Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Car Free Day on Commercial Dr.

This happened a few weeks ago now, but I'm just getting around to writing about it.

What a wonderful concept. Close down a busy thoroughfare and have a street party. There was street hockey, DJ's, Dancing, and eating. There were Tall Bikes. My kids loved the Tall bikes. A could have ridden them all day if we would have let him. T needed some help -- she is not off her training wheels yet and the "bend in half" bike proved to be a challenge, both for her to stay on and me to coordinate.

The festival was a great community event. There were 10's of thousands of people there. The idea for the festival was initially as a protest against the widening of a major highway entering Vancouver. The "Gateway Project" threatens to bring more and more traffic through the Commercial Drive area, something residents, and others (10's of thousands of others), are against.

Building roads is not the way out of congestion. It is a short term solution to a bigger problem. We are going build more highways so we can support more cars, more development in outlying areas, and ultimately be in the same situation as we are now -- Gridlock. Gridlock with MORE cars. Doesn't make a lot of sense to me.

Thank goodness we can close a street down for a day and have a festival. We should do this more often!

Bike Commuting as Training

Last weekend I "competed" in the the Test of Metal mountain bike race in Squamish (B.C., Canada). This was the first cross country mountain bike race that I have been in for about 12 years. I used to be a road/track racer in the '80's and early '90's, competing at a provincial and national level. I actually moved to Vancouver so that I could ride all year round, and then 'life happened'. I went to University, found 'all the other things life can bring' and gradually gave up bike racing. I continued to ride though, I took up mountain biking in the late '80's and have loved it ever since. But why did I decide to race again? I guess there were a number of reasons. First of all I had some demons to concur after my last race 12 years ago -- there was the flu, the heat and an epic bonk that made a 3 hour race into a 4 and a half hour death march, but that is another story -- my kids are getting to the age where I can actually have some time to train, and, the big one, I turned 40 this spring.

Because the race sold out in a record 4 hours and 19 minutes, and I signed up 3 hours later, I was relegated to the "wait list" at 145. I thought there was no chance of making it into the race so I didn't really get a training regime going. I found out two weeks before the race that 145 people actually did surrender their positions so that I could participate -- thank you all.

So my training consisted primarily of commuting to and from work, something that I have done for 20 years or so in varying degrees. I now have a dedicated commuting bike -- a hybrid, with all the things that racers hold in contempt -- fenders with mudflaps, flat handle bars, panniers and a rack, lights, a bell, and, for the love of God, a mirror! Now I am a 3 -4 day a week commuter doing 15 km each way to and from work, with about 1000 ft elevation gain at the end of my ride. So I get a bit of a work out with the hill at the end of my ride.

I mentioned that I have kids, two in fact. One is 6 and one is 3. So I am just seeing a bit of light at the end of the toddler stage tunnel. This gives my wife and I a bit or our own time -- either together or exercising, she has taken up trail running I have returned to mountain biking after a 5 year hiatus. We still don't have a ton of time to train though so the bulk of my mileage on the bike is commuting. I see commuting as "free fitness," I have to get to work somehow, we have just one car, I am lucky enough to have shower and locker facilities at work, so why not use them? Bike commuting in my eyes is the easiest form of fitness. I get 30 km per day 3 or 4 times a week -- that's 90 - 120 km a week without even thinking about training! But is enough for a 67 km cross country race with 5000 ft of climbing? I wasn't sure. So there was some augmentation of my regime. Every Wednesday I would ride my mountain bike to work and then on the way home ride up into the mountains and do 30 -35 kms (double my usual ride with an offroad component). This only added an hour or so to my commute, not much of a time commitment -- I have to get home anyway and I was only an hour later than normal -- good value.

So I guess your wondering how I faired? Well, I wasn't competitive in the true sense of the word. I had a bad start and a mechanical failure (which cost me 10 minutes), but I passed a ton of people, I didn't cramp in Crumpit (Crampit) Woods, I had a smile on my face and I felt pretty good at the finish and I was on my commuter Monday morning continuing the "training".

Friday, June 16, 2006

Ripper Update

This blog seems to be changing from a commuting cycling blog to a mountain bike race blog. Oh well I'll get back to the commuting roots of the blog sometime. Right now most of my spare time is spent off road.

I mentioned in the previous blog that Ripper 3 was upcoming. Well that was last Saturday. After Ripper 2 I was pretty thrilled. My partner and I had a fair ride and we finished in 6th place out of 5o odd teams. Not bad. Especially considering our team consisted of primarily skinny white guys that can climb well and the race was a Super D, not really our thing.

What is a Super D? Well it is supposed to be a downhill race with significant climbing as well. Considering the fact that the race started on CBC and finished at the bottom of Seymour mountain I guess we were lucky that there was any incline at all on course. Being climbers the only real hope we had was to go really fast on the uphill sections and survive the downhill -- of course it turned out to be ~90% downhill with 10% climbing. In the first part of the race, CBC, we lost 2 or 3 minutes. We caught all the teams that passed us on the first uphill and a few others, including our fast friends that had broken a derallieur. I guess the short uphill was enough -- It was quite enjoyable riding past a bunch of teams that were walking their bikes up.

Anyway 6th place in the end -- not bad. A video can be found here.

Ripper 3 was s different story. The first Ripper was half up half down. Ripper 2 was 90% down with 10% up, so you can guess what Ripper 3 was all about -- that's right fully downhill WITH stunts. I've never been in a downhill before. My buddies and I practice ardently for days before the race -- still I was nowhere near the times that my friends were putting in. No matter it was fun. I was able to complete a couple of jumps at the top. I fell off in the gerbil cage at the worst point, 6 feet above the swamp. Both feet soaked -- no hope of completing the stunt, time lost, bonus lost, despair. I did complete all of the rest of the stunts so my time bonus wasn't too bad. If only I could stay on my bike -- but hey it's a learning process. Ya so mid 40's finish. All my limbs are in tact and it was a bunch of fun. There is always next year.

Ripper 4 is the Triple Crown. Up Seymour Mountain, down any trail you want after the check point, up Mt. Fromme, down any trail you want after the check point, and over to Cypress mountain and down any trail you want after the check point. Here is a map of the route, I think. The climb up Seymour is about 2300 ft, the climb up Fromme is about 2000 ft, and the final climb will be about 2000 ft -- ah all in a day's work. And it is a poker challenge -- so we'll get a card at each check point -- the winning hand wins the race. I'm going to have to learn how to play poker.

I want to thank all the great Guys and Gals that are organising the Ripper Series. Both NSMBA and Dizzy Cycles are doing a great job at organising a community based fun race series. Thanks Guys.

Monday, June 05, 2006

I'm Back (for now)

Well it has been a bad month for blogging, but it has also been a good month for everything else. I have been so busy there has been no time for typing.

There was the trip up to the interior with the kids, a six year old's birthday party, there was the Ripper 2 Super D race, there has been training for the Test of Metal and there has been some time off the bike recovering from a bit of a "procedure".

I guess some of the big news is that I am in the Test of Metal, a 67 Km mountain bike race in Squamish. It was touch and go for a while. The race sold out in a record 4 hours and 19 minutes. I registered 7 hours after the registration went live. Hmm, three hours too late -- I was 145th on the waiting list. Every couple of weeks updates were sent letting me know where I stood on the waiting list. Up until a month ago there was very little movement. I had resigned myself to the fact that I wasn't going to get in. And then, through some act of God I guess, 145 people were stuck by mysterious illnesses and broken bones, I wonder how that happened? Last week I received the email that I had jumped from 113 to 6th on the list. At that point I realised I had better do some training.

Before the "Test" is the 3rd Ripper. Up until now the Rippers have played a little bit to my strengths -- the first one was up and down (perfect for me -- I could climb!), the second race was down with some uphill (We got passed on the downhill but did caught a wack of teams on the uphill portions), this one is just gravity fed! And not "just" gravity fed -- gravity fed with tons of "tricks" for time bonuses. Jumps, skinny's, ladders and log rides -- oh and did I mention AT PACE!? Training Wednesday night.

So in the next couple of weeks I have to train for both a downhill race and a really long cross country race, could be ticky. There may not be time for blogging.