Sunday, February 28, 2010

Ridin' with Hondo. Volume 3

This column is intended to keep the reader abreast of ongoing training efforts that Eki and his partner experience as they move toward the holy grail of bike races, the Trans Iowa V. 6. Any and all similarities of said training partner to humans acquainted with or related to the reader are purely coincidental. The writer deeply apologizes for disturbing qualities that may exist between others and the 'partner'.

I had the pleasure of completing this 'fun run' with not only Hondo, but Big Buff as well. Big Buff is known as Dr. Buffington in another life, but for purposes here he will be known as Big Buff. This training ride met at the usual DBD starting point of the Billy Irvin in the canal of Duluth, MN. Big Buff is on the Trans Iowa roster and is a newly minted member of DBD and rightfully so as he's capable of ripping crank arms off bikes.

I pulled in fashionably late to notice my two comrades joking and milling about in the shadows of the dormant ship. Immediately something struck me as odd in Hondo's appearance. He seemed to be wearing some type of hand made square topped head gear. No, this was not a helmet, but rather an early version of an Icelandic reindeer herding cap. I paid it no mind as it seemed to flow in the spirit of all that is Hondo. However, it should be noted that the top of this "hat" was flat giving my partner a Herman Munster look that quite frankly was complimentary. Well, before rolling out I was issued a tongue lashing and severely made fun of for a myriad of things ranging from being 30 seconds late to my general being.

Finally, we were under way in what felt like sweltering temps as my clothing began to become laden with a warm moist substance that Big Buff later referred to as sweat. He said it happens sometimes in the summer, but Hondo and I had no recollection of such an event as we only know the cold.

This ride would focus on saddle time as well as working pace line with each other of course all under the tutelage of Hondo. He demanded that we perform 90 second pulls all the while shouting instructions on technique that flew in the face of what any one who has ever had the privilege of riding with him knows to be his normal riding style. Recently Hondo took down the winner (caused him to crash) of this year's Arrowhead 135 while he clumsily fumbled with his camel back hose. I've had Hondo bang into me at least 8 times on training rides in the past and each time he cut loose on me as if they were all my fault. This day was to be no different. Big Buff and I took our whippings from the deranged one as he called us out on skimping time on our pulls, claiming we were only out front for 60 seconds, not 90. It is not known if he had any type of time piece with him.

Believe it or not, moving through our rotations began to resemble something like cycling save the constant complaining and crying form Hondo and his ill prepared fluid situation. You see, we were scheduled for an 8 hour effort totalling some where north of 100 miles and Hondo brought two water bottles or maybe it was just one with him. Big Buff and I were constantly topped off on fluids and nutrition while our instructional guru spit dust and cried foul every time we took a sip from our hoses. Of course we took this opportunity to mock and ridicule him. After all, who would embark on such an adventure with no fluids - Good Show! As Hondo toiled in the back Big Buff and I discussed what his kidneys must have looked like, raisins? At one point Big Buff accused Hondo of slipping into renal failure - I laughed.

60 miles north of Duluth on a barren stretch of Brimson Rd. it happened, the inevitable, I got a flat. I was chastised, made fun of and nearly punched as Hondo took the opportunity in front of him. I worked on the maimed wheel knowing that if I hadn't had the emotional center of my brain sucked out the previous week I'd have been reduced to tears. In a rare moment of compassion Hondo asked me if I needed an extra tube. When I replied "no", he stated flatly, "good, cause I don't have one".

Back on the road I stayed clear of him as we were riding in sketchy ice like conditions. Hondo's dehydration began to get the best of him as he attempted to balance a water bottle (his only one) on top of his unbelievable flat head, while he begged me to take a picture of it. I gave Big Buff a look and pretended I didn't hear him as he went on to yell, "Look at my shadow, Look at my shadow!", in an attempt to get us to once again notice that the top of his head appeared flat.

The 45 mile return to Duluth was uneventful except for Hondo's poor choice of bike set up leaving him 'off the back', while Big Buff and I joked about better times. 8:05 hours, 105 miles

Ridin' with Hondo. volume 4 soon to come...

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Duluthians Hate What They Don't Understand!

So, with temps north of 30 degrees when I got home from work I made haste in my efforts to get out on the road for a solid workout. I took off in what felt like balmy conditions for my favorite two hour road loop equipped with lights as the sun was getting low and I knew this ride would have me returning home in the black of night.

Things were going swimmingly as I fell into a harder than usual pace, feeling the need to bring some intensity into this workout. Knowing the course as well as I do I could tell by time checks that I was moving faster than normal. I decided to keep it going wanting to introduce a bit of struggle on this ride.

As my lights began to take hold of the night surroundings I began to notice the traffic responding to me in different ways. Some drivers afforded me a wide berth, which was and is greatly appreciated, while others blinked their brights at me (as if I had a dimmer switch) or passed me from behind within inches of my arm. I shrugged off these unexplainable actions by Duluth drivers and kept the level high as I moved through the course.

I'd say I was about 20 minutes from home traveling toward Hermantown on what I think is the Morris Thomas road when I felt a car behind me. Sure enough, in no time I was back lit by head lights as this driver hovered behind waiting for an on coming car to pass. I nice gesture I thought as it would have been a little tight even though I was on the side (literally on the white line). Suddenly, my subtle back lit scenario turned into a spot light as he decided to put me in his brights. He moved up slowly next to me and his passenger window was coming down. "Here we go", I thought. He was in a HUGE SUV and yes, you guessed it, he was HUGE too. The over sized man began ranting at me in tongues I could not understand as I was listening to Cinderella at maximum volume and he was enraged. I put my helmet light right on his face and simply responded, "I'm on the side of the road, I got lights on my bike, drive your car man and leave me alone!". He sped ahead, frustrated that I didn't react to what he was saying, which I hoped incensed him further.

Now, as much as you tell yourself to just blow these incidents off, it's next to impossible as you have a shot of adrenaline released in your system at this point and it's mixing with lactic acid. Needless to say, my work out went south at this point as I ruminated about how Duluthians seem to freak out about things they don't understand. Think about it, a bike, snow, dark - to them this is an anomaly that just won't compute. However, it often happens in this city in situations that do make sense. Take summer for example, I can't tell you how many times my wife has returned home from a run with stories of being flipped off, swerved at and yelled at for running down the side of the road. God for bid we should be exercising in this city and thank the heavens above for those huge individuals in their SUV's who feel it incumbent upon them to make the world a better place by screaming at us.

So, to all of the road ragers out there who have nothing better to do with their pathetic existence than to yell at people with 15% or less body fat. SCREW YOU!!

Thanks for reading, be safe out there. It's not always a nice place.


Monday, February 15, 2010

A Myriad of Elements Confront 3 of the 4 Horsemen

The horsemen of the north (Jason Buffington, Rich Hendricks, Eki), save one (Farrow) met in the murky shadows of the Billy Irvin. The 'Billy', once a stalwart among vessels sailing the great lakes, now dying a slow death as a permanently anchored tourist trap in Duluth's canal. As my eyes paid homage to the great 'boat' I felt her smile at me as I/we honor her with designation as life time DBD starting point.
I made it clear as this ride entered the planning stages that this was not to be the usual muscle flex that often presents itself when fresh faced DBD'er Buffington shows up or when mountain goat climbing Hendricks makes his presence known. No, this was to be an easy 5 hour spin void of any pain and suffering. Yeah right!

My recruits held true to the spirit of the easy spin, with Big Buff occasionally pushing the pace only to be slowed by the fact that we couldn't hear what he was saying so he'd have to slow up to wait for us. I liked that and took note as it was a good strategy to keep him under control. Everything was going to plan and I liked how it felt until the challenges began to face us.
The first came in the form of sheer humiliation as I attempted to relieve myself against my better judgement on the side of the road. Now, with a gore wind stopper balaclava strapped on my head by a helmet it gets a little tough to hear any thing other than one's own breathing. With that being said, there I was, half disrobed trying to take a pee when I looked up to see a large Buick about 5 feet away from me with a woman in her mid 50's staring at my "No, No" place. At this point in time I did all that I could do in order to save some form of dignity. I looked her in the eyes and kept doing what I was doing.
The ride rolled on in good form until Hendricks in his undying quest for gravel directed us off the dry tar to a frontage road of sorts. All was fine until he mentioned that we had about a mile and a half of gravel coming up. While some roads may be paved with gold, this one was paved with ICE. Buffington did his best Farrow impression nearly taking out Hendricks with a sudden 2 wheel drift. I held to the rear gripping the bars as tightly as possible with my heart rate maxed on sheer nervousness. We completed this leg without incident, it was the return trip on this section that brought the drama. After we were assured that this was not the ice section by the human map (Hendricks) we embarked on it anyway. It wasn't but a few minutes until the 'map' admitted he was wrong. Again, staying back hoping for the best on the hockey rink of roads I heard Rich joke, "Who's stupid idea was it to take us on this Ic.....UHHHH" as he hit the deck in full force. He shouted to me as I flew past, "I'm o.k., keep going"... I did.

Dehydration began to get the best of me as my hose froze up only allowing me a couple of sips throughout the entire 5 hours. Rich was kind enough to allow me to suckle from his teet, 'eh I mean hose from time to time, but pride forced me to constantly say, "No really, I'm fine" and deny that I needed water. I felt the all too familiar feeling of muscles shriveling up like raisins as we pushed on all the while noticing a squall forming to our left over the big Gitche Gumme.
It was about the time we were commenting that it looked like we had weather coming in that I noticed my rear tire getting a bit soft. Of course, I was getting a flat, it's what I do, I get flats, ALL THE TIME!! I wanted to make a quick change for the boys as I knew Big Buff had a date with his wife for Valentines Day, but of course there were complications with the tube and my pump started to go belly up. Hence the emergence of 'Shorty'. Jason offered up 'Shorty' with a smile on his face. 'Shorty' is Jason's two inch long carbon fiber pump. This pump is good for inflating volleyballs and lawn mower tires, not cyclo cross tires. I was desperate, I accepted. So, after 4,000 pumps my tire had about 15 pounds in it and I was good to go. After I burned thousands of calories pumping up the tire I looked up to see that we were in the midst of a full on blizzard.

We limped home and I felt that somehow I was cheated on this ride. I contemplated extending the effort, but with no working pump and a blizzard going on, this was foolhardy thinking. I made my bid for home with Hendricks on my wheel. We said our good byes at the Irvin and went our separate ways after a few more near misses on ice. We knew it was time to cut our losses.
So goes winter riding. When will spring come? Will there ever be a ride that goes smoothly again?

Monday, February 8, 2010

Ridin' with Hondo. volume 2

This column is intended to keep the reader abreast of ongoing training efforts that Eki and his partner experience as they move toward the holy grail of bike races, the Trans Iowa V. 6. Any and all similarities of said training partner to humans acquainted with or related to the reader are purely coincidental. The writer deeply apologizes for disturbing qualities that may exist between others and the "partner".

The plan to ride with Hondo took shape early Saturday morning in the form of a rare phone communique between this writer and the "partner". The conversation rolled as laughter and self deprecating humor flowed from Hondo while he spewed his interpretation of the recently completed Arrowhead 135. In fact, if these stories came from any one other than Hondo they would not be believed. Yet, as one tale of misery followed another and another, this writer simply responded with, "Uh huh, yep, uh uh, wow - that sucks." After deep analytical readings of all competitors in the event and some of whom will take part in the upcoming T.I. it was determined that a 2 hour "easy" recovery ride would take place in the morning with Hondo driving his beloved vehicle to my abode. A phone call in the morning would seal the deal and we'd be departing on a predetermined course that would allow for said "ride".

The next day began with a hearty breakfast prepared by my wife and excitement at the prospect of getting back into the saddle with Hondo once again. As the "partner" is thrilled to put the Arrowhead behind him, so am I as this marks the official start to hardcore training for the T.I. As I waited, staring at the phone wanting it to ring, it didn't. I began to wonder, "was I supposed to call him?" Like a 7th grader afraid to call the girl, I picked up the phone and ripped through the digits before I could change my mind. His lovely wife (yes, he's married - God bless her) answered and replied, "No", after I inquired as to his where abouts. Confused, I replied that we had a ride planned. She stated that he was at work and wasn't sure when he'd be home. She and I shared our frustration at the unpredictability that is Hondo.

I waited for another hour with no phone call. As the tears streamed down my face I left for OUR ride alone. So goes the pitfalls of being partners with HONDO.

More to come...

Monday, February 1, 2010

Four Horsemen of the North make Trans Iowa v. 6 Roster

Although the roster is not officially posted it has come to my attention that four representatives of the North will visit Grinnell, Ia this April. Jason Buffington, Rich Hendricks, Charlie Farrow and this writer will get their "gravel on" for over 300 unsupported miles. This aint no bike ride up the shore folks...bring your revolvers, there's a good chance they'll get used.