Monday, May 27, 2013

Wet, Stanky #quadcitiescrit Lazy Eyed Llama

Sitting in the front seat of the Toyota Sequoia on I-74 somewhere east of Moline, IL the process of collecting thoughts from a weekend of racing begins. These trips always bring new revelations to light, but none as poignant, or is that pungent (?) as how bad Sue the Llama smells after three days in non-stop rain.

After two days of continual rain, lightning, thunder, and wet socks the inside of Sue the Llama smells exactly how you would suspect a wet llama to smell. As first you can't really place that smell when you step inside, but after a few minutes you start to place the smells - wet socks stuck to the floor, damp wooden floor boards combined with wet food and coffee spills, and to top it all off, the smell of gasoline from refueling the generator to keep the lights and coffee pot going during the cold, damp days. Stepping in you aren't sure if you should clean it up or turn around and hurl out the door.

Why do we do this? Why do we continue to trudge around the race course with spares wheels in hand and sopping wet socks squishing heavily inside even wetter sneakers?

In the heat of the moment it is easy to miss the scores of other adults running around sporting a similar three day growth on their chin, mom's standing in the crosshairs at Quad Cities taking pictures of their young juniors carving a corner, and the dozens of kids asking what tire pressure they should run. If you don't take a moment to step back and watch exactly what is occurring around you the moment will be lost.

In the heat of the moment of cheering for Ian, Spencer, Gavin, Mackenzie, Rachel, Katherine, and the scores of other Red Zone and Lionheart racers from our region you will miss that IS Corp had scores of youth at these races - too many to count. You would miss that of the eight lead riders in the Juniors 15-18 at Snake Alley, seven of them were highly ranked CX juniors. You would miss the top six of the combined 15-18 group each day included two juniors that aren't old enough to get their driver's license.

Most of all you would miss the spirit of why these races are important. From juniors meeting the other members of their Rimouski international team to 10 year olds playing with sticks in puddles of water, you would miss seeing long distance cycling relationships blossoming. Cycling for kids is still a very rare choice, rare enough that the support network for the kids is often several states away. 

Snake Alley weekend is more than cycling, it serves a higher purpose. Bringing kids together, motivating kids to reach higher, and providing a support network wider than just mom and dad. Results you won't read about on the USA Cycling website.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

#snakealley Slip'N'Slide

Every road racer knows how to check the weather report. Admit it, 99% of those signing up for a race at the very last minute are watching the weather report as the final decision points for the go/no-go. When the pre-race registration closed earlier this week the weather report looked pretty decent. Cooler temperatures with partly cloudy skies seemed pretty typical for Mermorial Day weekend.

Fast forward to the morning of the race - that weather report not only looked worse, I at first thought I was headed to a cross race. Mid-50s and almost constant rain in the forecast and I was ready to put on my mudders and claim my stand in the pits for bike swaps. I didn't have to muck to the pits, but I did have to think about tire pressure - something you rarely expect in crits. With the cobbles up the snake tire pressure had some impact - if you slipped, you walked. Suddenly I wasn't 'over-prepared' by bringing my battery powered CX pump with super-accurate gauge.

Snake Alley is one of the larger junior races in the Midwest, if not the country. Spencer, Kenz, and Nickzilla all met kids from other parts of the country last year. The boys 15-18 field in particular is a large and very competitive race - with over 50 kids registered to race. The kids have a huge interest in doing well. Having the skies open up prior to the race put some of them at ease - with a good CX background your mindset doesn't shift when a little rain comes to the game.

The focus of the race is on the snake, and the steep, cobbled turns. While many kids would slip, fall, and walk the snake, the descent was far more important. Traditional road hazards play havoc on this day - manhole covers, road paint, potholes filled with water. These traditional hazards could send someone sliding down the descent on the seat of their pants at speeds that impact recovery time.

Names familiar to the OVCX cyclocross scene dotted the front of the Juniors 15-18. The race selected 8 racers at the top of the field, 3 of those were 15-16s and those there were Haley, McShane, Petrov. Not only are our local juniors kicking our adult butts in OVCX, they are kicking butts at big events in the road scene.

Friday, May 24, 2013

#Juniors Tour De Lazy Eyed Llama Travel Day

Nothing warms the heart and cements the value of cycling in a teenager more than missing a day of school to race. Over the last few years I have certainly pushed my wonderful wife to the brink several times with the question, "Sure.  They can miss a few days of school.  Right?"

Teenager's have very few reservations about missing a day of school - but sitting in a car for 8 hours may push those limits. How do you make the car fun while driving through the flat, barren prairies of western Illinois and the rolling farmland that borders the Mississippi River in Iowa? You don't.

Old guys like myself remember traversing western Indiana into Illinois to visit relatives near Peoria, IL. If you have ever driven Interstate 74 you would swear there are no turns and that you can see the Rocky Mountains off in the distance. A couple of us have the experience of driving across Nebraska, so Iowa seems like driving the strip in Vegas by comparison, but the kids get the luxury of flying long distances while the dad's share a bed in the back of an SUV.

As you read this blog post on your iThing with your head down at the dinner table avoiding your vegetables, the realization should come to you that iThings are what make this all bearable - for both the teen and the parent. As long as 3G is strong enough the teen won't know what country they are in and couldn't care less if they are in Indiana, Illinois, or Iowa. They all start with "I" and look the same through the car window. Of course I am writing this blog entry on an iPad with cell service while sitting the passenger seat of a Toyota Sequoia midway through Illinois.

Signs that you travel with another family too often include not being able to remember which road trip you saw something peculiar. Several times someone would say "remember last year when we saw [insert silly memory]" which would quickly be rebutted with "no, that was on that other trip". We are going to have to start documeting these encounters better. Maybe in a blog or something.

Travel days do give you time to consider things you hadn't really thought about previously. We found ourselves wondering about our lazy eyed llama - did she have a name? We affectionately called her "llama", but that doesn't seem real personal. We decided that from now on we would call her Sue. Seems appropriate, though we aren't quite sure why.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Return of the Juniors, Tour De Lazy Eyed Llama

To them January seems like an eon ago.  For adults involved in junior cycling, the time has passed quickly between Cyclocross Nationals and our upcoming Memorial Day trip to Snake Alley. When we last left our duo of Spencer and Mackenzie, they had  finished a successful cyclocross campaign with a trip to Madison, WI. Now it's May and it's hot.  Packing the trailer, it's out with the propane heater and in with an extra ice chest.

After a short but needed post-cyclocross break, Spencer and Mackenzie got back to riding, this time with a full road schedule in mind: more miles, more hours and a return of intervals.  On tap for the summer are road trips to the Snake Alley criterium, back to Madison, WI for Junior Road Nats, and on to Rimouski, Quebec for a junior stage race in Canada. This meant a TON of riding. A TON of racing. Many adults find riding relaxing and rejuvenating, but making 10-12 hours of riding per week not feel like eye-rolling annoying work to a teen with a very important social media life is like a Grand Tour in itself.  So, we come up with ways to make the training fun.

For those familiar with the Cincinnati riding scene, there is a llama farm northeast of town along a road frequented by cyclists. Mackenzie, under heavy influence from her giddy female Biowheels teammates, stopped and talked to the llamas. Imagine their excitement when they realized one of the llama's had a lazy eye.  Sometimes the joys of cycling are found off the bike.

It became Lazy Eyed Llama ride.  While we've ridden past the farm multiple times this spring, we rarely get up close to the llama. Sometimes he's in the distance grazing comfortably on the farm.  Sometimes, he's out of sight leaving us to question his whereabouts and what the farmer may have done with him.  Regardless, the llama makes the miles and hours pass quicker.  Suddenly, the summer road race trip is here and cyclocross season is "sooo last year Dad."  Mission completed.

Over the coming days, we welcome you to follow Spencer and Mackenzie on their tour of junior road racing.  Since this is their trip, the kids decided the llama must have a place in the upcoming blog entries.  To honor the llama's place in their training, welcome to The Tour De Lazy Eyed Llama.

To kick off the 2013 travel season on Memorial Day weekend in the Quad Cities, we are hereby titling these entries "The Tour De Lazy Eyed Llama". Heck, if it makes the kids giggle and feel better kooked up in a car for hours with a sea of corn out the window, then by all means we'll do it.  Stay tuned.

While you're here, enter the Cremo Cream Hairiest Hairy Leg Contest.  Send in a photo of your legs to win a Cremo Cream shaving gift set.  Click here for details.

Monday, May 20, 2013

The Hairiest Hairy Leg Contest Ever presented by Cremo Shave Cream

They are real.  And, they are spectacular.
While shoes scream for attention, (Italian ones gesture wildly) even the best shaving cream cowers in the corner of the shower with foamy muffled whimpers.  I was reluctant at first.  On the swag-o-meter, a new pair of shoes ranks much higher than shaving cream.  I must admit, I was a little “meh” when Cremo Cream (the astonishingly superior shave cream) asked if they could ship me some free product in exchange for a giveaway with readers.  After all, you’ve been dazzled with Injinji toe socks, GU, Road ID, Ryders Eyewear and Pearl Izumi clothing.  Then again, if there is one thing all cyclists have in common it’s the constant quest to cut costs where possible and spend freely on what matters the most.  Hence people on $10,000 bikes are often found stuffing their pockets full of free GU’s and Snickers on club century rides.  So see below for The Hairiest Hairy Leg Contest EVER.

We all shave, eventually.  Some of you believe shaving makes you faster.  It does not.  9 out of 10 cycling coaches agree.  Riding with slow people makes you faster.  Some believe shaving makes you look better.  It does not.  Riding with ugly people makes you more attractive.  Some believe shaving makes you fit in with the crowd.  It does not.  Shaving makes you the outcast in the one-seater kayak at the summer office canoe picnic.  Some believe shaving makes massage easier.  It does not.  Copious amounts of oil rubbed all over by a big woman with man mitts makes massage easier.  Some believe shaving is a rite of passage.  Hmm….now, you may have something there. 

There is a sweet pair of Zipp 343’s in my man cave.  Every fall they come off my wife’s bike.  Sometime during the spring, they go back on…when the bike fairy rings the magic cowbell and deems her Zippworthy.  The Zipps are a rite of passage, a reward for months of training in foul winter weather turning her into a raging she-beast on a bike.  The same applies to shaving, although Cremo Cream does not cost $2500 a pair.  The first shaving of the meat sticks of the season for many is viewed as a rite of passage, from neandercyclist to racer.  Me ride fast.

Smooth and silky, shaving is like wearing superman’s cape.  It makes you fly.  It’s like the Hulk’s muscles ripping through a plaid shirt to reveal mountains of green muscle.  Raaawwwrr!  It makes you feel like you can tear your riding buddies to shreds.  Shaving makes that delicious bit of quad meat above your knee look like an unclimbable cornice on Mt. Everest.  Shaving makes your massage therapist ask if you’d like the sports massage.  Shaving makes the three girls in the pickup truck whistle and woot as they pass on your ride through Northern Kentucky.  Shaving is also the reason their jealous boyfriends buzz you, call you a “Nancy” and exhaust blast you in a black diesel fog. 

Honey, what are you doing with your phone in the shower?
It’s the end of spring.  If you think you’ve earned the most spectacular leg shave you’ll ever receive outside of hiring your very own soigneur with a straight razor, read on for a chance to win.  I’ve tried Cremo Cream.  It’s great on toast.  It also leaves you a remarkably closer shave than the stuff you had the coupon for.  It’s slick.  Whatever lubricant is in there makes the razor glide easily and the moisturizing seems to linger after the razor passes.  I didn’t see the need to put on lotion afterward.  Since it’s really not a foamy thing, the razor clears hair more easily.  While I didn’t really count, it seemed like I got more trips up my leg before I had to wash the clippings out of the blade.  After I was done my wife ran her hand up my leg and said, “Yummy.” Then she nibbled on my calves.  As it says on the tube, “Try it once to believe it.  Enjoy it for life.  It’s really that good.”  You can pick it up at CVS, Walgreens, Walmart and a number of retailers.  Visit Cremo Cream online for details.

If you’re still not convinced to try Cremo Cream yet, let me indulge your frugality.  Share your hair to win a Cremo Cream Gift Set.

We’ll draw 3 winners, a virtual podium of sasquatches on bikes, to win a Cremo Cream gift set including: shaving cream, moisturizer and wash.  If you’re lucky, we may even post your photo to Facebook or use it on the blog.  Deadline is at Noon (Eastern Time) on Tuesday, June 4th.  Good luck!  Winners will be drawn randomly.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Natural Entertainment in Las Vegas

Can you tell I was lost in Mirage Casino
With a BAC of .01%, a cyclist for all practical purposes is drunk.  When a cyclist is drunk, there is no amount of internal compass that will help find your way out of a casino at 2am.  Despite being 2:30am, and despite breaking the beer before booze rule, I turned to Strava.  While it didn’t help me get through the slot canyon maze of slot machines at the Mirage, it showed the direction of the strip in relation to the bathroom I was in and certainly produced the most amusing Strava map of our hiking/mountain biking trip to Las Vegas last week.  Note the knotted mess on the Strava photo at left.  If you’re looking for a similar adventure, get the drink in the tall plastic cup, go clubbing till 2-3 a.m. and enjoy your 5.5 mile Annie-eyed bedazzled hike up the strip.

Watch for Wild Burros in Red Rock Wilderness
Co-workers questioned my choice of vacation prior to my departure to Las Vegas.  I did too.  It would seem like a mountain climber setting his sights on the summit Magic Mountain.  Like you, I’m one of those weird people who like to swim in pools and see life in Death Valley.  In Vegas, I managed to put my inner Tourist-hater aside, played a Pink Diamonds slot machine, danced to Icona Pop at a club and with my white chest and biker tan arms kicked some beach ball ass at the Hardrock Hotel Rehab Pool Party. 

Lake Mead Overlook
Our plan was simple: adventure in the morning, go out at night.  That worked until Thursday, when night blended into morning and I ended up hiking The Strip.  “Why didn’t you take a cab?”  My co-workers asked.  Taxis are for wussies and besides, my rational was nothing prevents the bed spins like an hour and fifteen minute heart rate spiking walk under the buzz of neon and past Urban Campers and suspected pick pockets.

Overlook of Boogleg Canyon IMBA Trail
It wasn’t the highlight of the trip, but I did get in a decent mountain bike ride at the challenging Bootleg Canyon, in Boulder City, a half hour from The Strip near the Hoover Dam.  I rented a Specialized full-boinger 29er from All Mountain Cycles, a nice ride with Sram X-9.  It was $50 for the afternoon.  Bootleg Canyon is sort of a mix between pump track and flow.  On the east side of the trail system you’ll get an overlook of Lake Mead.  Through the canyon on the north side, squint for a view of The Strip. 

Calico Trails in Red Rock Canyon West of Vegas
Once you get the hang of the twisting quick steep ups and downs of the place, you’ll dig it.  Novice and intermediate riders should stick to the trails west of the main entrance like the IMBA trail.  Those trails throw much less curveballs, have longer sighting for obstacles and feature a more smooth flowy ride.   The Lake View and Caldera area trails had me off the bike in a few spots.  You can’t bench cut rock.  They don’t.  So you’ll periodically come around a blind corner and be greeted with a section of off camber jagged rock where the trail should be.  I was jazzed when I cleaned it.  When I bailed rather than risk losing skin, I looked around to make sure no one actually saw me on foot.

A Whole Family Watches from Above
Despite a trail review mentioning rattlesnakes, the highlight of the trip came on a spur of the moment slot canyon-esque hike out and back in White Rock Canyon in Arizona.  We hiked from the Willow Beach trailhead off the main highway a few miles from Hoover Dam.  It’s surprising how many desert places have wet sounding names.  I found the trail on the AllTrails app which can locate trails in your vicinity no matter where you are should the need to hike strike you, like at grandma's out of town funeral.  

The White Rock Canyon trail is a 7 mile round-trip out-and-back to the Colorado River.  On the way down, the walls closed close enough to run my fingers along on either side in places.  When it opened up, we were surrounded by a cathedral of 2-3000 ft. rocky peaks dotted with wild flowers, scrub bushes and the occasional family of big horned desert sheep.  They payoff was the Colorado River, deep and powerful.  We bouldered up a big rock to a fantastic view of the river’s eddys, only 4 miles downstream from the Hoover Dam.  Hike/climb downstream a few hundred meters from the beach and you can enjoy a dip in a natural hot spring.  All of this natural wonder 40 minutes away from the best artificial entertainment in the world.