Sunday, September 28, 2008

On Peloton

"Peloton" was concieved during the RUSA 300k of spring 08. Eric Vigoren and Mark Thomas had organized this ride considering the fact that the earlier ACP 300k was plagued by inclement weather. The mini-peloton consisted of John D'Elia visiting from Connecticut, SIR's very own Mark Roehrig, Matt Mikul, Chistopher Gay and myself. Matt had set the quick pace as I recall early in the ride and having little faith in my own navigational abilities at that point was determined to stay with the pack. As I drafted in the slipstream earlier on that day, I had a flood of negative memories (basically digging in the dirt, to find the places I got hurt). but with the elevated levels of endorphins, that I find such a marvellous effect of endurance cycling, I was able to put a positive spin on my thoughts by acknowleging my own participation in the creation of that past pain.

A few days later at home musing over all this, I noticed that Alder outside my window in such a joyous dance in the wind. How does it get its own endorphins? And why must I run?

Well! probably because I have an Ego.

And now I am thinking that to have a Healthy Ego, if that is not an Oxymoron, is a balancing act.

If I am to take myself seriously at all, I must make good on most of my commitments, so I must avoid making commitments that I cannot keep. On the other hand I must not take myself so seriously that I have to win in every situation.

That strange insect at the very bottom of Pandora's Box is hope. To live is to hope and what can we hope for if we win it all. Perhaps that is why Lance and so many winners before him must continue to seek battle until they know loss.

I love and appreciate this new community and sport that I have found, it has given me so much freedom on the road to self discovery, even if it means going into a little debt.

Special thanks to Sam Huffman who kindly listened to it's recital as we climbed towards Washington Pass and John Kramer as we fought wind past St. Francis.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Tribute to Volunteer

Perhaps some may recall a photo taken on May 11, 08 of a rider who threw himself on the ice atop Stevens pass during the SIR 3 passes 400k. I cannot locate that photo now, but the picture, actually the whole day is clearly embossed in my mind.
That ride brought into sharp focus quite a few things, however most deeply etched in my memory (worth more than gold), the selfless and often nameless Volunteer.

Where do I start?
The gentleman who inflated my deflated front tire atop Blewett pass during the SIR spring 08 400k while I cooled from the rising temperature on his supplies. I was so grateful I told him that if I was a French man I would kiss him. He politely recommended that I offer the kiss to the young lady nearby.

The one speed wonders that revived me with food and water at the secret control at Dubuque cutoff and then felt it their duty to inform me that I had already spent more than 15mins in the control.

"The man with the hammer" endurolytes at Maltby as the shadows of the day were growing longer. I was very surprised he knew my first name.

The other gentleman that took the co2 out of my back tire and pumped in 120 psi of air as I flatted again atop Blewett pass, this time on the SIR June o8 600k. He reassured me I was making good time while I refueled under the shade of his canopy.

"The voice" that called out "are you OK Vincent" from his truck as I temporarily dismounted to offer truce to the windgusts past Selah.

The crew at the secret control on the US12 that used their vehicles to create a windbreak and ladled out home-made chicken soup that got me to Rimrock in new form.
The early birds with the blankets and hot beverages at the bottom of a freezing descent from White pass.

The Inn-keepers at Rimrock, Pateros and Darrington that fed and bed me and got the bleary eyed rider out early enough.

The Ancien who loaned his Dear Bike so a rider could complete C1200. Who with his wife and others fed the whole group those 4 days.

My kind and jolly companion in the baggage truck who drove mile after mile while I sat and dreamed of riding the "Big One" someday.

The concerned face that got me back on my way at the Mickey Dee's at Granite Falls during the permanent from Mazama to Monroe.

The "Buff Guy" who sat patiently by his car with gas stove and noodle soup (I had a second helping) waiting for four apparitions to appear on two wheels at Marblemount.

The anesthesiologist that roamed interstate 36 by Last Chance with his truck full of "pain relief".

And on and on, where do I stop?
You are Safety Rock!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Notes on Cascades

On August 21, 2008 Dan Turner and Mark Thomas put on a 1000k mountain brevet, looping through 4 passes: Snoqualmie, old Blewet, Loup-Loup and Washington. Reasonable attempts were made to escape the "beaten path" using old Blewet and Denny creek road, giving a distinct flavor as compared to my previous 600k and 400k with SIR in 08. I am sure that Rick Blacker, Don Jameson and those who rode the simultaneuos 400k will remember Burbee hill.
I had misgivings about doing this ride on a carbon frame (seal-skinned), but that is all I have.
I cannot say that I missed the "Floaty quality" of titanium or the comfort the various alloys of steel because you cannot miss what you do not know, maybe some day.
There is no scientific basis here for the conversion of chipmunk-power to horsepower but chipmunks are good climbers, carry little weight and tolerate the heat rather well, so I really needed all their help. It turned out it was more like Chip n' Seal than Chip n' Dale leading the team.
For many reasons, too much to enumerate this ride was a personal Odyssey of sorts. My first season of riding with the Seattle Randonneurs, the earlier 400k had been an eye opener, exposing an Achilles Heel of rapid salt loss and muscle spasms if I push to sweating point and stay there. Naturally the following 600k was a source of significant trepidation, the ability to complete that ride suggested that with appropriate adjustments, even I could do the bigger rides, I would have to ride more with my head than depend on questionable athletic ability.
What next? I had bowed out of the Cascade 1200/1000 graciously put on by Mark Roehrig, Don Boothby and Joe Llona but had learned a lot especially from the Olsen brothers by placing myself among the riders and volunteers as a bag boy. To complicate things I had major salt loss and spasms riding the 4th and last stage of the C1200 as a permanent from Mazama to Monroe.
An Odyssey is defined by Webster as "a series of adventurous journeys usually marked by many changes in fortune. The greek word Odusseia from which the English word is derived simply means "the story of Odysseus" sometimes referred to as Ulysses.
Homers Odyssey does present us with an adventurous journey with changes in fortune for the Greek hero on his way home from Troy.
Being no Greek hero, despite some adventure and minor changes in fortune, it is more appropriate to reflect on that particular ramble under the title "Cascades".
I have however attempted to do it in the style of Homer, using hexameter and epitaphs.
The Cascades here are depicted in the image of Athena the Greek godess of war sometimes also referred to as Pallas. Not only are the Cascades beautiful, but are capable of great wrath and destruction as a visit to Windy or Johnston ridge will convince anyone.
Particular references are made to the unsightly and environmentally unfriendly practice of "clear cutting"; the "howling" descent from Loup-Loup pass into the Methow valley; the nagging left knee pain that forces the "jaded charoteer" to re-evaluate in Mazama and adjust his saddle a tad higher before slowly ascending to Washington pass in the heat, where the temperature suddenly drops and the head-winds whip up.
No matter how much he loves her, he must eventually leave her, and this he does, going on to climb the final hill to the home of Chris and Mark Thomas. Here the salty randonneur wannabe is, unlike in Homers Odyssey recieved with all the hospitality of a returning hero (or prodigal son).
The drinks were Nectar and the food Ambrosia. Thanks!

Friday, September 19, 2008

Randonneuse Visited

00.00 hrs, 09/11/08 I woke up in the "its not a hilton but it'll do motel" in Atwood, Kansas to make a second effort in my first attempt at a 1200k randonee through Last Chance from Colorado to Kansas and back. The first effort the day before had been about as big as any single continuos effort I had ever made on a bike but it was faster.

I had made Atwood, Kansas in good enough time for the likes of me but had suffered in the afternoon heat being a big salt loser. Plagued again by the ghost of the 08 SIR spring 600k I was too wired to sleep, so I spent 5hrs in control and slept 2hrs. The day to come was going to claim the dubious honor of eclipsing the previous efforts, very close to 24hrs and 290miles much of it in darkness. The bike was Nwa-chi-nemelu (the child-gods-favor) an 06 Specialized Roubaix S Works, no aero-bars, but equipped with Leonardo (because he makes maps and diagrams) a Garmin Edge 705. Nwachinemelu was favored for the randonee because of her long wheel base and her light weight (an inexperienced clydesdale, I am heavy enough for the both of us). The translation of her name above is direct and misleading, as among the Igbo people of West Africa the concept of the word "Chi" as I understand it, hovers somewhere between "God" "Spirit" "Essence".

Day one I had interacted with many riders at times staying too long with riders too strong, day two was going to be pure "Allure Libre" I would find my own natural rythm.

"Randonneuse", "is about the bike" and not the other translation of the French word; a female randonneur. I am rambling about the interaction between the essence of Nwachinemelu and my essence on that long day.

I had run into Sam Huffman riding with Peter Morrissey at the turn-around point in Kensington, Kansas and we pretty much leap-frogged each other on the way back to Atwood with Sam and Peter riding faster, but I skipped a watering hole and was able to meet with them at Atwood the second overnite venue. I had learned as we crossed each other that they intended to push on that night possibly to Byers, Colorado, the third overnite venue. This was already a familiar idea since it was cooler and the wind was more favorable. The terrain was now rolling upwards and having had most of my schooling with SIR, the feeling was "born and bred in the briar patch".

"All the way to Byers"! that was a novel concept. At Atwood Sam and Peter made sure they had their emergency blankets but I never found out if they had any snake anti-venom kit. They reapplied chamois creme and were off. I took a shower, changed into fresh Ibex wool three quarter lenght pants, checked Nwachinemelu and re-charged Leonardo and gave chase.

Unknown to me Roberto Trevisan from Brazil also riding his first randonee (he tells me that they have a 600k in Brazil) took note of the departures and was now the only member of the second chase group.

The parts of Kansas that I saw on this ride was mostly vast stretches of nothing with what I may call little quaint villages at decent intervals. Riding at night alone the sensory deprivation is surprising and everybody has gone to bed. I even had nostalgia on the road to Idalia for the earlier electrical activity in the atmosphere that was now absent in the black nothingness of that night. It was similar I suppose to instrument flying, I depended mostly on Leonardo to tell if I was climbing or descending. Just before Idalia, Colorado there are road works with fresh asphalt, carelessly my front wheel touched a step-off on the asphalt and we went down. By reflex I cupped and protected the bike, she was all I had in that darkness. I angrily got up and moved more to the center of the road as I have major reptilophobia and checked her out. She seemed sound, only question was if the Mavic Ksyrium front wheel was slightly out of true. We spun to Idalia and I called it a night. As I rolled into Idalia I ran into Sam and Peter leaving and told them about my little crash, I suggested they descend very carefully, I remember Peter saying as they were leaving "we shall descend like old ladies". I remember thinking " you never stop learning when you are around the rando's".

I slept outside the motel at Idalia and was woken by the sound of rando's saddling up and leaving, I tried the door to a room they had vacated and it was open. I cleaned up and headed up to Byers still in the darkness. I have no Idea how long I slept. The first watering hole that would sell the next morning was Anton, Colorado 55miles from Idalia. I ran into Roberto at the food store there, he had not crashed that night but had suffered similar sensory deprivation, we vowed to stay with each other, which we did all the way to Louisville, Colorado and recieved our first randonee medals from John Lee Ellis. I have invited Roberto to ride the Cascades 1200 "The Godess".

Nwachinemelu she did OK by me. Probably she is not the perfect Randonneuse but clearly she proved to be both a son who one would be glad to spend a day of play with and slave-girl that carried me and gear without complaint for 753 miles.

What is not so clear is; who is the puppet and who is the puppeteer.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008


Evoked responses run turbulent, unpredictable
Flashing messages all say raise the table
All this for her, a vector easily calculable
On the edge but still very stable

The numbers have failed, experience cannot tell
For all this cataclysm one service would sell
Farewell contrition, be prepared for hell
The puppeteer knows the puppet well

Why dance on these invisible strings
As if to some youthful vigor clings
To that fountain from which passion springs
Not the alarm, but for whom it rings

And why do manicured rims roll and turn
As if for shiny spinners they mourn
Or is it a hard day’s work they shun
The slave-girl that should have been a son

Spindle and hub distance unroll
Can the Randonneuse know there is no goal?
Can she sublime in a passive role?
Only the puppeteer can loose control

To all those Rando's that took shelter in Idalia second night of Last Chance 08

Tuesday, September 16, 2008


On Seal-skinned Chariot, man the Goddess rode
Off the beaten path, but with gpx code
Four hundred Chipmunks harnessed to the wheels
Clear-eyed Pallas controlled the team
The winds of the journey cracked his Ethiopian lips
Soothed by beeswax from a nymphs fingertips
They came to a clearing where old trees once stood mast-tall
Where dark-hearted humans sacrificed them to his gall
Sad-eyed he let loose flashes of his rage
She coaxed him with promises to turn the page
To Loup-Loup who’s stories old rando’s have told
He found a moon-dog that still howls in his soul
So he readies in Mazama a vessel of jade
Cursing the heat, praying for shade
Angering Poseidon, the winds whipped up the more
But strong-armed Athena rowed them to Marblemount shore
And all she asked was he stay with her in the sun
For cotton-candy-kisses, a small token in return
The gods of convention, do not nod in approval
Romantic liaisons of mortal and immortal
Yet she let him love her, secure in the fact that
Love does not drop in anchor to bridle his heart

Much indebted to: Mark Thomas, Mike McHale, Trudy Frantz, Dan Turner and Martin Knowles.


Where is safety rock
Obscure me in shadows in Maltby
Where is the man with the Hammer
The arm of protection was so strong
Founder of the trek come out
Fear us spiraling through the passes and valleys
Under the mirage of shimmering light glimpses
Closer we were the farther we were lost
And lurking was the rock
A tall form, a phantom moving through time
Holding care and measured placement
A memory worth more than gold
Always straying but in view of the path
Vulnerable missing salt and water
Hiding in a noble sugar aroma
Melancholy words of a poetic melody
Invitation to be heard, really heard
Among all the noise of traffic
Through conflicting voices of thrill and fright
One voice was steady, trustworthy
One voice was lost in the dark

Issaquah’s Rain

Dark sharp Firs spike from the earth
Cling to snow-white mountains as if to claim foreign descent
Pricking my mind with dark playful memories
Of love and hate coexisting for so long
Often I imagined being alone and sad
Naïve tears flowed so freely
Now they come with a price
A charge on emotion, a chained love
Looking through alien eyes
A thousand new visions, none my own
If only it was easy to follow one’s own advice
To adopt a chosen life, accept and love
For I choose my own unattainable dreams
Left with uneasy fate, heavy my sins
Yet strong my backbone through destiny’s game
Let it pull me as Bob, Eric and Ty
Let it confuse me as Stevens evens for me
But fear forgive me and tears release me
Set me free and let me be me
My sharp foreign spikes rot during growth
Tall and strong, still stand during the storm

Special thanks to the Tilden brothers


Robinson Crusoe in the Mini-Peloton
Memories rush over me
Forgiveness follows in the slipstream
From spoke-song of my own manipulations
For much less clear expectations

Back by the sound
The tree outside my window dances in the wind
Beautiful serene cadence in the sun
Seems to ask me why I must run
Run to! Run from! Are both the same?

I flee from a gift I cannot give
And charge into battle I cannot win
I have named this freedom
Discovering myself; Priceless!
For everything else, there's mastercard

Special gratitude to Sam Huffman and John Kramer