A marathon day

30 05 2011

Sunday was a marathon day. In every sense of the word.

We set the alarm for 4:30 a.m. so we could get Katie to her second marathon in plenty of time. I loaded the Lapierre onto the roof rack so I could easily criss-cross the course, cheering her on at various points. Then I’d ride the 80 kilometers back home.

While Katie might tell you otherwise, she did great, her second Personal Best in two weeks, after she set her premier time for the half marathon in Toronto during our Ontario holiday. A bunch of her family also came out to show their support which made the morning a whole lot of fun.

Katie hits the second half of her marathon; let the suffering begin!

But the timely arrival of her family cheering squad helped fuel her finish.

Then it was my turn.

After logging almost 40 kms chasing Katie around the course, I set out from her parents’ place for home. Combined it would be my longest ride so far this season, the equivalent mileage of last September’s Whistler Gran Fondo but without all those training rides in my legs yet!

The Lapierre gets a taste of country riding.

Sometimes it's just nice to get out of the city.

By the last 20 kms, my legs were in full-on protest. “No more!” they cried. “Noooo, not the Cariboo hill!”

But just as Katie had done in the last stretch of her morning marathon when her legs were seizing up and her belly rebelling, I soldiered on. And when we both downloaded our Garmins, the strangest thing happened; she’d run her marathon in 4:44 and i’d ridden my own personal marathon in the exact same time!

And now, a word from our sponsor…

28 05 2011

I could have been a Mad Man.

In fact, I almost was.

Shortly after graduating journalism school, and still trying to find my way into the industry, I interviewed for a copywriter’s gig at an ad agency. The job demanded short, punchy writing and an abundance of creativity, both of which I believed I could deliver in spades.

Alas, I was short on experience.

Had they taken a chance on a green journalism grad, who knows where I’d be now, probably living in an upscale downtown loft somewhere, driving a BMW or Porsche, maybe wearing a fedora, rueing the invention of the PVR that allows TV viewers to skip commercials.

I love a good advertisement. It’s storytelling at its most concise. Its wit can be subtle or overt. It can be clever or sad or just make you smile. Heck, I bought my first Acura based upon its commercial, a sleek red Integra racing along orange Hot Wheels’ track, the driver grinning ear to ear. The spot evoked memories from my childhood, excited me about the car; the copywriter had succeeded at every level.

Bus shelter billboards are the commercial breaks of my rides.

On the bike, I’ve come to appreciate well-designed and written bus shelter posters. At pedaling speed, you can see them coming from a distance, enough time to appreciate the art and creativity that went into a particularly effective one. The best ones are simple, make me lust for things I can’t afford, or refreshment on a hot day, or just lust.

Hockey school

24 05 2011

Everything I needed to know about tonight’s Vancouver Canucks’ game, I learned from car horns.

All day the city – the entire province – as been on edge. At 6 p.m. the Canucks would face off for the chance to advance to the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time in 17 years, and only the third time in franchise history. Beat the San Jose Sharks in Game Five of their conference final and their next game would be in the opener of the championship series.

The anticipation and excitement have been palpable all day. It’s all anyone talked about on the radio, around the water cooler. Rush hour started early as people raced home in time for the game.

But the sun was out and with rain in the weather forecast for the next few days, I needed to ride.

Cue the car horns. The cacophony sounded as I climbed out of New West, accompanied by a chorus of whoops and hollers from open windows overlooking the street.

From then on, though, silence.

A quick climb up Burnaby Mountain would get me home in time for the third period. A bonus was the dearth of traffic because everyone was home, or at the pub, watching the big game.

The pull-out where the mountain bike shuttlers gather would normally be jammed with cars; tonight it's deserted.

As I pulled up to the condo, I knew the Canucks had one goal, but how many had the Sharks scored? Were the Canucks clinging to a slim lead or getting swamped by a determined underdog seeking to extend their season at least a couple more days?

Oh crap, a train delays my return home.

When I got upstairs and turned on the TV, the Canucks were indeed behind, 2-1. They tied it with 14 seconds left. And now, as I write this, they are preparing to start the second overtime period.

Fast as a pancake

22 05 2011

Somewhere deep in my soul, I’m certain there resides a Frenchman named Jean-Luc. Or maybe Hippolite. Riding my Lapierre, designed and built in Dijon, France has given him new purpose.

I’m sure my high school and university French teachers would be shocked to hear this.

On Thursday, Katie and I lunched at a cosy French bistro, Chez Meme Baguette Bistro. The chef is local, but his wife, who works the front of the establishment, is a Breton. I ordered in French. My heart  soared at the French musique playing softly on the stereo, my stomach smiled at the sublime Nordique, smoked salmon, cucumber and a slightly sweet/tangy sauce on a fresh baquette, every bite a taste of summer.

Sunday, sporting my newly-acquired FDJ jersey, to match my FDJ bike, I indulged in authentic Parisienne macaroons at a French bakery stand at the Sunday market halfway through my ride.

Canaliser mon Français intérieure

That ride was a quick out-and-back to the fishing village of Steveston. The route is pancake flat; the only inclines the two overpasses along the way, allowing me to cover the 30 kilometers to my destination in an hour.

The Lapierre visits the fishing boats at Steveston

It's PEOPLE!!!!!

The ride home was slowed a bit by a wrong turn and a cloud burst, the Lapierre’s first rain ride. The morning weather forecast had predicted “spotty showers;” alas that spot was right on top of me.

$%&#@ weather forecasters...

Back on the saddle

20 05 2011

After a week in Ontario, where the sun disappeared behind rain clouds on our second day never to be seen again, it was good to be back on the bike again Friday in the sunny warmth of the West Coast.

And it wasn’t just wet back east, it was also cold. Freeze-your-fingers-chill-your-chin-and-keep-your-wool-cap-on cold. Not the best conditions for Katie to run her half-marathon training run race in Toronto on Sunday. Maybe it was thoughts of returning to a warm car that propelled her to a personal best of just a tick over two hours!

As much as I love my Castelli wool cycling cap, I shouldn't be wearing it in May!

The cold and rainy weather wasn't much fun for Katie's half marathon either.

But even as the thermometer struggled to reach double digits, the warmth of family made the visit fun and memorable.

Now the training for the Levi Leipheimer Gran Fondo in October can begin in earnest.

As Katie was still on holiday in Friday, it was a rare chance for us to ride together on a weekday. I may have pushed her a little harder than she was prepared to go; she muttered something about just having run a half marathon four days ago. Oops, sorry.

Halfway through our almost 80 km jaunt we enjoyed a bit of a family reunion with the old Orbea, which seems to be settling in nicely with her new owner. She’s still a handsome ride, even with all that seatpost now showing.

The Lapierre and the old Orbea are about to ride together.

It’s always nice to share some ride time with a newly-converted roadie; their enthusiasm as they discover how easily and quickly they can get up to speed on their light, lithe ride is contagious, a nice reminder of the invigorating fusion of mechanics and muscle that is cycling. And, of course, it gives me a chance to further spread the culture of the road: the wave, the tricks of navigating traffic circles, the importance of the mid-ride lunch stop.

It’s not nice for Mother Nature to fool with us

8 05 2011

It’s almost the middle of May, and here’s what I shouldn’t be doing anymore:

• wearing five layers

• wearing bib knickers and wishing I’d worn full tights

• wearing arm warmers and wondering why I didn’t just wear a full jacket

• wearing a bandana and wishing I’d worn ear warmers

• wearing full-finger gloves

• seeing my breath at a traffic stop

• thinking about a hot shower all the way home because I’m so chilled

So far this had been the spring that isn’t. Instead it’s freakin’ cold, as if we’d never flipped the calendar past February.

Today’s weather forecast, as of 8 a.m. this morning, promised increasing sunshine and temperatures. Neither happened.

Instead the sky stayed gunmetal grey and the thermometer in my Garmin barely pipped much past 10C. Someone please remind Mother Nature that this is May, usually a month for terrific weather in these parts.

As this was my first Sunday unencumbered by road hockey in eight months, I was determined to spend it on a big ride, the first 100k of the season. That’s earlier than last year, when I didn’t have such a ride until June, but much later than two seasons ago when I accomplished a metric century in March.

The first 100k ride of the year is always a nice milestone; it’s a test of early-season fitness and a bit of a touchstone when the riding starts to get more serious. Today’s ride would also be new territory for the Lapierre and the comfort of its new Fizik Arione CX saddle.

That's more like a February sky!

The latter two performed outstandingly. Me, not so much.

Actually, the outbound leg was awesome. My legs and aspirations were strong. So much so, at my halfway Larabar break, I considered really airing it out to Horseshoe Bay, tacking on another 30 kms to the day’s mileage.

Fortunately, my head overruled my legs, and after I finished my snack, I pointed the Lapierre towards home, doubling back over the same route. But the cold was starting to exact a toll. After a stop at a bakery for lunch, my legs felt like lead, and the chill was reaching into my core.

Needless to say, the last 30km weren’t a lot of fun. Traversing the Canada Line bridge, a powerful stitch stabbed my abdomen. My thighs cramped. I started pedaling squares. I felt like Sebastian Lang at the end of his 220 km solo break in Sunday’s second stage of the Giro d’Italia; let’s just get this over with.

But when I got home, there were two nice surprises awaiting; a cheerful phone message from Katie that her 32 km run had gone great, and a Garmin report that looked more like mid-season form than a cramped-up round trip on a cold, monochrome day.

A world of hurt, or maybe not

5 05 2011

The real test of any bike is how well it takes you up and over climbs, and how quick and sure it is coming back down.

Wednesday was exam time for the Lapierre; we were going to tackle the five kilometer, 7% ascent of Burnaby Mountain. It’s not a killer alpine climb by any means, just a steady slog uphill.

I sensed trouble even as the road began its upward pitch; my legs felt heavy, they wanted easier gears. I obliged, dropping down to the little ring a good 500 meters before that might usually happen this time of year; by June I should be able to do the whole climb in the big ring.

That little defeat discouraged me; my rhythm faltered, my climbing labored. I fought the urge to fixate on the speed readout on the Garmin. A corner of my brain wondered if I’d be having this kind of difficulty on the Orbea, which was bred in the Pyrenées and born to climb.

I was only too glad to finally reach the university campus at the top.

If I turn left to get to the World, does that mean I'm now on Pluto?

The descent was a lot more encouraging. The Lapierre accelerated quickly and rolled true, confidently. There was no speed wobble. I mashed the pedals and tucked low, my nose just above the handlebar. Now THIS was fun!

A mixed ride for sure.

But when I got home and downloaded the Garmin, the story was quite different. In fact, my ride up the mountain had been as quick as I’d been last October, when I still had my summer fitness despite my leaden legs. Makes me wonder what me and the Lapierre will be able to accomplish when I start getting some serious kilometers.

Selling it forward

4 05 2011

It’s hard to say goodbye to a beloved bike. But it’s also hard to hang onto it and just let it gather dust.

A bike should be ridden. A good bike deserves to be ridden.

So when a buddy expressed interest in my Orbea, it wasn’t a tough decision to sell it forward. Sure the Orbea and I had been through a lot of ups and downs together – up local climbs like Burnaby Mountain, then back down the other side. And it was the Orbea that conveyed me to my wedding, 90 kms on a beautiful fall Saturday. For eight years the Orbea’s color – orange – had defined me, ruling my cycling wardrobe and even some of my clothes off the bike.

In an ideal world, with unlimited storage space, the Orbea would have become my winter bike, set up with fenders and rolled out when the weather turns sloppy.

But she’s too fine a steed to languish in a closet for eight months and then abused with rain and grit and road crud. And frankly, I’ve never been one to ride in lousy, cold weather anyway.

Instead, the Orbea is forging a new MAMIL; that’s a Middle Aged Man In Lycra. Just as my old Rossi did a couple of years ago; her owner, RDM, has now graduated to a swank carbon Cannondale.

The Orbea is off to her new home, forging a new MAMIL

The Orbea’s new owner is stepping up from casual, occasional trail riding. But with some time soon to be on his hands, and a desire to pursue a more fitness-oriented lifestyle, he feels the calling for long kilometers on the road. As we’re about the same height, fit isn’t an issue, so who am I to deny a new roadie?

So far he seems pretty committed; he bought shoes, a tool kit, tire levers, spare tube and even CO cartridges. He called me after his first ride on Sunday, excited and little out of breath. I was proud of him, and pleased for the Orbea. I hope they share many great kilometers.