Sunday, December 30, 2007

END OF YEAR RIDE

Went 'cross bike riding with Mark Peterson, athlete and sponship dude at Kona, and Ryan Rickerts, of http://www.cyclocrazed.com/ fame the other day. Strong guys both who thankfully waited up for me at various and sundry points. I'm writing a story for The Seattle http://www.seattletimes/ about such 'cross-type riding behavior; it should run next Thursday, the 10th.
There's Ryan giving me the Lance look. (Cheeky bastard.) We started at Mark's house where, after enjoying one of those mini cups of some amazingly rich espresso, we headed up the Pipeline Trail on Galbraith. See the snow in the distance (above); see it in my back wheel below?
Probably six or eight inches of snow once we hit where the road/trail flattens out, then we headed down the upper trails just east of Lake Padden. (That's the top photo.) From there we dropped down into Fairhaven and took various greenways back. Just about two hours riding in all.
Sunday, I went running with the Chuckanut 50K group from the Vet hospital. About an hour into it, as I was having a jolly time running with Mr. Clark and Mr. Scott, it just kinda hit me: I don't feel like training for this race. Even if it's the last time ever for this course, I just can't seem to get motivated for the long, long hours of running in the mud every Sunday until raceday in the middle of March. And for a race that long and painful, I need to be mucho motivated. (Still ended up running 2 hours 45 minutes with a couple thousand feet elevation gain.)

Went home, took out the 'cross bike and rode about an hour and 15. That was fun.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

MERRY X-MAS OR WHATEVER!

OK, this being the end of the year, I'd like to share with you a mishmash of photos, some of which are from this year, some of which are not. Below is Lance Armstrong--I mean, me-- in the Mount Baker Hill Climb in September. Absolutely glorius day!
Speaking of another absolutely glorius day, here's the wife, Jen, paddling in June on Mountain Lake on Orcas Island. Below is the ice and snow on that steep-walled stretch of the Lost Lake Trail. That's Scott Young (looking like he's hanging his head after being caught doing something naughty) and Paul Ricci from a couple weeks ago.
Here we're at about mile 2 of the 105-mile Tour de Whatcom (http://tourdewhatcom.com/). I saw the photographer and went for it. That's John Clark's left arm. By the way, the TdW raised $15,000 for the Boys and Girls Clubs of Whatcom County. Right on! (Photo by John Brunk.)
Speaking of John, here he is about five years ago starring in "The Giant that Ate Mount Baker".Bake when he was about three or so.
Sunset from the top of Orcas Island's Mount Constitution back in June.
Emma Robbins and Bake on that same Orcas trip. Man, I wish it was summer now!

Sunday, December 09, 2007

SUNDAY IN THE SNOW

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Snow visited the Chuckanuts for the second Sunday in a row. Above, Christy Fazio reads from a large unabridged dictionary that for some reason sits on the Fragrance Lake Road sign above Lost Lake. That's Paul Ricci in the middle and then Scott Young who, as you can see, occasionally suffers from elephantitus of the tongue. Poor guy.

Below, Ricci and Young rip it up on the Ridge Trail. We ran about 2-1/2 hours, starting at the Vet hospital, heading up toward Lost Lake, turning up Dan's Traverse to Ridge Trail (opp. direction from 50K), down to Cleator, up to Fragrance Lake Road, then around to Lost Lake and back.
It was painful and quite hard and most of the time I felt about as happy and full of life as John Clark looks in the photo below. But the snow was beautiful and I can think of just about no better way to spend a Sunday morning.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

SUNNY DAY ON GALBRAITH

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Rode the Fantom CX to Col d'Galbraith Alpe d'Towers and beyond on what was a stunning, not-a-cloud-in-the-sky morning. Mount Baker was huge as were views far into Canada, the San Juan Islands and beyond.

Came across the sculpture below, one which I'd not seen before at Galbraith. This is on the Wonderland side, on the north end of the towers, though I was riding the dirt roads up there--the ol' reliable 2000, 3000 and 4000.

So ... speaking of the Chuckanut 50K, damn that Christy Fazio is all I can say. Looks like the course won't change for the upcoming race in March but most definitely will in 2009. Meaning this is the last time for this course ever. As Kristy pointed out to me, if I have any unfinished business with that race--as in every year I think I'm capable of running 5:30 but I've ended up at 5:50 and 5:53 the last two years--this is my last chance to get it done. Thanks for putting that in my mind, Kristy; I may be at the starting line next March after all.

No I won't.

(I don't know; maybe I will be.)

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

WHEELS OF GLORY


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Check out the Bake boy in the smaller bowl at the Bellingham Skate Park version 2.0. Recently, he's been wanting a nickname (a cool name like Baker isn't enough?) and somehow came up with Ruz. Which, I have no idea what it means. Krazy kids.


Tomorrow (Thursday) check out The Seattle Times (http://www.seattletimes.com/) for my cool story on stand-up paddle surfing. Here's B'ham's Beau Whitehead showing how it's done.

I've also got a piece in the latest issue of Adventures NW (www.adventuresnw.com); it's a humorous (hopefully) look back on my 2007.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Godfather Part III

"Every time I get out, they keep pulling me back in." That's the line from the otherwise forgettable third Godfather movie that comes to me each time I go out for one of these fairly long trail runs. This is the winter I'm definitely not doing the Chuckanut 50K because as the top two pictures show, I've been having a great time riding the Fantom CX up and down the dirt roads surrounding Bellingam.

That's MC Awesome (AKA, Jim Robbins) in the top photo about to summit Cleator Road on his titanium road bike (an Airborne) which he'd hoped to turn into a pseudo-'cross bike by putting fat (28s) tires on it. He didn't quite have the lower gears that professional cyclocross model Glenn Gervais (other dude in the below photo) and I have on our compact-crank adorned 'cross bikes but Jim is tougher than nails. Cleator climbs 1,550 feet in 3.6 miles (minus a mostly flat mile in the middle) and he gutted it out. Made us darn proud.

So it's rides like this--and up Galbraith too--that I plan to occupy myself with this winter and to keep me from even having the slightest whim to run that damn Chuckanut 50K.

The above ride was Saturday. Sunday, I decided to tag along for just a bit with the Sunday running group. (See below, photo courtesy of Polly Favinger.) It was great to see everyone (even John Clark) on a beautiful morning and to run wild on those back trails to Lost Lake. I was surprised that I didn't feel more beat up from Saturday's ride; in fact, given how little I'm running right now (maybe twice a week) I was amazed how really good I felt. (I ran 1:47 with 2,100 feet elevation gain; they did the 3-plus hour Samish Loop with 4,100-foot gain.) Talk inevitably touched on the 50K and the possibility/likelihood of a route change. Though I tried to ignore it I found myself involuntarily intrigued, interested and mulling it over especially after I turned around at the Lost Lake sign and had a solo run back to my car.

That night I told MC Awesome about this potential quandry. His impression: "Who are you kiddin', McQuaide--you'll end up running it. You know it."

Monday, November 19, 2007

Tractor 'Cross Video

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Here's Bellingham 'cross racer and super nice guy Glenn Gervais reenacting part of the pedal through the demolition derby area. All the super skanky mud is just off camera. Check out the crowd in the grandstand--they can hardly contain their excitement.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

TRACTOR 'CROSS

Saturday, Glenn (http://www.ggtriguy.blogspot.com/) and I headed to the Lynden fairgrounds for a little Tractor 'Cross action, the third in Ryan Rickerts' Cyclocrazed series (http://www.cyclocrazed.com/). It was great fun--we rode through ankle-deep mud (also known as quicksand) at the demolition derby area (where some years ago Garth Brooks caused absolute mayhem by showing up during a Trisha Yearwood show), the pig barn where we went up and down one of the skateboard ramps (I did a 900 variel heelflip with a fakie axle stall a couple times; pretty tough on a 'cross bike), and finally a killer run-up where I lost any hope I had of winning the Master C race.

Above and below, see professional cyclocross model and America's little sweetheart Glenn Gervais riding through the aforementioned demo derby and through the pig barn.
Like I said (kinda) I raced Master C and at the start felt really confident that I could finish top five. Especially since there were only four of us. (Professional cyclocross model Glenn Gervais is a mere lad of 37 so he raced Mens C.) Tjalling Ympa (or Ypma?) was there and lucky for me he was on a mountain bike. Top 3 was looking like a real possibility.
At the start, I raced to the front and was feeling pretty darn proud of myself for being so aggressive. We bobbed and weaved, wound around tree trunks and on this long straightaway I tried to open it up while making sure not to hit any of the haybale obstacles. Then we hit the derby demo and the mud. And in the case of me, I stuck. Like glue. Like a fly to flypaper. I weren't goin' nowhere. I didn't fall; I just came to a standstill.


Unfortunately (for me) the two guys behind me had no such trouble and passed right on by. Then it was onto the pig barn, down into a ravine and into the run-up, a steep slippery hill probably 40 feet high that was impossible to ride. It was like a mountain climber's boot trail straight up the side of a mountain on the way to someplace in the Pickets. I love my Motobecane Fantom CX, but she ain't light--24 pounds she weighs in at and after carrying her five times up that run-up she felt like she was 240 pounds.
Anyway, eventually I caught one of the two fellers who had passed me that first time through the demo derby mud pit, but never caught eventual winner Malcolm (don't know his last name but after the race I heard him say that he was 190 pounds of twisted steel and sex appeal. Or something like that.) I'd reel him in on a couple of the straightaways but he had the run-up totally dialed in. He just disappeared on me everytime.


So I finished second and had a great time doing it. So strenuous, so right-at-the-edge of what I'm capable of doing. We did five laps, about 38 or 40 minutes of racing (I forgot to turn my watch off at the end) and everytime I looked at my heart monitor, it was pinned on 175-176.


Kudos to Ryan Rickerts. He puts on fun races and I hope he does more of these next season. He's got a real knack for putting on fun events. And he always wears a quite fetching yellow wig too.

Seattle cyclocross (http://www.seattlecyclocross.com/) is huge right now. Before the race, I talked to someone who said they get so many people showing up they have to start in heats ... of like 90 riders. Not sure that down there I'd feel confident of a top 5 finish.

Friday, November 02, 2007

TO CHUCKANUT OR CHUCKANOT?


Still not sure what I'll train for this winter. Last two years it's been for the Chuckanut 50K, but I just can't see myself at the starting line next March. I love the training; I love the people I run with on Sunday mornings, but the race itself is pretty brutal. More than a third of it is on the Interurban which is just a death march by the end. Seemed to take me forever to recover too. I couldn't ride hard for a month afterward.

A rumor is circulating that Krissy Moehl might change the course which originally made my heart go pitter-pat, I was so excited. But the revised course I heard about wasn't super exciting--a lot of out and backs with long, long descents--so I'm leaning toward not doing it, whatever the course is. Besides I've sure loved riding the 'cross bike this fall and that's got to be easier on the body than the four-hour runs in the Chuckanuts.

Maybe I'll do some of each. Try to ride two or three times a week, run the same amount. See if that keeps me in some kind of running/bike form.

Padden Mud Run on Sunday; that'll be fun.

Above and below, the Bake boy rips it up at the Bellingham Skatepark big bowl.


Saturday, October 27, 2007

I WAS IN THE LEAD!

It was offered to me as if it were a gift. “Here, my son,” the cyclocross gods seemed to say to me, “take this lead in the Masters C race at Cornwall Park and do with it what you can. Treasure it. Revere it. Treat it with love, kindness and respect and perhaps there’ll be more where this came from. Just don’t be a pinhead and screw it up, ya mo-ron!”

Alas, I screwed it up.

Saturday was my first cyclocross race with my new Fantom CX, it of the $499 BikesDirect.com route. I love this bike but wasn’t sure how it’d perform. Or how I’d perform for that matter. I’m terrible in criteriums and cyclocross is basically a criterium on grass and dirt and mud and forest duff (Forrest Duff, that sounds like the name of a strapping leading man “PT-109 starring Russell Crowe and Forrest Duff;” I digress.) and over logs and through gravel and sand and whatever else a psycho race director like Ryan Rickerts (http://cyclocrazed.com/) can come up with.

He designed a super course. Lots of turns including something called the Circle of Death (sim. to MXC’s Rotating Surfboard of Death) wherein we spiraled ‘round and ‘round and ‘round ‘til we hit the middle and had to reverse direction and spiral ‘round and ‘round and ‘round til we popped out of it. Just after our first time through—we ended up doing five laps of the course for about 50 minutes worth of riding—we climbed a small hill, took a couple quick rights and I found myself in the lead pack of four. Rounding the next turn, the leader slipped and fell and though he got right back up, he kind of blocked off the two other guys so a wide ocean of nothingness opened ahead of me.

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I bolted through and was in the lead!!! Did you get that? I was in the lead!!! Got that? My mind raced ahead just like my body was trying to do. Maybe cyclocross was my true calling. Maybe the gods were visiting me for a reason. Perhaps I could become this stud cyclocross-writer-raconteur guy who could travel the country entertaining the masses with my bon mots and stories about my cyclocross experiences. My wife could quit her job and my son could skateboard all over as we traveled the land, cyclocrossing and lecturing and writing from town to town. Sweeeeet!


In the week leading up to the race I’d ridden at Cornwall a lot and though I didn’t know the course I knew the park like the back of my hand. (Let me just throw this in here: about six years ago, I accidentally won a 5K running race in this park. That was pretty silly; here’s the story: http://mcqview.blogspot.com/2006_10_01_archive.html.)

During my practice rides, I found out some things about my bike too. For instance, I can’t just throw it into the big chain ring rather wantonly as I tend to do with my Ultegra-equipped road bike. The Sora (much lower end than Ultegra) front derailleur tends to throw my chain right off the bike, which is no fun at all. So, going into this race, I knew to be somewhat gentle with the Fanton CX’s components.

But you know, … you get racing and the gods bestow the lead upon your shoulders and you wanna keep it. Be worthy of it. Prove to them that they made no mistake. You ARE the one. So on the one true straightaway when I could really push it, I tried to crank it to 11, as it were, throw the chain over to the big chain ring for some extra power and ... guess what? The chain is thrown clear to Haggen’s about 10 blocks away, (it seemed) and despite my best efforts to pull it back on while I’m riding (I was in the lead, by the way), it wasn’t going to happen. Somehow, I yanked something and the bike and I went down hard, me skidding on my right butt cheek for what felt like 20 feet. (It hurt not at all probably because it was actually about three feet.)

I finally got the chain back on, but the back wheel wouldn't move. The rear brake pad had wedged itself against a spoke. ‘Course I took my sweet time figuring this out, and meanwhile rider after rider is passing me by ‘til the last woman—their race started right after the Mens C—was far ahead of me in the distance. I guess I wouldn’t become cyclocross writer celebrity after all. I was given a lead and I’d screwed it up. (And here’s the thing: I had the lead for all of oh, maybe 45 seconds.)

Oh well. Now I was back to just having fun. Riding my butt off, eventually picking off a couple riders here and there for the next 4-1/2 laps until the end when I was just outsprinted by this nice guy I see on the Donut ride all the time (Dave?) who was riding a mountain bike.

All in all, the race was mucho mucho fun. Glenn Gervais also raced so it was good to hang out with him before and after. Next Cyclocrazed race (http://cyclocrazed.com/) is Nov. 17 at the Northwest Washington Fairgrounds. I’ll definitely be there.

Maybe we’ll get to ride in the pig barn.

Friday, October 12, 2007

GALBRAITH MOUNTAIN CYCLOCROSS

Yesterday, rode the cyclocross rig to the top of the Towers on Galbraith. It was great—an hour from my house and I’m at the top. The downhill wasn’t as bad as I thought it’d be—the screaming fast bumpy downhills on washboard roads can be annoying—probably b/c it wasn’t raining. It’s a $499 bike but so far only the brakes attest to that. The pads seem like they’re made of a soap-and-butter blend. Slippery.

In the past 10 days since I took delivery on the Motobecane Fantom CX, I’ve ridden Col d’Cleator Road, Col d’Expert Course at L’Alpe du Padden, and now Col d’ Towers. Gotta try some stuff on Blanchard. Sure as heck wish one of my running-slash-road biking buds would get one of these things b/c it’d be fun to have someone to ride with. (Wait a minute, Glenn has one. Must contact him.)

So far, the experience has been exactly what I'd hoped for. I can ride pretty much anything within reason (dirt and gravel trails, logging roads, etc.) save for root- and rock-riddled singletrack. (I’ll save that for my mountain bike.) I descended the Ridge and Miranda trails a couple days ago and that was less than what I would call fun. I love to climb so it gets you to all those high places much faster than I would by running or mountain biking and I just like the feel of a road bike configuration. (Should I have said geometry? Must ask the judges on that.) And on something like Cleator and the Interurban and Galbraith, etc., there’re no or very few cars to worry about. I guess the biggest concern right now is how will this bike hold up? I’m not just using it as a commuter; it’s a logging road rider.



We'd been in the midst of about two weeks of solid rain so last week Baker and I headed to Lynden where, along with boasting a whole lot of churches, a couple times a week they open the Fairgrounds pig barn to indoor skateboarding. A dollar to skate and all the donuts you could eat. Fun time. Smelled like pigs.

Oh yes, and as several "friends" pointed out to me, this past week the Yankees again got pushed out of the playoffs. For what, the 7th time in a row! Their heyday is long in the past. Get rid of Torre. Let A-Rod go. Let Mariano go. Tell Clemens that they’ve moved but don’t give him the new address. Cut Mussina, Giambi, etc. and et. al. Start brand new just like in the early 90s.

Monday, September 24, 2007

WENATCHEE MOUNTAIN BIKING

Bake's school started a week after B'ham public schools so a couple weeks ago, we headed to the eastside--Leavenworth and Wenatchee--for some late summer fun. (In fact, you can read all about it in this Thursday's Seattle Times Northwest Weekend section www.seattletimes.com.) I stumbled upon this amazing place in the foothills just west of downtown Wenatchee. It's called the Sage Hills Trails area and it's incredibly beautiful, in that eastside way, and fun. I climbed and climbed some 2,000 feet of elevation on non-technical singletrack (as you can see, no downed logs, limbs, very few rocks, etc.) which I kinda get a bang out of. I know lots of riders like more stuff to jump and huck and hit and hop er whatever but I really enjoy this kind of riding too.
On much of the way up you have these grand, sweeping views of the Columbia River and the Wenatchee Valley. Wenatchee has one of the most amazing settings of any city in Washington, but Jeez, it's got some hellish sprawl you crawl through just to get downtown. Every uninspiring chain motel, gas station, big box store, mini-mart imaginable, one after another in a two-mile stretch. It's like when Fred runs through his house in the Flintstone's and every few seconds he passes the same chair, table and lamp over and over again.
On the way home we did, what else, checked out the Aplets and Cotlets tour where we got to wear hairnets and watch folks make candy that people of my parents' generation love.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Sunday, September 16, 2007

GALBRAITH MOUNTAIN RIDE

So 8, it would seem, is the age when kids are able to do crazy-fun things like ride the epic winding, climbing, upsy-downsy trails of a place like Galbraith Mountain. (Above, left to right, are Baker McQuaide, Jacob Gervais and Marshall Mills.) We, including dads Glenn Gervais and Kevin Mills, went out riding for 3-1/2 hours today, which is about as long as I'd go out with me adult friends. Aided by the great new Whimps map, we rode the Tower Road to the blue rock, headed north to Kung Fu Theater, followed Fire Circle to some connector then the Intestine (both upper and lower).
From there it was Family Fun Center, Cedar Dust, Rock and Roll, and finally, Bunny Trails.
Below is Baker ripping it up on Cedar Dust.
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Whilst we were out I had to get some work done. I needed photos for a story about hiking with a GPS so here are Kevin and Glenn pretending to use a map and some techno-geek gadget to figure out where the heck they are. In real life, I doubt they'd be laughing so heartily at their map unless they were drunk or sumfin.

Friday, September 14, 2007

THE WEEK THAT WAS

Busy week this week. Above, Bake's first day of third grade at Cedar Tree Montessori on Tuesday. He was extremely psyched to be starting at a new school and the space, which just opened this year, looks beautiful. Contractor Dan Coffey has done a terrific job and so far, everything has been great. Bake is loving it. That evening, we ... ... went for a mountain bike ride with Jacob (above right) and Glenn Gervais. Bake and I introduced them to the lower trails on Galbraith--Lost Giants to Bandido and eventually, Cedar Dust. Above, note one of the Galbraith sculptures, this one which looks like a pink tribute to Kit Kat candy bars. Then last night we ...

... went to the Mariners-Devil Rays game where we had second row seats, thanks to our hosts, Mark and Jacob Hoyos. It was quite exciting to watch Jeff Weaver walk in three runs as the Mariners fell behind 7 to 1. Kind of got boring though as the Mariners rallied in the 8th, scoring 5 runs and eventually going on to win by a score of 8 to 7. Comeback victories fueled by two-out rallies are quite dull, don't you think?

Monday, September 10, 2007

MOUNT BAKER HILL CLIMB RACE REPORT

This was the fourth year I’ve done the Mount Baker Hill Climb but the first time I've ridden the competitive division. Wasn't sure what to expect other than--as the race did right off the bat, just after the clicks and clacks of hundreds of pedals clicking in--it starting out much faster than I ever remember the rec race starting.

Ahead of me, all I could see was a couple of hundred backs and all these riders I knew rushing away from me—Mark Harrison, Tom Fryer, Noel Phillips, etc.—and I thougt, ‘Oh man, they’ve got it today but I don’t.’ I tried to keep those thoughts at bay and soon enough, as we climb some of the lesser hills, we’re all riding together in the second group behind all the crazy fast folks up front—Ned Overend and the three other guys who'd eventually go under 1:20.

How does one dose out your effort on something like this, that’s the big thing. You don’t want to be dead by the shed (D.O.T. shed, just before the final 10.5-mile climb), as Mark Harrison so aptly put it last week. At the same time, you don't want to miss out on a big fast train that can get you out there pretty quickly.

At the start of Powerhouse Hill, some folks jumped on it, standing and sprinting by me on either side like I was standing still. And I thought, ‘Ah, here’s another place where the competitive race is different. Here’s where I’m dropped.’ But not 400 meters later, a lot of those guys seemed spent whereas I’d found my rhythm and just slipped right on by them. In fact, I rode this hill as well as I’ve ever ridden it, just sat and spun and pulled away from a bunch of people.

Near the top of Powerhouse I came across Bernie Harrison, Mark’s brother, who's an avid racer down in Reno. But he’d never ridden this route before and was looking like the wheels were falling off. (Figuratively speaking.) I told him that he just had to make it to the bend just 50 yards ahead and that seemed to revive him a bit. And in fact, on the flat/rolling stretch right after, where everybody in that second group was pretty much back together, he was right there.
Powerhouse Hill behind us, all that was left was the final 10.5, which climbs some 3,000 feet. Drafting would help a little here, more to probably just block the south wind at spots especially near the top, but in the last 10.5 it’s pretty much up to each individual rider. Questions abounded: Have I trained enough? Have I skipped enough desserts? Has my eating of only two slices of pizza when I really craved four paid off? I’d gotten my weight down to where I actually felt skinny, not just fit. And on a couple hilly time trials I do around town, I was riding them faster than ever. But I sorely missed training with John Clark, who last year pushed me to a third place finish in the rec. division (he got second) when I rode a 1:44. This year though, he wasn’t quite into it and so we only made it out here once, back in June. I wasn’t sure what this year’s race would bring.

About a mile before the shed, an echelon formed and our speed greatly increased. Rounding the bend before the final 10.5, there were hoots, hollers, and yells, just like last year. Here’s where things were going to get serious. Nothing but one giant uphill for next 10-plus miles, 3,000 feet elevation gain. No way to escape it. I felt great right from the start and though I wasn’t conscious of making any big push, I started pulling away from the pack. The first mile isn’t that steep so I was still in my big chainring for a bit of it until I realized that was ridiculous. I’d last 10 minutes like that. When I inevitably slowed, I was passed by wave upon wave of riders.


Still, I felt like I was in a rhythm and wasn’t too demoralized; checking my speedometer I could see I was riding 2 mph faster than on my own which on a hill like this is hugely significant. Somewhere around here I passed Noel Phillips who last year rode away from Clark and I and won the rec division race. He didn’t look to be doing well and afterward, he told me he’d gone out with that lead group, which set a hellatious pace that about killed him.

About the same time, Henry Pfeffer and Tom Fryer caught back up with me and after some encouraging words from them, I latched on to Tom’s wheel. We kind of worked our way back up the field and as we approached this one turn—the crack-the-whip turn, I call it—I started feeling really good. It’s a big wide turn with a relatively flat approach and as I found out the previous week, if you increase your effort and take the turn really wide so that it’s still basically flat, you can really fly around it--like you’re the last ice skater in crack the whip. And since the following section is still flattish, you can get up to 15 or 16 mph, which is a huge psychological boost. That's what I did, and from then on, I felt like I was weightless and my tires were filled with helium.

I kept my momentum going, gaining confidence with each mile and slowly catching up and passing rider after rider. It turned into one of those glorious days. One I haven’t had on the bike since I did RAMROD three years ago. (I haven’t had a day like that running since I was 22.) Just past the lower ski area, the exact half-way point of the climb, where the mountains open up to your right for the first time, I was overcome with what an amazing day this was. The weather was perfect, I felt great, and there were close to 700 cyclists out here choosing to ride 24.5 very tough miles for no other reason than the love of riding. And of the outdoors. And of being alive. It was a true joyride.

Passing the upper ski lodge, things tend to get serious. The grade steepens, you’re tired, there’s usually a cold south wind, maybe elevation is an issue too. Whatever the reason, I usually slow down these last three miles very much against my wishes. I’ve come to call this part the glue strip because in past years I’ve felt like I’m pedaling through glue. This year in training though, I’d added some serious discomfort to my Artist Point rides. As soon as I’d make it to the top, I’d turn around and ride back down to the visitors’ center a couple miles lower down, then ride hard back to the top. Psychologically, I came to realize the last few miles were really no big deal.

In this year’s race, when I hit that stretch, I knew I could push through it without the fear of every muscle in my lower body seizing up. Sure, I wanted the race to be over, but there was less of that “uncharted territory/what’s gonna happen?” feel to it. Making the final turn I went into semi-sprint mode, something I’d practiced. Stand for 10 pedal strokes, sit for 10, stand for 10, etc.

The previous night, my wife, Jen, and son, Baker, had said they were coming out to watch the race. And though I appreciated their good intentions, I doubted the likelihood of them driving out at such an ungodly hour only to have to wait around for about 3 hours ‘til I show. But with 200 meters to go, I heard the cowbell. The one they bought last year at Ironman Coeur d’Alene. There they were—cheering and screaming. They’d even chalked the road (“Go Team McQ!”) and Bake took a cool photo of me. (Jen now has cowbell finger, a cut from banging the dang thing for like an hour straight. She truly suffered, all to give riders more cowbell.) Crossing the finish line, I quick punched my bike computer for the time – 1:38 something. I’d hoped to break 1:40. I PR’d by more than 5 minutes! (Results have me at 1:39:06; I'll take it.)

A great day. Thanks, race director Charlie Heggem, and the myriad volunteers, sponsors and agencies who make this my favorite Whatcom County race!


NOTE: Check www.norkarecreation.com for results. And though at least one Bellingham Herald photographer was there, the paper had no stories about it, just a couple photos. Maybe the Foothills Gazette (http://www.foothillsgazette.com/) will have something in its next issue.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

MOUNT BAKER HILL CLIMB '07

OK, I'll be the first to admit it. Today in the Mount Baker Hill Climb, I was juiced to the max. Had a little bedside vaporizer spritzing me all last night with testosterone and HGH. Seemed to work; PRed by about five minutes. 1:38 and lots of change in my competitive division debut. So that was a good thing. (Above photo credit, Baker McQuaide, age 8.)

But seriously, what a day! Perfect weather. Huge crowds in both the rec and competitive division and I PRed by like five minutes. Did I already mention that? Below, look at the joker trying to sneak in and do the race on a Segway. What a goofball. Actually, that's race director Charlie Heggem (who did another amazing job, especially with the weather) who used it instead of running here and there, what with having to start four races 'n' all.

I'll write more tomorrow.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

GALBRAITH MOUNTAIN RIDE

Epic ride last evening with two good pals: John Clark (also known as Johnny B. Clark b/c it just occurred to me) and Jim Robbins (8th and Walnut, b/c his name reminds me of radio ads I'd hear in the Philadelphia area). Three hours, some 2,100 feet of elevation gain and views galore--Mount Baker, the Sisters Range, Bellingham Bay, the San Juans, etc. Stunning.

John led the way taking us on some terrific trails: Cedar Dust, Wonderland--on which I inevitably break out into my faux Springsteen, "Tonight, ... in ... Won ... der... land" (a bastardization of "Jungleland"), Oly, the Intestine (which people seem to pronounce so that the last syllable rhymes with 'mine'), and a bevy of others. Jim volunteered to be the one that got bloody, taking an impressive fall that I watched with mouth-gaping wonder until I took the exact same fall. The speedy John, meanwhile, flew through with no problem.

Top photo is Jim on Wonderland ("Tonight, ... in ... Won ... der ... land") taking in Baker and the Sisters; middle is John on the climb to the Towers; bottom is John and Jim on the Ridge Trail, the barn door open and maybe an hour of sunlight left. Great fun.

Whilst I have you, at your leisure, please to take perusal of my story in today's Seattle Times on a lazy kayaking outing near Mount St. Helens: http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/outdoors/2003837673_nwwpaddling161.html. Hard-hitting, nuthing but the facts, coverage and analysis you can count on.

Monday, August 13, 2007

NOOKSACK OMNIUM ROAD RACE


This was my third road race of the year (third ever) and as usual, all I can say is that bike racing is unlike anything else I've done. You get dropped from the leaders in a 5K, a 50K, a triathlon, and you're never going to see them again. Well, maybe at the post-race buffet.



In a bike race though, you drop off the main pack (several times), you get passed by the follow car (several times), you pretty much figure it's not your day--and it's still possible to claw your way back to the front and find yourself in 4th place overall with a mile go, 5th with about 200 meters left. Such was my sitch in the Masters C/D race up in the Nooksack-Sumas corner of the world.


Truthfully, leading up to this race, I was scared. Reese Hill, which we'd climb twice, was a killer and South Pass Road could be brutal too. What I didn't antipate, or ride before the race, was North Pass Road which was on the first short loop of the 41-mile course. It about killed me. The hills were shorter but seemed steeper and more brutal. Or maybe it was just that I wasn't expecting it. For whatever reason, I quickly fell off the back and if it weren't for the fact that a couple others did also, I'd have been done for. Luckily we worked together and were able to hook back on with the main group in time to start the two longer loops.


The ride out to Reese Hill is through flat cornfields. Nobody talked to each other; it seemed we all knew what was coming and were silent. Like we were being led to our deaths. The race website says it's 1.5 miles long but I measured the really tough part as climbing 350 feet in 0.8 miles. After that, it's a free-for-all of rolling hill fun as the fractured pelaton attempts to get back together. (The whole thing climbs about 500 feet in 1.5 miles.)


Again, I fell out the back, but with some strong riders (more than just three this time) and we were able to fight back and latch back on to the main group somewhere on Frost Road. A most pleasant surprise to me was that we rejoined South Pass Road much farther west than I expected and thus two of the three step-like hills were eliminated. Back with the group it was mostly a fast descent back down to earth and the start of the final Reese Hill loop.

(Up ahead, John Kodin and Rob Cambell, a couple Fanatik guys, had gotten away and would go on to win by about five minutes.)

Folks seemed more relaxed on the way out the second time, we knew what was coming and that we had to do it only once more. Again, the pelaton broke up on Reese Hill but I wasn't as far back as on the previous climbs and while it was still painful as hell working my way back, there were a lot of other riders doing the same thing and we could help each other.


Once back with the main group, I pretty much figured my race complete. All I wanted to do was not get dropped and have a solo ride home (as happened a couple months ago at the Methow RR when I got caught between two groups). But with about three miles to go, there's some shifting the pelaton and I feel myself just kind of floating toward the front. I got behind some Zoka guy who was leading the whole thing, no way I was going to pull, and just sorta hung there figuring I'd watch how it played out.


(Crazy--I'd been passed by the follow car three times but here I was in 4th place with like a mile to go. At the time I thought I was in second place; I didn't realize the two Fanatiks were way ahead of us all.)


At the 200 meter sign, the sprint starts and I do what I can to try to keep wave upon wave of riders from passing me like I'm standing still. Suddenly, there's that sickening crunch and smack sound of a crash right behind me as Glenn Powell and two others crashed (Glenn's OK and is hoping to race again this coming weekend) and after that it's somewhat of a blur. A bunch (but not too many) riders passed me in the last 50 meters or so and we were done.


Results, as I say, were less than an inexact science. At the prerace chat, the official pretty much said, keep an eye on who you finish near then come tell us afterward. I finished near a couple guys riding bikes really fast. They had helmets on, sunglasses, and really tight shorts. One of 'em might've been wearing arm warmers. But I don't really care. I wasn't last and I had fun.

(I found out later that I finished in 14th place.)

The above pic is not from the race but from the countless laps we all did around Nooksack Elementary School while waiting for the race to start. There's Stacy Moon, who won the Mens 4/5 Time Trial, and Tom Fryer near the front.

Oh yes, and because I haven't shown one for a while, below is a photo of the lovely Jen in our newly painted and freshly floored bedroom. The lamination continues ...