Thursday, February 28, 2008

Busy Day.

Someone has either found my Birkie race report funny or interesting--and forwarded it on to lots of people. 20 views is a busy day here, and well--this is as of noon.

Looks like a link was emailed to a group across the Midwest. I did see a new pageview from Sweden too.... not sure if that's related though. Last week someone in India was reading about the Vasaloppet here.

Say hi while you're here, and feel free to snoop around!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

TGI America.

So now the media is attacking Barack for not wearing a flag lapel pin. Talk about moronic-- Only in America would we expect our President to have a minimum amount of flair.

The flag is a symbol--the liberty it stands for is way more important than a colored piece of fabric. Every single republican legislator is wearing them, and yet they are doing their best to reduce your personal freedom, and raid your pocketbook to give tax cuts to the wealthy.

Symbols are for the Symbol Minded. Say that aloud to get my jist. We would be much better off if people could tell me the words in the bill of rights rather than carry flags around.

Barack doesn't need a flag pin to enforce the letter of the Constitution. Republicans need one to hide the fact that they're burning it.

This country is not Applebees. Take a big, mouth watering bite of STFU.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Birkebeiner '08 Race Report

I should preface by saying that neither Birkebeiners nor Jager shots cure chest colds. I'm going to bed after I finish this, and I'm not going to work tomorrow.


As I left the city on Friday, I was sneezing. By the time I made it to Telemark, I was hacking phlegm in every color of ROY G BIV.

This would be my first Birkebeiner and I was determined to race, mostly because I skipped the Vasaloppet, I've improved much this year, and I've been really excited to finally ski on this course. I figured if it got worse, I'd just quit.

I settled in with some new friends at the condo, waxed my skis to Fastwax's recommendation, ate some pasta, and got to bed early.The weather station said that the weather would be 28 high for race day. In the morning, it was 2F, and I was torn about what to wear. Figuring I'd warm up, I wore my base layer & jersey/ thin tights and Craft windstopper underoo's and was very comfortable after the race started.

As I lined up in wave 4 (full 51km, skate), I promised myself that I would stick to my strategy for the day: Take the first third easy, start to push 18-34km, and go for bust after that. I would also get ahead of my calorie consumption by taking a gel at least every 40 minutes.

My legs felt pretty flat as we started up the first of the bumps along the power lines and was beginning to wonder if not skiing since last weekend was such a good idea, but they warmed up soon enough.

Cough, cough. Hack, hack.

About 7 km in, I fell on a very small downhill. My foot caught a rut, I crossed ski's and superman'ed to the ground, ski's helicoptered above me. I got up quickly & kept going. Shocked Very embarrassing--my balance has improved exponentially this year, and I'm glad only a few witnessed it.

When the big hills arrived, I was ready, having done plenty of single poling during training. Sometimes it felt even faster than my V1. The view approaching Firetower was incredible. Going up it wasn't too bad--there were worse ones later on. These huge hills have super long lines of people going up them. It's very difficult to get ahead of people in these instances.

Shortly after passing 00, I reached for another gel. I was out! I'd only had 4 to that point, but I'd brought more than that. I must have dropped some on the course while reaching into my jersey pocket. I still had some concentrated gatorade in my hip holster, and that was able to hold me over until I hit the next aid station that had gels. I had a Clifshot Plain at the next stop. I hate the flavored kind with intense fervor, but this was the worst thing I've ever tasted. To make things worse, it was cold and extra viscous. I needed three "energy drinks" to wash it down.

My second (and last, thankfully) fall was at the second snowmobiler hangout. A steep downhill curving to the right, I avoided the two traffic-jammed inside berms in favor of the smoothe outside next to the classic track. Unfortunately, someone else with the same idea fell in front of me, and to avoid her, I stepped over between the classical tracks, lost my balance, and just before regaining it, caught my tips in the powder 6" from the jeering audience. Instead of plowing into them, I kneeled down, rolled onto my back, skis over the top of me, and back onto them in one fluid motion--a talent carried over from my steep & deep downhill experiences at Whistler & Alta.

The next section of the Birkie is much more forgiving: lots of rolling hills, flat stuff, easy uphills, fluid corners, etc. I started to push a little harder, V2ing as much as possible, carrying as much momentum up hills as possible. I started to drop packs of (mostly wave 3) skiiers. This was my favorite part of the course, and I still felt fairly fresh.

Cough, hack, cough.

Things started to get difficult a little before the last aid station--I could feel the wear on my body in my core. I finished my gatorade, grabbed some drink and immediately took off on to one of the most difficult hills of the day. Sad, because it wasn't very steep at all--one of the few times I was passed. Once I made it to the top, the terrain again opened up, and I resumed V2. I V1'ed what I guessed was the last hill with the knowledge that I had less than 5km, and soon enough I was on the lake. I was trying to hold a V2, but the snow was already out and starting to bake the snow....and my god the line of skiiers was long. I decided to shift down to an open field skate at the hardest pace I could hold, planning for a sprint through Hayward. This was probably the most painful section of the race for me. Even little 6" bumps on the groom felt like hills. I passed more & more skiiers, threaded the needle through a few in some ankle deep powder connecting the lake to the streets of Hayward, and started my last V2 assault.

As I took a full speed right turn onto main street, someone yelled my name. I took a hypoxic look back and nearly fell, balancing with my left ski at hip height for a good 15 meters before I caught myself. I passed ~5 people on main street and finished.

My chip-taking friends from the condo laughed at the huge icicle hanging from my temple down to my jawline as a photographer took my portrait.

In the end, the race was easier than I'd been led to believe. It was tough, but I was expecting worse. The trail was WONDERFUL--beautiful nature and well developed "flow." I was dropping lung fragments on the trail about every 30 seconds, but I still had a fun time.

It got a little tough towards the end, but it was probably the most fun ski race I've ever done. I now know why everyone does it. I'm hooked, I'm going back next year, and I want blood.

Time: 3:26
13xx/3100 Freestyle skiiers according to the paper.
11x/180 age group.

Avg pace: 6:45/mile
Max Speed: 26.8mph
Avg HR: 158
Max HR: 172
Calories Burnt: 4491

1 Granola bar
1 Chocolate Brownie Clif Bar
3 Leine's Dopplebocks
2 Shots of Jager (Double kudos to Troy)

The season is over. I'm staying home tomorrow, but will probably see my allergist tomorrow--I'm flying to SLC on Thursday for 4 days of downhilling.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008


So right now I have this intense urge to cut my hair off. As in, a total buzzcut--which could potentially morph into a part like I used to have as a kid. I'm kinda getting sick of long hair at this moment, and it always grows back, right?

Anyone wanna talk me outta this?

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The first of many infographics to come.

My inspiration.

"In the long run, I hope and pray that my work in the local community for the last three decades will speak louder than the challenges I now face," McKee said.

I doubt that will happen.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Cycling & Skiing.

In my progression away from the couch-oriented lifestyle, I initially jumped onto downhill skis, added a triathlon bike, then a mountain bike, and finally skate skis.

I've always drawn parallels between downhill skiing & mountain biking, and XC skiing and road biking. It seems intuitive:

Downhill and mountain biking are both "off road", require some amount of fearlessness, and involve flying through the air, sometimes at high speed. In both cases, little bit of finesse can compensate for a great amount of cardiovascular fitness. (you ought to see some of the guys in speedsuits at my downhill league--spandex nightmares)

XC skiing and Road cycling require smooth, maintained "trails",and emphasis is often placed on your ability to go uphill and your cardiovascular engine. We often talk about skate skiing's "gears" and their similarity to a those on my Cervelo.

But I've changed my mind.

I think XC skiing and Mountain biking are more analogous. Aside from the fact that the tatoo'ed crowd from what I can tell doesn't mix into the Nordic crowd:

Technique is paramount in either discipline--in mountain biking, this translates to more instances of flying over obstacles rather than into them, and carving singletrack curves at higher speeds. On skis, our coaches place highest priority on trying to find the best way to drill proper V1 & V2 technique into our neuromuscular motors. A perfectly timed V1 will take you much farther than an elite cardiovascular machine without co-ordination. (as evidenced by a hilarious foray at Elm Creek with an ultramarathoner friend of mine skate skiing for her first time)

Well developed balance is also way more important than cardiovascular fitness on XC skis. The more balance you have on skis, the more glide you achieve(efficiency), and the harder you can push yourself without kissing the trail. I started this ski season with one revelation: my balance sucks. Since then, the lion's share of my training has been spent skating sans poles and other balance drills. And despite many, many spectacular trips, slips and gaffs ending in a mouthful of groomed snow, I have my greatly improved V2 to show for it. A lack of balance on a mountain bike translates to more braking when you should be deep in singletrack nirvana, and the ol' "hike-a-bike" when confronting rock gardens. In downhill skiing, both feet are always on the ground....How simple!

Road biking doesn't have anything to do with downhill skiing aside from the higher speed, and the fact that road bikes perform offroad as well as my downhill skis work going up challenge hill at French Park.

In the end, all of this activity has developed into a personal motto--whether it's skiing, cycling, or life in general:

"If you're not falling, you're not trying hard enough."

Last Major Pre-Birkie Workout

Any endurance athlete knows that it's the work that your put in over weeks that gives you your race day stamina, but I did have one last big workout planned for Saturday to give myself some confidence for the Birkebeiner.

I drove out to Baker Park on the west edge of town and took to the trails. Baker has some of the largest hills in the west metro, a large trail system, and some nice scenery. A race had been held earlier in the morning, so the trails were pretty well used, but I didn't care too much--it will probably be like that come raceday.

I did lap after lap on a combination of loops --island, hill, timber, & prairie trails, stopping only for HEED from the camelpak, and once to take a layer of clothing off. At 2 hours in, I had one powerbar gel, which was an incredible energy boost(I'm planning on taking one every 40 minutes during the race).

It was 2:55 as I finished my umpteenth loop, I and decided on one more loop to break the 3 hour mark. I decided to go out to the island trail & back, which entails going downhill for a long time, and then back up the longest hill at the park. My arms were on fire from the start, and mid hill, I switched to single poling, but went back to V1 as soon as the grade leveled a bit. I got to the top with nothing left in the tank. Even my 70oz camelpak was empty.

Distance: 27.99 miles
Calories Burnt: 4271 (an entire pound of body fat is 3500 calories)
Average Speed: 6:39/mile
Average heartrate: 152

Now, I'll put in just a couple very short, ultra-high intensity (probably Tabata) workouts before a few days of preparation & taper.

The Birkie is on Saturday.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Showering in Reykjavik

Despite being an engineer, I'm an extremely non-linear thinker. Tonight I found myself laughing hysterically in my car while driving home after a nice ski.

I was totally rockin' out to the latest Mars Volta disk, and there was some lyrics that mentioned "sulfur." Rather than thinking about chemicals and chemistry, I was immediately reminded of Iceland.

Everywhere in Iceland smells like sulfur--two continental plates are drifting apart, and sulfuric gases from earth's core escape into the water. Even the cleanest water still retains the sulfuric scent, particularly warm water--which outgasses any dissolved gas since water has less solubility as it increases in temperature.(this is also why cold water yields cloudy ice cubes) In this case, it's Hydrogen sulfide gas escaping into the air. So when you're showering, you're essentially cleaning yourself with water that's smells like rotten eggs.

Anyway, I was staying in Reykjavik's hostel -- a really nice place, and I highly recommend it to anyone travelling in Iceland-- and there was only one bathroom at the end of the hall. There were sets of showers on either end of a row of sinks in the center.

The first morning, I stepped in, surveyed the empty room, saw the sinks, and one door connecting to the showers. It had a picture of someone showering, showing a little buttcrack on the bottom of the illustration. I giggled, and walked into the shower area, where there were 2 stalls.

Illustrations were fairly common in Iceland -- when their words for simple things such as "Police" are Lögreglustöð, they have to figure out some way for everyone to understand simple concepts. (Although I'm fairly sure a few girls in my room couldn't understand them, given their odor.)

Anyway, I showered, got dressed very discreetly in the dry area next to the stall, got going, running into nobody. I did this 2 more days, showering on the same left side. The fourth day, all showers were going, except for my one default shower. I hopped in and did my business. I dried off inside the showerstall, and stepped out into the sink area. Immediately in front of me, there was a young woman who had apparently just showered next to me. Across the way, there was a guy.

And then I noticed something I hadn't before. The illustration across the bathroom from me was also of someone showering, but decidedly Male. I turned around and looked at the illustration behind me.....which was of a woman showering.

I briskly, nonchalantly, & inconspicuously stepped out of the bathroom. I don't recall if either of them noticed me at all. To this day, I don't think that encounter has crossed my mind since it happened.

In my defense: This was the first hostel on my trip in which I stayed that didn't have co-ed bathrooms. In all the hostels in Norway, I just walked into the bathroom, grabbed an available shower/stall unit and hopped in, changed, and finished my business in front of the sink.

Apparently, there's different rules in different countries.

.......Some people are weird, man.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Vasaloppet Race Report

I can't find my lobster gloves. I could use my downhill gloves, but I just went down to my car and tried them, but they barely fit without glove liners. So -- it would be impossible to use them with glove liners and hand warmers. And they're full fingered.

I just got a text from the guy I was going to carpool with. He bailed out.

I just did too.

I'm going to stay in and drink coffee & baileys for an even more baililicious morning.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Vasaloppet '08

I'm skiing the Mora Vasaloppet tomorrow. Although the Birkie is my primary focus this season, I really wanted to ski it this year--last year it was held on a lake due to warm weather & lack of snow.

It will be held on the Vasa trails tomorrow at 10am.

I was originally scheduled to ski 58km, but they've shortened it to 35km due to weather.

I will be wearing:
+Gore windstopper fullface balaclava with downhill skiing goggles.
+double layer lobster gloves with hand warmers.
+A base layer, mid layer jersey, and a windstopper fleece.
+my nike running pants over craft tights, over my craft windstopper crotch undies.
+wigwam wool socks.

If I get too cold, I'm stopping at a rest station and quitting. The snow will be terribly slow, and this is only a training ski.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Samsonite!? I was way off!!

So my Super Tuesday predictions weren't quite on. Here are some revelations:

1) Hillary took California 52%-42%, much to my surprise. One thing I forgot to consider was that many Californians had mailed in their votes weeks ahead--including many people who voted for John Edwards--4% worth. I can't think of anyone who would walk from the Edwards camp to the Hillary camp with the option of Obama.

2) Barack is trailing, but not by much. He took Minnesota, North Dakota, precinct. He beat Hillary 204-57. As of this moment, Hillary leads 823-741 delegates--- marginally thin when you think about it.

3) John McCain pulled ahead!!!!! WTF?!?!?! This is crazy!!! Rush Limbaugh, Laura Ingraham, Michael Savage, James Dobson, Bill Oh'Really?, (m)Ann Coulter, Glenn Beck -- the cornerstone of the Republican base -- has been deriding McCain all week, and he pulls ahead. Seriously, the core is trying HARD. This leads me to believe that Republicans ***drumroll*** are paying less and less attention to them. I'm not a religious man, but the idea of Rush & Bill Oh'Really? getting layed off and having to resort to living on welfare makes me feel happy.

4) America's knuckle dragging YECs stood with their man, Huckabee. (who looks like Kevin Spacey with a meth problem, no?) I made a fatal mistake here. I underestimated the power of....Chuck Norris. (Chuckabee?) Or God. Oh, wait. Huckabee is a far 3rd place. NEWS FLASH! God is trying to tell you something, Mike. Don't get it? Look down. There's a fork sticking out of you.

sidebar: Shit. Someone's already beat me to my next logical blog....Mike Huckabee & Chuck Norris Facts.

Fact: Chuck Norris is so corny that ethanol producers believe him to be a vast, untapped source of alternative energy.

5) A dickless shell of a man wrapped in a BOSS suit, Mitt Romney took $35,000,000 from his bank account, and set it on fire. When I see that guy, I think two things:

a) Giant Douche
b) "A fool and his money will soon be parted"

6) Perhaps I'm taking the horse before the cart, but the numbers of people caucusing are staggering--particularly in the bible belt. Georgia, Arkansas, and Missouri all went to George Bush in 2004. On Tuesday, the numbers voting for Barack and Hillary handily outnumbered those voting for the GOP's top 3 in these states. I suspect Ron Paul's voters will split about 50-50 to the democratic & republican candidates in November. Even Colorado -- with it's mega churches -- went handily blue. I suspect this is courtesy of continued reverberation from Ted Haggard, who just got ejaculated ejected from "restoration therapy."

Monday, February 4, 2008

Super Tuesday Predictions

The super bowl wasn't worth watching, but Super Tuesday is going to be interesting. Here's what will happen.

1) Barack takes California, Illinois, and perhaps the lead in super Tuesday. Hillary is too conservative for California. Don't think so? Ann Coulter will campaign for Hillary if McCain is elected, because he's "more liberal" than she is.

Hmmm. Perhaps this will increase the chance that she'll hook up with Henry Rollins.

2) Romney will pull even or ahead of McCain. McCain is probably the greatest challenger to the either Hillary or Barack, but how he's ahead of Romney is beyond me. McCain is missing two very, very important things if you're a Republican: the support of Rush Limbaugh, and the support of James Dobson. Meanwhile, most people sense that "Godstitution" Huckabee is going to drop out soon enough, and Romney's magic underwear definitely qualifies him as the wackier of the two, slurping up that 7% of America's creepiest.

McCain may have had the support from center-right Americans, but he made a big mistake about a 16 months ago. He was still opposing the Bush admin over torture, as a man who's been tortured himself. And then, he spent one weekend behind closed doors with W & Cheney, and out he came a believer in our torture policy & the Bush Admin. What really happened here, was that Bush pledged his support in '08 if John would just shut his f***ing mouth about Iraq & Guantanamo. Not long after that, GWB's support dropped below 30%, and McCain realized he got the short end of the stick. This is why he's looking waaaaay older than he actually is....he sold his soul to Cheney.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Cyling and Sexual Dysfunction

All due respect, but after reading this article, I'm pretty sure that Bjorn Andersson, despite being perhaps the best cyclist in triathon, can't get it up.

There's a huge amount of triathletes & cyclists these days that seem to obsess about body position to improve aerodynamics. The type of people that fit into this are generally the cycling equivalent of photography measurebators, and spend lots of time hanging around in online forums.

These people, fortunately, won't be reproducing. Seriously; who in their right mind would place cycling aerodynamics over the ability to use their genitals? While I may get laughed at for the spacers on my bike's stem, I will be having the last laugh when I show your dissatisfied girlfriend my O-Face.


I have a weird phobia that I'm going to share with you.

I hate buying electronics.

Heres some proof:

Computer: Purchased in August 2002. 2.2Ghz, 500mb RAM, & DVD burner all still working fine.
Computer Monitor: Purchased in September 2002 for $25 dollars from a classified posting in my old apartment. Not bad for a 17" CRT.
DVD player: Christmas 1998.
TV: 19", purchased at Best Buy right after Christmas 1998, because I didn't own a TV to go with the DVD player. Now in storage.
Rio MP3 Player: Purchased after my last one broke in March 2003. Online, refurbed. (it still works; much longer than my Nike which lasted maybe a year.) It has 64mb internal memory.
Camera: I'd always wanted a nice digital, but it took me til 2005 to buy one. I'd been relying on the camera of my cellphone for a year. It worked surprisingly well. Right before my Norway trip, my digital broke, so I bought a very similar one. On Amazon. I think this one kinda sucks, and I have my eyes set on a new one. Hopefully it won't be for a while.
Cell Phone: over 2 years old, acquired for free when my old phone, also nearly 2 years old was returned to verizon in a class action lawsuit. FYI--Razr's are JUNK. It's on the verge of breaking, and I'm dreading buying a new one. It keeps telling me I'm using an "unauthorized charger."
Heart Rate Monitor: My favorite device, a Garmin 305, acquired from Amazon in September 2007 when my Suunto broke. The Suunto was purchased from Steep&Cheap in May 2007 when the Nike broke. The Garmin is mega sweet because it allows me to have one device for all 3 bikes, running, skiing, mountain climbing, and whatever else. It gives me heart rate, real-time speed, altitude, navigation, and other stuff I haven't discovered yet.
: Probably a decade older than me, It's a hand-me-down from my mom. She bought it from one of my dad's friends, who had in his NDSU Sigma Chi room back in the day. It has 2 large no-name speakers, a record player, and an ancient Kenwood receiver. (I threw the reel-to-reel out a few years ago.) The volume goes from 1-10, but anything over 1 is too loud for an apartment dweller. I'm sure 2 would register as a 4 on the Richter scale to my neighbors. I look forward to cranking up futuristic music in my future home on this thing.
Gibson Les Paul. Winter 2002-2003. I will never need to buy another electric guitar.
Amp: Marshal MG100. circa spring 2003. Loud enough to play the Metrodome.

Why is this? I don't know--it's totally irrational, but walking around in Best Buy or similar stores creeps me out. It always gives me a not-so-fresh feeling. Perhaps much like the feeling most women get when someone says the word "moist" in passing conversation. That kind of feeling. I hear nothing, but my cerebral cortex hears someone saying, "moist, moist, moist, moist," while wandering around at Best Buy.

I haven't even bought DVD's in recent history. I asked for & received 300 & Anchorman for Christmas 2007.

It could be that I just hate spending money on things I deem to be non-essential, but this has been going on much longer than my frugal nature has taken over.

I hope nothing breaks this year. I've not budgeted for any electronics.