way through when I took the above photo).
A word of caution to anyone else who may be transporting delicate fruits/vegetables by bike: If you use zip ties to attach your basket, you may want to line it with some type of protection before laying food on the bottom. I ended up with some decent sized chunks missing from the rind of the honeydew melon.  Fortunately, my garden-loving associates didn't mind the missing portion.

One might also note that I still have not done much to update the Campeur since it's build more than a year and a half ago (sans getting the correct rack, adding the enormous basket, as well as the quite handy panniers). Though I have been lazy with facilitating changes to make this poor bike less orphan-looking, I still think it is one of the best "inexpensive" bikes I have ever purchased. It's so utilitarian, functional, and easy to ride that I sometimes wonder how I ever lived without it. I am reminded that a good bike is a good bike, regardless of what it looks like.

Sam recently went and raced the Leadville series Barn Burner 104 in Flagstaff, Arizona in an attempt to qualify for next year's Leadville 100 MTB. Unfortunately, I couldn't make the trip with him this time, but he is in the process of writing up his thoughts on the race and how things went, so that will be shared here soon. Spoiler alert: He did fantastic, improving nearly an hour and a half from his last run at the Barn Burner. And, he did it this year on a single speed, so I'm even more impressed.

Working in the bike shop continues to be entertaining. I think I changed more tubes over the weekend than I have over the course of my entire life. I'll be an expert at ripping and replacing them in seconds before long, I have no doubt. I haven't decided if working in a shop is a blessing or a curse quite yet, but I am never lacking for entertainment. Customers are highly amusing and humorous, and several seem to want to steal my bikes (which I take as a compliment, certainly).

I hope your late summer riding has been enjoyable. I'm looking forward to some slightly cooler weather as we begin the count to the end of the year. Happy riding!