Thursday, April 27, 2017


Spring was proceeding with its usual vigor.  I was amped up and ramping up while watching, or dot-watching, the IPWR. The Indian Pacific Wheel Race is an annual self-supported bike race across the southern coast of Australia and attracts the world's top level ultra endurance athletes.  This includes one of my personal bike mentors, Nathan Jones, the organizer of the TransAm bike race, inventor of a little race called the Steens Mazama 1000, and a badass athlete himself.

Nathan had tucked the IPWR into the back pocket of his own personal trans world quest.  So I dot-watched and cheered and commented and was inspired by the derring-do of Nathan and these other cycling legends.  I watched MH chase KA across the map, and enjoyed the comments theorizing on why and how and where every rider was.  The MH dot stopped moving for a while.  He must be sleeping.  I kept checking and finally saw an ominous yet vague announcement from the race organizers that they'd keep us updated on an incident.  Later that evening, the race was called off and the incident was  reported as the death of Mike Hall.
There's a certain gripping grief that comes when a stranger you admire dies.  When the stranger is a celebrity to you, a legend of your own sport, a friend of many of your friends, and the loss is tragic and unnecessary.  A car crash.  I don't care about the details, I only care that someone good is gone and that cars continue to take away good people, whether from the inside or the outside, and it's all normalized into "accidents".  F that.

"The show must go on" often translates to athletic events, but in this case, the IPWR organizers decided to fade to black.  Drop the curtains, the show is over.  There's no more going on now, we've lost one of our own and he'll never come back.  Fin.

I have utmost respect for the racers that did continue to ride, and can barely imagine the pain and emotional trauma this whole story created.  Everyone reacts differently.  For me, blubbering publicly about a man I only met once seemed perfectly appropriate.
The following week, Velocult hosted a sweet memorial get together for Mike.  They had a slide show with inspirational pictures of this heroic rider, and a book to sign, which would be sent to his family.  I was honored to receive a small sticker, which I immediately put on my bike.  Tailwinds, MH, and thanks for the inspiration.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Freds vs Fasties

We all know what a Fred is: a dorky cyclist in spandex, likely wearing a mirror sticking out from his face, a fluorescent yellow jacket and tight tights.  There are many strata of Freds, from the clubbies to the commuters to the weekend warriors, to those who've never even heard the term Fred.

When Freds are finished being Freds, they either retire to the couch or move on to become Fasties.  These Fasties regularly follow "the rules", often without even knowing about them.  Their equipment is top notch and well-maintained.  Their bodies are fit from cycling, as well as cross-training.  They wear precisely the right kit for conditions.

When I showed up to my first Sauvie Shootout, I already knew I'd be the lone Fred, or Wilma, among a group of sharp Fasties.  I arrived five minutes early, prepared as well as I could be for the rain.  My bike was equipped with full fenders, including buddy flaps.  I wore a wool layer under my raincoat, water resistant bibs and booties.  Like a baby, I was fully swaddled and ready to squall.

Everyone was friendly, despite their serious athletic looks, and we rolled out just after 9am.  I managed to stay with the group as we wove our way through the Pearl District to that steep little downhill leading to Saint Helens Road and Highway 30.  The stale green light the Fasties enjoyed was red for me.

In the ride description, the leader suggested the inevitable flat tire sufferers ride the Island in a counter-clockwise direction so finding the group would be easy.  I saw one, then another, road side flat fixers.  Courtesy demands cyclists offer each other assistance, but I knew these riders had it all so I just said hello.  Finally, many raindrops later, I arrived on the island and decided to ride counter-clockwise, even though I hadn't been slowed down by a flat. 

It was a very wet day.  The rain never let up, the road was good and soaked, and many lowland fields had become nice little lakes.  Continuing on, huffing and puffing, I pushed to chase the invisible nemesis of the group.  They appeared on the horizon, like a speedy little wagon, a posse of five or six riders almost blind from pouring on the effort. 

Another dude fixing a flat appeared in the ditch. About ten minutes later, he passed me.  A few minutes after that, a drizzle of riders chasing the initial pack went by in the other direction.  Everyone looked blurry to me. 

I had planned to skip the store, but saw another flatted rider there, so I stopped to say hello.  His frame pump's mouth had been uncovered and full of grit so he gratefully borrowed my tiny travel pump.  I'll blame that few minute hiatus for the group beating me off the island after their two laps to my one.

Aptly named, the Sauvie Shootout is like a small caravan riding like they're being chased, losing riders along the way and never looking back.  I was glad to get my heart rate up, eat a fat slice of humble pie, and get shot off the back by the Fasties, and I can't wait to go again.