Friday, February 29, 2008
I wanted to let you know, that, this being America and all, dissent is the highest form of patriotism, etc.
Thus I've decided to patriotically dissent from the Great American and Partially Taiwanese Fabricated Trek Bicycle Company, Inc., LLC's campaign to Let Levi Ride.
They ask on the Let Levi Ride website, "why are they picking on Astana? It's not fair..." Okay, maybe they aren't just asking, maybe they are pouting about it too.
Indeed, it isn't fair. Unfortunately, life isn't fair, Timmy. It stopped being fair 'round about the time you left Kindergarten, and they started handing out grades, awarding medals for sports and girls started dating you based on what you got at birth, not on some quantum of talent handed out in equal portions to everybody.
Life being unfair and all, ASO is free to determine that Team High Road, which was just as bad as Astana last year while riding in T-Mobile kit, deserves to be in the TdF, having hired a guy who is a known doping critic to run the team, having registered the team in the U.S. of A and moving it away from the cadre of Spanish and Eye-Tie doctors at the heart of Puerto and other doping scandals.
Likewise, ASO is also free to weigh the facts surrounding Astana and un-invite them from the TdF. Astana hired a guy suspected of being the best doper - from a discretion standpoint - in the history of cycling, along with a couple guys who got suspiciously strong last year, even as other riders were wearing down. ASO are allowed to look at the official sponsor of Astana - a relatively sketchy government, and take that into account. ASO are permitted to consider their business interests, and the sports, and then decide that, in the balance, they don't want Astana to play.
No, it's not fair, but as far as I can tell, ASO made the decision for business purposes. They don't want further doping scandals, and Astana is the team that they judged, fairly or unfairly, most likely to blow up in their face.
Do I feel bad for Levi? Absolutely. He seems like a nice guy and doper or clean, he's a very, very good rider. Do I feel bad for the supporting cast? Yes. Disco, and now Astana, had a stable of unmatched domestiques that I love to watch. They are great riders, but they will be doing the same thing that NHL players are doing in July during the TdF... golfing and drinking beer.
Unfortunately for Astana's riders they made a bad business choice, and now the capricious, arbitrary, utterly French and vaguely ridiculous ASO is singling them out. Now they have to pay for their choice, and they will be riding NRC crits or just mounting a mid-season training camp while every other great grand tour pro is racing the TdF.
This is one of those things in life that falls under the category of, "you pays your money and you makes your choices." There is no way that this decision can be a surprise, just as a decision to ban Rabobank could not be a surprise; there is a track record there.
Thing is, actions have consequences. When we do something, we should expect to reap the rewards for it - positive or negative.
That's why I'm starting this campaign, for people who think that if you join an organization *known* for its doping habits, you shouldn't be shocked when you get banned from pro competition by the race promoter with the most on the line if you screw up.
Maybe if there were more consequences for bad choices, people would make fewer of them.
Thursday, February 28, 2008
2. Just a word of advice: if you are a roadracing cyclist and you aren't racing in the cobbled classics, or at least in some miserable rain-soaked cow crap-plagued kermesse - don't try to tell the rest of us you just had the hardest ride ever. I am positive - it wasn't.
3. It pays to be confident in your abilities. It really pays, however, to occasionally have some doubts.
4. The roadie ethos of minimalism - rolling with a flat wallet, a clif bar, a $20 and two water bottles is pretty cool in the summer. If you're serious about training in the bad weather though, consider fenders. It's nice to look hip. It's nicer to not have a Stegasaurus spine made out of ice and mud frozen up the middle of your back. Good enough for Team CSC, good enough for me.
5. Your feet getting cold on long winter rides? Try DeFeet wool socks or some other brand of wool socks made for cyclists. They seriously don't suck.
Thank you. We now return to our regularly scheduled programming.
Wednesday, February 27, 2008
- All that said, I am a strong believer in *appropriate* reverence, giving respect where it has been earned, especially at some cost. The World Championship Rainbow Jersey is a jersey that merits respect, all on its own, for what it represents. So too the wearer of the Jersey deserves respect - it is the equivalent of Golf's PGA Championship, the player's championship race. If a current World Champ is hurting in a race, other teams will help out the Champ, because the Jersey never fails. The Champ is expected to be a leader in the pack, if not the pack captain. The institution matters, the wearer is presumed to have earned it and to have earned respect. Reverence is due, and appropriate.
So I have three questions about the photo below that I'd love to see you answer in comments:
1) Is this rider giving proper respect to the U.S. National Roadrace Championship jersey, and explain why you feel he is or isn't.
2) Do you think the person taking the photo from about 20 feet away is showing proper respect to the sport and/or the jersey by taking and then posting this photo?
3) Can you imagine current wearer of the World Championship rainbow jersey - Paolo Bettini, a killer on the bike but by all accounts a nice guy and class act - getting caught out in this position by a photog, or for that matter most of the European pros allowing the jersey to be in any sort of distress? Do you think this says anything about Levi, and do you think that it has any bearing on his race performances?
[Update: I can't help but get in one final bike culture-related dig. Would it surprise you to know that the guy who took the picture is a triathlete, not a roadracer? Triathletes... they ride bicycles alright but it seems to me that not many of them are cyclists. FWIW I hesitated to post this photo but thought the point had to be made.]
Monday, February 25, 2008
Where was all this newfound attitude coming from? The hat, the crossed arms pose, the "I just want to ride my bike" jibber jabber? Levi normally comes across, and rides, like a guy who would have a problem dispatching an opponent in his moment of weakness. He's the Un-Lance, the Un-Mercyx. Yeah, sure, he rides pretty damn well, but he just doesn't have the kick-the-bastards-when-they-are-down instinct that every great campionisimo has. He's more of a California softy nice guy, who wants to be liked by everyone. So where does a guy like Levi, and a company like Trek, come up with this ad campaign?
It bothered me all afternoon. Then, after mulling these questions over like it was a trigonometry test and I hadn't studied, it suddenly hit me where Trek was getting Levi's whole marketing routine from:
We want to be free! We want to be free to do what we want to do! We want to be free to ride. We wanna be free to ride our machines without being hassled by The Man! And we wanna get loaded. And we wanna have a good time. And that's what we are gonna do. We are gonna have a good time... We are gonna have a party.
That's what Peter Fonda's Heavenly Blue character says while delivering the eulogy for his friend, Loser, in Roger Corman's execrable 60's biker (motorcyclist) flick, "The Wild Angels".
Then right after that speech, ol' Blue takes a bunch of prohibited prohibited drugs, chugs a bunch of whisky, desecrates the church, knocks out the preacher, and leads motorcycle 'club' in an inside-the-church gang rape of Loser's ex-old lady. Near as I can tell, that was pretty much the equivalent of a hitting for the cycle as far as blasphemy goes, a triple crown of transgression.
I'm sure Levi and Trek didn't intend to send quite that message when they came up with their ad campaign. But it immediately triggered these associations for me, and because I ain't that unique probably caused others to make the same, or similar connections. The cultural cues are there on the surface, even if the ad campaign doesn't trot out the entire historical subcontext for you. You can't help but associate "just let Levi ride" with similar pleas from Heavenly Blue and earlier (bad) biker films. C'mon, man. Levi just wants to ride his machine, and not get hassled by the man, man.
That's the problem with our pastiche pop culture and the marketing habit of appropriating cultural artifacts without attribution or context, just recycling them as if culture was an enormous compost heap. Thing is, all the crap you just toss on the pile doesn't just turn into nice tomatoes. Like a lot of other forms of cheating: you can start co-opting pop culture messages to support your cause, crafting something thinking it will turn out alright, but you have no idea about what kinds of conclusions people will draw about you along the way, and what kind of associations they will make and what kind of trouble it will ultimately land you in.
Sure, people can interpret your intentions the wrong way, but that's how it works. Like say you were a pro cyclist and your boss was accused of cheating over a long period of years, and you followed him to a new team known for cheating, run by a sketchy, sketchy government. People might think you are a cheater. Not saying you are, but that's the conclusion a lot of people might draw.
Things happen in a context. It's a mistake to think they can be easily divorced from it.
Looks like I took third in the Cyclocross Magazine "Spirit of Cross" essay contest. I scribbled out an essay one Monday at work in a few spare moments, literally. Most of my best work is like that - just a quick riff on something, while I'm highly fueled up on the morning's second triple espresso. So you know it must be good...
Anyhow, I think I said the spirit of cross was like burnt cabbage or at least smelled like that, and carnies. You'll have to get the magazine if you want to read it since my parol terms forbid interstate travel and dictate that CX magazine has exclusive rights to my off-season 'cross writing, for now. If I was to violate the embargo, the 'cross gods would make me a slow, fat, sucky cross rider.
Hey wait a minute...
If I was one of the other guys in the contest, I'd argue that the Unholy Rouleur's placing third in the Cyclocross Magazine's "Spirit of Cross" essay contest was some kind of a scoring error. Me? I'm just going to stand here by the score sheets whistling and waiting for the 15 minute protest period to end.
I was hoping for the Redline Conquest frame, but instead got some sweet new pimp-ass eyewear delivered by an Official Representative of the United States Government. Only problem is, those new Axley shades are far too cool for me. Maybe my teammate, Cipo Matassa, will trade me his weight maintenance secrets in exchange for these shades. I guess the alternative is for me to lose 50 pounds, buy some new white shoes, a red helmet, and a carbon fiber stem, to make myself look more or less cool enough to wear the shades.
So look, here's the deal. If you want to read my semi-excellent essay, along with the other great stuff in this new startup mag, you are going to have to subscribe to it. They were handing out free copies of the first edition at some MABRA cross races this fall, and they were well done, a nice change on the "and Cyclocross too..." coverage provided by Velo News and other bike media stalwarts. The subscription is pretty cheap - $16 gets you a year's worth of issues, four of them, and because they're a startup it's packed with content rather than those ads for sex pillows and touring companies featuring strangely intense looking 'touring' riders, and $450 carbon fiber bikes by companies you never heard of.
You know how much I liked the magazine? I liked it enough that I paid for my own subscription even though they offered to comp me.
[Full disclosure: I paid up before they offered to comp me. Whoops. Oh well. But I don't regret it.]
So if you are interested in the CX scene, check out CX Magazine's blog here, and while you're there you can follow the link to subscribe at the top of that web page.
Saturday, February 23, 2008
It turns out there's another way to make a living. According to the London Daily Mail, there's a big demand in Hollywood for "Cleavage Buffers." No, I'm not talking about big diamond pendants that Dollly Parton wears when she's in a low-cut dress, or the damping devices that she certainly has built into her, um, suspension equipment. It seems actresses actually have somebody buff up their cleavage prior to awards ceremonies and other big public appearances.
Cleavage buffers... who knew? It sounds like great work if you can get it. Not sure the wife would be too keen on the idea though, but I'm not sure it would piss her off any worse than my bike racing debacles.
Friday, February 22, 2008
Facing a critical time trial today at the Tour of California, Phil Liggett said Levi was an angry man, riding with something to prove. It sure seemed that way - he hammered the individual TT, taking the stage and keeping the yellow jersey. Sure, he's in better shape at this time of year than most pros. But it was a really dominant performance. I started thinking about what Liggett was saying, and I remembered, yes, I've run, played, and done other stuff angry. Not often, but when I've done it, I've crushed.
It's unusual for me to ride angry - sure I curse and spit when I race, but that's mere irritation. Angry is different, anger is a performance enhancing drug for me.
I'll give you an example. I used to run a lot in the Army. I wasn't a great runner, but could knock out the PT test run, a 2 mile for time, in around 10:30. That's not a great time but it was pretty solid. More than a couple times I knocked out sub-35 10k times, and high 32's were possible, depending on how regularly I'd been running. Pretty fair, given my average size back then and weightlifting proclivities (around 210-220).
I used to run a lot with a buddy, Alex. He was always trim and was a bit of a natural runner. He *always* had it over me - no matter what, he was faster. Yes, I had a sprint, but after about 2-3 miles on the trot, the sprint wasn't enough to get me ahead of him at the end of a run. He was just better.
Alex didn't usually lord it over me, but it was pretty clear he could crush me pretty much whenever he wanted. We did a midweek run this one time, probably on a Wednesday, going for about 8 or 10 miles. Somewhere in the middle of it, I got this leg numbness that I used to get on runs longer than 5-6 miles. I had to stop, stretch, let the pins and needles stop, and then go again. IT band problem? Sciatic nerve? Some triumph of leg muscle oxygen-eating over lung oxygen intake? Haven't a clue. What I know is this one time, Alex gave me a ration of crap about it, mid-run, and I wasn't happy.
A couple days later, on the Friday, I think, he called me at work to see if we were on for a post-work run, then some boozing and skirt chasing. (He is a great guy and was a superb wingman, if you're wondering why I'd put up with the dick behavior). Anyways, I was at the end of a really bad week, a particularly bad day, and this guy who had dogged me out for this friggin' condition I had no control over wanted to have another go.
Naturally I said yes, but I'd like to limit it to this four mile loop we sometimes did - legs were sore and all that. He figured I was pussing out and kind of laughed and agreed.
We met up after work and stretched a little, then we took off on our loop. For some reason, my legs felt pretty good that day. I was a bit pissed too... lot of stress building up. I worked a little on stretching my stride out, and kept the pace up pretty decently. About a mile into the run, Alex was wheezing a bit. I noticed this and asked if he felt okay, at which point he started bitching at me about the pace.
This totally set me off, and I put the hammer down. Was it the role reversal that bugged me? The fact that a guy who was giving me crap about being pathetic a couple days before was now at my mercy? The nasty week I'd just had?
It didn't matter. What mattered is I was effing pissed, and I was going to make that SOB pay for all the injustice in the world. So I focused on my breathing and stride, kept my rhythm, and just kept going. When I got to the far point of the run, I asked Alex if he wanted me to slow down - the guy was dying. No, he said, don't worry, keep going. Down past the cemetary and the park, I just trucked through the third mile. It felt pretty effortless for me. Meanwhile, Alex was wheezing and gasping.
We turned the corner into the home stretch, and I really focused on striding it out. I wasn't racing, I was just running really smoothly, and really fast. Lost in a rhythm I kept going, past the big modeling agency and fashion design company, past this Greek restaurant, and eventually up to the pedestrian crossing that marked the end of the 4 miles. Alex was a solid 300 yards behind me at that point. I waited for him at the crossing, and stretched for a minute. He caught up, and we jogged back across and went to stretch a bit more and make plans for that evening's systematic debauchery of ourselves and anybody unlucky enough to get caught in our path. As we were cooling down, he asked about the time. "22 even." Keep in mind, this is with two pedestrian crossings where we had to stop for a considerable time and wait for the red light, and for traffic to clear - so the actual running time was closer to 20 even. "I don't know what got into you today," he said. I told him I didn't know either, but the fact was I did know, it was a severe case of the ass and I ran a lot harder than usual as a result. I'm reasonably certain that was the fastest I ever ran four miles.
Since then I've kind of known about my anger super power, but most of the time I don't use it. It's not the kind of thing you can just tap into. It has to be there on its own, for the most part. But if it's available, it's pretty helpful. I kind of know how to sort of build it up and tap into it, but it's hard to do out of the blue. For the most part, it helps to have something to be pissed off about, and since I've quit playing rugby, it's a little bit harder for me to find something to be pissed about. C'mon, somebody socks you in the mouth, it's easier to get worked up, than if they just slip by you on their Fuji. But if you can find it... angry is good.
I'm thinking Levi got into a little bit of that today in Solvang. He rode a little above himself, hammered it in, and told Bob Roll afterward that it was the best TT he had ever done.
This sort of confirms for me that Levi has it in him to maybe with the TdF, but he needs to get his mind right. I don't know how to motivate him like that, to bring out his killer instinct, since (pretty obviously) if ASO lets him into the tour, the source of his anger will be gone.
It also makes me wonder if I need to start racing with a little more emotional intensity, and maybe see if I can make that my normal sort of mental state for racing and training. You know, use it to function better, not just to be an angry jerk on a bike. (H/T to Hoovis for that link).
Wednesday, February 20, 2008
Ingredients: whole wheat flour, all purpose flour (white, but get the King Arthur whole germ flour if you can find it); molasses; Quaker oats; brown sugar; honey; raisins; an egg; a cup of milk of any degree of fat; raisins and crushed walnuts (optional); a bread pan; a packet of yeast.
Put the yeast in a cup with a half cup of very warm (not quite burning hot) water, and a tablespoon of brown sugar.
Put two cups of oats in a bowl. Pour in just enough boiling water to cover the oats.
Beat an egg in a bowl. Add a cup of milk, a quarter cup of molasses, and a couple tablespoons of honey. Warm it in the microwave for 1-2 minutes, until very warm but not quite hot.
Mix 2 cups of all purpose flour, 2 cups of whole wheat flour, and 2-3 tablespoons of brown sugar in a bowl.
Mix the milk/molasses mixture into the flour. Add the yeast/water mixture. Blend in the oats.
Optional - mix in 3/4 cup of raisins, and/or 1/2 cup crushed walnuts.
Stir in the oats. Add enough flour to make the dough stiff, and hard to blend.
Dump the dough out on a liberally flour'ed cutting board. Knead in additional flower until the dough stops sticking to your fingers. Just keep rolling the dough over on itself, bending it and crushing it down.
Put the dough in an oiled bowl. Cover it with a clean kitchen towel and let it sit until it has doubled in size.
Knead it down for 4-5 minutes, again on the cutting board.
Oil the bread pan. Put the dough inside, and spread it out to the edges.
Cover the bread with the towel and let it sit until it has nearly doubled in size.
Cook it at 375 for about 40-45 minutes. When you tap the top, it should make a hollow sound.
And that's all. Not too shabby, and you'll notice the ingredients are pretty healthy for you. With the raisins it's a good breakfast & snack bread. With the walnuts or plain, it's excellent in sandwiches.
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
Apparently, putting the wheels, handlebar and seat on a bike are just a little too much for some Competitive Cyclist customers. So CC has decided to make it easy on the poor dears, and has come up with a new program to ship the entire bike, fully assembled, to the buyer.
What's so tough about the normal assembly process? Well...
Our standard shipping box provides you a bike that requires minimal re-assembly — install the wheels, attach the handlebar to the stem, insert the seatpost, then affix the pedals and you're done.Hmmm... let's see. I guess that does sound tough. What does that require? A 4 or 5 mm allen wrench ($1.00 per) and a pedal wrench ($11) or appropriately sized adjustable wrench ($7 - but be careful doing it with an adjustable). Oh yeah, and about two minutes and minimal mechanical acumen. Apparently, that's too tough for people.
After all, no one ever forgets their first attempt to equally torque the 4 bolts of a Deda Newton stem with one hand while maintaining a perfectly centered, leveled handlebar with the other. And if you're trying to do it sans workstand, and armed only with a multi-tool, things become that much more treacherous.Oh dear God... the target audience can't tighten four allen bolts and can't figure out that you eyeball the stem to ensure it's roughly fit, snug up the bolts a little, *then* adjust the handlebar, then cinch it down? They can't figure that out? Surely, this is an early April Fool's Day joke. Surely, you are kidding me. You are kidding, right? I can understand a beginner like I was not that terribly long ago not knowing how to do it, but somebody buying the typical $7k luxury wagon from Competitive Cyclist not knowing how to do that?
Okay, fine, even if you're a complete noodlebrain, and even if you got the bike with the integrated seatpost/mast, you can just take it to the shop, right? Your LBS guy understands that he isn't a BMC dealer, and you just droped 18 large for the new BMC, and he'd be happy to charge you $50 for a once-over and a quick fit, right? I guess not.
But just as attempts at assembly in the garage can be frustrating, that long walk through the bike shop with a new bike purchased elsewhere is daunting in a different way.Well, so much for the stoic, flinty road cyclists. Check it out though. If you get the "Just ran into Father O'Flaherty as I was coming out of the whorehouse" guilt complex by walking into your LBS with a piece of huge bling purchased elsewhere, why don't you just go to another bike shop? Cripes, take it to Performance - I'd trust them (more or less) to tighten 5 bolts and they couldn't care less where you got it... Evidently, even that is a bit too much.
It's for this reason that Competitive Cyclist offers our Ready to Ride Delivery Service option for our road bikes. Ready to Ride bikes are shipped in a custom box that allows us to send them 100% built and ready to ride. The box is sized 67" x 20" x 41", so every component will be in place, and nary a bolt will need to be turned before your first ride. Your handlebars will be centered and leveled. Your wheels, seatpost, and pedals will all be installed. You simply need to remove the bike from the box and off you go. Except for fine-tuning your seat position, there is no re-assembly or mechanical work required whatsoever.Gee, I wonder why Competitive Cyclist doesn't fly a technician out to the customer to get that seat dialed in, the way Rolls Royce flies a mechanic out to you if your Roller breaks down. Hey, wait a minute... I thought the whole point was you felt guilty about screwing your LBS out of a bike purchase. Now you're going to screw them out of the bike build work too? Some guilty thoughtful mechanically inept rich person you are...
So what's the cost of this great service?
The cost of our Ready to Ride service is $250. By comparison, regular UPS Ground shipping for a complete bike is $90.Wow. So, you mean to tell me that they will level and center the handlebar, tighten two to four bolts on the stem, screw in the pedals and put the wheels on (even including closing the quick release skewers and putting the chain on the rear cassette) for only $160? That's frickin' amazing. With prices like that, they should open up a chain and mass market this.
I'm sure there's untold riches to be had.
From Competitive Cyclist... an' it's Ready to Ride!"
- Cipo looks good. Not sure if he can still ride, but damn, he looks good.
- Dave Zabriskie's Moustache: Is it ironic? Is it serious? Or just tragic? I'm not sure. I know where he got it though.
- Highlight #2 of Stage 1: When Haedo crossed the line, the finish line camera shot captured Fabian Cancellara, waving his arms wildly in celebration. That's a good guy, who can celebrate a teammate's win with that much enthusiasm.
I don't know why but if I'm out of season, it's a little hard some days to get on the bike. In season, once I get in the groove, it's harder to stay off the bike than to get on it, even if I'm rocking an epic series of nasty workouts.
The highlight of the day was putting my kid to bed tonight. He's 4, and has always been a joker. In the last year he's discovered soldier men ("bang bang... they kill the bad guys"), horror films ("Daddy, that scared me... I like being scared...") and poopy jokes ("Ooooh, daddy, you stink in the bathroom. Ha ha ha.") He has always been a joker, from the time he was only several months old and hiding his toys if you asked to see them, or making funny faces, or using his (at 18 months limited) vocabulary to crack jokes.
That's from Gorey's "Gashlycrumb Tinies." Most of his stuff tells some sort of dark story, using drawings of the sort you see above. It's marvelous stuff, filled with wry humor, with some quantum of nameless dread lurking not too far beneath the surface.
Anyhow, I'm reading this one story to the kid, "The Beastly Baby," and when we get to the part about the Beastly Baby "shooting bric-a-brac off the table," the kid laughed so hard he vomited. Naturally, this got us both laughing again really, really hard.
Basically, I can't give a humorous book a better recommendation than that: "Buy this book: it's so funny, it will make you throw up."
Laughing 'til you puke... man, that is some funny stuff. What else can you say after that? Not much else, really. I totally recommend any of Gorey's collections. The smaller books are pretty good too. Caveat: Not every Gorey story is wholesome for kids. Shootings, stabbings, deaths, psychologically traumatic visits from birds and bicycles falling from the skies - kids can handle that. Some of his stories are a little darker than that normal run of the mill dark, and you may find that they are an adult pleasure, not good for the wee ones. But if your kid has a good sense of humor, and likes the usual kid gore and mayhem and mild fright, I highly recommend Gorey. Three collections of Gorey stories are the best place to start - the Amphigoria.
Monday, February 18, 2008
Two days ago, I had a hypothermia event on the side of the road. I was mildly hypothermic, right down to the being even stupider-than-usual.
Today? The forecast was for 57 degrees at 7:00 AM. Turns out it was 61. I was unsure what to wear - the shortsleeve jerseys have only been out of the closet for trainer rides, for the Quarterly Futile Attempt at Bike Closet Organization, and for one memorable ride where I needed team colors and all the long sleeves were in the wash, so on it went over perhaps 5 base layers.
I had to whip it out today. I started with a shortsleeve base layer which my Internal Farmer's Almanac said would be perfect for this weather and a long zone 2 ride. Then Sainted Wife opined I'd surely freeze. It's mid-February, the forecast was for the mid-50's.
My confidence rattled - she knows how to do this and in fact probably made a living before we met as a confidence rattler - I put on a longsleeve base layer. Sainted Wife was happy. I was happy. I set off.
Within 20 minutes, I was completely unzipped, jersey flapping in the breeze. I was also sweating balls, in spite of the 15 MPH wind, which changed directions constantly. It took about an hour before I had the first sighting.
Sighting of what, you ask? Why, the Milk of Human Suffering™, of course. That's how I refer to my sweat. Now most people sweat a little, but I have always sweated a lot. Even as a skinny young guy, I would always sweat like mad. I was always too warm. This was great for doing cold weather army training - I'd be stripped down to a T-shirt and busting ass working on a track, or setting up a big tent or unloading a conex, while everybody else was bundled up and moving slow, a combination of numb and clumsy.
Being naturally overheated doesn't do much for you in bike racing world however. I sweat just as much and it's kind of irritating. We're not talking about a sheen of sweat, or some droplets. When I get rolling, a rivulet of sweat runs out of my helmet, the front and center part, every time I lean my head forward. Now *that* is the Milk of Human Suffering™. I know I'm going hard when I get that kind of sweat going. See, it's not like normal sweat. It's sweat in such quantities, that it needs its own sort of epic name. Really. I'm the only guy I know who rides pretty decently, but can also 'milk' his helmet after a ride. The only thing keeping me from having a half gallon of water in the thing at ride's end, is that Bell's helmet pads only hold about a pint.
Over Base Layers for Causing Hallucinations
& Experiencing Total Enlightenment
Anyways, I don't just sweat that way going hard. It happens if I dress wrong and get overheated. I get the same thing in 95+ degree riding weather when the humidity is up, or if I'm overdressed to a dire extent, which I was today. The long sleeve base layer wasn't appreciably heavier than the short sleeve - it's just that uncovered arms are a wonderful radiator for the body. Just a little thing like that - covered arms - opens the spigots.
Personal American Sweat Lodge
if you like to sweat like Jim!
Significance? I don't know if there was any. The drenched-in-sweat byline wasn't really important. Any bad vibe from the Johnstown Flood in my hair was outweighed by the rest of the ride. It was just a nice day, and I had a nice ride. Basebuilding rides are a lot of fun when the weather is nice; this is why I *adore* charity centuries - 5 hours of basebuilding, and they try to feed you every 20 miles. How awesome is that?
Today I sweated hard, drank plenty, ate minimally, thought about how great it is to be alive and riding and having a Monday off. I came in cooked since the last hour was my 9th hour of zone 2 riding in three days, a pretty big hit of training volume since my winter has basically involved riding easy once or twice a week then hitting the MTB hard-ish once or twice a week.
The only significance of today, I guess, is that when I start to sweat in short sleeve jerseys, it means that real spring and the real outdoor riding season, with road races and farmer tans and young punks dropping me on steep hills is just around the corner. That's ride, loyal readers: your sweaty groundhog has seen his sweat puddle, and the winter will be over soon.
Oh yeah, that, and I finally tried that trick of showering with my helmet. A combination of Suave shampoo and Axe body wash has that thing smelling... well, different from its usual dead skunk's ass smell, to the extent my wife actually got within 10 feet of the helmet this afternoon without getting dizzy. So I'll have to remember that trick for helmet washing when I go to wash it again, some time next year, for sure.
Sunday, February 17, 2008
Had a nice training ride this morning, just short of 3 hours. I kept it in low Endurance Zone (not, not related to the Old Spice Endurance zone, which is odor, but not cheesy moustache free) for most of three hours. One half of the ride was directly into a sucky headwind. The other half was directly into a quartering wind. WTF? But it was fine anyhow. I was a little desperate at one point, since my favorite mid-ride stop, the High's Dairy Store in Galesville, has apparently been burnt down. Since the weather was cold and I was drinking a lot (not having eaten breakfast), I *really* needed a pee break. But anyhow. It was a good training ride, and I felt good about it because it takes skill to do training rides well. It's easy to just ride. Man alive, I know so many guys who just ride their asses off and do alright. But they are 25, skinny young dudes, with 25 year-old legs, no families and jobs that don't weigh them down a lot. It works for them, but not for me. I'm an endomorph to begin with, I have some serious job responsibilities, and a family. So I have to train a lot smarter than that, and training smarter is a skill, along with some other skills (like proper diet, and time management) that I have found easy to grasp intellectually but hard to put into practice. This morning's ride may have been the best ride, training-skill-wise, that I have put in within the last year.
Anybody can ride hard. But not just anybody can ride easy. Basebuilding is the critical foundation for fine tuning work later in the season - if you want to be able to do the VO2 or sprint work you need to do well, you need to have a good aerobic base or you won't be strong enough to do the other workouts. You won't notice a lack of aerobic base, since you'll hang okay on group rides and in races, but you'll notice it in training when you lose a little steam after the 3rd or 4th interval. There are ways to build aerobic base through very high intensity training, but that's difficult to do. Most basebuilding comes down to focused training - riding very hard when it's time to do so, and riding very hard diligently; but only after lots of time spent riding very easily.
It's hard to ride easily on a consistent basis. You need to ride the right kind of easy - too slow is mere fat burning, a tiny bit to hard is tempo, which is still aerobic but it recruits too many fast twitch muscles to be really efficient as a base builder. If you train with power, you know how hard it is to keep your effort level consistent in zone 2, L2. Most people don't - even training with Hr lets you use a lot of types of effort (subthreshold, fat burning) without your Hr leaving zone 2. The power meter, however, does not lie.
But enough of the blah blah blah, here's the workout figures.
Entire workout (210 watts):
Duration: 2:58:33 (3:11:14)
Work: 2226 kJ
TSS: 168.1 (intensity factor 0.755)
Norm Power: 249
Distance: 49.681 mi
Speed: 16.8 mph
The three things to understand there are in bold. The relationship between average power and the Normative Power both fall within zone 2 for me - 210 is the bottom, 250-something or thereabouts is the top. Norm Power is how hard your legs thought the ride was - it's an algorithm taking into account the high effort periods during a ride that take more of a toll on your legs. For instance, an easy zone 2 recovery spin on the trainer will give me an average power of 220, and I may finish a crit with an average power of 220, but the trainer spin has a norm power of 220 - my legs perceived it as an easy endurance spin; while my crit had a norm power of 330, so my legs thought it was a 45 minute-long time trial. When the Norm Power and Average Power fall within a single training zone, it means you rode very consistently. This is reflected in the VI, the variability index. The closer it is to 1.0, the more consistent your effort levels. This ride produced a 1.19, which is pretty consistent considering I was riding outdoors on rolling terrain, in significant wind.
The other key number is the Intensity Factor, or IF. This is another figure produced by an algorithm to gauge the intensity of your ride, as it compares to the same time period going all out, at a threshold or TT pace. An IF of .75 means the ride's intensity was a good, strong, L2 aerobic pace. Much lower than .68 and you're just burning fat and recovering; much (any?) higher than about .75 - .78 and you're recruiting too many of your fast twitch capabilities for the ride to really be a focused aerobic base builder. (There are ways to build aerobic base outside of the basebuilding L2 zone, but they mostly require *much* higher intensity levels).
So I'm happy. I think it's really hard to train properly on the bike but I managed a workmanlike ride today under moderately rough conditions.
Now here's a question on that topic for Mayhew and the hopeless training geeks that have read this far: I'm a big dude, and hills over about 7% or so kill me. They take huge effort and it's impossible to keep them in L20. I can go slow, and in going 9 MPH, I'm still cranking 400 watts until I crest. Or, on shorter hills, I can hit them with a little speed, try to stay on top of the pedals, 'slip climb,' and then do a brief big effort to get me over the top - usually not more than 15-20 seconds at 6-700 watts. On endurance rides where I'm trying to avoid high intensity efforts, am I better rolling the lower (but still L5+ wattage) and trying vainly to spin up, or just having a burst of intensity for maybe 1/3rd or 1/5th the time, and dropping back into L2? Does it matter?
Saturday, February 16, 2008
It was a pretty easy ride, save a couple hills we charged up in blowing out efforts, at least until Tom decided to start burning matches by accelerating off the front. I was a little bit bonky - didn't eat or drink much over 35 miles, didn't really eat pre-ride, so I was a sponge. Other than that, it was uneventful, until we broke up at 450. The group went up Rutland and I decided to head straight home since it was 9:20 or so, and I had a contractor coming by the house at ten. I wasn't more than 600 yards down 450 when I heard a loud pop, and felt the familiar wobble of a tire going softer than silk boxers washed in Snuggle.
I downshifted into the little ring and the smallest cog, got the bike stopped and inspected the damage. It was a sudden flat so a tube change was in order. There was no way I could just shoot some C02 into the tube and just ride it out for the remaining 3-4 miles home.
So I unpacked the flat kit, leaned the bike on the guardrail, popped off the rear wheel, and started to pry on the tire - a Gatorskin stretched tight over a Deep Vee, not exactly the loosest possible tire/rim combo. Each is known to be a little tight; together, they are tighter than a bolt rusted into cast iron.
That's when disaster struck. Since it was cold out, and since I was using a plastic tire iron (there's a "not surprisingly" that could be used here) the tire iron shattered into little bits. So now I was screwed. I was sweaty, ice cold, exposed to the wind and getting colder fast. I tried calling Tom thinking he'd pick up and turn the group around; surely, somebody would have a tire iron. Tom didn't pick up. I tried calling home, attempting the Call of Shame; but nobody picked up there. This was getting a little bad, and I was starting to shiver violently as I put my phone back in my pocket. I sat on the guardrail to think about my options.
I could try to walk home, but that would be really bad. I was a little bonky, pretty much soaked (bad clothing choices this AM), and a solid half hour walk from home, in comfortable shoes. In bike shoes? Count on 45 minutes. That would be potentially really bad.
I could try to ride home. Of course I'd wreck the Deep Vee and maybe the PowerTap to which it is attached. Hmmmm... a plausible course of action, but I'd have to be in danger of serious injury to piss away an $800 piece of equipment, and also to lose the ride data from a pretty good ride. (If you train with power, you understand that. Everybody else, feel free to draw conclusions about how screwed up my priorities are...
After a minute or two of sitting and thinking - which by the way is the very first thing you should always do in a crisis as long as nothing is immediately life threatening, sit and think - I decided it was getting bad. The shiver was getting out of control and I needed to act.
So got myself really amped up, had my lizard brain summon my super monkey strength, and I started to roll that tire right off the damn rim. It hurt like hell because my one hand and wrist are still messed up from a mountain bike crash I had a month or five weeks ago, but I had to do it. Was there a bit of panic stoking up my adrenalin? Maybe. Could have been that, could have been I was having a Floyd Landis-sized hit of testosterone, angry at being insulted and seemingly beaten by this stupid tire/wheel combo.
It's kind of irrelevant. With a mighty push, I managed to roll a four inch section of tire right off the rim. Funny, I never knew a wire bead Gatorskin could be hand stretched that way. I kept working it and pretty soon had the tire completely off.
Next, I spent five minutes blowing into the punctured tube and inspecting the tire for defects near the site of the puncture, along with checking for wires, staples, bits of stone, anything that might have caused a puncture and then hung around in the tire carcass, looking for fresh (tube) meat to attack. The brief surge of warmth I'd received from my tire wrasslin' quickly dissipated and I was shivering badly again, and starting to get numb hands. After about 5 minutes - minutes that included turning the tire basically inside-out and running my glove liner up and down it to catch snags on the cloth - I concluded that the blowout might have just occurred from running over a stone or something. After all, that rear tube is roughly a year old, with around 6k miles on it from two bikes. Again, it sounds stupid to sit there and muck around looking for an invisible wire or staple, but I only had one spare tube, and did I mention the tiny tube of glue in my flat kit was frozen solid? Well, it was. In a tough situation, it pays to think and do the little things right. The big things are generally pretty easy, but the little things will kill you, literally, if you don't get them right.
With a lot of care, I put the tire half-on, seated the slightly inflated tube, and then seated the other side of the tire on the rim. It was easier to get on than get off, but it still wasn't easy and my hand ached from the effort. I took a little extra time to push the valve stem upward, to make sure it was entirely inside the tire's beads - most of the blown-off-the-rim incidents I have had, have occurred near the valve stem so I pay extra attention to that area. After that, I went around the tire manipulating both sides - can't afford to blow it here.
Finally, and I mean finally, I threaded a CO2 cartridge into my Microflate, put on a glove (you really don't want to freeze your hand to the cartridge in cold weather; the pain is akin to licking metal in 10 degree (fahrenheit) temps; and I opened 'er up. I slowly filled the tube, watching the sidewalls for blowoff.
Finally it was filled, roughly 20 minutes after I first flatted. I was freezing my mother-lovin' ass off, and shaking like Young Elvis. I got back on the bike, zipped everything up, and pedaled off. About 15 minutes later, I was back home, safe and sound, stripping off my wet cycling clothes and getting into a heavy fleece shirt and some fleece sweats.
There are a couple lessons in this little experience. They are:
1) Don't get sweaty in really cold weather. Dress a bit colder than you think is necessary and to carry extra clothes. I should have had on a wind vest instead of a windbreaker; the poly base layer, wool jersey, windbreaker combo made me too sweaty during the ride. That is of no consequence if you keep riding because the poly and wool heat okay wet, but if you have to stop for 20 or 30 minutes, it's bad juju. Tomorrow when I go out, assuming the same temps, I'm wearing the same getup but with the lighter windvest, and packing arm warmers and a spare skullcap in my back pocket. The damnedest thing is that I already know all this, but I made an error in judgment and it's as if I'm just plain ignorant, all of a sudden.
2) Check your gear. I should have checked my flat kit in cold weather before this; had I known it would be useless in this weather, I'd have packed an extra tube.
3) In training, carry reliable tools and spares, even if they are heavy. I've seen plastic tire irons flex into U-shapes a million times in warm weather. It never occurred to me in the cold, that they might shatter. I hit up the local bike shop for a new plastic tire iron with a steel insert this afternoon. It was two or three bucks, and while it's heavy, I'm certain it won't shatter in the cold. Get a nice multi-tool with a chain tool on it. Consider a pump and patch kit to back up the spare tube and CO2.
4) Consider not splitting off from your group ride. This is less of a concern if you are fresh, if the weather is moderate, and you've eaten plenty. I should have considered the fact that I'm dieting a bit, not eating enough on rides to be fully fueled, it was late in the ride, and I was tired and wet. Did I make a really bad decision? No, probably not all that bad. I could always have hoofed it to a nearby house and begged for warmth if it was all that bad. But if I'd split off down some deserted road down near Warrenton in this weather and the same thing happened - that could be pretty dire.
So, all in all, there were no fatal errors, but my mild hypothermia proved to me that I made a couple minor errors, for which I'm still paying with cold hands. So that's a lesson learned, and I'll go pedaling off smugly into the future, at least until the road decides to teach me another fairly painful lesson. Crashing and getting hit by cars, it seems, are not the only risks you sometimes face on the road.
Thursday, February 14, 2008
Y'know what I do with free-floating guilt? I laugh at it. I screw up enough things on my own to feel guilty about, without self-importantly taking on all of everybody else's guilt. If you feel really compelled to apologize for something you didn't do, would one of you stand up and apologize to the lady I reamed out in traffic this morning? She was talking on the phone and nearly hit me. I'm cool with what I did, but to your way of thinking she probably only deserved a mild chewing out instead of the F-bomb parade that I rolled out for her, with me as the leading drum major, the guy in the vintage car waving, *and* the University of Wisconsin band. If you see a big pile of stuff in the middle of New York Ave, don't worry about it - it's just all the F-bombs I dropped.
I figure as long as y'all feel guilty about the aborigines and foreign policy and Clemens' drug dealer's sensitive feelings, maybe one of you has some guilt to spare and could do with apologizing on my behalf. Hell, if you feel particularly guilty, maybe one of you could open up a "I'm Sorry for What that Jerk Did to You in Traffic This Morning
Meanwhile, I'll be waiting for that
What am I getting at? Weellll... I think the recent spate of vacuous apologies highlight one of the things that's a major problem the world. We all want to apologize for crap we have nothing to do with ("Sorry that my ancestors were bastards to yours" , but most of us have trouble mumbling "I'm Sorry" to people we actually have wronged in the present, in close proximities to our own apologizing selves.
One the one hand, it seems to me that apologizing for what somebody did to the aborigines a hundred years ago relates to a false sense of pride in your own self-righteousness. Honestly - what can you really say? Do you think it makes their condition better? If somebody apologized to me for what they did to my great grandpa, I'd tell 'em to piss off. It would be meaningless to me, and in a way, sort of insulting - what the hell, if you didn't do the wrong act, you aren't responsible for it. How can you possibly turn back the clock and unring the bell? I saw the Superman movie recently on cable, and even in the movies, trying to change the past looks really hinkey. In real life, it can't be done.
On the other hand, I think that a failure to treat others right, and a failure to apologize to somebody you treated badly comes, I think, from a lack of humility. This resembles public figures who step up, "take total responsibility for what happened," then fail to resign and go away. Well, you aren't really taking responsibility for some massive screwup, if you commit a firing offense then fail to resign. Right? Or am I missing something here? Seems to me there's a lot of that kind of behavior lately. It's a little dishonest at it's core. You screw up, cop to it, apologize, and move on. Somebody else screws up... don't go confessing to it and apologizing. Confessing to sins you didn't commit isn't the hallmark of the saints, people, it's the hallmark of the mentally ill.
And on the gripping hand... I am apologizing for not not posting more this week for all y'all. It's been a rough week at work, to the extent I can't even really put it into words. I like to give you a daily chuckle, and when I don't... I've let the team down a little bit.
So I promise that once my brain stops working as a finely-tuned albeit overworked machine and reverts to the normal, oxygen indebted, jelly-like, liquored-up state, I'll post some amusing bits.
In the meantime, I'll have to amuse you with what my son said when he walked into the man-cave Tuesday while I was spinning out two hours of zone 2.
"Oh no, daddy! There's a big leak on the floor!"
Yeah, there's a lot of that too, lately.
These are all just my thoughts of course... if you're offended, I'm sure there's somebody who would be happy to apologize on my behalf. Either way, I take full responsibility for it.
While you're looking for something to read to compensate for my diminished output, might I suggest Jerry Pournelle's Lucifer's Hammer? It's a good sci-fi alternate history, asking "what would have happened if an asteroid hit the earth in 197_?" If you're more into spacegoing sci-fi, I recommend Niven & Pournelle's Motie series, about the unintended consequences of colonization, and how the colonized can sometimes colonize the colonizers.
Monday, February 11, 2008
He'd reproduce like Xerox.
Turns out his wife just reached into her kangaroo pouch of courage and pulled out a baby.
Yep, that's right, there's 4 or 5 little Jenses running around, tearing the legs off other toddlers and adolescents. Resistance is futile. You will be assimilated.
He'd rock out. An interview of Jens Voigt from 2005:
Q: If you were a pop star, who would you be?
Jens Voigt: Oh, well, I would have to be Metalica. You know their music is so powerful and thumping that it is really good for warming up before a time trial or something.
He'd ride a silly bicycle.
Then he'd reach deep into his suitcase of courage, and tear the legs off the peloton. 'Cuz that's how Jens rolls.
Sunday, February 10, 2008
(It's like "where's Waldo" except Magnus is never hard to spot.)
Recovering from breaking a collarbone after the Tour of Qatar. (It's okay - he says it's a good thing because now he's stuck on the trainer, and that means he'll be ready for Paris Roubaix, by Grabthar's Hammer.) Money shot: "After having his collarbone bolted back together he got back on the trainer..." My main man Magnus...
Magnus *Still* Kicks Your Ass.
"I would say give me ten days tops and I will be outdoors on the bike again. . . Roubaix is still looking okay. I would ride with a collarbone like this if I had to!"
Talking to Chris Shen last fall about training and his sprint power. "1900 watts at the end of a long race. Well over 2000 if I'm fresh." His twenty minute CP? "I average about 535 watts." That's 535 at 207 pounds.
Never be ashamed of your cheap road bike, your raggedy-assed winter trainer, or your favorite ride-everywhere rig which just happens to be an old Fuji or Surly or Schwinn with mismatched wheels and oddball components. Here's Maggy's trainer - "for the vertically enhanced."
And while we're talking All Things Magnus... Hit up Magnus' website, and buy some coffee. As Magnus says, "Terminate Your Thirst!" I'd do what he says, if I were you...
Speaking of Paris-Roubaix... "For Phil Ligget and Eric Heiden, I'm John Tesh... see you next year."
Yeah, I had the same thought you just did. Moser turns the cranks smoother than an electric motor even if the '86 Paris Roubaix was his last ride with the Queen. And if Bob Roll had lost any more time that year he'd have finished third in '87. H/t Blacklane.
I started pre-season basebuilding riding two or three weeks ago. Bill Gros has me on roughly 8-11 hours a week of mainly easy riding, and a slightly reduced schedule. I knew I had a test coming up this weekend, so I hopped on the scale on Friday. Hmmm... not great, I put on 10 pounds from the middle of last cross season, but not that bad, by my standards. I can take that off in two or three weeks of steady base riding, and I'm back on my 'diet,' which isn't really a diet but a basket of healthy eating habits. That works better for me than trying to count calories and get all anal retentive... I sort of gave up on complex math when I dropped out of electrical engineering around 20 years ago.
So the weight was fine, not perfect but not a huge deal and way better than last year. But today was the real test, the 20 minute Critical Power test on my trainer. For those who train power, you know the deal. For those who don't, it's a 20 minute, all out time trial. It's 100 pounds of hurt stuffed into a 20 pound bag.
What did I expect? I don't know. After training hard all last spring, my late June CP 20 was around 300 watts, after a CP 20 test averaging 315. After doing some serious build work over the summer, I had cranked that up to around 350, and had a CP 20 of 368 during one memorable ride. So today? Hard to say. Didn't really train power over the fall, just rode cross races and practice, recovery rides, and very rarely, some intervals. So?
Relief. I averaged 338 over 20 minutes, finishing with a mid-400's watt surge in the last couple minutes that caused a near-blackout and a near-tipping-off-the-bike. So I'm starting the season with better fitness than I had last year, mid-season. I'll take that.
And before you say, "great power numbers," remember, they aren't that great. I'm a big fat dude and the key, as always, is power-to-weight ratio. Mine is good enough to let me hang with Cat 5s and in flat Cat 4 races. The hills immediately reveal my dietary weaknesses and lack of discipline at the Golden China Buffet. That is going to be a project for this year, along with seeing just how high we can push that threshold. Don't know if it will happen but I'm hoping to manage a CP20 of at least 380 - that means pulling an average of 400 watts for the 20 minute test. Seems within reach considering I pulled 368 last fall.
Do that, along with losing 50 pounds, maybe some of you bastards will start worrying about me.
See ya out there on the road, boys & girls.
Tuesday, February 05, 2008
What I'm about to say may shock you. WADA are a pack of over zealous clowns.
I know, I know. You're as surprised as I was, no doubt, to find that out. But it's recently become clear to me that that is, in fact, the situation.
At the outset, I need to make clear: I think taking performance enhancing drugs - uppers, HGH, *some* kinds of steroids, EPO, and the designer hormones - I think taking them makes the competitive cyclist (or rower or swimmer or runner) a frickin' clown too. In a cynical sport, where many cheat... well, it doesn't violate the ethos of the sport, it just means that many or most of the players in that sport are assclowns. In a sport that is trying to go clean, dopers are super duper butt whistle variety assclowns. Not good guys. I don't approve but do tolerate it in a cynical sport, just as I tolerate some other forms of cheating; and in a sport trying to go clean I don't tolerate it at all. None of this speaks to legal consequences; I don't condone actual *illegal* doping under any circumstances. And I do believe doping needs to be policed up in sports; it has too much potential to undermine the noble aspect of sports, man's achievement; and to undermine the business aspect of sports, the fan's relationship to the performers.
That said, WADA resembles the old mercury cure for syphillis. In 50 percent of the cases, mercury did little or nothing for the sufferer. In 30 percent of the cases, it cured them. In 20 percent, it killed them.
Yep, you heard that here first too. WADA may actually be doing more to discredit the notion of playing clean, than they are to advance the actuality of playing clean. Their cure may be worse and more imminently lethal to the patient, than the disease.
It starts with their absurdly moralistic focus.
I'll give you two examples of absurdity that you should know about. First, there was Jonathan Vaughters having the ride of his life in the 2001 Tour de France when he was stung by a bee. His face swelled up like a beech ball, but he couldn't take a simple corticosteroid shot and continue riding. The swelling and pain were so bad, he was forced to withdraw. Minutes after a shot, the swelling went down and he was fine. That he couldn't take a shot where there was obvious medical necessity, was absurd; that the old men at their pulpit refused to distinguish between obvious medical necessity and optional performance enhancement was cynical and lame.
So too the persecution of Allesandro Petacchi, who, despite all his other sins, apparently suffers from asthma and uses Salbutomol, a medicine that may be used with a therapeutic use exemption, which he has. He used it during the 2007 Giro - a race where riders go up and down a lot of mountains, and there is often snow and freezing rain, even in the late spring. As he put it, he was having a very rough time, and "maybe I used some extra sprays." Newsflash, kids. When you have asthma, and you have an attack while riding, you use the rescue inhaler until you can breathe. It's not a fun drug, it doesn't increase your performance, it keeps you from frickin' dying, as happened to a friend. I've found my asthma to be particularly bad in the mountains in spring - it's cold, wet, windy, and the air at altitude doesn't help much. It seems to me that's a normal type of problem, and the typical person with asthma would in fact reach for the inhaler a bit more often. Damn straight, that may even mean a bunch of times in a row, if the choking feeling and inability to breathe didn't stop. Yet here we have WADA and the Italian version of USCF busting Petacchi's balls over it. Sorry, but when there are dozens of other drugs that actually markedly improve performance, busting on a guy for using a drug he's authorized to use, is pretty frickin' lame - it's like they couldn't bust any real dopers so they go after a sprinter, who used a drug he's authorized to use, which is believed to not have any effect on >VO2 efforts; just to make a point. Well done, WADA.
The final absurdity I want to talk about is WADA's injection into the Major League Baseball steroid controversy this week. Let's be clear - MLB is a league that didn't effectively attempt to ban frickin steroids until a year or two ago. Yep, using them was against the rules, but the league and the players steadfastly refused to reach a labor agreement permitting enforcement, until a watered-down testing regime was agreed to in 2002. Cheating? Yeah, but this is in a sport with a long history of stealing signs, spikes-up slides, and chin music. It ain't beanbag, and the unwritten rules of the sport are as relevant as the written ones. Chin music isn't permitted either, but a lot of people thing it's necessary, and it's tolerated.
After congressional pressure in 2005, MLB instituted some sorta fer real testing regimes, popped a few dopers, and then commissioned the Mitchell Report, which is due process in doping investigations as witch hunts are to improving the public's general spiritual welfare.
Now, apparently at MLB's invite, WADA is taking a look at MLB. What's the verdict?
Baseball is a sport in "turmoil," according to David Howman, a ranking WADA official.
Got that? He's looking at a report that looks at steroid sins but mostly rumors of steroid sins, some of which are 15+ years old, notes that 172 players were implicated in the witchy hunty Mitchell report, and declares the sport is in turmoil, just like cycling.
We have experience working in sports in similar situations. . . Cycling is one. . . We’ve tried to help that sport.
Yeah. They've really helped cycling, with supporting pre-emptive bans on riders for associating with the wrong doctors, with unreliable French lab procedures, media leaks targeting targeted riders, and a notion of due process that wouldn't pass muster with a crowd of enraged, inbred vigilantes.
WADA jettisons quaint American notions like legal notice, grand jury secrecy, and due process. These are things that the moralizing transnationalists in WADA simply don't have use for.
No, the mission is to save our sports from ourselves. And based on what they've done for cycling, they're doing a great job of it.
The NY Times Murray Chass makes a couple criticisms about the nature of anti-doping agencies. One is that they have an inherent conflict of interest; they profit and gain influence simply by leveling doping charges.
WADA and its domestic relative, Usada — that is, the United States Anti-Doping Agency — are not my favorite organizations. I have always felt that every time their officials spoke, every time they criticized baseball’s steroids-testing program, their words dripped with dollar signs. Conflict of interest? It seemed blatant.
Chass notes that they are non-profit organizations, but you'd be silly to think that execs at non-profits are immune from the lure of power, or for that matter, the lure of money. Yep, it's a no-no to overcompensate non-profit executives, but I've seen plenty of them rolling in several hundred thou to do their world saving.
Chass' criticism continues:
But officials from the two bodies say that they are nonprofit organizations, that they aren’t out to make money from baseball, that they are not in the testing business and don’t seek baseball’s testing business.
“We have no interest in dictating the testing,” Howman said. “We have no friend we want to see put in operation in Major League Baseball. We are not a testing agency. We don’t have any commercial aspect to our job.”
Travis Tygart, head of Usada, offered a similar disclaimer. “We’re a not-for-profit corporation,” he said. “We have absolutely no economic aspect. Our interest for all sports is to have the most effective antidoping plan in place. We want to see the best practices in all sports, even if they don’t fall under our jurisdiction.”
You got that? They have no economic interest. They are just doing it for the purity of sport, for our own good.
I have a basic rule that I follow in my life. When somebody says they have no interest at stake, they are only here to help me, I put a hand on my wallet.
In short, if somebody who isn't family or a close friend claims to be looking out for me, either they are lying and looking to rob me blind, or they really are moralistic people on a crusade, and they only want to do whatever is necessary for my own good, as they see it. Both kinds of people - crooks and crusaders - are dangerous, but I generally prefer crooks, since a good honest crook can generally be bought off, or talked sense to. Not so crusaders; they'll inflict themselves on me to save me from myself, and that goes against my basic belief in individual freedom and responsibility.
Howman's blundering into MLB's business and making all sorts of alarmists comments is a good example of how a zealot can cause real damage, good intent notwithstanding. MLB is a $6 billion annual business. You know how much $6 billion is? If MLB was a country, it would rank around 120th in the world for Gross Domestic Product. It is a business interest so significant, that it probably shouldn't be trifled with by some out-of-town sorta expert, shooting his mouth off.
But Howman comes in, says it's in turmoil, and that WADA wants to do for MLB what WADA has done for cycling. Hell, if that's the plan and I had TV rights, I'd be shopping them around. nI'm not sure MLB can really afford WADA's kindness. There's also a practical matter - other than botched prosecutions, successful prosecutions that are leaky enough that dopers can still win the publicity battle afterwards, and Dick Pound's astonishing combination of wild accusations and leaks of evidence relating to ongoing cases, I'm not sure what WADA has really done for cycling.
Statements like Howman's are nothing short of tampering with a very large business, and if Bud Selig had any cojones, Howman would be on the next plane back to New Zealand, with Barry Bonds and a very angry Bad Albert Bell waving goodbye from the departures lounge window. Who the frick is MLB's lawyer on this project?
I can think of one thing WADA has done for cycling. It has inspired a number of teams to self-police, to take a performance-oriented approach to testing that is also transparent, meeting scientific training needs as it controls doping. You can look at those efforts as a noble thing, or you can also look at them as a vote of no confidence in the yahoos running WADA. Ultimately, the riders and teams will have to clean up cycling themselves. It's logical because team physios want to know how the riders are doing at all times, and frequent tests can be used to enhance performance. On the other hand, promoters have no interest in cleaning up the sport, other than encouraging a more marketable product. Meanwhile, the moralizing crusaders at WADA and some of the national bodies seem primarily interested in trumpeting their own moral purity rather than working with the affected sports to come up with workable solutions to stop doping, without destroying the business side of those sports and the fans' joy in the game.
So there you have it, chapter and verse of my increasingly chapped butt over WADA and certain parts of the elected officials' three act satire on regulating performance enhancing drugs.
Reckon I'm on the shortlist now?