Monday, February 23, 2015

Funemployment and Special Arrangements with the Weather Gods

What precipitated this anomalously warm winter in the Pacific Northwest?  Is it global warming?  Is it natural variation?  Is it a secret deal with the weather gods?  

Whatever the cause, I'll always remember this balmy 2014/2015 winter and how it began at the final scene of my former "real" job.  It was a drizzly Friday afternoon in December, and I stood calmly at the Shipping counter of the local FedEx store with a packaged-up work computer addressed for permanent return to the mother ship.  In that underwhelming moment of sealing the packing slip, I said goodbye to my corporate title of “Manager of Development and Origination” and hello to my new sole proprietorship as "full time Professional Cyclist" for the Kona Bicycle Company.  


My official resignation (and I deliberately call it that instead of “quit”) preceded my turning 30 years old, and touched off a winter of significantly decreased email-osis, along with wonderfully pleasant riding temperatures.  Of course, it was all planned out.  My self-promotion to Full Time Cyclist was the culmination of years of forethought, hard work and patience.  A dialed program full of support from family, friends, sponsors and awesome bosses, and even elaborate arrangements with the weather gods.  

Early scenes from Retirement 1.0

Mega-ridging bringing the warm "omega" winter to the PNW - See Cliff Mass Weather Blog to learn more

Notwithstanding the dialogue on whether global warming or natural variation is to blame for the warm winter in the PNW, I'll admit that it has more to do with my personal arrangement with the atmospheric deities than anything else.  All those years juggling the dual career wasn't just to support my cycling passion financially, but meteorologically as well. 
Typical scenes in Bellingham during January and February 2015

You see, spending twenty to thirty hours per week outside on a bicycle during the winter time at 48.7 degrees North latitude means that having any control over the weather is a big advantage.  In nearly all cases, such a thing is completely impossible.  Fortunately for me, I had developed some leverage with the craftspeople of climate whilst working for Ridgeline Energy.  At Ridgeline we developed and built power plants that would generate electricity directly from the wind and the sunshine.  Over the years, we developed and built three major wind farms, representing over 300 megawatts of renewable energy capacity (wind turbines).  For perspective, peak power output from all of these turbines is equivalent to a peloton of approximately 1.2 million cyclists pedaling simultaneously at 250 watts, or approximately 666,666 Barry Wicks’ time-trialing at 450 watts.  These wind farms will continue to power homes and factories in the Pacific Northwest with clean, stable-priced electricity for many years to come.  I once calculated that we had placed enough “green” energy into the grid such that my share (of our 30 person team) just barely offset the carbon dioxide equivalent emissions of my bike racing adventures.  

In any case, all of this pleased the architects of the elements, who were willing to arrange mild winter weather at home during critical training periods, thus helping to ensure that the 2015 race season would get off to a good start.  As long as I kept up my end of the bargain (training diligently), they would keep the ambient temperature and trail conditions very hospitable.  

In addition to the weather, I've also benefited tremendously from strength training at Trailhead Athletics in Bellingham, regular training plan consultation with Peaks Coaching's Brig Brandt, and physiological testing with Herriott Sports Performance in Seattle.

As if that weren't enough, I've renewed a great contract with Kona Bicycles and will be flying the black and orange proudly across the globe as part of the Kona Factory Endurance Team.  We'll be aboard top-of-the-line equipment from Shimano drivetrain and wheels, Fox suspension, Maxxis tires, PRO Bike Gear components, FSA headsets, WTB saddles, Champion System clothing, Smith Optics eyewear, Giro helmets and shoes, Clif Bar nutrition, and Stages Cycling power meters.    

Chuckanut Drive, Photo Credit: @sherburnator

Despite the great outdoor riding conditions this winter, there has been plenty of work done indoors, too.  Strength and conditioning at Trailhead Athletics in Bellingham, and physiological testing at Herriott Sports Performance in Seattle.  

I couldn't be too selfish though.  By February the whole weather arrangement had become a huge bummer for the ski folk and watershed managers, among others.  With snowpack dipping frighteningly low in the Cascades, I feared I may have taken too great advantage of this outstanding arrangement.  Thus, to encourage winter's return, I traveled east to Mazama, WA for some time in the snow, then headed south to California to get in some big hours where it was supposed to be warm and sunny.  Thankfully, this retreat from home was enough to precipitate a return of winter conditions to the PNW.  Snow should be flying again starting in March, conveniently around the time when racing season kicks off and I'll be down in California anyway...

Thanks, weather deities, for being so accommodating.  You can now go back to full winter for the appropriate amount of time.    

First race is US Cup #1 at Bonelli, California.  The organizers at ShoAir Cycling Group, USA Cycling, as well as many sponsors and media supporters, have a very exciting series in store for the Olympic cross country discipline this year.  Be sure to follow all of the action at this blog, on Twitter and Instagram @slaxsonMTB, as well as,,,, and    

In the meantime, appreciate what the weather is doing and how it works, and ride your bike! Or do some gardening!

As of the date I pulled this data, the Olympics were at some 3% of average snow water content. Yikes!!
The front of my house at 48.7 degrees North on February 15th, 2015

Mazama, WA near the Goat Wall
Skinny ski cross training weekend at the largest XC ski area in the U.S. in Mazama, WA; an incredible network of nordic trails stewarded by Methow Trails 

Down to San Francisco and Sonoma area for some extra fitness farming

If you like pedaling skinny-tire, curly-bar bikes and getting out of breath and you've never participated in one of the infamous Grasshopper Adventure Series events, then I highly recommend you put one on your list.  

Fitness felt just about right for mid-Feb, not too much, not too little, enough to be amongst the first few to the beer and food at the end of 80 miles and 8,000' of beautiful NorCal roads.  

I ride for Kona Bicycles -

No comments:

Post a Comment