Thursday, July 29, 2010


Well, today was the day that three months ago I couldn't wait for--my three-month post-surgery check-up. Truth be told, it was fairly anticlimactic. But I think that's a good thing. I've been pretty much back to my normal activities, or maybe 90 percent of normal, for about a month now.

The collarbone was x-rayed,  Dr. Bergman said it looked good and that while it can take six months or a year before the collarbone is completely healed (the x-ray still shows a slight fracture line on the collarbone), I've got a titanium plate holding everything in place so I'm good to go. Just don't fall on it, he said. Which is pretty much common sense, innit? It's not like I'm going to go out and purposely fall on my good collarbone for fun just 'cause it's never been broken.

Hopefully, the plate will not bother me down the road and I'll just leave it in there for the rest of my life. That's an option, I guess. Having more surgery to take it out. One of the nine screws does stick out a little but I find it amusing. Kind of like the bolts on Frankenstein's neck. Hopefully, I've turned the final page on this collarbone chapter.
Oh yeah, I've got a story in today's Seattle Times about Jetty Island, this cool little oasis near Everett. See it here.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


Rode a kind of RAMROD Jr. today. Eighty miles with 6,000 feet of elevation gain including the climb to Paradise (el. 5,400 feet) and the one over near Stevens Canyon that climbs to about 3,500 feet. Only Cayuse Pass was missing. As well as about 75 other miles. (Click here to read about my epic bonk on Cayuse two years ago.)
Still, it was plenty tough. Rode it all on my own. From Packwood, where I was on the road at 5:45 a.m. if you can believe it, I headed northwest via Skate Creek Road and the Nisqually entrance of Mount Rainier National Park. Saw many elk along the way but hardly any cars, which was great.
From Nisqually, thus began the 17-mile climb to Paradise which isn't super duper steep, just long. Along the way, I kept imagine the juicy something-or-other I'd get to eat at the visitor center cafeteria once I made it to the top. Alas, it hadn't opened yet; I left so early I made it to Paradise by 9:30. From there, the screaming-fun descent that goes on and on into Stevens Canyon. Probably my all-time favorite road bike descent. Had to stop a few times for photos--saw a big mama bear and two cubs and just above is Reflection Lake. Rainier is truly an amazing place!

Next up, Tour de Whatcom this Saturday.

Sunday, July 25, 2010


Yesterday, I headed out on a 50-miler suggested by cycling friend Corrina Marote. A true leg-shredder if there ever was one. Basically, the perimeters of Fidalgo Island (where Anacortes is), the Swinomish Reservation, March  Point, as well as a crazy evil thing called Mount Erie thrown in for fun. Started out on the Tommy Thompson Trail, the cool trestle trail (fun to say "twessle twail") that crosses Fidalgo Bay into Anacortes. (See photo at the bottom.) Out toward the ferry terminal then south where Marine Drive (does every town in Washington State have a Marine Drive?) makes like a roller coaster, yanking you up, then down, then up and down again.  
Then a foray to the middle of the island where Mount Erie awaits. I've ridden this hill maybe three or four times--never fails to shock and annoy. Incredibly steep. Climbs 900 feet in the longest 1.5 miles you'll ever ride in your life. Steepest thing around. The Power House Hill that causes all sorts of bother in the Mount Baker Hill Climb is 600 feet in 1.8 miles; in other words, pancake flat compared to Mount Erie.
From there more fun heading south and east toward the Swinomish Reservation (across from La Conner) where a terrific, low-traffic, mostly flat loop awaited. Then north to March Point where there was essentially another one, albeit this one with tidewater--Padilla and Fidalgo bays--on the right the whole way. Super fun 50-miler with 3,400 feet of climbing.

Top photo is Mount Baker above a really low tide on Padilla Bay mit curious eagle checking out the buffet offerings. Middle photo is nominee for the best-named road I've come across so far; it's on Swinomish Reservation.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010


Headed down to Highway 20 yesterday to ride a bit of the more-than-stunning North Cascades Highway as research (and a helluva lot of fun) for my upcoming Classic Road Rides book. Super duper incredible is all I can say. I rode from Newhalem to Mazama--60 miles with 6,319 feet of elevation gain and a profile that looks like this:
Basically, one long steady hill from mile 18 to mile 42. Not ultra steep or anything, just fairly relentless with two steep sections--the one leading to Rainy Pass at mile 38 and the one right after which climbs back up to Washington Pass four miles later. From there, it's a crazy fun descent for 18 miles into Mazama.
Truthfully, I'd always been afeared of that descent because it looked daunting. Like no matter what you did--even if you dragged both feet, threw out an anchor, had two flat tires, etc.--you wouldn't be able to keep from going 65 mph. Given my still-healing collarbone I liked not the prospects of that. But I can honestly say it wasn't bad at all--no worse than the Mount Baker Highway down from Artist Point or the road down from Sunrise. My top speed was only 37 mph, fairly pedestrian, but quite comfortable for me right now. (It may have helped that I had a slight headwind on the way down; this likely helped keep down my speed.)
Incredible ride and my oh my, but I do love the Methow Valley. I, and my Specialized Tarmac Pro, shall be back.

A shouts-outs to my sister Kath (and trusty dog Roy), who drove the Team Unattacked team car offering support, sunscreen, sandwiches and the like. (Kath drove, not the dog.)

Saturday, July 17, 2010


Incredible day of road bike climbing on Thursday last. From the White River Ranger station to Sunrise--that's 14 miles with 2,900 feet elevation gain--back down and then up to Cayuse and Chinook Passes--that's another 8 miles with 2,000 feet of climbing. Finished it off with a quick dash (in a manner of speaking) up Crystal Mountain Boulevard which was 1,500 feet of ups across 6 miles.
At the top is Sunrise which is absolutely incredible. About 1,400 feet higher than Artist Point (between Mount Baker and Shuksan), and 1,000 feet higher than Paradise where RAMROD tops out on Rainier's south side. Sunrise Point is 2 miles before Sunrise and a couple hundred feet below it, but from there I could see Mount Baker, Stuart Mountain in the Enchantments (near Leavenworth), Mount Adams and of course, Rainier. That's a sweep of almost 200 miles from Baker to Adams. Incroyable!

The photo just above is me and my Tarmac Pro a little below Chinook Pass with Tipsoo Lake and Mount Rainier in the background. Below is Highway 410 to Chinook Pass. None of these climbs is especially steep, mostly in the 6 to 8 percent range, just long. They're nothing like the seemingly vertical (but much shorter) pitches I came across during last week's Torture Century. In fact, the last two miles from Sunrise Point to Sunrise were mostly flat. I can truthfully say that I pulled into Sunrise still in my big chainring.
This morning the Titanium Cowboy, Scott Young, and I got out for about 2-1/2 hours on the big ol' 29ers. (Though with our titanium plates and screws, all three of us--Scott, Johnny Boy Clark, and myself--are titanium cowboys, really.) Man, that was fun! First real MTB ride since the collarbone break. Felt really, really good. Almost like it was a rigorous physical therapy session. We did Lower Galby--Last Call, Rock 'n' Roll, and the like--up to the Wall and down the Three Pigs. Only difference that I see right now is that I'm not comfortable on anything resembling a bridge. Anything that raises my wheels off the ground, and thus the distance I could fall on that collarbone, I'll walk around. Pretty cool: we saw three pileated woodpeckers!

Sunday, July 11, 2010


On Saturday, I headed down to Marymoor Park and the Redmond-Sammamish-Issaquah part of the world for this epic climb-fest. Put on jointly (sorta) by Native Planet and Cascade Bicycle Club, the ride tops out at only 1,330 feet or so but features killer sections that climb 650 feet in 1.5 miles, 530 feet in little more than a mile, etc. Over and over again. My Garmin regularly told me I was climbing 12-, 14-percent pitches, even said 21-percent on one section and I believe it. Steep stuff. I've never pedaled my tiniest gear so much before. Above is the top of the Pinnacles climb on the west side of Cougar Mountain which affords super views of Seattle, Puget Sound and the Olympics.

And of course what goes up steeply and slowly has to come down just as steep, but much more speedily. Right now, just two months out from collarbone surgery I'm not too keen on riding fast and thus would get dropped on the descents. (Even the one where I hit 41.1 miles-per-hour!)

I rode the half-century, ended being 54.5 miles with 5,300 feet of climbing. I started out with the brisk group (there was also a super-strenuous and moderate groups) but on a long descent at about the 25-mile mark, myself and about four of us lost contact with our group. Luckily, we found the SS group just a few minutes later and latched on to them. In the process though, I missed out on one climb and about 3.5 miles. Fortunately, I was able to hang on with the super-strenuous folks 'til the end of the ride--I don't know the area very well so I was determined not to lose contact. Great fun. Super workout. Just a hair under four hours of riding time.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010


For a few weeks now absolutely no one has been clamoring for an update on my collarbone recovery so here it is.
I'm at nine weeks, today, since surgery and not that I sometimes forget about it, but sometimes I forget about it and reach for something (or try to catch something) a little quicker than I probably should. And not that the collarbone itself hurts but the muscles all around there--biceps, triceps, upper chest and back, etc.--just aren't used to quick motions yet. (I've lost at least eight miles-per-hour on my fastball and my split finger doesn't have quite the same movement, he wrote jokingly.) I've been lifting weights for those muscles, up to 10-12 pounds with a dumbbell, and my range of motion is probably 80 percent. I feel like I can do pretty much everything, just more slowly.

Riding and running have really been coming along well. Been doing a bunch of road riding, up to three hours at a time, with the sleek carbon Tarmac Pro soaking up a lot of the road chatter. (Meanwhile Thor Hushovd, who broke his collarbone and had surgery at about the same time I did, won yesterday's cobbled stage of the Tour de France and is leading in the green jersey competition.)

Tomorrow, the Titanium Cowboy and I are planning a four-plus hour ride, out to Samish Island and thereabouts. Actually, now that I think about it, last week I got in four hours on the mountain bike, but it wasn't mountain biking per se. Mostly dirt roads just to get in time on the bike and a bunch of climbs. My lovely new Garmin Edge 500, which I'm digging to death, told me I climbed 4,300 feet! To the top of Cleator, to Burnout Road viewpoint, Cleator to Two-Dollar intersection, California Street, Sehome Arboretum, etc. I haven't done much MTB-ing on the trails yet; I climbed up through Arroyo Park but descending those switchbacks still seems too dicey right now. So I'll wait for that kind of stuff 'til at least my three-month check-in at the end of the month. (Really bummed that I'll miss this year's Padden Mountain Pedal but thems are the collarbone breaks, I suppose.)

Running-wise, in the past three weeks, I've gotten in a few runs in the 30- to 40- minute range and truthfully, the first few left my collarbone area a little sore. But again, I think it was just the muscles getting used to the repetitive motion. Yesterday, I was even able to blaze a run wherein I averaged less than nine minutes per mile (!), according to my Garmin 500 which I stick in my backpocket when I run.

Saturday, I'm likely to head down to Redmond for something called the Super Torture Century. The long ride is 125 miles with some 13,000 feet of climbing; I'll go for the (sorta) metric century though: 58 miles and 6,000 feet of climbing. Along with being a lot of fun and great way to meet other riders, I figure it'll be a bit of research for my road rides of Washington State book.

By the way, I'm always looking for cool new and/or popular road-riding routes, so if y'all have suggestions and/or want to get together for a ride sometimes, please contact me. Along with getting mentioned in the acknowledgements, you might even get your picture in a book. Not just a newspaper, but a book! A book that lasts forever. Even on those newfangled Kindle-iPad thingees.