Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Appreciation For The Chance To Do Something You Love

A decade ago when I graduated from high school, my year book had a quote in it about where I thought I saw myself in 10 years. The answer: living in my car, traveling from one NRC race to another, hopefully with a contract to pay for the food in between events.

What happened between then and now? I wasn't too far off of that old prediction was I? NRC's - check, making enough to pay for food between events - check. Maybe my motivation for living out of a car to make sure I got to the next big race dwindled just a smidge... okay, a ginourmous smidge.

When I was 15 and just hopping into the sport, I did not question whether or not I'd find myself a spot in the Tour De France, it was a given. Four times a day up a three mile, nine percent grade at full speed every time was going to assure me of that. Maybe that changed a smidge too.

Graduation from high school brought one heck of a decision. Try to find a way to give it a go at being a superhero on a bike or go into a real life. Since my idol of the last four years (Rusty Beall) was in college and still rocking out with the best in the U.S. on a bike, I figured why not do both at once. If he can do it, why can't I?

A few years later, I'd found myself delved into a regular life. College degree on its' way, a girlfriend that I supposed would turn into a wife, and a new found appreciation for beer and the all mighty dollar developed from working real jobs. 15 extra pounds of weight accumulated over a few years of less than full throttle racing told me that I'd been going in the wrong direction of what I had so feverishly worked for when I was younger. Wake up call for 185lb version of Mr. Weyen!

I quickly went back to work on all of the local hills and a huge increase in desire for going one mile an hour faster each time I climbed them fueled me. Soon enough, what I demanded was coming true. Only one major problem presented itself, graduation. What was this whole real world thing anyways? Turns out that the answer to that question is ever changing and there doesn't seem to be a perfect answer to that question.

Eventually the desire for cycling and making sure my belly didn't go empty from lack of cash hit a front. To Boise it was going to be with further training in a field of interest (computers) as a semi-motivator. Once the decision had been made, a few reconnaissance missions were in order. Of course, I had to recon the local race scene since the Lewiston area's race scene consisted all of a local Thursday night time trial. Oddly enough, I had raced hard enough to catch the eye of one of the greatest persons I've ever met, Tad Hamilton. The guy must be some kind of genius when it comes to making good things happen at a bike race. When he asked me onto the team in 2004, for me, it might as well have been Chris Carmichael offering his assistance in helping Lance Armstrong race for Motorola.

Ever since, things have happened in a way that only a 15 year old cyclist in small town nowhere could have dreamed up. Every year, I learn more closely that racing a bike isn't always just being 1st (although it sure is nice), it's about getting the chance to do something important to you and having a darn good time along the way.

Fighting for the 1st place can sometimes feel like more stress than your body and mind could ever handle and it's true, sometimes 1st isn't possible. Last Sunday, I was reminded as many times before, why I stay in this amazing sport. It's because it's all a test as to how far you can push yourself. No matter what, you win when pushing your body to its limits. When you do get the chance to win, do not take it for granted, it's not so often you get that chance!

It's also not so often you get the chance to race with a squad like this, and last years, Bob' crew. It takes years to build a group like this. We're a finely tuned group of racers that sacrifice all sorts of daily desires for the chance to go fast. The next time you cross the last stage's finish line of a National Calendar Race stage race with a bunch of professionals; you'll understand what an opportunity you just had.

Thank you more than you'll ever know Bob's and the people at the heart of that operation (you know who you are).

That thing took a serious beating from a motivated 15 year old a long time ago.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Recreating The Past, One Step At A Time

Is there a memory in your past that you wouldn't mind reliving? A time and place where everything seemed darn near perfect, where you wouldn't mind hitting pause and it wouldn't ever go away. It may well be impossible to make the best times of our lives fall back into place, but who's to say you can't put back together the crew that caused it and go back to that same place. Maybe age and gained knowledge will keep all of that from coming back. I suppose there are instances when ignorance truly is bliss.
This time though, the past was recreated a second time and it worked just as well the second time. Fast forward another ten years from the second go around and lets find out if a third go at it will be just as good.

Trip 1, summer of 1996:
Not knowing what to expect, the four of us (Dad, Seth Ogle, Dan Harlander and myself) jumped into the four seater in Orofino with all of our backpacks fully packed and ready to go. As it was my first time in a four seater, the experience would not be forgotten. Flying over the beautiful mountains of Idaho is something that everyone should get the chance to do at least once. There really isn't much better and the experience just doesn't ever diminish. After about 45 minutes, we see the landing strip, a couple hundred yards of grass at the end of a lake in which at least two other planes make their existence at the bottom of.
Over the following five days, we hiked and hiked some more. Along the way, we caught a few fish and saw some extremely remote areas that clearly few others would ever see in the way we did. For the first 25 or so miles, we didn't see any other people, which is tough to do, even out in the deep woods. The last night of the trip, we set up camp along the Selway River on a sandy beach that was still far enough up from the end of the road that nobody else rivaled us for it. It may well have been the greatest place I've spent a night. On the drive out, we made a point of stopping for a gynormous burger, did that ever taste great after five days of backpacking meals!

Trip 2, summer of 1998:
This time Gary Gertje took the place of Dan Harlander and another fantastic trip was to be had. Instead of five we took six days, spending two days at the meeting of the north fork of Moose Creek for some extended time at the good fishing hole. On the last day, we hiked 15 miles and Seth and I decided to race the last three or so of it. Try that with 45 to 50lb's on your back sometime and I guarantee you end it extremely exhausted! Thank goodness for that big ol' hamburger again!

Trip 3, summer of 2008:
I'll let you know how it goes when I get back on the 22nd of August, but Charlene is slotted to go with us too!

Fish Lake - 1998

Near Moose Creek

Dinner, fresh from Moose Creek

Fording the Moose Creek

Do guys ever truly grow up?

Just the right amount of mountains!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Planes, Trains, Automobiles, Boats And Dog Sleds

Start on the 12th... go go go go go go go go... end on the 20th.
Fly to Seattle, meet up with Dad, then take off for Anchorage. Hit up some dinner, which begins the stint of fresh Alaskan fish. I was also pleased to find out that Alaskans seem to like oatmeal stout beer!

Hop on the Alaskan Railroad for a six hour ride to Denali followed closely by more fresh Alaskan fish in my increasingly happy belly with a buffet at the Cabin Nite Dinner Theatre

Crossing one of the glacier silt filled rivers

Join 48 other (mostly) happy travelers on a very well announced bus tour into Denali National Park to see all of the big five - grizzly, moose, wolf, caribou, and dahl sheep. On a clear day, you can see Mt. Mckinley (at 20,320ft it is the highest peak in North America), but as you can tell from the photos, we didn't see it that day.

Even on a rainy day, the views are spectacular

It's not every day you see a wolf running down the side of the road

I guess this picture answers that age ol' question.

We started the day with some much needed exercise by hiking into three lakes
Later that day, we hopped an eight seater headed to Talkeetna via Mt. Mckinley. That was the most amazing scenery my eyes have ever witnessed without any doubt.

Mckinley to the left with a cloud "water fall" in center stage

More Mckinley with many of it's surrounding peaks
These are just the "foothills" to Mckinley

Hop on Mahay's jet boat (made in Lewiston by Bentz Boats) for a day tour up the Susitna River to the Devil's Canyon rapids. The rapids have only been successfully navigated in a jet boat twice and attempted four times. Along side the bottom of the rapids, we saw salmon surfacing, taking a break before attempting the rapids. To finish the day off, we hopped the train to head back to Anchorage.

Not an easy shot, a double panorama when the boat's bouncing every which way!

Hop the train again and head on down to Seward for a tour of their aquarium and a cruise around on Kenai Fjords half-day cruise. The cruise included many sightings of dall's porpoises, humpback whales, sea lions, sea otters and puffins.

The line from Anchorage to Seward has some amazing views and super tight turns that I had no idea trains could make

Resurrection Bay filled with a few boats

Going around Aialik Cape

Aialik Glacier, which we saw multiple pieces break off, but one that was substantial. I only got the large wave from that one. I bet some of the photographers out there with us caught it falling.

Start the day with a bus tour around the outer edges of Seward, a hike to Exit Glacier and a tour of a dog sled camp followed by a two mile ride behind 14 extremely motivated pooches.

Getting the shot of the salmon making the jump proved to be tough

Makes you want to jump in and grab lunch, that's what the two brown bears near by were doing

Rambo seems like a fitting name. These are mostly the young pups learning to run with a couple ol' pros guidance

Later that day, we hopped the train back to Girdwoord to stay in Alaska's only four star hotel, the Alyeska Resort

The train ride to go rafting down the Placer River went all the way to Whittier first, so we got to see nearly the entire Alaska Railroad. All we missed was from Denali to Fairbanks. After rafting, we headed back to Anchorage for the last time, this time via bus.

Whittier port

Taking off on the rafting trip, going through Spencer Lake which was full of glowing blue miniature icebergs that had popped off of Spencer Glacier

Spencer Lake and Glacier

Anchorage to Seattle back to Miss Charlene, who was missed A LOT!

Anchorage from 12 stories up

Friday, July 11, 2008

If You're Gonna Ride In Kendrick

Listening to an old country song today by Alabama reminded me of the little town I grew up in.

queue the lyrics....... Alabama version first

"If you're gonna play in Texas, you gotta have a fiddle in the band
That lead guitar is hot but not for "Louisiana Man"
So rosin up that bow for "Faded Love" and let's all dance
If you're gonna play in Texas, you gotta have a fiddle in the band

I remember down in Houston we were puttin' on a show
When a cowboy in the back stood up and yelled, "Cotton-Eyed Joe"!
He said, "We love what you're doin', boys don't get us wrong
There's just somethin' missin' in your song"

If you're gonna play in Texas, you gotta have a fiddle in the band
That lead guitar is hot but not for "Louisiana Man"
So rosin up that bow for "Faded Love" and let's all dance
If you're gonna play in Texas, you gotta have a fiddle in the band

So we dusted off our boots and put our cowboy hats on straight
Them Texans raised the roof when Jeff opened up his case
You say y'all all wanna two-step
You say ya wanna doe-si-doe
Well, here's your fiddlin' song before we go

If you're gonna play in Texas, you gotta have a fiddle in the band
That lead guitar is hot but not for "Louisiana Man"
So rosin up that bow for "Faded Love" and let's all dance
If you're gonna play in Texas, you gotta have a fiddle in the band

If you're gonna play in Texas, you gotta have a fiddle in the band
That lead guitar is hot but not for "Louisiana Man"
So rosin up that bow for "Faded Love" and let's all dance
If you're gonna play in Texas, you gotta have a fiddle in the band"

Okay, so here's the switcheroo:

If you're gonna ride in Kendrick, you gotta have some climbin' legs
That flatland ridin's great but not for "Northern Idaho Man"
So rosin up that crank for "Faded Love" and let's all dance
If you're gonna ride in Kendrick, you gotta have some climbin' legs

I remember down in Boise we were puttin' on a show
When a roadie in the back stood up and yelled, "Cotton-Eyed Joe"!
He said, "We love what you're doin', boys don't get us wrong
There's just somethin' missin' in your legs"

If you're gonna ride in Kendrick, you gotta have some climbin' legs
That flatland ridin's great but not for "Northern Idaho Man"
So rosin up that crank for "Faded Love" and let's all dance
If you're gonna ride in Kendrick, you gotta have some climbin' legs

So we dusted off our bikes and put our climbin' helmets on straight
Them Kendrickians (?) raised the roof when Matt opened up a can of whoop arse
You say y'all all wanna put the hammer down
You say ya wanna pound the pavement
Well, here's your climbin' grade before we go

If you're gonna ride in Kendrick, you gotta have some climbin' legs
That flatland ridin's great but not for "Northern Idaho Man"
So rosin up that crank for "Faded Love" and let's all dance
If you're gonna ride in Kendrick, you gotta have some climbin' legs

When I get back from Alaska, it'll be time to get some power back in the legs and "maybe" a trip to northern Idaho will be in store to get the climbin' legs rollin' again.

Monday, July 07, 2008

A Temporary Lifestyle Change

Life is a bit simpler and better when you can get away from the city. This time, the trip was to Curtis Lake for almost four days. This expedition was made even more exciting with a tough decision needing to be made on the way into the lake. When the trail dropped off of the ridge, it proved impossible to find again for the two of us. Earlier that day (the 3rd), Dad, Tara and Josh had hiked in and, as it turned out, lost the trail as well. We were starting a bit on the late side (8:19 to be exact) and had to rock out on the trip in to have daylight the whole way. Expecting quality trail the whole way, we figured it wouldn't be a big issue. When the trail disappeared without a trace, things became a whole lot more interesting! Having started with only the end destination on the GPS, I knew roughly what needed to be done even if the trail did drop out. Turned out that the GPS was extremely useful! When the sun started going down, we had to choose between setting up camp at a small lake/pond that was just past half way and continuing on in the dark. We chose the latter and still did not have a trail to hike. We crossed the trail twice in our zig-zagging to the lake, but both times were in marshy areas that were tough to follow the trail even in the daylight. We even lost the trail again for a short ways on the way out! Needless to say, the trail could use some upkeep work.

In an attempt to find where the trail dropped off, we traversed the ridge, to no avail. The line you see off of the ridge is from the hike back.

Charlene relaxing with the fishing pole.

Josh and I taking Lucy out for a trip on the raft. By the time we got back to shore, the Redrum was gone. If for any reason you may need to know, that glass bottle doesn't float until it's over half way empty.

Lucy eventually decided it was safer to get away from the drunken sailors

Dad and Tara did the tough job of catching dinner while Josh and I were still working on the Redrum

A view from above

A candid panorama from camp

The whole crew

Looking from the trail as far as the Sawtooth Range

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Ground At The Grind

Sometimes the ups and downs of bike racing come very close to one another. This time, they came in the order that works well when trying to persuade somebody. Show the positive first, then the negative and, if done correctly, they'll understand what needs to change. Guess what? I learned what needs to change in my racing! I learned that I need to stop doing corners in the heat at elevation (a.k.a. Holt Arena criteriums).
If you are still wondering what in the world I'm talking about, here it goes...
The Gate City Grind took place last weekend in Pocatello, ID. An 87 mile road race, a 6.2 mile time trial and a 75 minute criterium.
To give you some background on this race, I have perpetually been 2nd here and typically lose the race in the criterium.
2004 - Pack finish in the road race, won the TT (in the overall lead afterwards), lost the lead due to time bonus going to the wrong person in the crit. The Utah team had way more guys and worked me over.
2005 - duplicated 2004 flawlessly
2006 - skipped to go backpacking
2007 - only difference was that I didn't win the TT, lost by four seconds.
2008... Okay, here comes the review.
The road race went WAY better than in years past. We had a crew of five, which was way better than years past! We sent Slack up the road early, eventually the field brought back his breakaway with about a lap to go. At that point, I went off the front with a few other guys. We drilled the last lap (17 miles) pretty fast and gained 56 seconds on the field. Cameron Hoffman won the sprint as was expected, but what may have been less expected, I was 2nd!
Next up, the TT, I was stoked to have a lead on the majority of the field and had every intention of uncorking a good TT. Turns out that I did just that. It was the fastest I'd ever done that course, even though they added a couple hundred meters to it! I was in the lead by 45 seconds after the TT, a margin that "SHOULD" be insurmountable. One MAJOR problem, the guy 45 seconds back was the best crit racer in the field and the Holt Arena crit hasn't treated me so nicely in the past.
The Holt Arena criterium had 11, yes 11, corners in it this year and a lap was taking around a minute twenty for each lap. 619 corners at near 100 degrees... UGH. At around 15 minutes into the race, a prime was called and 3 slipped the field. 3 of the guys that we did not want to get away, including Matt Shriver, a pro racing for Jittery Joe's and two R.A.D.D. racers including Cameron Hoffman... UGH! The entire Bob's crew hit the front and one by one detonated until I was the last resort. I left the field and had brought along Brandon Lynch from the California Giant squad. We got within 10 seconds of the break for a very short lived stint, but just couldn't quite close the entire gap. Eventually the break caught the tail end of the field and the R.A.D.D. squad (technically pros) went ballistic, bringing me all the way back. I wasn't too thrilled to know that I was getting worked over by the field rather than the break at that point. It's well documented that sometimes shiza and the fan meet at high speed, resulting in shiza everywhere. Thank you much to the Bob's crew for working your arses off to get things as close as possible. In the end, I was 3rd overall. The 2nd place streak did finally end.
Go big or get out of the way right?

Charlene came down with an old coworker and his wife to watch the criterium, surprising me before the start as she hadn't told me anything about coming down. She got to see some really good racing!

In other news-
This coming Friday, Charlene and some of my fam are going to do some backpacking, marking the beginning of the hole in my race season. After a year away from backpacking, it's time to make up for some lost time. When we get back, I'll start packing for eight days in Alaska!!!!!
Does life get any better?

Tonight, it's time for a barbecue to honor a soon to be MIA teammate. Justin Rose is headed off to medical school in Denver, CO on July 20th. The Bob's team will be missing a quick learning, motivated powerhouse that cannot be replaced anytime soon. Good luck in your future endeavors JRose.

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