Friday, November 30, 2007
So welcome, Beth.
Thursday, November 29, 2007
Glenn Reynolds, that ol' right / libertarian Instapundit guy, has a good discussion today regarding this sweet, sweet M2A2 Machine Gun, Caliber .50, which can be yours (with extra barrels and accessories, plus lotsa ammo, you gotta have lotsa ammo) for just $24k. So instead of getting the Calfee with gold inlays, why not get the M2?
One of his readers, a chap named Jonathan Gewirtz, notes that for the same money, you can get the ultimate High Definition television setup. Now that's a real poser if you have $24,000 laying around, salvaged from your $350,000 investment in Citibank stock, and you aren't sure what to do with it.
So what do you get - the M2, or The Ultimate HDTV setup? I've operated both an HDTV and an M2, and I think you have to carefully consider the upside and the downside when you're considering taking a crew-served weapon instead of an HDTV.
Ma Deuce: I highly recommend it, if you have the means.
On the one hand, Mormon pacifist John Browning's* design is timeless and efficient, a true masterpiece of the armorer's art. Ma Deuce never goes out of style - if we ever have to zap Klingons or giant bugs or even small asteroids, somebody will want to mount ol' momma on a lunar lander and go git some. It's very effective - you can use a spotter and hit remarkably small targets at ridiculously long range by tapping off single shots and using the windage & elevation adjustments on the tripod, if properly sandbagged down. Moreover, not even AT&T knows how to reach out, reach out and touch someone, the way the .50 cal does. It is a wonderful kinetic solution to many of life's little (and medium size, up to moderately-armored) problems.
On the other hand, the M2 with tripod has to run well over a hundred and twenty-five pounds, and it is a little bit finicky about headspace, timing, and ensuring the barrel is properly mounted. Worse yet, you *still* can't see the hockey puck with it, so the HDTV comes out way ahead there. And finally, while your buddies may be happy to come over to see you and the M2, and watch when you 'turn it on' in the den, there's no way your wife is going to let you do that in the house every Sunday afternoon between September and January 30th.
It's a tough call.
[In all seriousness, my Dad basically owed his life to a good functioning bank of M2's in Korea. I wouldn't be here if not for the M2. My experiences with it weren't as dramatic but I was still impressed & grateful to have a chance to dance with momma - dugdugdugdugdugdugdug].
* John Browning's excellent and amazing weapons designs have formed the backbone of modern small arms design for roughly the last 100 years. The old pacifist's weapons and his patented advances in the art, are the tools used by various moral actors, to dispatch literally millions of our fellow man. I, for one, am glad that he wasn't a warmongering bastard instead of an avowed pacifist. Had he been a warmongering bastard, there's no telling what the carnage would have been like.
Sandbaggers - have you considered selling your sandbag points on Ebay? These guys have. Money shot - "enough points for you, and three of your friends to upgrade to Cat II." Nice.
Let's welcome local racer Mark F to the blogroll, with his excellent ShenCycling blog - good race tales from a chronic master B racer.
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
Okay, fine, I'm mediocre to lousy on the best of days. But I've had three awful weeks, training-wise, hardly riding the bike at all. I've put on five or six pounds in that time. My asthma is flaring up. And work is bearing down on me like a freight train bearing down on a stalled school bus.
Lookit, I'm really not pre-loading on the excuses. I'm in for-shit state right now. So come out and kick my ass.
I'll be doing the C race this weekend at Reston, at the Capital Cross Classic. It's the MAC finale, the fields will be packed (hence no illusions on my part about sticking it out in the B Masters) and it's always a class event. Whether or not you're racing, consider contacting the race organizer, Chip Sovek, and stepping up to volunteer.
Next weekend I'll be sucking ass at the Rockburn Cyclocross in Elkridge MD, which is pretty near Columbia / Ellicot City. I don't know anything about it, except it's supposed to be put on by some mountain-bikey type folks with LSV Kelly ties, and to have lots of stuff they consider mildly technical. In other words, I'll be bringing Ace bandages, motrin, and some air splints. It's non-MAC so I'll be fightin' to stave off DFL in the Masters B class there.
So come on out, folks. Cross season is winding down. Let's drive a stake into the '07 season, and end it in style.
And while I'm at it... here's a wicked cool link to a blog featuring the letters home from a WWI British soldier. You have to go back to the very first entry and read them oldest to newest because they are posted day-by-day, in the order they were written, but it's a really worthwhile read. It's an insight into an age that was much like ours, but so very different. The poor bastards just didn't know what technology had in store for them, the changes it would bring and the casualties it would inflict. And I'm not just talking about on the battlefield. Yeah, I know, it's totally random. I just thought y'all might enjoy it.
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
But who am I to throw stones.
Little, shriveled, non-functional, probably pre-cancerous stones.
Nope, not me. Not gonna do it.
Monday, November 26, 2007
Running fixed gear or single speed this winter, and trying to figure out what your gearing is, what it would be with different combos of tires, cogs and chainrings? Trying to figure out what your cadence is at given speeds without dropping another $40 for a bike computer with cadence for the rat fixie? Check out the Human Powered Vehicle gear calculator, a handy utility website, now also added to the blogroll. Oh yeah, and if you were wondering, I'm running about 67 gear inches, which allows a nice combination of zone 2 training (about 17.5 / 18 MPH at 90 RPM) and big ring drills on the uphills.
We're picking up a dog tomorrow with a little luck, a "smooth" or short haired collie named Bandit. I can't wait. He's a rescued dog. We've met him before, he's a lovely, smart dog. I'm thrilled to death, I've been dog-less for three or four years. That's too long. Here's what he looks like:
We had been looking at German Shepherds and similar breeds, and only came across collies thanks to a visit to the Scottish Games a month or so ago. It turns out they have a lot of characteristics that make them really good family dogs. I never really liked the long haired collies, but the short haired ones are just gorgeous. Both variations are smart, very trainable, generally easy going, good with kids and usually with cats, and very companionable. I'll give you updates, of course. Meanwhile, if you're interested in finding out more about collies, here's our local collie rescue organization, SaveCollies.org.
I don’t often stoop to Fisking articles about sports, but sometimes, somebody takes a position so dumb, it begs for a thorough takedown. I've had it with being lied to by dopers, and with their gullible defenders. We should know better by now.
Fair warning kids - this is going to get ugly and touch on race, law, and politics. If any of those bother you, avert your eyes now.
Jemele Hill’s defense of Barry Bonds’ is one of those articles that rolls out every stinking defense of a likely doper that can possibly be rolled out. The reason it’s dumb is because 5 years into the Balco investigation, two years after congressional hearings, two years after the Operacion Puerto dominos started falling, a professional sports journalist should know better. We've heard the lies before. We shouldn't be buying them any longer.
After two years of stunning convictions (legal, USADA and WADA), I’ve kinda had it with dopers. Those among you who've read this blog for a while know my position on doping is somewhat pragmatic and not moralistic in the least. In sports where everybody does it, literally, I believe doping is bad, but it is probably the cost of staying in the game for many or most players, kind of like spikes-up slides into second in baseball and stealing signs, or the occasional hold or crack-back block in football. Bad, but “acceptable cheating” within the game itself if nobody is going to enforce the rules. It’s a bit like speeding on I-95 – illegal, but you’d be a damned fool to try to go 55 where *everybody*, literally everybody, is doing 75. Yep, bad stuff. But we’re talking about being observant of unwritten rules, the little hypocrisies that provide most of the order in society. It’s a valid and workable world view, even if the hypocrisy inherent in it happens to creep you out a bit. Me… I’m down with well-placed hypocrisy.
But sometimes, there is a reckoning, and the hypocrisy and cheating and corruption has to end. When a league starts to crack down on doping, and law enforcement starts to look into it, that is a signal that must be observed, a signal that the unwritten rules have changed. They are suddenly aligned with the letter of the law. At that point, my attitude toward doping becomes much harsher. At that point, it's time to stop the lies, stop ignoring the cheating, and do something about it. Is it fair to the dopers to change the rules mid-course? Maybe not. But then they really shouldn't be cheating to begin with, and if they decided to play by the unwritten rules, playing the game on the dark side, it's their responsibility to clean up their own act and they have no right to bitch about it. They can't play fast and loose, and then complain that they are being subjected to enforcement, knowing that the written rules are being enforced, and the unwritten rules they used to justify cheating have changed. Sorry, but you guys broke the rules - quit lying and being hypocritical about it. Man up, admit the truth, and move on. I'll accept the truth from a Frankie Andreau, telling me doping was the cost of staying in the game in '96. I won't hold it against him because I think he's telling the truth, he's honest about it now, and he's working to bring the ethos of the sport, the unwritten rules, into harmony with the clean and noble written rules of the sport. So too David Millar. I admire what they are doing.
On the other hand, I won't accept lies from more recent dopers, especially from the guys who are racing in today's clearly less-doped, superman performance-free peloton. Part of the deal with guys who follow the unwritten rules religiously is they are claiming to be gutsy and courageous, and realistic about the hard nature of competition. If that's true, they should be honest with themselves about what they are doing, and if they get caught, honest with us about what they did. We should also be honest and understand that in the wake of heavily stepped up doping enforcement cheating isn't necessary the way it once was. Doping is thus altered from an "everybody is doing it" act, into a betrayal of the sport, from the cost of staying in the game into cheating, from a minor misdemeanor into a major felony.
Cycling had the Festina affair, but didn’t appear to take doping seriously until Operacion Puerto broke open. Since then, it has become clear: riders need to lose the EPO and other drugs, and those who don’t will face bans, and possibly criminal prosecution. It’s pretty clear, and I don’t have a lot of sympathy for those who violate the written rules or the unwritten ones at this point, then try to excuse their cheating with all sorts of lame rationalizations or denials.
Baseball turned this corner (along with track and a few other sports) in the
You will automatically assume the reason I'm defending Barry Bonds is because he's black and I'm black.
Interesting premise. I assumed you were defending him because you get paid to say contrary and outrageous BS, kind of like Steven A. Smith or Jim Rome. There’s your first mistake. Let’s call it a mulligan though.
Is Barry Bonds being mistreated? The answer is yes. This is not about the commonality of race. And for the record, I have been as critical as anyone of Bonds. I didn't want to see him break Hank Aaron's record, because he's not as dignified as Aaron was and Bonds didn't respect his natural ability the same way Aaron respected his.
Okay, fine. Isn’t that sort of playing the reverse “he’s a credit to his race” card though?
But that doesn't mean Bonds belongs in prison.
Oh, so he’s on trial for being a prick?
The only way to see the indictment of Bonds is as a gross, terrible injustice, a startling abuse of power and a waste of taxpayer money.
A gross injustice. Okay, so this is a lynch mob or something?
The "race card" is somewhere in my back pocket, but I'll play that later on. For now, let's focus on something even bigger than race -- the unbelievably deep hypocrisy that has fueled the federal government's pursuit of Bonds for four years.
Um, Jemele dear, you played the race card in the first sentence. The paragraph just before this one is basically table talk, saying you lifted your cards and saw races over eights… Oh, and then you see hypocrisy in doping prosecution. Wow, that’s an original argument against doping. How unique to hear that - "the enforcers are hypocritical so we shouldn't enforce the doping prohibitions." But do continue.
The decision to indict Bonds on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice, a charge I still don't understand, considering the government didn't need Bonds to topple BALCO -- isn't right, fair or just.No, it isn’t. But here’s the funny thing about it – when the feds call you in front of a grand jury, you take an oath and then, to all intents and purposes, lie your needle-holed ass off, it turns out that they have a remarkable lack of humor about the whole situation. It’s as if prosecutors and FBI agents are on a personal mission to discover the truth and to mete out justice to everybody. It’s shameful really, that our law enforcement people would get so wrapped up in punishing every little crime. It's not right or fair or just in that sense, but it is justice and it is the law.
The feds have made Bonds into Al Capone, when he's more like Pookie than Nino Brown. They're blaming the crackhead instead of the drug dealer, the prostitute instead of the pimp, the wayward child instead of the enabling parent.
Okay, so if your kid gets busted, Jemele, we’re going to have you serve time for him. You down with that? Or would you make a distinction between parents having some moral culpability for a child’s actions, while the child has actual and legal responsibility for his own actions? And since when did some pimp turn Barry out and make him his baseball prostitute? What exactly is Barry addicted to, if he suffers from some disease?
Cast aside whether Bonds signed enough autographs, the irrelevant tales about what a jerk he's been to the media, his mistress, the rocky divorce and our general addiction to seeing towering stars fall,
I already did. I don’t care about that stuff and presume a substantial percentage of my sports heroes are bastards. (Paging Mr. Armstrong… Jaune courtesy phone…)
then digest this: Barry Bonds -- who didn't create BALCO, who didn't distribute the performance-enhancing drugs that came out of BALCO, who was nothing more than a client of BALCO -- is facing stiffer punishment and castigation than Victor Conte, the man who masterminded the entire operation.
Has it crossed anyone's mind that perhaps Mr. Conte told the truth when called before the grand jury and expressed repentance? Last time I checked, those were strong considerations on the federal sentencing guidelines, which could double or half a typical sentence. Additionally, the truth-telling also affects which charges are filed – simply put, lying to the grand jury will add a perjury charge for each time you lie. The reason that federal prosecutors take grand jury perjury so seriously is that the federal system is grand jury driven. It operates because individuals are expected to tell the truth before the grand jury, and the grand jury – which is an investigative arm, not truly a court body that determines guilt – would not function if individuals could lie to it at will. It's an honor system and it only works when people follow the rule, to tell the truth. Grand jury perjury charges in this way resemble perjury charges arising out of civil violations, like Martha Stewart’s offense. Federal prosecutors take a very dim view of perjury and obstruction of justice there because civil enforcement systems don’t work if people can get away with lying. That is why the Department of Justice and
Bonds -- who wasn't the first baseball player to take performance-enhancing drugs unknowingly or otherwise, who played in a league that, for a time, subtly encouraged PED use, who played against players taking the same drugs as him, who isn't even the first player to lie to the government about taking performance-enhancing drugs (see: Palmeiro, Rafael) -- is facing prison time and will be anointed the primary culprit of an era he didn't create.
I agree that for a while, everybody was doing it. But when everybody got subpoenaed, ad everybody had to testify, then everybody should have known the rules changed. As for Congress… if Congress doesn’t want to enforce the laws prohibiting perjury, that’s their problem. DOJ cannot prosecute Palmeiro for perjury before Congress unless Congress asks DOJ to take action. This isn’t prosecutorial caprice, it’s Separation of Powers in action.
And the universe was definitely trying to send us a message, because as the Bonds indictment continued to ripple, MLB commissioner Bud Selig announced that Major League Baseball's revenue climbed to $6 billion this year, the highest amount in history. How much of that came from Bonds' bat? How much of that came because of an orchestrated ignorance of steroids?
Probably a lot of that. But charges of hypocrisy against Major League Baseball do not affect the essential question, whether Barry Bonds lied under oath to a federal grand jury.
How rich of the White House to briefly ignore issues like the war in Iraq, escalating violence in this country, and poor health care to express its disappointment in Bonds.This argument is akin to saying City Hall ought to prevent the police from going out to fight crime, because City Hall’s hands are full with directing the fire department out to fight fires. It’s also incredibly silly to assume that the White House can’t handle a couple different problems at one time. For that matter it betrays woeful ignorance of the actual functioning of government generally, to assume that the White House policy staff are involved in the nitty-gritty of frankly minor criminal investigations. And while we’re at it, violent crime isn’t escalating across the country, it’s at fairly low and stable levels, and is in fact still on a steadily decreasing trendline, with occasional geographically localized blips.
President Bush's interest in this matter is intriguing, considering when he owned part of the Texas Rangers, he employed some of the biggest juicers in the game -- Palmeiro, Jose Canseco, and a handful of others who were suspect.
I guess we ought to hold fans responsible, because they were attending games while these guys were juicing… Honestly, I can understand disliking politicians, but blaming Bush for juicing in pro sports reminds me of that scene in Forest Gump where Jenny’s boyfriend kicks her ass and says, “I’m sorry… it’s this damn war.” At some point, it’s just possible that the POTUS isn’t responsible for every single thing that happens in the
The government has spent some $6 million to catch a baseball player who mostly committed a crime against himself and his legacy.
And his fellow players and the tens of millions of baseball fans, and the players who preceded him who did not dope, and those who will come after him. Y’know, the record book. History. That, and Title 18, section 1621 of the US Code, which prohibits perjury.
They have sought Bonds for four years, a pursuit that would have been reasonable if he were a violent criminal.I guess corruption in politicians we don’t like is a big deal. In millionaire athletes… not so much.
For what? Because they didn't like that Bonds didn't cower in fear while testifying during the BALCO trial?
Yeah, that, and he allegedly committed *perjury* while under oath and a grant of immunity. You’d think that “BALCO trial” and “they have sought Bonds for years” would be mutually exclusive…
Because he's spoiled, rich and arrogant, and they wanted to knock him down a peg or two?
Yeah, it’s really disturbing when people hate rich arrogant people and would like to knock their snotty noses down a peg or two. Like former MLB team owners who went to
Should Bonds have fessed up to whatever he did? Certainly. But $6 million seems like a hefty price to pay to crush a ballplayer's ego and inflate a government branch's.
Yes, that’s the whole friggin’ point of grand jury testimony. You fess up. There is no choice, no ability to take the 5th, because you get immunity for your testimony. Telling the truth is what you do when you get subpoenaed.
I certainly don't support lying to the government
Except in this case. Where you support it wholeheartedly and then chalk up the legal repercussions of the lies to racism.
if that's what Bonds did.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
But I'm not about to pretend that Bonds' alleged lie is the equivalent of handing over sensitive government documents to Osama bin Laden.
This is another ridiculous logical fallacy, presenting a false dilemma. A similar example would be, “we shouldn’t prosecute rapists because rape isn’t as serious as mass murder.” Why can’t we prosecute mass murdering terrorists *and* perjurers?
SMACK. Time to play the race card. Bonds' blackness is not the sole reason Bonds is in this mess. But it is a factor in why the fairness seems so skewed, why the vitriol seems so severe, why the pursuit was so unrelenting.
SMACK? Um, sorry, you played the river card about 10 paragraphs ago. You already flipped the race card. Do me a favor though, if it's r
SMACK? Um, sorry, you played the river card about 10 paragraphs ago. You already flipped the race card. Do me a favor though, if it's racism, why isn't Sammy Sosa under the gun here?
Bonds' most egregious error is that he is not content to play the role of the grateful black man. Black athletes, particularly males, who express the kind of arrogance Bonds does are often villified more than white athletes who do the same.
While it’s true a lot of black athletes are subjected to unfair pressure, I’d submit Bonds’ most egregious error was in lying to the grand jury combined with a very public arrogance about his involvement with Balco. It doesn’t help that he broke Aaron’s record. His high profile coupled with pretty obvious lying and publicly defiant stance fairly begs for prosecutorial attention, akin to the bank robber who dares the cops to do something by robbing banks located next door to police stations. If Mark McGwire lied to the grand jury then hoisted a metaphorical middle finger at the law a couple times a week, instead of hiding out in a gated community like a hermit, he’d be under indictment now too.
Brett Favre pleaded to be surrounded by talent for years, yet when Randy Moss expressed similar frustration in
he was called selfish and whiny and told to shut up. Oakland
If Brett Favre had acted the way Randy Moss acted over the first 8 years of his career, Brett Favre would be considered a punk too. If the feds felt they could bust either of them for perjury, they'd be under indictment too...
Gary Sheffield, while not the most eloquent speaker, alerted us to the obvious -- that MLB has a certain amount of economic control over Latino players because it plucks them from their home countries so they won't have to pay hefty signing bonuses in the draft.
Sheffieldwas roasted for this,
I didn’t roast him for it. But the way
but it was perfectly fine for Larry Bird to say the NBA needs more white superstars.So how are those TV ratings working out for you, Mr. Stern?
Jemelle's argument is that noting the fact of race is the same as racism. Which begs the question, if she thinks Bonds’ race is the key factor here, what does that make her? Not a professor of formal logic, I guess.
Black athletes who refuse to kowtow get it worse, and from that perspective the race card is appropriately applicable.Yeah, maybe in some cases. But not here. If you compare Sosa to Bonds you’ll note the difference is that Sosa isn’t a prick. And apparently hasn’t lied to any grand juries.
For weeks, we've gotten reports of various baseball players purchasing human growth hormone, for obviously circumspect reasons and from obviously suspect people. Why isn't the government knocking at the door of Rick Ankiel, forcing him to testify against his supplier?
Give it some time. It took 5 years to bring the Balco investigation to a head, and John Ashcroft was reamed out for having the nerve to waste time and government money going after doping in sports. That was 5 years ago, of course…
Why didn't the government pursue the past that Mark McGwire wasn't eager to talk about?
Did McGwire lie to a grand jury? Has Congress asked DOJ to prosecute McGwire for not talking to Tom Davis’ committee?
Why does MLB seem to have only a passive interest in Paul Byrd? What-about-them arguments are normally despicable
But that won’t stop you from making them, will it Jemelle…
but to ignore that Bonds was part of an ensemble cast is foolish and lacks perspective.
Who is ignoring the ensemble cast?
Who is ignoring the ensemble cast?How many people have gone to jail so far in the Balco scandal? How many Olympic medals returned? How many future convictions are coming?
Of course, no matter how this situation concludes -- despite the hypocrisy and racial undertones in this case -- the overall moral lesson here is integrity should be used in conjunction with talent.
I’m sorry… what the f*** does that even mean? Moral integrity should be used in conjunction with talent? Huh? So we’re saying superstars should be moral paragons now? What? Wouldn’t Bonds’ failures in this arena (mistresses, divorces, lies, lack of common decency when dealing with others) make him even more culpable?
If it's true Bonds could have avoided this
If it's true he *could* have avoided this? What, did s
If it's true he *could* have avoided this? What, did some guy just run up to him on the street, stick a needle in his ass… every day for 5 years… and then make him lie to a federal grand jury? The mind boggles.
-- had he not been jealous of Sammy Sosa and McGwire, players whose talent was never in the same stratosphere as Bonds' -- then that's the real crime.The dope was forced on him by guys who, even doped up, weren’t nearly as good…
Had Bonds simply stayed the course and remained the player he was prior to the steroid era, he would have received the credit that made him seek out performance-enhancing drugs in the first place.
Well, possibly, if he hadn’t been such a colossal jerk. He is one of those guys who didn’t need steroids to suffer from ‘roid rage.
He'll have to live with that forever. And that, to me, is justice.
This is like saying the murderer’s own guilt is enough punishment.
Whatever.This whole article attempts to absolve Barry of what he is charged with, lying to a grand jury, by attempting to make the underlying criminal activities seem like a nullity. Thing is, we cyclists have heard every one of these excuses before. They are pathetic, the lies that a doper's blind supporters accept and parrot, with the doper hoping all the while to avoid conviction and to conduct enough damage control to salvage their past image. She isn't the only one, just the worst example I've seen lately, with pretty much all the excuses you could use here. The only excuse she doesn't use is an attack on the reliability of the testing - an excuse that in some cases has some validity - and she doesn't use it here, I'm sure, only because the dope provided by Balco was undetectable in lab tests so Barry never got caught, hence there are no positive results to dispute.
The thing is, the athlete's image as a wholesome person, a role model, is gone the moment the needle goes in, only the doper and his supporters don't get it that the image is dead. It may live on as a zombie, but the athlete is now a doper, and given the fact that the western sporting establishment has now determined to take doping offenses seriously, the doped athlete and his supporter should admit this. Hell, I support Lance Armstrong, I really look up to him because he did great things on the bike and is doing much greater things now in the fight against cancer, but I think of his image as an athlete as one of these doped zombies, even though nobody has proven that he took anything. Probably most top cyclists of his era were doped, that's just the way it is, you have to deal with it and move on. You can't undo the past, ad WADA's and UCI's past willful blindness. I *can* accept that maybe Lance and a lot of athletes took a lot of drugs. I'm willing to live with the denials of these undetected dopers because they are living under the old code, kind of like how the womanizing, drunk, obese Babe Ruth was revered as a real hero, when in fact he was possibly the Barry Bonds of his era. I'm okay with it, hiding the clay feet of the stars is what we used to do. But what I can't accept is the lies and hypocrisy when they get caught.
Ten years ago, lying about doping was what everybody did. That was the culture. But the culture has changed, and honesty is called for. Ms. Hill's defense of Barry Bonds, repeating the lies and excuses of 1996 is, at best, lamely tone deaf and ignorant of the changed rules of the game; and at worst this article reveals Ms. Hill as either foolish or disingenuous.
Sunday, November 18, 2007
My family. They are incredibly supportive and I don't show my gratitude often enough.
Good health. Or, as my doctor put it, "you are in surprisingly good health for somebody so fat." That's not exactly what she said but the sub-60 resting hr and healthy blood pressure levels, along with other factors, had her scratching her head. It's nice to be 40 and sliding only slowly in the wrong direction, rather than hurtling downwards like many of my friends.
My bike club. I love the Squadra, and riding with and for friends makes some stuff that would seem like drudgery - "wanna meet at Hains after work for some intervals?" - seem like good times.
Specific friends from the club: Bill C and Joe M were the welcome wagon, Peter keeps it interesting, Art and the rest of the board get it done - a lot of "it" - with very little drama. Especial thanks for Ken, who is a friend of startling reliability, and a regular source of hand-me-down bikes, which keep me rolling along quite well. Plus Jean & Lindsey, all-heart Dana, Joaquin and all the other Coppis, all of whose company brings me a lot of joy.
My local bike shop ride friends - Jon & Craig who got my then-north-of-300 lbs onto a bike, regulars Trevor, Tim, John, Tom, and fun irregulars like Lary & Jay & Sue & James & Rosie. It's great fun, even when y'all break my legs. Thanks.
Folks in the online community - some local whose association blurs real life & intarwebs life, like Kyle & Mike May the generous Chris Nystrom & Marc Vettori, and Chris Mayhew, who is a riddle wrapped in an enigma tucked into the body of a small man who climbs hills like a human elevator; some people whose web presence and emails I enjoy and appreciate but with whom I never have had the chance to ride yet - Big Mike, Elden the Fat Cyclist, regular commenters like Uncle Bob, . Also, I'm grateful for those of you who stop by regularly. A letter is never as good as a handshake; sharing stories of rides is never as satisfying as sharing a bit of sweat, some joy over the unexpected pleasures of every ride, and half a Clif Bar. But making links with each other based around our common love of the bike and riding, and the people who ride, brings us together.
I'm especially thankful for the realization that his hit me over the last year or so of riding and blogging about it. Seeing the social bond between most riders convinces me of something I've felt deeply for several years. That is that our shared humanity is more important than most of the trivial stuff that divides us. Politics, economics, taste in fiction lit, favorite music - whatever. That's kind of bullshit. What matters is that we're in it together, rare little sentient clumps amid a whole lot of cold rocks and empty spaces. I see this on group rides and in races - people who are very different, who I would have dismissed a few years ago because of their politics or their goofy personal habits or damn near any trivial difference - I find I like those people because I've seen them laboring up a hill or struggling to hold a wheel. They are a lot like me, we share a common struggle. So too in the web cycling community. I've found I have a lot in common with many of you, and I like hearing about your struggles and your overcoming. Yeah, you're not my drinking buddies - most of you - but I'd treat you as a friend if I encountered you in 'meatspace.' Maybe that's the crux of the thing cycling has done for me that I should be thankful for - while I can ride away from stress at work and home responsibilities and obesity and heart disease and every other thing, the bike has helped me ride towards a sense of my own humanity, and more importantly a better understanding and respect for others. And that's something to be truly thankful for.
I may blog during Thanksgiving week but don't count on it. I'll be back next week with your regularly scheduled snide-ass programming. For which you should be thankful.
Saturday, November 17, 2007
- I took my first real ride Thursday night on the new-to-me Fetish Ankhs that Ken sold me. "Real" meaning "longer than it takes to ride halfway around our practice 'cross course and bend the wheel into a Haines Briefs shape." It was a night ride in and around the wilds of Crofton, a sublime use for a 'cross bike. To celebrate, I tried to hop an 8' curb. The front wheel got up and over nicely - and then landed in a soft depression. I felt it stick and looked down in time to notice (1) the front wheel was sinking into some ooze at a really inopportune time; and, (2) I was flying through the air doing a Superman imitation, except with few prospects for a soft landing at the end of the flight. So I went face down over the handlebars. A bike isn't really broken in until you've crashed it, so I was glad to get this one baptized so quickly. Oh yeah, it handles beautifully, a bit nippy for such a tall bike, and it weighs *much* less than the Cross Check. Thanks so much Ken...it's awesome. I only mention this minor crash because my stomach, ribs, elbows and neck still hurt.
How deep was the hole from the Rouleur's faceplant?
Oh, about this deep.
- Rolled about 42 on the fixed gear this morning, on the Cross Check which has been rejuvenated, or juvenated anyhow, back into a flip-flop-hubbed training/commuting WunderWagen. I enjoyed the usual fixed gear sensations - the quiet ride, the zen state, and most of all the searing pain in my legs that made me question whether there is a God.
- Thankfully, when I came home and browsed the web, I found definitive proof of the existence of God. He's real... and He's spectacular.
- And just to clinch my podium position in the Fatuous Bastard Eternal Damnation Sweepstakes*, there's this, compliments of Stevil Kinevil, at Swobo's How to Avoid the Bummer Life blog**:
'Long as I got my plastic Jesus...***
* I sure hope God has a sense of humor because otherwise, I'm screwed.
** How to Avoid the Bummer Life is one of the most consistently funny bike blogs on the web. I tell you this because you would probably enjoy a bit more humor in your life, other than your spouse, kids and co-workers making fun of you for wearing lycra - which is humor but probably the wrong kind from your perspective. So enjoy!
*** Yes, this is an actual old Country and Western song.
Thursday, November 15, 2007
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
Core strength is very important for a bicyclist."
You want the good news? The tubular tires I glued on stuck in spite of some ride-to-failure testing that I did this morning at 'Cross practice. Jim Langley is onto something with his old school gluing method.
You want the bad news? The rear rim didn't exactly stick. Can you say Taco Tico? I rode it into the runup at a sprint, slung it a bit sideways, and the wheel just crumpled. Bummer.
But like I said - the glue held. Sweet.
I was going to do more than this, but came across this video of a guy who built a trebuchet to..
Well, you have to watch it. All I can say is I'm stopping here, because nothing I could do or say would be impressive after you watch this video.
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
the Unholy Rouleur's Ass is at Least This Wide...
Mike May wants to have fun with how people find his site. He talks about booty and bike race names showing up in the referrer logs. Two people can play that game, Mike. What shows up in my referrer logs?
- Torn ankle cartilage. (Eeeewww...)
- Michelle Tafoya anorexia (Eeeeewwww)
- Ed Sander death (this is getting f888ing grim now)
- Cankles and minimize (interesting search results mainly focused on girls unhappy about their legs)
- Pizza and gout (been there, didn't do that, apparently).
- Individuals with ADD
Here's an event I'd like to attend - The Eve of Destruction. The Wisconsin International Raceway annually hosts an event featuring rally racing, stunt motorcycles, demolition derby, and the highlight:
If they threw in Single Speed Cyclocross on Flaming Tall Bikes, it'd be a must-see event. As it is, it still looks pretty good.
I give you: Goatonapole 2.0: The Re-Monkeying. There is a goat, there is a pole. The goat is on the pole. The monkey is on the goat, the pole is on the tightrope. Forever and ever, amen.
If you missed my original discussion of Goatonapoly, shame on you. It's not too late to convert.
Monday, November 12, 2007
ANSI Double Strand Chain
Hip Hop Bling Chain. Pluses - not terribly expensive, bling factor even higher than Wipperman, totally stylin'. Minuses - not very useful for powering a bike; kind of heavy on your neck while riding; getting shot by West Coast rappers in senseless feud. Oh yeah, and Crunk may not be dead, but it is pretty Two Years Ago.
Ball and Chain. Pluses: lighter than my Surly Cross Check. Less punishing on hilly courses too. Will help me sneak into Joliet on Wednesday nights - they do a mean hash on Wednesday nights. Minuses - harder to clear barriers placed on uphill runups; tough to keep a smooth pedal cadence; probably not much use for actually powering the bike.
Ball & Chain
Tiger Claw Wu-Shu Whip Chain. Pluses: Powerful chain; useful for serving the Emperor and defeating the ninjas of Dragon Clan; only $19.95 from reputable Taiwanese Martial Arts Supply Houses near you; helpful when eviscerating your many enemies. Minuses: No master link, assault charges if you try using it in a race; not very helpful for driving the bike forward, unless you happen to be driving it forward like the rest of your enemies, lamenting your cruelty and begging for mercy. Not legal in NY, CA, MA, and the Shin Yuan Province.
9 Section Wu Shu Chain Whip
S&M Barbie Whips 'n' Chains. Pluses - definitely more stylish than the Ultegra 10 Speed chain. Sexy, in a disturbing, shamefully tacky and really sad sort of way. Cheap, in a number of respects. Minuses: Again, no good for driving the bike. Little girls in the neighborhood will be permanently warped if they see you riding around with this. You'll probably get arrested by the FBI for suspicion of child abuse. Still, it's probably more reliable than the SRAM chain, at least when I'm using it...
Saturday, November 10, 2007
Ate right for a day or two before the race. Packed up the gear in the (new to me) truck the night before.
Then I woke up and I shit a squirrel. Not literally, but might as well have. Didn't sleep well, had a bad gut... Oh well, you don't get a prize for not showing up. So I stuck to the usual pre-race routine. When you have a pre-race routine, including food you *always* eat, you stick to it.
Got there early, in time to see the start of the women's race. They race alone at 9:30, which is probably better than racing amid 90 C racers. I guess it's diversity or whatever. I could be wrong, but I believe, uh, diversity is an old, old wooden ship that was used during the Civil War era. Doesn't matter either way to me, I just wish more women were out there racing. Nikki did pretty well too and Unholy Rouleur reader/commenter Christina B. won the race, and her upgrade to Cat III.
Times are changing. Ladies can do stuff now and you're going to learn how to deal with it.
I cheered for our C guys a little bit. Dave B. kicked ass and took 10th, his first top ten. Jon Ivins fought the good fight, but came down on the bug side of the bug/windshield ratio today.
I tried to warm up all PRO, as Radio Freddy would view it. Got the trainer out and rode for 30-40 minutes. Pool of sweat on the tarmac time. I had a hell of a time getting the right clothing combo. Cross is so weird because you show up ad it's 37 degrees. So you bundle up, double the knickers, put on a long sleeve base layer and long jersey... then the sun comes up, the frost melts, and you sweat like a freaking pig with a bad gin hangover. So you gear down a bit, and do your warmup ride. But it's not enough, your jersey gets soaked, and you spend 10 minutes waiting at the start/finish freezing, waiting for the start. Well, one normally does, but I didn't, not today. I brought one of everything and about 30 minutes before the race stripped out the spare shorts, ditched the base layer and rocked a cotton T-shirt until start time, thence straight into a shortsleeve jersey.
I pre-rode the course and found it much to my liking. There was a lot of uphill, but most of it came after a lot of downhill. Here's a fat guy secret for you - we fat guys can ride the shit out of rollers. Hammer downhill, soft pedal uphill, and carry speed. It's the only kind of climbing we're good at and this course had tons of it. It also had a lot of turns at the bottoms and tops of the rollers. This could be bad if you were a smart and prudent rider. I am not, on dirt my testicular fortitude outweighs my brains, and I follow the "peg it and eyeball the corner exit" approach, which works pretty well for me. So I was jazzed about this course.
Got to the start, there were a couple callups, and we were off. Somebody kinda elbowed me a bunch of times going into the first turn. I got well ahead of him so it didn't bug me. I turned right onto the grass and heard somebody's front tire rubbing on my rear, for maybe 10 seconds. Hey, how did it feel to get steered around like that, buddy? We turned left up this longish false flat/kicker combo, and I was right on the tape. It was a bit crowded. Suddenly, the route opened up in front of me, I had a shot to pass forward 3-4 rows, it would have put me in nice position. So I rowed the STI down two or three gears, stood up to do a quick sprint, and stomped it, just like in training. And, just like in training (and some other races) I busted the drivetrain. Shades of the Baker Park Crit, the chain just came apart when I stomped.
My race was over in 25 seconds.
I had to laugh. This was the single most capricious thing that racing has ever done to me. Sure, I'm sort of bummed about it, but I had to laugh. "What? You pooped in the refrigerator? And you ate the whole... wheel of cheese? How'd you do that? Heck, I'm not even mad; that's amazing." Yeah, that's about right. It was amazing. I guess I've confirmed it - breaking drivetrains is what I do. That's my strength. Too bad it's not a event.
The day wasn't a total loss. I did get to cheer for a couple teammates (who did just fine in the race I botched.
Ken had a nice race, rode well, didn't break down, and finished not too far off Chris Nystrom's time. Chris won, BTW... congrats! Scott T. had a nice race, and Giacomo... well, he looked fabulous.
So that was my day. Big buildup, 25 seconds of fun. I'm sure my distaff readers have something they could compare it to, but what it is, sort of slips my mind right now.
So now it's two weeks off, and we'll see you at Reston then Rockburn. Where the hell did 'cross season go? Seems like only last week we were looking forward to Charm City. Man, time flies... but not as fast as a chain pin when it leaves it's proper position on my bike.
No real biking stuff here, just some random shit you might find interesting, as sometimes happens with these water bottles posts.
- From the NEFAQ* file: Why do I call random blog entries Water Bottles? Easy. I've got thirty water bottles laying around, they have all different random logs on them, you never know exactly what kind of scummy crap they'll contain, and water bottles are always good for a laugh - squirt people, pitch them, they drop out an inopportune times, they don't do a great job with what you'd really like them to do, i.e. keep your drinks cold and actually secured to the bike... Hence water bottles. A lot of situations in life remind me of water bottles - basically functional, sort of a random assortment of shit, not perfect, but it's what you have so you roll with it.
- *NEFAQ - Not exactly a frequent asked question.
- Books I've been reading lately - I'll leave out the serious shit, and a couple books relating to legal writing, and just pitch this really amazing series by Patrick O'Brian, the Aubrey-Maturin books. Remember Russell Crowe in Master & Commander? That movie was loosely based on a couple minor plot elements from books in this series, and took the title from the first book in the series, which it resembles not at all. The books - really 20 books that make out one enormous novel - center on the career of Captain Jack Aubrey and his good friend, Stephen Maturin, who is a physician, spy, and revolutionary in turns. The action takes place around the turn of the 19th Century and is ridiculously historically accurate. The stories are built around some naval battles, some political intrigue, and all the normal problems in life, with an emphasis on how the rigid manners of the Royal Navy and Georgian Society generally made just getting along damned hard. And all the time, there is the skein of the close friendship between the cerebral, complex Dr. Maturin and his best friend, the large and larger-than-life, but not exactly think-y, Captain Aubrey. Each novel in the series follows the heroes as they negotiate some typical major challenge faced by the Naval warriors or spys of the era, with simultaneous narrative threads involving adultery, nagging mothers-in-law, failed attempts at social climbing, fatuous supervisors, drunkenness, and perfidious Frenchmen. The remarkable friendship between the two is also exceptionally portrayed - both work hard to abide by the Man Laws, circa 1805, and properly studied could make a decent primer for teenage young men on how to act among friends. Duelling aside, of course. I have never been so fully engrossed by a story before. I'd recommend you start with the first one if you're interested.
- I bought a new-to-me truck today from CarMax to replace the one that died last Sunday on the way to the Tacchino. I know you wind up paying $500 or more extra with their no-haggle policy. But you know what? I prefer it that way. I'm a ball breaking negotiator. I can put the hurt on people in negotiations. I make a living doing that. But if I'm not getting paid to make 4 or 5 visits to a car dealer prior to inking a deal, I don't want to friggin' hear about it. I *hate* spending 15 or 20 hours of my time to knock some dealer down $2000 on the price of a car. I walked into Carmax today, had a list of 15 specific cars, in stock, I wanted to look at; three different models. I narrowed it to three cars, the pick of each litter; did test drives; selected one; and, worked the finances in about 10 minutes. A half hour later I was signing the papers, and a half hour after that I drove off. Yep, it was probably $500 or $1000 more expensive than what I could have gotten, given enough haggling, playing phone tag, acting coy and hanging around a local auto dealership. I couldn't care less. My time is worth more to me than that, and in the grand scheme of things, I'll happily trade $500 amortized over 5 years to save 20 hours of hassle from some salesman who assumes I'm a moron, and treats me that way. That kind of irritation just isn't necessary. How much is not having a hassle in one of the high stress areas of your life worth to you? And (B), do you think the normal car franchises are ever going to figure this out?
- Spent about 3 hours last night gluing up some Vittoria tubulars to some old Mavic 330 rims. After flatting at Ed Sander, and after hoisting my Salsa Delgado's and Deep Vees one too may times, I decided it was time to give tubbies a try. We'll see tomorrow at Sykesville how they work and whether I'm a clueless glue sniffer, or skillful at Mastickation.
Friday, November 09, 2007
Dear Unholy Rouleur,Jed,
I am wondering what kind of tire pressure you would run on a hard pack course that has a sandpit in it. I've been having problems negotiating sandpits in cross races lately, and know you have been working through some issues in sandpits, and thought you might have some insight. Any help here?
I'm going to be charitable here, because I think you're probably of limited intelligence. But be warned, a decent blogger would send out a couple large gentlemen of Sicilian extraction to kick your ass for asking such a stupid question. First of all, why are you asking a guy who has problems in this area, how to fix your problem? What are you, some kind of inbred jackhole? No, really. I've written repeatedly that every time I ride into a sandpit on skinny wheels, I sink like Natalie Freakin' Wood. What in hell would ever possess you to ask me a question about this? I haven't a f***ing clue about how to ride sandpits without sinking in up to my bottom bracket, other than maybe riding in the A race after fat C riders and mediocre B riders have packed the sand down into a semi-rideable condition. In fact, I was thinking about sending you an email and asking you the same thing.
Ahh, what the hell. I guess you don't mean nothin' by it.
Here's what I'd do, if I was in your shoes. I'd try running a 700x21 tubular on the front, I know it sounds counterintuitive, but trust me on this. Put the pressure as high as you can get it without the tire blowing off the rim, you may need a track tire to do this. 245 PSI should work. Keep your weight over the handlebars too. This should help.
I hope this helps. Moron.
Dear Ungodly Roper,
I'm thinking about getting a new bike. I'm torn between the Pinarello Idiote, and the Colnago Imbecilly. The Pinarello costs $15,000, and it comes with a squiggly fork, squiggly seat stays, squiggly top tube, squiggly seat, and a special squiggly paint job. The Colnago is a monocoque carbon design, with a one piece integrated carbon frame/stem/handlebar/bar tape/STI/bike computer combination. Apparently they make all of that at one time, in a single piece. It has a really great paint job on it, and Ernesto Colnago is said to have named it after one of his nephews, Giovanni Ewen Imbecilly. If it helps you figure out which bike would suit me better, I'm moving up to one of these bikes from a full carbon Cervelo with Mavic Cosmic Carbones. I'm having a tough time choosing. If you were in my shoes, what would you do?
Chad Wetherington IV
If I were in your shoes, I'd spend the $15,000 on hookers and blow, keep riding the Cervelo, and then ask daddy for some more trust fund money for a new bicycle. Repeat as needed, i.e. every time you get a little low on blow or hookers.
I'm pretty sure this will fix you right up. If you're still having trouble after this, I suggest you try even more blow and hookers. That will *definitely* help.
Dear Unholy Rouleur,
Rumor has it you recently mounted a set of tubulars on an old set of Mavic 330 rims to use on your cross bike. So, is it true? That is, what do you think of the process of gluing and mounting tubulars?
A. F. Ingwanker
Can you %(*@&%in #*@&% #%*&@& that #%$#?!??!!!
Holy ($^&!!!! %$(*@ $%(@& on a camel, I didn't think something could be that (*$^&@ing *($*#ed. Next time I say I want to try something like this, just take me out back ad $%*(ing #%*(@ me. Okay?
There, does that answer your question? Hope you feel enlightened now, you impertinent *%&$#$er.
Dear Unholy Rouleur,
I like riding a fixed gear bike a lot. I ride from 12th & U to my office at 14th and K pretty much every day, and some nights I go cruise Georgetown with it. Lately, I've discovered that there are actually roads outside the District. I went out with some friends last week to this place called Elly-Coat City. There were really big hills there. And the people just rode up and down them. And it was really pretty. And we rode for like hours. But it hurt my knees. And I crashed on a downhill because I couldn't slow down, which was weird.
Now here's the weird thing, and the question. I'd like to do that kind of thing more often. But the skinny jeans I borrowed off my totally hot girlfriend start to chafe after a while, and I have a sneaking suspicion that maybe my bike isn't quite set up for this kind of riding. What should I do?
Jack B. Astard
Shoot yourself. Ever since life got easy, post-Industrial Revolution, mindless trend following morons like you have been left in the gene pool. It's getting to be time to get the Eternal Pool Boy out here to do some skimming - the waters getting pretty cloudy. Do the right thing for the good of the species, and go take a dirt nap. Look on the bright side - you might start a trend.
In the alternative, you could get a geared road bike with brakes and a Brooks saddle and enjoy those long rides in the country. That way you could have fun, the bicycling community would pick up somebody who uses the bike as something to ride rather than a mere fashion accessory, and the Brooks would preclude you from ever breeding, so we'd all be happy and mankind's future would be assured.
Just do it, Jack.
Wednesday, November 07, 2007
Check out the interesting discussion in this set of comments, on how the category system and upgrades work in cross.
I've raised the issue of guys flat out sandbagging, and guys who have to do something that looks like sandbagging in order to get enough points to be able to race legitimately in the class where they belong. Chris and Darren have a great discussion of it that is enlightening, which also compares the road and mountain category system at the same time.
Thanks gents. That was a good discussion of the issues.
I tend to feel pretty comfortable with getting way uncomfortable.
Professionally, I do it all the time. Without getting into job details, I do the kind of legal practice that requires a lot of fairly quick judgments. Not exactly snap judgments, but a broad range of decisions in a wide range of legal topics, some of which I know very well, many which I have mere working knowledge of. This is completely opposite from the priestly attention most attorneys lavish on their narrow professional niches, in which they are truly expert and move at a thoughtful, deliberative and cautious pace. I find being out of my professional comfort zone roughly 50% of the time to be really rewarding, and well suited to my personal tendencies. I don't tell you this to try to impress you; believe me, being an attorney in D.C. is about as impressive as a frog's ass hitting the ground when it jumps, it's pretty common, I'm told. But the salient point is that if you try to keep pushing your limits a bit, that you can get comfortable with being a little uncomfortable and it can be very rewarding. I think of this little comfortable bubble outside my comfort zone as the (un)Comfort Zone.
The (un)Comfort Zone exists in a variety of spheres of life. For instance, I didn't get out for a ride yesterday, family visit and house demands sort of quashed that idea, which was fine. My legs *still* hurt from the Tacchino. I put in some storm windows and doors, tidied up and so on. Late in the day - family guests still not having arrived - Sainted Wife asks if I'm willing to do something about the back door. We have these French doors in the den, that's two doors that open outwards, with 15 little panes of glass in each. One pane has been loose and drafty since we've lived here - nigh on 5 years - thanks to the past owners of the house and their Akita's violent efforts to stage a jail break. So I caulk that loose pane of glass into the frame until it's tighter than a rusted, cross-threaded bottom bracket. That was a Comfort Zone job.
Sainted Wife then notes that the draft is better, but the threshold - the metal thing on the floor that butts up against the bottom of the doors - is still letting in a wicked draft. Not just that, but we've had water seepage through there in the past. So at 5:30, I decided I'll fix the threshold. Cue Rod Serling... "You are about to enter the (un)Comfort Zone... I've never done this repair before, and in spite of being able to make reasonably decent furniture, do basic plumbing, tile, painting and mechanical work, doors and windows kind of scare me... But what the hell. It's the (un)Comfort Zone, and I'm pretty comfortable there.
Fifteen minutes later I have the thing torn out of the floor. It consisted of a metal piece about 7 feet long, 4 inches wide, curved upwards in the middle, sort of crescent-shaped with the apex fitting directly underneath the middle of the doors. The underlayment, the platform on which it rested, was two pieces of 3/8th inch plywood, thoroughly rotted and bug infested on the side where they rested against the concrete pad floor. Guess I know where the bugs were coming from in the Man Cave.
Just then, the family members call. They're 10 minutes out. Thanks for the heads up! So I shoot into the laundry room/workshop, dig out a couple strips of 3/8th plywood that were lying around, cut them to size on the table saw, grab the caulk gun, screw gun, utility knife and some screws, and head back to the Man Cave. The guests arrive, I break out beers. They come downstairs, I spend about 5 minutes laying caulk and fitting the plywood down, then another 5 caulking the bottom of the metal threshold, emplacing it, screwing down the wood underlayment, and then weighting the top of it so that the caulk (a 30 year silicone adhesive / caulk, in truth) could cure and fasten it relatively firmly (but with some flex) to the concrete pad). It was a fairly simple fix and I felt happy about it. This moved door threshold work from pretty deep in the (un)Comfort Zone, into a pretty comfortable place. I may consider doing a similar bit of work on the upstairs door, which has a comparable problem with drafts.
So how does it translate to riding? You should really know this, if you've spent any serious amount of time stretching your own limits on the bike.
Most of my biking life has been outside the comfort zone, bordering on or smack in the middle of the (un)Comfort Zone. When I got back on the bike a few years ago at (embarassing weight to admit in public + 20 more pounds) it was uncomfortable at first, physically and psychologically. Worst was the dread feeling, what if my heart blows up on this hill? What if I get stuck out here ten miles from home?
The first lycra I stretched onto my fat ass (not Phat, mind you, just fat) after 15 years of being mercifully free from contour-hugging clothes was a little ways into the (un)Comfort Zone. It was only a little ways because I'm generally so obtuse that at times it doesn't occur to me to be self-conscious. (There were, and still are, a couple too many contours for that poor lycra to hug).
The first few group rides with the LBS guys hurt me bad, put me way beyond the comfort zone. So did the first few rides with Potomac Peddlers - but damned if I was going to ride "C" given what I perceived to be their too-easy pace. None of these rides approached the suffering I've learned to tolerate in really hard training or in a hard race, but we tend to forget how deep into the (un)Comfort Zone a lot of riding is for recreational riders, especially when they are trying to claw their way back into shape. My hat is off to a lot of the Peddlers... it probably is harder for them to do the first long hard spring rides, than it is for me to do 30 second all out efforts on 2:00 minutes, a routine that inevitably makes me puke. That's in my comfort zone, whereas the first 55 miler of the year for a "C" rider is outside his or hers...
My first commute on the bike, I crashed. Hell, the first three months commuting was all in the (un)Comfort Zone, and at times it remains there for me. It's hard to commute well, in comfort, appropriately dressed, properly lit, at a pace that isn't destructive of other training efforts. Commuting well is a skill, and often enough it's beyond my reach.
My first ride with the Coppis, the damned easy Muffin Ride, I thought I'd die on the initial rollers and the final hill. The Sunday Ride, the middle third of it anyhow, is almost always in my (un)Comfort Zone. My first few roadraces, same thing - they may have gone beyond the Zone to tell the truth. Likewise, my first cross races, and my first race in the B masters last weekend. Way into my (un)Comfort Zone.
Yet still I live and feel pretty happy in spite of, or because of it. The process of stretching and reaching a bit seems to have it's own rewards. One of them is that you maintain a sense of the possible. Yep, you get kicked in the teeth and you have to learn how to deal with that. It's the toughest part about always trying to reach and stretch. But more often than not you'll surprise yourself by how far you can go before failing, or by actually succeeding.
There seems to be a trick to this stretching of comfort zones of course, and the trick is risk management. First off, the consideration of embarassment should go out the window. So too the crowing you can make after you pull off something good. Those are externalities, they don't matter, and thinking about them just clouds your brain.
What does matter is trying to get an idea of what the risk is and what you can do to cope with it. For instance, getting dropped on a long, hard road ride is no big deal. Most roadies have to face it. So you carry a tail pack with a tube and flat kit, bring some extra money and maybe a cell phone, and train yourself to think about getting dropped as an opportunity for extra zone 2 miles. Group rides that are a little over your head are in the (un)Comfort Zone, so is navigating back to civilization after getting dropped by a group you probably had no business sticking with for that long.
Then there's crashing in cross races and mountain biking. You will never learn how to handle better until you start to understand where the bike loses its grip on the earth. You can't figure that out, in turn, until you push into your (un)Comfort Zone - the place where you might recover from the two wheeled drift six out of ten times, but the other four times you are dabbing or going down. The risk isn't terribly severe, you just have to approach it a bit prudently. I recommend trying to get it right on a 10 MPH corner first, before you try the 30 mph dirt sweeper.
There is one other stretch into the (un)Comfort Zone that I see pretty often in good riders, it is they way they will extend themselves to share tips or help out people who may well beat them, today or next year. A lot of people have shared tips with me, knowing if I ever get my shit together and my dinner plate put away early, I'm coming for them. They sometimes share tire tips with rivals, comments on the course conditions, all sorts of stuff harder edged and less generous people wouldn't share. In races, I've seen guys extend the courtesy of a draft to a rival, knowing damn well the rival has a better sprint. It's a generosity of spirit, and it must take a bit of effort to extend one's self that way. It can't come natural to give up competitive advantages like that, but reaching out that way, putting others in front of one's self, is a real admirable stretch. That stretch into the (un)Comfort Zone is the one I think most admirable of all stretches. It's easy to ride a little bit harder, go further, or install door parts. It's a lot harder to expose yourself and offer a gift to others. If you try to do it on a regular basis, I think it gets a bit easier though, just like a lot of things that happen in the (un)Comfort Zone.
The bottom line of the (un)Comfort Zone is that if you continually extend yourself and reach, the (un)Comfort Zone becomes your new normal. It turns into a habit by which you can keep improving, and I'm not necessarily restricting this to an evaluation of riding and fitness. It carries over into a lot of areas in your life. And ultimately, that's what it's all about.
Twenty years from now you probably won't remember what your Functional Threshold Power was on June 1, 2007. But you will definitely remember it if you put in an effort that was beyond what you ever thought you could do; and those who ride with you may remember it too.
What does this have to do with anything?
Well, I hear there may be an MTB night ride at one of the local areas tonight. I'm waiting on a call and if it comes early enough will go out and demolish my non-technical self in this most technical riding area, probably crash a couple times and scare the bejeezus out of myself. At best, it will be a bit of a reach for me. I'm ready to go and give it a shot, even though it's a couple miles inside the (un)Comfort Zone. This possibility got me thinking about how far outside my comfort zone this ride would be, and if the chance comes I'm taking down the MTB and heading out for a trip into the (un)Comfort Zone.
See you there.
Tuesday, November 06, 2007
I did nothing yesterday - no riding, tried not to walk, just went to work, came home, fell asleep playing with my kid, and went to bed at 8:10.
My wife, family and friends were suitably aggrieved to have been deprived of my presence so early in the evening.
They were so upset they started thinking visibly, in Russian. Some of their thoughts made it into the picture.
I slept until about 6:00 this morning - an epic snooze for me. 5-6 hours is normal, 8 is long, 9 is The Sleep of Death. 10 hours? They call the ambulance and presume the worst.
Today I'm taking the day off, getting the house ready for a family visit, and hoping to sneak in a recovery ride. It's amazing how much rest it takes to recharge your batteries after an all out effort.
This got me thinking about the different kinds of rest.
In races and training, there are several kinds of rest, depending on what kind of racing you do and how you train.
In crits, there’s short term rest and recovery – that’s what you get in between turns, during the slow middle portions of the race. It lasts just long enough for you to think, “Thank God, I couldn’t survive another surge like that.” As soon as you form that thought, or it's cousin, "I'm glad we're slowing down for a bit," it’s time for another 15 second max power effort.
Then there’s long term crit rest, or Sprinter Rest. Sprinters sit in, chill out, and do things like sagging 30 feet before a turn then closing the gap by simply not braking. DO NOT get caught behind a resting sprinter, it will wreck your race through a weird form of Velonarcolepsy – soon you’ll find yourself needing a rest so bad you’ll pull yourself, slink to the car, head home and take a nap. And you won’t know why. Sprinter Resters typically start resting about three days before the race, depending on their tapering plan, and usually have a detailed race plan calling for the rest to end some time between when the bell sounds the final lap, and when people put their bikes on top of their cars to drive home. If they don’t have a good line, or a suitably skilled leadout, or if they just don’t feel like working (which is most of the time), they won’t work at all. Some particularly accomplished sprinter resters have been known to rest for weeks or even entire seasons at a time.
In roadracing, you may see Climber Rest, or Classic Roadracer Rest. They don’t actually rest in the normal sense. These little waterbugs die on the flatlands, where they wheelsuck fat and tall guys (who’d rather be sprint/crit resting) until they get to the hills. Then the climbers really die shooting up the hills. Unfortunately, if the hill is followed by a really long downhill, great climbers are so light they don’t descend well, so they have to work really hard to keep pace, otherwise the slow climbing, fast descending fat & tall flatlanders will pass them near the bottom of the descent, coasting at 60 MPH and enjoying a long rest, hooting and hollering, and stuffing their faces with food, a material that true climbers only know about in theory.
In truth, the only time a true climber really rests in the normal sense is when he is too injured to ride, while he’s lying in the back of an ambulance weeping. Which explains why so many guys crash out in mountain stages – they just need a rest. Besides, who wants to start at Magnus Backstedt’s ass for 2600 kilometers of flatland in
In cross, there are a couple types of rest. The classic style is known as Enter Sandman. It’s what happens when a guy or gal who is way too good enters a class they have no business racing in. That’s right – no business, for them it’s only pleasure. The Sandman then rides away from the pack and cruises to win easily, often lapping or nearly lapping second place. They then tell everybody they are racing, but we know the truth… they are just resting. Some day, they’ll ride in a class appropriate to their talent and fitness level, but for now, they’re just restoring themselves. Like Joe Friel says, rest is important, and the Sandmen, they know this and take it to heart more than most of us.
The next kind of cross rest is the Microrest – the 10 or 15 seconds you get when you hit the one spot on the course you love and find easy. If you are a mountain biker, these are usually technical parts. You just relax, flow through them, and ride faster than the guys riding hard. A roadie in the same section is burning roughly 43 times the calories, with clenched butt, wide eyes, white knuckle grip, and a complete inability to carry speed. In fact, a really accomplished roadie can reduce the most beautiful stretch of flowing single track into a 100 repetition sprint interval, if you let him.
But when the muddy spiked shoe is on the other foot, however, all bets are off. Mountain Rest on the cross course almost always terminates in Half Mile Leadout rest. Yes, when the roadies hit the tar, it’s a quick standing effort, then a little 27 MPH spin for 800 meters. Yeah, a half mile paved road is a hard thing, but for roadies racing cross, this is as good as rest. Yep, sure, their legs burn a little… but they could do this all damn day if they had to, in fact they practice it once a week during road season, 10 x 1 minute 90% efforts. They are comfortable dancing down the road, flirting with the Red Zone but never crossing fully into it. Meanwhile, the same stretch is Mountain Man Hell, and the mountain man wonders if tar didn’t swallow all those dinosaurs in LaBrea. Don’t worry, Harry, you’ll get that little clean shaved bugger when he endos into the barriers.
This brings up another kind of cross rest – Not Dead, Only Sleeping. It’s what happens when you crash hard, lay there face down on the ground, and take an inventory to make sure all your limbs are still attached and working. Hah, you probably think I’m joking about this. I’m not. Sometimes, you take a little sleep at this point. Sometimes not. It's conceivable you may take the rest in a seated position; others prefer to lay on their back and count stars, while some prefer to sniff the grass as if it were a fine wine: "Dry... fruity... earthy bouquet... excellent."
A Range of Cross Racers Resting
A Range of Cross Racers Resting
Then we have a range of different types of training rest.
The there’s the rest you do on your off day. You don’t ride. Maybe you walk around the neighborhood dejectedly, thinking about stealing bikes off local kids tooling around on them, all carefree and not worried about the damage this will do to their Chronic Training Load, the bastards. Perhaps you wash your bike on rest day, caressing it lovingly, thinking about the next time you’ll be out together – just you and her, the wind in your hair, feeling the gentle curve of her seat, caressing her, um….
Where was I?
Oh yeah, then there’s recovery rides. Friel tells us a recovery ride should be at or below 70% of our maximum heartrate. The power training guys, Coggin and Allen and Lim, think it should be at less than .65 of Functional Threshold Power. Me, I think it should be going as slow as humanly possible, unless you spot somebody else in a local velo club jersey, in which case recovery pace is the highest pace you can maintain without your breathing becoming overtly ragged. It is essential that no matter how hard you ride, that you do not start breathing hard, so that if you get dropped you can loudly remind everybody that it's no big deal, you're resting today.
at Hains Point
I hope that this intro to the Wide World Of Rest has made you think about how important getting proper rest is, to your training. As for me... It's 2:25. I have the day off. I think it's time for a nap.