Sir, [it is] like a dog's walking on his hind legs. It is not done well; but you are surprised to find it done at all.
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
For Jonathan - Belgium Knee Warmers' interview with Keith Bontrager. Money shot:
I can't get comfortable on drops anymore because of my back and I am always faster in technical stuff with them anyway. I have some custom 50 cm wide dropped bars that are pretty good though and I might try them again this year.So Jon, feel free to run flat bars in cross in good conscience. Good enough for Keith, good enough for you. Of course he runs Shimano Sora as well, and I'm not sure I can endorse that, but hey, what the hell. Nobody's perfect, right?
For Ken - Sheldon Brown - the bike guy, not the Philadelphia Eagles linebacker - tells you all you need to know about setting up cantilever brakes so they work properly. Unlike the idiots telling you how to set yoke height in practice ("low," "high," "no, in the middle") Sheldon makes it complicated enough for you to understand. Hope this helps (you keep from back ending me going around the soccer field on the off camber). BTW, here's a review in one of the Bikeman Blogs of the new TRP Euro-X brakes that I run. Hey, who knew that TRP is Tektro's upscale line? It stands for Tektro Racing Products. So I guess it loses the bling factor. I really don't care who makes them, I find that they work great, as well as cantis can work, and they're much cheaper than the almost identical (geometry and quality-wise) Spookys and Empellas. It looks like the brakes Team Kona runs - Kore Cross or Kore Kross - may be available at a slightly lower price. They don't look as substantial as the TRPs, but who the hell knows?
For new blog linkage Suki and anybody else considering cold weather riding who hasn't done it before - Cold Weather Commute Primer. You're on your own for gloves - get some good ones that work but remember that cheapo polypro "jogging gloves" - the liners - work fine under regular cycling gloves down to some low temperature, the exact line depends on the rider. Super warm gloves will make you sweaty on real cold days, they won't dry out well during the work day, and the other problem is that if they get wet on a long ride, they'll get cold too. Knee and leg warmers are also an early buy - you can use your cycling shorts and protect your knees at the same time, the racer rule is anything below 70, wear knee warmers and protect the knees. The next essential is baselayers - Suki's a rock climber so I assume she has some nice wicking base layers. If you can sweat without getting soaking wet, it makes it easier to stay warm. Just have one or two long sleeve shirts, and some long undies. Er, tights. Nashbar sells good cheap 'uns under the Terramar brand name. The polypro stuff is good for adding 15 to 20 degrees of warm all on its own. You'll have to hit up the Mens/Clothing/Baselayers section for that. If Nashbar or your preferred supplier doesn't sell lots of women's cold weather gear (they probably don't), sorry ladies, you'll have to make do unless you can find a better supply or are willing to spring for the big money base layers. Hey, don't knock wearing men's long underwear. Er, tights. Just like wearing his boxers is sexy, so is wearing men's long underwear. As long as your man is an Alaskan, anyhow. You have to decide though - do you want to be warm or look hot? Your call.
As for what is essential-but-get-it-in-the-order-you-need - a good windbreaker, polypro booties, head covering, and neck warming are key. The windbreaker worn as an outer shell cuts windchill way down. You can use a regular windbreaker, but if you wear a backpack or ride a long way on the commute and get real sweaty, having a cycling specific windbreaker with back and armpit vents, or lighter material in the back, helps a lot in regulating temps. The polypro booties are nice, they warm you and cut the wind. Lycra booties are okay but they only cut the wind a little, they aren't meant for cold weather, they're meant for time trials. For the head, ear warmers or skull caps work pretty well, which one you prefer is a matter of taste. They range from lightweight polypro, to heavy lycra/fleece deals, to straight up thick fleece. It's your call. Warm socks are also pretty helpful. Bass Pro sells thinsulate and polypro socks for about $3 per pair. I like the thinsulate socks but they tend to wear out pretty quick. The polypro are warmer and more durable, with the caveat that if you overdress a little, you will sweat more in polypro and then your feet will get real cold faster. Wool socks are the shizzle, they wick decently and stay warm when wet, but you're talking $12-14 per pair - okay for the bi-weekly long basebuilding ride, not a great choice for twice daily commute slogs, which tend to be tough on the equipment with lots of starts and stops, much standing in slush or puddles, etc. A nice (or even mediocre) wool jersey or two also help. Warm, warm when wet, and you don't have to wash them every day. Just hang them up to dry, they'll be fine.
The final and by far most important cold weather commuter gear is a decent light set. You might not think of it is cold weather gear, but ultimately in the cold, you'll be riding one way or the other in total dark if you work more or less normal hours. So don't skimp here, it's the kind of equipment choice that can be life or death. At a bare minimum, starting out, you need a "be seen" set of headlamp and taillight. You can get these for $25 or $30. I highly recommend a "see" headlamp, a light good enough to let you pedal at speed in utter darkness in a cluttered environment such as off road or a bike trail that may have leaves and branches on it. A single trip to the emergency room will probably cost you more - and we're only talking in money terms - than a decent set of lights. You can get a good bright "see" headlamp for $110, and one with a lot of features for $150. I'd recommend looking for one with a smart charger (short charge times), variable light levels (gives longer battery life) and flexibility of mounting (handlebar and helmet), since you might prefer one or the other, and a lot of people like helmet mounts for other purposes, like off-road riding . I like the Blackburn system but there are many good lights out there. If you have a good LBS they should be able to hook you up.
I hope this helps.
The orthopedic surgeon read my MRI today. It was basically an ankle physiology lesson. He said the reason none of the other docs could diagnose it, is there's so much stuff goin' on, that there's no one diagnosis.
For starters, we got some bone-on-bone violence, the osteological version of fratricide.
Then we got the tendons and cartilage in the ankle. Roll tape: "Hmmm... looks like your tendons are mostly torn or partially torn... not a lot of cartilage in there holding them together... basically your muscles have adapted pretty well and that's what holds your ankles together, because your tendons and cartilage sure aren't doing it. At the end of races, or a long day of standing, what's happening is your muscles start to give out and that's when the ankle gets really irritated." I asked if running a half mile or 1200 yards carrying a bike cross country in stiff soled bike shoes would do it, and he said that sounded about right. The way they test to confirm this hypothesis is to "simulate end of event stress conditions." Yep, I asked. They knock your ass out with some drugs, and then "put you in stress positions until failure. You have to be anaesthetized for that because you probably wouldn't be able to put up with this if you're awake." Okay, now I understand why just about all the rugby players I've ever known who have gone into medicine (and there are many) have gone into orthopedic surgery - basically the whole field is the medical equivalent of a blind side, late hit tackle. It's borderline sadistic, except without the borderline part. We continue.
Then there's the tendons themselves - even though they don't do a lot of work, what with being rootless, torn, unemployed and sort of wandering around the joint like a homeless meth addict, this doesn't stop them from indulging in a raging case of tendinitis from time to time. No cartilage, no peace. What happens then is that the tendon sheath fills up with fluid, starting with the outside tendon then spreading to the inside tendon (since the whole ankle destabilizes, putting greater stress on everything else, kinda like when your shop is understaffed and somebody leaves for a better job). The pain then radiates down into the foot, since the tendons run from all the way up the Chocula and the Dracula, or whatever those leg bones are, all the way down the foot to the toe-sicles. This is why the pain radiates down the foot. It's not gout! Got that, Podiatrist? Yay - back onto the oatmeal!!!! I am so f***ing psyched about that! I know that's sad but having only recently discovered that good tasting food can be really good for you I wasn't happy about the anti-gout guidance. Chocolate my ass.
Then we got the scar tissue. Apparently, there's more scar tissue in my ankle joint, then there is on all of Mike Tyson's ex-wives combined. The scar tissue explains why the Cankle occasionally locks up, gets a stabbing pain front and center in the joint, followed by an enormously violent pop, and "ghost pain" for a couple days afterward, sort of an echo of the ache. Imagine sticking your hand in the hinge of your car door then trying to shut the door - that's basically what happens with the joint, except with the scar tissue playing the role of "Painful Hand" in that production.
There is also a bunch of arthritis going on too, but according to the Doc, "the pain from that, while normally significant, probably doesn't even register given everything else that's going on."
The upshot is that my ankles are the equivalent of a Third World government - corrupt, mostly useless, held together by good wishes and bad operators, but functioning surprisingly efficiently even for all that. The Doc figured they've functioned so badly for so long, that my muscles have adapted to it; and they've hurt so bad for so long, that I've sort of gotten used to that too. I feel like an abused spouse, to tell you the truth, but I'm not sure what to do. There's no shelters for ankle-less dudes, and no counseling or victim support centers either. So I guess I'm stuck with them.
Total Suckulence: It's The New Normal.
Treatment is sort of the question now that we know what's wrong - i.e. everything except the bone structure and cartilage between the bones.
For now the treatment will be to do some ankle exercises to continue to strengthen the muscles, my poor, longsuffering muscles, and to wear some ankle braces while running or racing cross. This should minimize the strain on the stabilizing muscles and let them hold up longer.
Longer term, when the cankle flares up - either cankle, because they are both bad - I'll start a course of cortisone shots to take down the scar tissue and reduce the immediate tendinitis/swelling.
Longer longer term, I'll probably need to get both ankles cut on to reattach tendons to bone, scrape out remaining scar tissue and generally tighten the damn things up.
On the positive side of the coin, the joint itself is in really surprisingly good health - apparently the muscle-y calves are doing a remarkably good job of stabilizing the Cankle most of the time. So at least I got that going for me, which is nice.
Hopefully, this is the last Cankle update for a long time. Somehow I fear they'll be protesting by March, as it comes with every change of the season, and I'll be reporting back on how it sucks to be on crutches again, and how nice it is to have controlled substances jammed into my joint at the end of an enormous needle.
That should be some fun stuff to blog about. Man, I can't wait. How 'bout you?
Monday, October 29, 2007
I raced the D.C. CX, promoted by City Bikes MTB Team yesterday. I have to give major props to several folks who made this a delightful day.
- Promoter Matt Donahue, a friend of Squadra Coppi;
- One or both of the Gwadz’es’es, who with teammates laid out a beautiful course that had amazing flow to it;
- the Armed Forces Retirement Home for letting us enjoy a great day of racing in a lovely setting;
- DrinkMore Water;
- Eli Hengst, a good rider and even better restaurateur, who *always* supports the sport, and yesterday coughed up some lovely craft brews. Mmmmm… 60 Minute IPA
A special compliment also to the Officials. They seem to have sorted out the scoring system and I didn’t hear anything about anybody being pulled while on the lead lap. There was an adjustment in the final placings in the packed C field after the podium ceremony, and a handful of lapped riders – lapped right as the leaders came to the finish – were removed. Well done, Officials. Cross is total mayhem to ride, it must be to ref as well, and I appreciate the extra effort the MABRA officiating crew is putting in to get it right, that extra effort is appreciated by the riders. Yes, we talk about you behind your backs…
The course was basically an uphill grass & root fest for the first mile, then a false-flat, semi-technical power test for the second mile. The start/finish straight was 300 yards uphill, spitting riders out onto a 20 foot, momentum sapping grass kicker. From there it was into a series of three gradual uphills over grass & roots, a hairpin around a tree, followed by a drop-in into a grass straightaway, then a transition into another uphill/tree hairpin/drop-in combo. Thence onto a pave sidewalk – my favorite p-p-p-art of-f-f-f the c-c-c-ourse, I closed so many gaps here. Cross the road, down another drop-in into a tight right, up a steep runup with barriers. Steepness factor: just steeper than the height I can run quickly. Remount, and *another* drop-in, up some grass, onto a brief downhill patch of pavement, then onto some marshy grass, punctuated by barriers. Cross a little bridge, left onto a slooow grass false flat, which transitioned to pavement. Up a 3-5% grade for maybe 600 yards, into a stiff, stiff headwind; turn a hard left onto a gravel false flat downhill. Dogleg right at high speed up onto an off-camber straight sloping right to left. Hairpin drop-in at the end, onto pavement then grass, hairpin in the marshy grass, up a little kicker, 180 around a tree with big roots up a hill, then pavement to a sharp left up a 6 foot steep kicker you could just clear pedaling if you hit it at a sprint. Down through a nearly identical section, absent the kicker, down the one smooth path through the roots of a huge maple, then onto the start-finish stretch.
I started in the third row, which was nice, gridded 20th out of 82 (!!!) starters. I had trouble clipping in and lost about 8 positions, and that’s about where I’d stay for most of the race. The first half lap was Godawful – my mouth and sinuses have never been that dry before, and I once spent six months deployed in the Arabian desert, camping rough if you will, so when I say it was dry, it was bad. It was mouth-cracking, sinus-bleeding dry. I guess the adrenalin really got to me, that or the 195 BPM heartrate.
The course wasn’t particularly suited to me – there was a lot of uphill on the first part, punctuated by short, 5-7 second breaks down steep drop-ins, so you’d do 30-40 seconds of hard uphill effort, relax for just a few pedal strokes, then get right after it again. I rode as hard as I could on the uphills for most of the race, figuring that if I was hurting, so was everybody else. Well, yeah, that’s true, but everybody else isn’t hauling 250 fat-assed pounds up and down those hills on a 28 pound bike. I had some troubles with the root sections on the top of each of the three hills on the first part of the course – I simply couldn’t find a smooth way through, and more than once thought I’d pinch flatted, having hit a root so hard it jarred my fillings. I didn’t feel real great yesterday, and that was before the stinkin' uphills. But enough excuses.
On the first lap I kept up fine through the uphill barriers, and the field started to thin on the muddy remount by the second set of barriers. I lost a couple spaces there and next year will consider running to the bridge if it is that wet again, it’s simply too tough to spin up to speed in the marshy stuff. Anyhow, out onto the uphill tarmac. Since it’s a false flat, I could crush here. I think only one guy passed me on that all day, it was on the first lap and he was quickly up with the leaders. A couple people tried to grab a wheel so I guttered ‘em, and in fact did that repeatedly. Between that and closing the gaps on the pave, I think I’ve found my calling. I appear to be a mean, big, fat, strong, frites-eating, Ommegang-drinking, flatland, bouncing’ down-the-pave strong headwind-riding Rouleur. But you knew that. (Total self-worshipping narcissism fest, I know, but cut me a break, there aren’t many bright spots out there for me most days).
The race sort of settled down once we hit the gravel, there was a big sorting out. The only problems were the roots at the hairpins around the trees, and the six foot kicker. I carried a lot of speed into the corners, and this worked most of the time, but about every fifth or sixth hairpin I hit a root, lost all traction and had a violent slide toward the tape. A couple times, it actually knocked the wind out of me, and I was amazed that the rear wheel – a two cross paired spoke Xero Lite 4 salvaged off my Giant OCR – held up. But it did, in fine form.
As for the six foot kicker – it sort of proved to me that in cross, you don’t ride your own race entirely. In places, you *must* do what the course tells you to do, you ignore what it says at your peril. The kicker came after a tree/roots hairpin and a 60 foot 7% grade, and 20 feet of pavement. To clear it, you needed to keep a decent turn of pace up the dirt grade, then do a little sprint on the pavement, then pick a line and commit totally. The kicker presented two lines – an inside line that was straight up, and a bit of a gamble, or an outside line that was easier, but required a “square” left hand turn right near the top to make the hard left just at the top of the kicker. Either way, you had to pedal up it hard. It was still a very fun section.
So it went for most of the race. I can’t stress how tough the uphill side of the course was for me. I passed through it most laps immersed in a black mood of self-loathing and self-hatred, numb hands and aching head, because I wanted so very badly to quit. It was not a pleasant feeling. On the third lap, I believe I hit the low point. I was heading up the second little root hill and I reached for another gear, and there was none. No pain pills remained. My back was cramped, my wrists hurt, and I had nothing left right then. Probably out of pure dumb stupidity, not knowing when to quit, I managed to keep my dripping nose stuck in it, kept my fragile will from blowing apart, and moments later started to see the bright side. I hit the pave and closed a gap for the third time in a row, and beat up on some people on the uphill/headwind false flat, passing two or three guys who had tortured me up in the hills. Though I was hurting bad, going cross-eyed when I hit the gravel, by finding a couple places where I consistently had an advantage I found a mental anchor, points I could look forward to knowing I could spring a move and knock some folks out.
In the end, I rested a little, just a shade on lap 4, tried to keep up a moderate spin where I could, and conserved energy going into the first half of lap 5. A group of four or five was approaching from the rear and I tried to hold them off; we really ratcheted up the speed for the last 2/3ds of a lap. Along the way I passed a few more guys on the false flat, sticking the knife in. I was in pretty good shape through the final hairpins section but spun out on the 6 foot kicker. I dabbed and lost time on the kicker – spun the wheel out – and this was a critical second or two. I hit the start/finish straight, pedaled up it in absolute agony, and got pipped at the line by Chris from Racing Union. It was a tough debate pedaling up that hill – did I have enough footspeed to stand and sprint, or was I too gassed to stand at that point? I figured I was too gassed to stand, and he got me. Oh well, he owed me one from Charm City I guess.
I have two final results as I see it – one is 34th out of 82. Not terrible. Not great in light of the fact it’s still just the C’s and basically a front-of-midpack finish, but steady improvement for me, on a course I’m not suited for. The other result is the level of effort I put out. Technical mistakes you can’t account for, but effort level you can and I try to hold myself accountable for my work rate. I look at my effort level yesterday and think maybe it might have been possible to move up a spot or three with a bit more hard work – but I'm not certain of it. I was pretty gassed. It’s not like other races this year where I screwed something up and lost ten spots or I walked away questioning whether I paced it correctly or held too much in reserve. This one, I look at it and know that I did about as well as I could given my current fitness and the nature of the course. The day-long migrane headache confirms that my work ratio was about as high as it’s ever going to get. Knowing you gave all is a deeply satisfying feeling. I could do without the migrane though.
Special props to Dave Battan who had a great race and is turning into a good cross racer, in spite of a propensity to attempt to eat his front tubular on the final lap; Alan Leung and Ryan Newill who raced really well and beat me (and others); Jim from Proteus who looked HOTTT in the fishnets, and his teammate, the large dude (who is still smaller than me, I note) whose doc told him he needed to Ride, or Die and who fended off DFL yesterday. I hope he hangs in there – I’ve been where he is, and know he’ll be bringing the heat as he continues to beat up on that weight problem. Bikes are cool like that, they can make your day hell and save your life at the same time. On a good day, it’s a little bit of both.
Saturday, October 27, 2007
You train runups like this, you'll be able to run them like I do. So you have my secret.
You're on your own, however, for finding a trusty manservant. Good manservants are damned hard to find.
Friday, October 26, 2007
Online registration closes at 7:00 tonight but they have an alternate method, check the promoter's website. They have to do this because of the nature of the premises they've secured - and I mean secured - for the event.
Now it's time to welcome three interesting blogs to the blogroll. I have them under "NooB" over there because they are new to me, even if they've been around a while. Check 'em out - I wouldn't list them if they weren't interesting.
Soupie - the Clown Prince of Pittsburgh. He tells a funny story about how Mrs. FatMarc, aka Monkey, mistook him for FatMarc due to the sideburns. I thought he was talking about how I mistook him for FatMarc at Charm City, right up to the part where the story gets real interesting. Soupie couldn't go on the list of course, without the Monkey, since they're joined at the hip pocket, apparently.
Then there's Molly Cameron, an interesting racer/bikie from the Pacific Northwest. Molly raced at Granogue and Wissahickon and had bad luck that would have impressed Roy Clark. Oh yeah, Molly's like a nationally ranked elite rider too.
Finally there's Suki. I know her as a commenter at FatMarc's and didn't realize she had pretty interesting things to say in her own right until I checked out her blog. I guess she rides bikes... mainly she's kind of interesting and funny.
[Update: While I'm at it, let's throw Belgium Knee Warmers on there. He doesn't really count as a NooB to this blog because I read him regularly, and his name really oughtta be "Embrocation." But I'm blogrolling him anyhow. ]
Good blogs all, so check 'em out.
Thursday, October 25, 2007
I have a 2006 Orbea Orca. I rode it in a heavy rainstorm down near my beach house on Emerald Isle in August. Now the bottom bracket is making creaking noises, and it feels like there is grit in the bearings. Do I need to replace the bearings, or can they be repacked? Thanks.
I recommend going with a Tampa 2 cover scheme in most circumstances, unless you are facing a Max Protect blocking scheme. If that happens, put 7 in the box, and run a Red Dog. (That's what we in the industry call a Strong Safety blitz). That should fix your problems. If that doesn't work, hire the last head coach that took your team to the Superbowl, buy a bunch of expensive All-Pro free agents who never put out ever again, bench your best defender, and change the defensive scheme yearly just to put the fear of God in the defensive players and to distract the fans from your dubiously legal tree cutting activities on your obscene estate in a picturesque town. Sure, some people would call it sheer insanity to do that, but it seems to make some people happy.
I made a horrible mistake a couple months ago. I caught my former boss videotaping my subordinates secretly. Everybody in our industry does this, but I wanted to score points against him because he was doing it to scope out our fantasy football lineups for the weekend, and also, quite frankly, I'm sort of a dickhead. Anyhow, I made a big deal about it, told everybody, whined like a beotch, and now my former boss totally has a case of the ass. He is destroying everybody in our fantasy football league, hanging like 50 points on us every game, and just drilling us and giving us massive amounts of crap about it. What should I do?
Now just hypothetically speaking, assume I was an NFL coach. Would that change your answer any?
I have to tell you, I think steel is definitely superior to carbon. Sure, carbon is really light and strong. But we don't really know how it will hold up over time. Yep, a lot of 10-12 year-old carbon bikes are on the road. But I have this 105 year-old Italian Castironi Cookstoveo that I ride to work every day in the winter. It runs like a charm, even though it isn't made out of the latest material, and the riveted leather drive belts are tough to replace. But it's wonderful and I'd never trade it in for some new-fangled bike. And to tell you the truth, I'm even a little skeptical about steel as a bike building material - cast and wrought iron have much stronger pedigrees as building materials, as do granite and sandstone blocks. You've never see the Great Pyramids of Giza crumble in a racing crash, have you? Of course not. The weight of a sandstone bike, however, may pose some concerns for smaller riders, but the remedy for them is to ride more and get stronger. That's how they used to do it in the old days, and that's how I do it today.
I'm building up a fixed gear bike. I've heard a lot of people debating about what to do for a rear hub/cog combination. I don't have a lot of money, and would prefer to make do with this old 8 speed hub I have. Thing is, while I can screw on a cog, there's no room for a lockring. So I'd like to just braze the cog on or maybe just use this old soldering gun I pulled out of the trash. Then I'll powdercoat the bike, put on an argyle top tube, and tie a flashy red bandana around the seatpost. But will the cog be secure enough? I intend to ride the bike without brakes because I think bikes are a lot cooler that way. Y'know, in a hottt/phat sort of way.
Mike Snobb, NYC
That's a hell of a tough question. Ordinarily, I think you have to compare the other team's offensive abilities to your own defensive abilities, and consider field position and the amount of time on the clock. If time is really short, your backs are awesome, and their offense is piloted by some sketchy quarterback with an erratic slingshot of an arm - say Rex Grossman or Mark Brunell - then the Prevent Defense makes a lot of sense, as long as they are deep in their own territory and you can afford to give up 40 yards in two plays. But if the quarterback has a good arm, eliminating the rush and leaving the center of the field open makes it easy for the offense to get past midfield with just one or two tight end routes up the middle of the field. I'd personally rather play straight up Dog D, and make them beat us man-to-man, rather than conceding big chunks of the field to chumps that haven't proven their ability to take territory from us. Like Gregg Easterbrook says, the only thing the Prevent prevents, is winning. I hope this helps, but in your case, I wouldn't bet on it.
My son plays on the local high school football team. He's a strong athlete and a good student, but he can't seem to catch the coach's eye. He normally plays defensive back, just like you (in fact you're one of his heroes) and he also plays split end / slotback. Although he's been doing well in Junior Varsity games, he can't seem to break into the starting lineup of the Varsity. He plays pretty solid ball, no mistakes, but just doesn't really have a clue about how to get himself noticed. I'm no help since I wrestled and drank beer in high school. My son's team typically runs a 3-4 defense, and the Stanford variation of the West Coast Offense. What can he do to raise his game and make the coach notice him? It's really important to us that he earns a college football scholarship and goes on to play in the pros, so he can shower us with fame and bling.
John Bennet Ramsey, Sr.
Hey, that's a funny thing to start a letter with. It sounds like we're breaking up. When in reality, we never really even dated. Anyhow, damn, but that's a tough question. In the old days, we used sintered whale blubber to lubricate our bi-cycle drivetrains, which were made from tanned hog bladders tied together at the ends using a sheepshank knot. I feel that was a superior method to modern "chains". But with the demise of the use of natural animal products in bi-cycle manufacture, not to mention the demise of most of the whales, the industry came to rely on a lot of other lubricants. In short, the "wet" lubricants are generally petroleum-based and are good for general use. "Dry" lubricants, which often come in a quick-drying spray-on form, are good for very cold or dusty climates. Among the dry lubricants, I prefer graphite or teflon. The other main kind of lubricant, cherry-flavored, is primarily good for sex but will work in a pinch in cyclocross and mountain bike races.
Good luck with the slip & slide.
I roadrace and ride cyclocross, and am having a bit of a crisis relating to tires. I'm getting to a point in my racing where I think premium tires could make a difference. I've ridden some tubular tires recently, and find them smoother rolling, more comfortable, safer when they blow, and more in keeping with the bicycle aesthetic. But I have real qualms about the cost, not to mention the glue. Frankly, that last time I was gluing anything I inadvertently stuck my hand to my forehead. Long story, but it is true and I'm still in therapy as a result. I've also read some studies that show tubulars actually have higher rolling resistance at certain speeds and on certain surfaces, than do clinchers. So should I gather it all up in a bag and make the leap to tubulars? What do you think?
B. Arrywicks, Gloucester, MA
Dear Mr. Arrywicks,
That's always the question, isn't it? I've always thought that if your QB lacks footspeed and arm strength, that the best strategy is to limit the demands that the offensive scheme places on him. Teams have had great luck with weak QB's such as Kyle Boller, Trent Green, and Neil O'Donnell in this manner. On the other hand, the shotgun does tend to give a weak QB an extra second of time to make decisions, and it eliminates the normal problems that would stem from limited footspeed. *That* puts in a crimp in the running game, however. In the end, it all comes down to footspeed. I would ask whether you've considered taking up bicycling, Mr. Arrywicks, since I don't think this football thing is likely to work out for you.
Next week, Lennard Zinn answers your questions about American History, while Howard Zinn answers your questions about bikes. Should be a barnburner.
[Update: This is for you, KP. You don't think I just make this shit up, do ya?]
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
The Tacchino is brought to you by Squadra Coppi, the same club that steals your heart and breaks your legs year after year by putting on the Giro di Coppi. So you know going in it will hurt you bad, but that only makes you love it more.
“Tacchino” means turkey in Italian. It’s the main course in a MABRAcross weekend smorgasbord of cyclocross suffering. Go ahead, we’re all friends here. Have a couple helpings. Our friends in The Delaware Cyclocross Coalition of Delaware are staging the Wayne Scott Cross in Fairhill, MD on Saturday the 3d. Mmmm... tasty first course you got there, E-Town.
Then on Sunday the 4th, you can come out to Leesburg and get stuffed by the Tacchino! We’ve got an interesting course with lots of flow - rolling hills, sweeping turns, a couple hairpins, and some memorable slippery off-camber turns. It is a balanced course that rewards power but also rewards good bike handling. It will be a fun course for experts and intermediates, and also a great course if you are looking to whip out the mountain bike or borrow a ride to try 'Cross for the first time.
This BikeReg.com MABRAcross event features five separate races and runs from 9:00 am until 3:30 in the afternoon, with the showcase Elite/Professional race starting at 1:30.
It’s not just about you though. If you haven't been to Ida Lee Park before, it's a very spectator-friendly venue, and a great place to have a family picnic and watch cross. This may help you test yourself in two races in one weekend without having to test your family's patience. (Two races in one weekend... it's like Christmas! Except with epic 'cross suffering!) There are two outdoor playgrounds, and we will have a Li'l Belgians Race at 1:00 PM, which is free. Kids can ride any bike in the L'il Belgians Race, but must have a helmet.
And, for a perfect recovery activity, Ida Lee Park sports a fantastic fitness center with a pool, jacuzzi and shower facilities, available for a modest fee. The pool has lap and free swim areas, so this is another activity that is kid and cross-racer friendly. Bring a swimsuit and make a day of it folks - a post-race jacuzzi or swim will leave you feeling so good, you'll feel guilty.
Downtown Leesburg also has many restaurants and shops, and the Leesburg outlet mall is nearby. Not that anybody would ever get bored at a cyclocross race, but it's nice to know in case you and the support crew need to find some place to spend your winnings.
Registration is available through BikeReg.
Monday, October 22, 2007
After the existential sufferfests this last weekend at Granogue and Wissahickon, some of the fundamental truths about man's habits and eager willingness to suffer are better known to me than they were previously. I have trouble articulating that truth in anything resembling a coherent form. Not so, Dostoyevksy. Enjoy the pull quotes.
What is to be done with the millions of facts that bear witness that men, consciously, that is fully understanding their real interests, have left them in the background and have rushed headlong on another path, to meet peril and danger, compelled to this course by nobody and by nothing, but, as it were, simply disliking the beaten track, and have obstinately, wilfully, struck out another difficult, absurd way, seeking it almost in the darkness. So, I suppose, this obstinacy and perversity were pleasanter to them than any advantage....
Yes, getting off the beaten track. You can interpret that as the moment you took up cyclocross. Or the moment mid-race, just before you went yardsale all over that off-camber turn.
Does not man, perhaps, love something besides well-being? Perhaps he is just as fond of suffering? Perhaps suffering is just as great a benefit to him as well-being? Man is sometimes extraordinarily, passionately, in love with suffering, and that is a fact. There is no need to appeal to universal history to prove that; only ask yourself, if you are a man and have lived at all....Why, suffering is the sole origin of consciousness.
Um, what about if you are a woman, and you have a bike, and the bike has DuGast tires on it? Do you still love suffering? Anyhow, yes, the suffering leads to self-knowledge. I suffer, therefore I am. The moment of truth is when your legs blow, the cluster you were riding in leaves you, and you have a choice to make. Your choice informs your world view for weeks afterward, it is painful to live with when you discover in your suffering that either your legs or your will did not measure up.
[A]t last all desire in me to struggle against this depravity passed. It ended by my almost believing (perhaps actually believing) that this was perhaps my normal condition. But at first, in the beginning, what agonies I endured in that struggle! I did not believe it was the same with other people, and all my life I hid this fact about myself as a secret. I was ashamed (even now, perhaps, I am ashamed): I got to the point of feeling a sort of secret abnormal, despicable enjoyment in returning home to my corner on some disgusting Petersburg night, acutely conscious that that day I had committed a loathsome action again, that what was done could never be undone, and secretly, inwardly gnawing, gnawing at myself for it, tearing and consuming myself till at last the bitterness turned into a sort of shameful accursed sweetness, and at last -- into positive real enjoyment! Yes, into enjoyment, into enjoyment! I insist upon that. I have spoken of this because I keep wanting to know for a fact whether other people feel such enjoyment? I will explain; the enjoyment was just from the too intense consciousness of one's own degradation; it was from feeling oneself that one had reached the last barrier, that it was horrible, but that it could not be otherwise; that there was no escape for you; that you never could become a different man; that even if time and faith were still left you to change into something different you would most likely not wish to change; or if you did wish to, even then you would do nothing; because perhaps in reality there was nothing for you to change into.
Fortunately, moments of acute self-awareness like this usually pass, and I quietly get back into the ditch.
Tempo intervals tomorrow.
We bailed out of the hotel around 6:00, hoping to make it to Ludwig's corner with plenty of warmup time. We made a tactical error and stopped in the Dunkin' Donuts for bagels. It took ten or 15 minutes to get a couple bagels and some coffee. Then it took another five minutes to get out of the parking lot - there was no real exit, and the way out looped between some hotels, around a Borders, and possibly into a mall in the next county. The scrambled parking lot was patterned after the Wissahickon "Corkscrew of Death," only not as fun to ride. Eventually we hit the road and got to Ludwig's Corners by 7:30 or so.
First mistake of the race: not getting a hotel in West Chester, which is 10 minutes from the race course.
I asked fellow early arriver Fat Marc what he thought about tires. He recommended file treads. I did another hurried tire change. Saturday it was file tread to muds, Sunday muds to file tread. Good thing I have the patented GorillaHandz™, or all that tire changing would have been time consuming.
Second mistake of the race: not rolling with three wheelsets - mud, dry, all purpose pit set. There's always next year.
I rode several warmup laps, hitting the hard sections vigorously, easy spinning through the easy parts. The legs... they were notta happy. Granogue had pretty clearly decimated them, it apparently takes either a few years of training, or much better legs to race cross on back-to-back days.
Third mistake of the race: thinking I could control my effort at Granogue and still have plenty of legs left to race Wiss. I ain't that fit or that gifted.
The start/finish was a long uphill paved stretch into a series of off-camber turns, going back and forth across the face of the hill. In the middle was an off-camber double hairpin left/left/right. From there it was some back and forth off camber, down and around into an 80 meter run through a sandpit. Thence to a false flat running into two kickers, a couple sweepers up into a long run across the flats, into a double Corkscrew of Death (that was brilliant), through a couple more hairpins, barriers placed mid-runup, followed by some fast off camber hairpins that dumped you onto the finishing straight. Nice course. The only problem was my legs weren't going to open up enough to let me take advantage of it.
I had a nice second row grid position out of maybe 75 starters, but one of the guys had severe problems clipping in, which dropped me from tenth to about 30th instantly. I made some positions back on the uphill sprint but kind of settled in when I realized we were going to scrum for two lines through the first hairpin. Not good. I elbowed a lot of people out of the way, if you were one, sorry, and I highly recommend you learn the same tactic and use it on the guys blocking both of us.
The off camber runs across the face of the hill did some sorting out. Amazingly I got through the double hairpin really well. I'd watched people hitting it in practice and the only way most C riders could hit it on the bike was to nearly stop, the grunt up the little rise. It only worked for slow guys if they were alone, but it was still too slow and if anybody else was in the corner it just didn't work. So I committed to running it and consequently got through really fast on every lap, and used it to open up a big gap on four guys who were catching me on the last lap - more later.
My mouth was as dry as dust, and I was gasping for breath with totally uncontrollable breathing. My legs burned like hell, they felt stiff. This would be bad.
The first run through the sand, I ran hard. I didn't lose any spots but carrying a 28 pound bike through 80 meters of sand really took it out of me and I had trouble recovering, so I thought I'd ride the next lap. I got around the course pretty well from there, hung on through the Corkscrew, and only got passed by a few guys. A lead group of maybe 20 formed and I was dangling off the back with a little cluster of guys, but my legs were totally blown. It had to be fatigue because I can't blow my legs apart in 4 minutes normally. This wasn't good and by the end of lap 1, I knew I was in for a really tough day.
The second lap through I tried to ride the sand pit. Four guys passed me, running. Stubbornly, I hung in on the bike reasoning my legs would be fresher and I could catch them outside the pit. Yeah, right. That didn't exactly work out. My legs were just about as bad, and the I sort of racked myself with an epic peelout on the second kicker after the pit - massive wheelspin during a standing climb, unclipping, racked my family jewels on the top tube, the whole deal. Steel may be real, but racking your nards on it isn't any better than carbon or aluminum, in my experience.
I did have a highlight on this lap - dropped my chain on the runup when I dropped my bike after the barriers and kept running. At the top I cursed, leaned down, spun the pedals and slapped the bike. The chain dropped right back on the chainring. It must have looked pretty pro to bystanders. Viewed from my perspective, it was plain dumb luck and I was ten seconds from standing up and kicking some spokes out of my rear wheel, but I wasn't going to question my good luck. So instead I enjoyed the cheers (sophisticated crowd, that, cheering a fast re-chaining) and got rolling again, only losing one place.
At that point the legs were bad and fading so I resolved to ride as hard as I could, just keep it pegged, and see what happened. Surprisingly, I held okay from that point on. A couple clusters of guys passed me, I passed a number of single riders who were fading, and on it went. Third time through the sand pit I rode the whole way, and three more guys passed me. Dammit! I also had an interesting time after the barriers. I was dicing with a guy from the Corkscrew all the way up the barriers, and he really put the pedal to the metal right after the runup. I told him to take it on that first turn, and let him go hoping to have a good wheel to hold on the long start-finish straight, after which I'd stick it to him on the off-cambers. So I held his wheel really hard and he rode himself off the course, getting tangled up in the tape near the start-finish straight. Pressure, pressin' down on you... That was enough to get rid of him for the rest of the race.
Going into the fourth or fifth lap, I heard the bell. I had just passed the Corkscrew and decided this was the time to sort of conserve my effort for an all out effort on the last lap. Guys always make a push and I had a cushion of maybe 15 seconds back to four or five guys behind me, and I knew if they worked together on the flats and finishing straight I was screwed. So I soft pedaled just a tiny bit, burned it a little less up the start/finish straight, and went off into the off-cambers. The Gang of Four was maybe 2 seconds back at this point, so it was The Land of No Mistakes for me, but I was slightly refreshed, and I figured they were probably not working together, and all hurting. Just then, I had my other two technical highlights of the day. The first one was hitting the Turn 1 off-camber properly for the first time all day. I held my speed, hit the narrow inside line, and hit the pavement path hard enough that my clincher started to roll, but snapped back in place on my rim with an audible pop, and the tube held. Nicely done, saved some energy. The next highlight was coming into the double hairpin. The Gang was right on my heels, and I kept churning the whole way, hopping off at the very last second while still pedaling. I must have come in really hot because this girl near the fence gasped at me as I jumped off, and I felt my feet sink pretty deep in the dirt just then. It's possible I looked totally out of control, but I fortunately stuck the landing, didn't miss a beat transitioning and sprinted. I hauled as down the little hill, skidded around the pole, up the little rise and remounted (even had the pedals in the right spot this time!) As I clipped in, I glanced back and saw my four buddies sort of piling into each other in the turn and stumbling into it. I put what felt like *huge* time on them there, and none of them challenged me for the rest of the lap.
It was routine from there until the double corkscrew. At that point, a Baltimore Bikes rider I hadn't seen before charged up behind me - like a really good rider who maybe crashed or mechanical'ed or something. This wouldn't be good. He more or less got my wheel in the Corkscrew and I started ramping it up frickin hard, but he held steady. Past the barriers, through the last hairpins, and off onto the starting-finishing straight. I did a seated sprint, it was wayyy too long to stand, and felt him coming up behind me. I tried like hell to hang on and push harder, but it seemed like the line would never come, and I was just about spun out in the 44:12. He pipped me at the line, taking 38th.
Damn. Who races that hard for 38th? Or 39th?
I pulled off the course and met up with Dave B, who placed an excellent 17th against a loaded top third of the field. While he talked to some other people, I had a huge attack of Crossgut, and coughed up a bunch of bagel chunks, and some lungs. Just like I promised, kids.
After that things were kind of a blur, coming down from the adrenalin high. I chatted with some folks, passed on some course intel to a few people, saw Ken W off, and the drank a bunch to rehydrate.
Power/weight needs to improve a lot. I need more of a particular kind of fitness - a bit more lactate clearance, and about 20 seconds more VO2Max power would help *a lot*. Two hard races in a row, in two days, just isn't possible for me right now. I dropped out Saturday sitting around 40-42 out of an 80-something rider field at Granogue, and finished 39/~75 at Wiss. I look at the Wiss course and know I can do a lot better there, more fitness, more thin and more rest is needed. Maybe next year I'll do Wiss, skip Granogue. We'll see. I am getting confident in my handling skills. When I have the right tires, I do alright. Sand, on the other hand, murders me.
Other highlight - I saw some awesome pit work in the B race, including a guy from a Boston club who trashed his bike. He came in on a dead run, his mate literally threw him a new bike and went to work on the bent bike. A wheelset later, the racer came flying up to hit the barriers. He dismounted and let the bike roll (at 20 MPH) into the hands of one teammate, sprinted through the pits, grabbed his own bike - now fixed - and shouldered it, sprinting up the hill past the barriers. It was great teamwork, and everybody in the pits and on the runup cheered when they saw it.
Finally, a lot of the folks who do cross are the best. I sometimes really hate roadie bitchiness. In cross, there are some jerks. But for the most part it's a pretty collegial kind of racing. Beat each other's brains out, throw elbows, whatever. But when you're done racing, you're done. Have a beer, hang out, let's enjoy the sun and watch the next race together. The spirit reminds me a bit of rugby, which is violently intense during the game, and collegial afterwards, usually sharing jokes and war stories over a couple beers. Cross has a special atmosphere, it places special mental and physical demands on racers, and seems to draw a lot of special people as a result. I respect a lot of the folks I compete against for their willingness to engage in a particularly painful kind of battle, and because I respect them hope that I earn some respect in return.
Yes, objective results matter a lot, but most of us will never get close to the podium, except when we stumble by it on the way to pick up our spare wheelset from the pits. Hey, what the hell, we're weekend warriors. Most of us aren't that gifted and we shouldn't expect to win. What matters then, is acquitting ourselves well, battling honorably, giving the last full measure of effort we possess in what is often a completely futile effort. I totally recognize this when I see others fighting hard.
Why then are mediocre finishes, my own huge improvement from last year, and the knowledge that I had nothing left in the tank Sunday, not enough for me? I don't know the answer to that. Perhaps my heart does not yet believe the truth that my mind knows.
My mind knows that the Spartans at Thermopylae finished DFL against the Persians. The 300 were slaughtered. What made them great, was not their final placing, but how hard they fought. Sometimes, there is a lot of honor in just fighting, if you fight hard enough.
Sunday, October 21, 2007
How ‘bout chronological order? That’ll do, right?
I picked up teammate Lindsey from her friends’ place at 5:20 AM or so, just around the corner from my house. A special shoutout for her, she’s one of the best roaddogs evah, a lot of fun, zero maintenance, a great conversationalist, and if there’s an outbreak of dread diseases or dangerous warping in the time space continuum or you lose your last Gu packet into a black hole that suddenly opens in a vortex of turns at Wissahickon, you’re in luck because she’s got a PhD in physics or astrophysics or metaphysics or something with math n stuff I’m not smart enough to understand. I would think of her like a sister, if my real sisters weren’t in a modern-day version of the Hundred Years’ War with me.
So anyhow we tooled up I-95 to Granogue, the old 400 acre DuPont estate outside of Wilmington. We rolled in, had a laugh about the UCI numbering system – pin numbers on the right side, and both arms – parallel to the cuff. The numbers shall be readable from the side, but not vertically readable; verily, shall they be readable horizontally. And the horizontal is not the vertical; nor is the vertical the horizontal. First shalt thou stick the big number on with the Holy Pin, then shalt thou count to three, no more, no less. Three shall be the number thou shalt count, and the number of the counting shall be three… Kinda reminded me of something but I can't say exactly what. Glad Lindsey has a great big brain because I was having some trouble with the number pinning rules.
I did a few practice laps and was duly impressed, in the way that I’m impressed by scalpels, dentist’s drills and the tax bill showing up. I carefully noted the pits, the beer & sausage tents, the lovely atmosphere provided by the Verge flags and various team tents, then the somewhat technical roots, rock, runup section. We’re talking a **brutal** runup that was slippery and muddy like some basic training hill in the Army. Next year I have to find some crappy ridiculous grade to practice running up – it hurt just to watch other people running up it. There was also this longish uphill section that started in a field with twisty turns, up a little kicker, up a false flat past the pits (I usually love false flats) up another shallow, short hill, then straight into a steep kicker. On the second kicker, I was spinning my rear wheel every lap, even with Michelin Muds. Dammitall, if this hill wasn’t about 15 seconds longer than what I have in the tank ***every*** frickin’ lap. Oh my, this was going to be bad. The rest of it was pretty easy, some technical stuff, hills and what not, but the kind of grass off cambers I can ride pretty well and just flow through.
So knowing Wissahickon was coming the next day, I decided I’d take it easy, along with deciding to do a lot of other things I have no chance of doing, like dating Pam Anderson and winning a Nobel Prize.
Before the race we got in the pen and waited for the start chute to open up. I was sitting about 80th. Right before the race I was looking for Trevor, my buddy from the LBS ride and both Assaults on the C&O. He comes running up and says “I’m flat. Do you have any idea where I could get a rear wheel?” Rather than giving him the wheel off my Surly – which would have been the smart move in retrospect – I told him to go to my car and get the spare rear, which wasn’t in the pits because I didn’t want to go too hard. Saving myself for Wiss, right?
So we start. Thanks to my Maddd Roaddd Skilllz, I passed a lot of people on the start finish straight and went into the roots/barrier section in good shape. Until my buddy Trevor totally schweens me and runs me into a tree. Thanks buddy! Next time I'm going to give you my spare wheel... sideways, right up...
Anyhow I tried to settle into a routine while traffic cleared. This was hard on the first lap, guys just go like hell. A few guys passed me, and about half of them got passed right back, they couldn’t hold the line on the turns and rode into the tape, crashed and stuff like that.
And so it went. I tried to keep at an 8 or 9/10ths effort, which in retrospect was sheer jackassery. There were hills on this course you simply couldn’t get up doing less than a 10/10ths effort. In particular, the series of hills and rises I noted above, ridden easy, were tougher than if you rode them all out. Riding them hard put me in the red by the top; trying to ride them easy had me in the red near the bottom. Either way, the string of little uphill grades put me so deep into the red zone I felt like Alexander Solzhenitsyn.
So I rode along for a while pretty much right where I settled in after the start, around 40th or so. Trevor was a little in front, I just kind of went at my own pace, it felt like a threshold effort, and I concentrated on not blowing up my legs. Too bad my concentration sucks and I have no discipline at all, because other than that, it would have been a workable plan. Worst of all my rear tire was going flat, it was only a little bouncier than my legs. But it wouldn’t quite go down all the way. So there I am on this course that was totally brutalizing me, for which I’m totally unsuited, and there was this constant temptation to bail out with a ‘mechanical’ because Trevor had my spare rear wheel. Oh yeah, I had a mechanical alright, the friggin’ engine wasn’t working.
When the bell rang the leaders into the last lap, I was just getting across the top of the silo hill. I was wayyy back. I had a near disaster when I failed to clip in on this steep downhill sweeper, and there was so much mud in my shoes that I couldn’t get firm contact with my pedals. And stupidly I resolved not to feather my brakes, so I was bouncing down the hill, totally out of control, doing a two wheeled slide. I remember my vision being blurry because I was getting shaken so badly, but I recall seeing the road leading up to the start finish, watching it whizz by on the right and thinking, “if this is where I go down, I pray that I lowside and can dig my hands into the grass, else I’m looking at some baaaad roadrash.
When I got to the top of the hill, by the start/finish, Trevor was just coming around the other side of the pits with a couple other guys. I thought about where I was sitting, what I wanted to do for the weekend, and pulled off to watch the finish of the C race, and to save my legs. Oh yeah, that was a f***ing winning strategy. More on this later. I was sitting in around 40th or so in a 80 or so rider field, not great but better than I expected on this course, so i didn't really feel bad about bagging it. It seemed to me the smart strategy - I don't have any problems with pulling myself or being pulled where I think it makes sense. So that's what I did. After Wissahickon, I'm not sure I did the right thing, today I think I should have finished, but oh well. Live and learn.
So we hung out a bit, ate some food, drank some excellent Fordham Tavern Ale, and just took in the vibe of this wonderful event. I mean, many, many thanks to the DCCOD folks and the promoters and the sponsors, plus all the riders and tifosi. This was one of the coolest sporting events I have ever been at, it just blew me away. Bonus was getting to cheer for some of the good guys like Nystrom and FatMarc, and my teammates Judd and John Brewer, Ken and former Coppi (now Velo Bella pro) Melanie Schwartz, who had an awesome finish in the Women’s Elite. But the best part was getting to see Barry Wicks ride. He didn't win the elite but he rides with amazing style, and that is worth something. In warmups, he rode up the runup that was killing the people trying to run up it. Granted, it was drier than it had been earlier, but still, it was a display of beastly power.
But that wasn’t the best part. Damned if Wicks wasn’t riding around the course with this enormous grin on his face for half of it, having fun. I’m talking in the hotly contested A race too, against a pretty strong selection of professionals and hot amateurs. He looks like he rides with a kind of joy that I only feel once in a while. Hey, is it possible that in addition to having some real physical gifts, the reason he is so good is he loves the hell out of racing and riding? Could be. You know how enthusiasm can be contagious? Watch Wicks ride, and understand that.
The other highlight of the Elite race was seeing one of the Colavita guys do a super duper double header on the first lap. The pack was pretty tightly clustered, albeit way off Wicks’ wheel. The Colavita guy – maybe it was Davide Frattini – low-sided on the second tight off-camber on the Silo hill. The pack was bearing down on him, so he quickly remounted, stomped a pedal on the downhill to get up to speed, and it looked like he got his foot caught in-between his front wheel and his pedals. He immediately went ass over nose. This sounds like a slow process. It wasn’t. He went down bounced up remounted stopped flipped and remounted, all in the time it took you to read this sentence, maybe less. He lost about six positions in the tightly packed front group.
After watching a couple laps we took off for the hotel, a much needed shower and nap, and in my case some heavy duty foot and ankle icing. Oh yeah, that bastard still hurts and it’s not real flexible, but the hurt is manageable. Mainly the steeper runups are what really, really, really hurts badly. Other than that it's okay. Laying up and taking a nap I had a chance to reflect on what a wonderful event Granogue is, how much I like the way the UCI sanctioned MAC races are run, and how much I enjoy the whole cross scene, and how much of a debt I owe to the people who put on the races. We talk about hosting races to “give back to the sport,” but what hosting a good race is about is making all your buddies – and by that I mean racers and tifosi and everybody who loves the bike - have a ton of fun and enjoyment.
Even though the course and around half the riders kicked my ass, I’m grateful to all that put the race on because it was a great event. Thanks folks. This event had More Cowbell out the wazoo. You gave back on Saturday, guess I get my turn to chip in a little that way at the Tacchino Cross in a few weeks. I hope to see you all there.
More on Wissahickon tomorrow.
Friday, October 19, 2007
Note the Complete Absence of any Red Swingline Staplers.
(I'm not even counting the non-work work, that I do from my laptop after I get home from working on my work at my workplace. (Thank goodness for BlueTooth, right? A total quality of life invention, if you ask me.) A couple times this week, I came home just before my kid's bed time, ate half of my dinner, tucked the kid into bed, then passed out myself. 8:00 PM, folks.
Anyhow, the foot is in decent shape, only has a bit of toe pain, so it's off to the MAC races this weekend and we'll see how it (and my lungs) hold up. The first race of the MAC season is Granogue on Saturday (an awesome race I'm told) and the second MAC race is Wissahickon on Sunday (a place where I'm told I should do well, given the course layout). These are fun UCI points races, and there is still a little room in most of the fields. If you're anywhere in the mid-Atlantic this weekend, go race, or come out and support the sport.
hot too, and totally worth the trip.
Bonus round: I'll try to ride hard enough to throw up at Wissahickon if I hear anybody - anybody at all - cheering for "The Unholy Rouleur" in the C race.
Hears His Own Name at a Race
Okay, fine, I'll probably ride hard enough to throw up anyhow 'cuz that's generally how I roll, but if I hear cheering, I'll throw up earlier in the race. Happy now, nitpickers?
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
Southern Hemisphere. For instance, in Australia, bicycles ride humans to work."
I just wish it would stop kicking..."
* Cusmano - the Squadra's designated Crashmonkey. Also, a synonym for inexplicable training crash leading to serious injury.
Monday, October 15, 2007
There is apparently a big stink going down about Nat Ross taking a beer handup during the recent CX Vegas cyclocross race that was held as a centerpiece of Interbike. Some of the Powers What Be are upset at Mr. Ross for making a mockery of this most serious of cycling disciplines (giggle. snort). Some folks in the Boulder CO crowd are telling Mr. Ross they aren't going to use his race announcing services in retaliation. That kinda sucks - I think they are missing out on the levity and joy that surrounds cross. Shit, they sound like the kind of people who would pull riders who are on the lead lap for supposed 'safety' reasons - total killjoys. For supposed free spirits, a lot of these cycling folks are awfully frickin' uptight and puritannical.
Cankle Update - the Cankle is doing alright, there's some residual pain in the big toe and arch, but I'm at about 90% right now. With a little luck I'll be healed up by Saturday.
I'm considering hooking up with Trevor and John and trying to join the cross practice session that Harshman heads up on Wednesday night. I've heard it's pretty good and it might make a nice change from the usual. That, and I'd be able to sleep in until nearly 6:00 AM for a change...
Want to read a kind of interesting bike blog written from a different perspective? Check out Itchy Bits. Guaranteed to make you boys squirm a bit.
Saturday, October 13, 2007
What really bothers me is that they play pretend.
If you want to race, frickin' race. It takes 30 bucks and a bicycle plus showing up to become a roadracer. That, and a set of nuts. (Or in some cases, a set of ovaries, I guess.) You want to race? Go do it. There is no excuse not to. It's safer than trying to 'race' people on bike trails and in traffic, where your opponents are't trying to race and are busying dodging road hazards. It won't piss off other users of the road & trail, on whom everybody else's continued cycling career depends. Most importantly, doing a real race, no matter how humble, raises you from the ranks of the wanna-bes, into the ranks of those who are.
Teddy Roosevelt summed this up in a speech about other things - but it's clear from his offhand comment, he didn't like wanna-bes either:
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.This occurred to me while riding back to D.C. from the Muffin Ride yesterday, my club's recovery/fun Friday ride. This chubby fellow in a too-short jersey, which rode up up over his love handles and showed off his shorts, which were sliding down, cut in front of us as we were moving down the trail spur to the Key Bridge. He didn't look where he was going and just pulled out, necessitating a quick dodge by us. We passed him then spun to the bottom of the hill. At the bottom of Lee Highway, at the pedestrian/bike trail crossing, Porkins (that's the name of the X-wing fighter pilot that bit it at the end of Star Wars, right?) sort of elbowed his way between us as we were standing there talking. He proceeds to ride in between us as we were going down the Mount Vernon Trail. I tried to ride next to James and Porkins inserts himself between us, making a standing effort to keep up with our easy spin. As we got to the bottom of the mini-Poggio bridge, I was trying to pull up next to James and Porkins sees me, half wheels me from the front and pulls over. He just about took me out with that brilliant blocking move.
Y'know, because we were all racing, and that's what Team Cinzano would do, right?
I thought about notifying Porkins that I'm the club treasurer, and if he wants to join the group rides, he needs needs to pay the membership dues, or at least put in an application. I kept my mouth shut though, in a rare exercise of tact.
Anyhow, he finally pulled out past James, and with the finest of Pathlete form, head and shoulders bobbing, death grip on the bars, rocking the bike from side to side, made a collossal effort and pulled past him. Because he was way faster, right, and going to drop us decisively. He was pretty clearly in full race mode.
So James and I continued our easy spin up down the Mt. Vernon and over the 14th St. Bridge, while Porkins dangled about 20 feet off the front. It was kind of lame and we were soft pedaling to a ridiculous degree but I didn't feel like passing the guy, no matter how slow he was going, because it would only trigger another ridiculous and mildly dangerous display on his part. James said that the guy had pulled a similar moronic stunt in the recent past, though I didn't ask if it was the exposed ass crack, the love handles, or the guy's rude way of inserting himself between people that are obviously riding together, that was the tipoff.
I think it's pretty obvious why that kind of behavior drives me to distraction. The minor stuff I bitch about - hairy legs, bad fitting jersey, whatever - pales next to the dangerous riding, the rudeness (which carries with it a possibility of danger, common road courtesy isn't just a nice frill) and the multi-spectrum stupidity. That the typical Pathlete then turns into a slow moving road block once you let him pass, is just icing on the cake.
Here's the funny thing. If Porkins wanted to commute in the safe, sane manner that the vast majority of us do, I'd probably say a friendly hello if he passed me on the trail. If Porkins decided he wanted to be a real racer and started showing up on group rides, or at races, I'd welcome him. Odds are he wont, that he will instead continue to play his little ego-stroking games in places that are totally unsuitable for it, rather than risking the harsh grades that actually come with stepping into the arena. It's pathetic, and I don't like being made a prop in his little (moderately dangerous-to-live-out) fantasy about actually being in the arena.
If I see him again, I'm marking him for a game of Pathlete Intervals.
[Update: And let me make one thing clear. The other reason I hate Pathletes, is I've been that wannabe fool. I don't much like myself when I'm being a foolish wannabe with ego issues, and I don't like it in others. I'm happy to throw stones while I'm living in my glass house, as long as it helps get me out of my own glass house and into a better neighborhood].
Thursday, October 11, 2007
* If you haven't read Kyle Jones' story - how he turned from racer into unhealthy fatboy into really sick dude, into a big boy you don't want to challenge on a fast course - you need to go read it. He has a pretty amazing story to tell, he tells it well, and the only way I could sum it up is, "Racing? Hell. He could be dead instead right now." Part 1 is here, Part 2 is here.
* Gwadz makes a pretty good point. If you are riding with music, you need to do it responsibly. I was in a big hurry to get home tonight because I had no lights and was stuck late at work so I was flat hammering chunks of the Cap Crescent (no reason not to do some interval work, just 'cuz I'm in a hurry). I was trying to be safe and believe I mostly was, but a couple people - solo riders - nearly crashed me out because they were zoned on the beautiful music. They just didn't seem to hear my "passing" and drifted left on me. One woman had on fairly large headphones, so I really shouted "on the left." Hearing something, she looked to her right and swerved left, pushing me into the grass. It's okay to ride with tunes as long as you preserve situational awareness. But that means you ride with just one earbud in, or you keep the volume so low that you can hear cars and shouting riders approaching.
* Finally I apologize to anybody I cut off (like an ass) on the Cap Crescent this morning. My handling is rusty after a week off the bike, not to mention my judgment. I could attribute it to the nice ankle-related drugs or the unusually heavy traffic, but the bottom line is I'm personally responsible and should have sussed out sooner that my usually impeccable depth perception wasn't working. Mechanical breakdowns are freebies, errors in judgment (particularly overestimating one's own abilities) are not. No, there weren't any truly close calls, but I passed closer to a couple people than I would normally want to do, and since I play Full Contact Cycling, I presume that means I was closer than they would like too. So if some fat Coppi buzzed you, Southbound this AM, particularly down near the G-town boathouse, I apologize and will try not to do it again.
No, that's not testimony from a soon-to-be-filed-against-me sexual harassment suit. It's a plain statement of fact. I've outgrown, or maybe outshrunk is a better word, a nice belt I've had for several years.
I tried to make it last. I punched an extra hole in it. I've been pulling my pants up to love-handle height to try to get a bit more life out of the belt, and some suits that were first purchased when I was a bit more calorically endowed than I am now.
Just like the belt, we're reaching the end of the road with those suits. They are clownishly large, and I've started being able to fit into suits that I have not worn since I was on active duty with the Army. Yep, I saved a couple of the nicer suits I owned then, in a lame, pathetic, sniveling, hopeless dream that one day I would fit into them again.
That day arrived about 10 days ago.
I actually look pretty damn good in the skinny suits.
The big suits? I look like an enormously fat dude in them. They sort of hang off me, are tailored big in all the wrong places. They look like sacks. Yet still I wear them. I do this for a couple reasons.
First of all, I'm cheap. Well, not exactly cheap. But I spend a lot of my somewhat discretionary income on our house, which needs a lot of work. I also spend a good deal of my actually discretionary income on bike stuff. The old suits will last a bit longer.
Second, I kind of enjoy being in those suits. It's a hassle, they don't look great, but I can live with that right now. What I really enjoy is the constant reminder that I am succeeding, hitting the goal, taking the weight off, getting fitter. No, I'm not getting better in every way, every day. I'm still the same old f***up I've always been. But I am improving in a couple ways and I like to be reminded of that every time I straighten my tie and have to re-tuck my billowing shirt in front of the men's room mirror. I've had most of them re-tailored two or three times, and now the pants have been take in so far, that one more trip to the tailor would result in me having just a single pants pocket right in the middle of my ass. These are all positive reminders.
Third, I'll get around to getting some new suits toward the end of winter, going into the spring. I am sort of in a middle phase right now where I know there's another 30-35 pounds I can take off without too much trouble. (You skinny classic cyclists just choked at that. Better put down the rice cakes for this next one). Thing is, if I get to 215 or 210, I'll be lean looking, given my definitely mesomorphic, brick s***house build. That's sort of a magic weight for me though. I have gotten thinner than that a couple times in my adult life, once during a brief triathlon phase, a couple other times thanks to dysentery or some unknown subtropical gut parasite. (I hit 183 once after a really bad bout of dysentery... I looked like a concentration camp survivor. It was grim, my Army bodyfat test at that time had me at under 4%.
[Edited for content: Sorry, I managed to botch the final edit last night when I saved. I've tried to straighten out the goofed paragraphs and recover the text I lost. Mea maxima Culpa.
Still, Gen. Reginald, FatMarc , Kyle did something similar, and I bet there's a hundred other guys (and women) racing in MABRA who have done so. Having people to imitate (and honestly, I admire you guys too for making it stick) definitely helps; some of them have told me how they did it, and their tips are useful too. The pants - they remind me I'm walking in others' footsteps, and if they did it, I can do it too.
It also helps that I walked into a staff meeting and had to keep my hands in my pockets to keep my pants from falling down. A lot of people would find that sort of an embarrassing situation or a hassle. Not me, not right now... all I can see is the silver lining - the one that's on the inside of my too-damn-big Ralph Lauren pinstripe pants. There I was giggling, and unable to explain it to my colleagues. Sometimes inside jokes are the best, and this joke was very inside, in the now-ample space between me and my pants.
The cool thing about all this is that Bike Love is what is helping me keep up the momentum. It all comes back to that damn bike.
I love the way riding drains the stress after a tough day and gets me to my desk ready to attack the work in the morning. I love riding with my kid and wife, my teammates and random people you bump into on the road. I love the hard training and the racing - it's just a highly distilled version of regular riding. I love recovery and base rides, eating like peeg on bike while pedaling along pretty country lanes. And I love the damn stupid bikes because of what they do for me.
Churchill said that "There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man." Bikes are similar - no offense to Mr. Ed, but a blingy Pinarello is intensely pleasing, giving me more joy than any old nag. There is a symbiotic relationship between the bike and rider if you are willing to let yourself get attached to the machine. The symbiosis doesn't just involve developing fitter lungs and legs, but it includes the way the bike pulls you when you haven't ridden for a day or two. I miss two days, and my personality goes all volcanic, and I know that I need to feed the monkey. Riding the bike, talking bikes with friends, and tinkering with the bike and making it work better... these things draw you in and place you on the saddle over and over again, if you let them.
In short I feel really good about where I am going with the general fitness side of riding because once I'm on the bike and moving, it's hard to stop. Yep, I have to make some more strides to become a passable journeyman amateur racer. There's more to figure out with diet and training and racing. But it's coming (bad ankle be damned).
Yeah, we'll see how frickin' cocky I am after I've made my annual Thanksgiving assault on the nation's turkey flock, mounted a Christmas Offensive on the Strategic Ham Reserves, and attempted to drain the National EggNog Reservoir. Anything could happen, for sure, but right now if I was betting, I'd be betting on me. I hope you're feeling the same sense of momentum, either in your cross season, or now that you can focus on the fun part of training, the off season riding. Tony Little is right - he's an irritating buffoon but he's right: you *can* do it.