Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
Monday, September 28, 2009
My weekly Tale of Racing Woes is a little late this week because business travel has taken me to Kansas City for a few days. For those who are unaware, Kansas City is a gem of a place, with great old architecture, a very lively city core, nice old neighborhoods filled with classic houses (as well as new McMansion developments outside of town) and people who, as a group, are as nice as they are straightforward. It's a great city and I'd love to live here.
After some staffing issues that had me staying in various hotels that were awfully ghetto or contained ghetto-like substance ("but Jim, it's close to where your meetings are the next day;" me: "I don't care. It's a crack den"), I took hotel booking into my own hands. After a minor war waged with the afforementioned support staffers, we landed in the place in KCMO that I researched out and recommended, the Hotel Phillips.
Holy line dancing Lord above, this place is the nicest hotel I have ever stayed in, bar none. It was built in the 1930's, and renovated about 8 years ago, so everything in it is old, but also new. The decor is original restored Beaux Arts-meets-Gustav Stickley with antique Arts & Crafts, Eastlake and Neo-Greco style furniture, along with more modern stuff that fits a Victorian / Beaux Arts theme. I walked into the lobby and nearly dropped to my knees. The craftsmanship practically punched me in the stomach. I do some woodworking, making nice furniture bits. I *know* what goes into gingerbread carvings and bas relief work on 7/8" inch dark stained oak panel. Mercy me. The service was just as exquisite as the decor. The chop house restaurant in the hotel was spot on, and the drinks perfect. The music, I think, was Bix Biederbecke. I asked the bartender what he thought of working there. His answer was plain, and honest: "I like it. A lot. It's old school. It's what a hotel should be."
That's exactly right, exactly how I felt. I've stayed places before that offered more luxury, fancier bits here and there, or other little frills that were nice. I've never stayed at a better example of an old school hotel though - oak panels, beaux arts relief carvings in the lobby, unbelievably intricate plaster crown moulding in the rooms, metal etchings in the elevators. You can get more or less from a hotel; you won't get another one that is more spot on. It was a typical example of the breed, and immensely satisfying place to stay because of that. In my mind's eye, I have always had a mental picture of what an old school luxury hotel looks like. The Phillips is the hotel that lives there. I was stunned to run into it in real life.
I'm starting by discussing the hotel because yesterday's race at Lilypons was a good example of the breed: a race that typifies what I think of as a cross race in my mind's eye.
My race wasn't something to write home about. I didn't want to mess with wrecking cables again like at last year's race, so I rigged the Surly Cross Check to run single, in too high of a gearing because putting on Michelin Muds was enough work, and I was too lazy to bust the stuck freewheel off the flip flop hub.
When the race started, I knew I couldn't keep up; I just couldn't turn over the pedals fast enough to keep churning through the mud. Leverage in the tall gearing worked against me. Shallow mud is okay but in deep mud, I sink. So I decided to get off the bike and run early, and run far, in the mud pits. Passed by most by the time we ended the prologue, I began the long grind. At first, I wanted to quit. The legs were aching, but I've been practicing big ring drills so I stuck it out. Ah, relief on the gravel road, where I could pass anybody within a stone's throw of me. The back 9 was fine, I just kept pedaling and ripped it.
After a lap, the legs settled down into a constant steady burn as if in a time trial, and I focused on achieving my low goal for this C priority race - to ride as hard as I could, get as much training value out of it as possible, work on my handling, and have fun. That I did. In dry weather a decent finish is in the cards on this course but if there's a mud pit, even mediocrity is a bridge too far. So I focused on hitting my goals, and I did, finishing on legs too tired to turn the cranks over. Even the slightest rises were taking an extreme effort just to keep the bike moving. "Mercy kill me" I shouted to the refs as I passed the finish. I felt really damn good though, in spite of the huge effort.
It wasn't until I was standing in line at the wash pit chatting with Jon, that I realized the significance of this race. He told me he was in good shape, got run off the course and landed in a pond. Then on the next lap, he miscalculated a turn, went over the bars, and landed in a pond. He got a mediocre result, but was smiling. It occurred to me then - you can get better results, or worse results, but this edition of Ed Sander was a very typical cross race for many people. There was mud, struggle, pain, joy, and all sorts of crazy crap in between. Maybe you can get other courses that have unique features, or you have a great result on them, or something really unusual happened. None of that went down at Ed Sander. All we had there was an excellent example of "Cross Race, 1 Each." An archetypal struggle against mud. If you asked me to picture what a typical cross race is in my mind's eye, with the suffering, the caprice, the pain and fun, I'd have pictured this race.
So I washed off a bit and got changed, and chatted with a lot of friends for a bit. That was fun as well; the people make the scene as much as the race. The day continued when Son of Rouleur and Sainted Wife of Rouleur showed up for the Little Belgian's race. Son of- was keyed up; he's 5, and false started when they whistled the 4 and under class off. When his race went, he got a bad start, but quickly worked his way up to the front, and diced with another kid for two laps, eventually taking second. After Son Of's- podium, we wandered around a bit, then hit the Back 9, capping the experience with a free waffle and a beer. Sainted Wife and Son Of- then went home, and I went straight to Dulles, where I made my flight on time (albeit stinkily) and left town.
I may have had better days here or there in my life, but I'd be hard pressed to name them. I may have had worse days. But this particular day was right down the middle, a cross race that had a little bit of every characteristic that one expects from a cross race. Having my wife and kid with me made it even better, and on the plane flying west, I had a mental and emotional buzz (as well as some cramping and blown legs). Then it hit me: I had just experienced a very normal day, but the kind of day that I consider to be a perfect day.
No, it wasn't outstanding in any particulars; it was just a good example of the type. It matched up with the image I hold in my mind's eye, of a perfect day at the races.
When we run across an archetype, the example of a thing that perfectly characterizes that type of thing, we remember it as always. It becomes the gold standard against which all future, similar things are compared. It imprints itself permanently on our brain. Yesterday's highly typical cross race was just that, filled with suffering, fun, excellence, L'il Belgians, cheering, beer and waffles. I could have done a little better or a little worse, but it doesn't matter; the day was Crossy, it was perfect. The little fun details that I remember about it will be added to the Platonic Ideal notion of a cross race that I hold in my mind. That day - a day that had so much fun I felt like I was drunk afterwards - will be the race against which I judge all other races, just as the hotel I'm staying in now will become the standard against which I compare all the others.
People knock the center mass, the fat part of the bell curve. But there's a lot to be said for being perfectly typical of the breed. Don't sneer when you call something "typical."
Thursday, September 24, 2009
Holy crap. I'm not a millenarian, an end-of-the-world cultist of any type, but some days one gets the impression that civilized society is in the midst of what I think of as The Great Unraveling. Civilized society is basically running water plus electricity plus good manners plus not killing each other randomly. But what do you make of the last week's news? Is it just me or is the pace of Teh Crazy picking up lately?
- There's a shit-ton of news about various terror plots going down all over the place. One of this country's enemies says his people love death more than we love life. That's a pretty fucked up attitude for a living being to have; it's unnatural. It's like saying "I wish I'd never been born" and really meaning it. A lot of people, apparently, share this view. They are nihilists. [Obligatory Big Lebowski reference: Nihilists? Fuck dude. Say what you will about Nazis, dude, but at least it's an ethos]. I have no use for nihilism, and think we ought to give nihilists what they ask for, or at least convince the nihilists to stop trying to inflict their nihilism on us. I mean just because *your* life means nothing to you, doesn't mean my life is meaningless to me or my friends or family. But it seems nihilism is not limited to poseur artists and the more far out precincts of religious observance these days.
- We're told today by some greenish nihilists that if you use soft toilet paper, rather than some combination of recycled glass and splinters from old railroad ties, that you are destroying mother earth. "Environmentalists seek to wipe out plush toilet paper." So what they're saying, basically, is that if your ass isn't bleeding and itchy, you're a bad person because you're wiping with redwoods, really, really old redwoods. This sounds hokey to me, since most of the 'virgin timber' that becomes toilet paper is scrub pine grown on timber company plots for the purpose of becoming TP or Bounty or a legal pad, and when the trees hit relative maturity around 20 or 30 years the timber companies bulk cut 'em and turn them into toilet paper. Nobody uses $12/board foot wood to make butt scrub with, and nobody makes anything nice out of weed-like swamp pine from coastal Georgia or South Carolina. But if you tell me that my double quilted lavender scented three ply was once a giant redwood, I guess you must be telling the truth. Activists would never lie to us, right? Yet I can't stand the thought of going back to using John Wayne Toilet Paper and wonder if this isn't another hair shirt crusade, like those crappy mercury-containing CFL lights or CFC-free asthma inhalers that save the Earth by not working very well and killing off asthma sufferers and reducing the load on Mother Earth. I wonder if I promised to let a representative of Save The Whales beat me with a stick once a week - an organically grown, sustainable bamboo shoot weighted with recycled cement perhaps - and if I promised to cry only into a containment area rather than into the watershed, if that would be enough sustainable suffering so that I could be allowed to keep using my non-abrasive toilet paper. I mean, the 1.5 gallons per flush toilet is torture enough, particularly when I'm on my race season high fiber diet. I shouldn't have to also stock a roll of 120 grit sandpaper in the bathroom. It just doesn't seem right.
- Really. They're taking a stand against effective-and-comfortable toilet paper? That's a political position now? WTF is wrong with us?
- Then there's the Philly Naked Bike Ride which I want to like, but which I suspect is basically a gay pride parade but for cyclists of all orientations. Yeah, the cyclists may like it, but those spectators... yes, they are laughing. No, they are not laughing with us.
- The Los Angeles Fire Department finally located the guy who has been sending you the spam email about penis enlargement. The good news? Some of that fitness equipment you bought for core training last year is, um, "dual use." The bad news? You aren't going to like where you have to store your dumbells to make this new treatment work.
- Speaking of dual use: it was news to me that you can also use cows to make milk. And it turns out that cops sometimes are pretty convincing suspects. Who'd have thunk it?
- Wow. That G-20 protest in the 'Burgh sure is going great. There's nothing that demonstrates the intellectual and humanitarian firepower of your cause, like setting fire to dumpsters and attacking cops. I mean, if that doesn't convince people you're right, nothing will... Maybe they just need to scream louder and burn more stuff to really convince people.
- I don't advocate them, but I get highway shootings. I really do. I was driving home tonight and there was this fratboy sorta kid driving a jacked up Jeep Wrangler, with the top down. He had out an I-Phone or maybe a Palm Pre. I thought he was texting or something; he was swerving between lanes. He was creating an enormous hazard in rush hour traffic. As I passed him, I looked over to see what he was doing. Watching porn, of course! Don't you do that on your Blackberry at 70 MPH, in bumper to bumper rush hour D.C. traffic, endangering everybody around you? I thought the morons doing that in their minivan or Chrysler 500 with the portable screens were the worst, because it creates a situation you really don't want to have to explain to your 5 year old a half hour before bedtime. "Um, no, son, I think that was actually a show called Spongebob *No*pants. I don't think you want to know what Squidward was doing there..." Seriously, if somebody shot that kid just for being an utter moron, I would get it. I'm not advocating it in any way, I'm not condoning it... but I would understand it.
Wow. That's some heavy stuff. See what I mean about The Great Unraveling? A lot of society seems to be getting a little frayed, a little worn around the edges; shabby, dehumanized. It bugs me but I don't know what to make of it. All I can do is puzzle it out, try to be polite to strangers, eat my vegetables and... well, have Friday Fun Time.
Here's one of my favorite songs ever. Just ridiculously deep, searching song about authority, credulity and skepticism. Beautiful music. Touching references to Andy Kaufman, a genius most of us probably didn't really get while he was alive. Andy, did you hear about this one? Andy are you locked in the clouds? Andy are you goofin' on Elvis [Hey Baby...] Andy are we losin' touch?
I'll forgive Stipe, Mills, Buck and Berry a lot of prior and subsequent idiocy thanks to this song.
While we're on REM... I had just turned 16 back then and some musician friends had turned me on to the blues and jazz that summer. Dave D. was into cool jazz - Miles Davis, Charlie Bird, bebop and fusion. Mark K. liked Al Hirt and Herb Alpert and newer stuff like Al Jarreau. I liked them all. Yeah man, high school kids getting off on Al Hirt. My dad was into this - at last the kid was showing some sense! Hey, were we wierd kids, or what? We just didn't like the pop back then. Rock had gotten formulaic, either heading to ponderous monster arena bands, artsy over produced stuff, or Southern Fried rock which is fun but not exactly musically challenging. Disco, then as now, sucked. Funk wasn't really known to us white suburban kids, and the urban pop was clueless. Punk was gone, and the great postpunk bands were still underground in D.C. and NY and LA clubs. We didn't have anything interesting at hand, So I totally fell in love with good music, with the sound of Stevie Ray Vaughn, Robert Cray, and B.B. King.
But then there was REM. That was my discovery that fall and my contribution to our little group. I first heard REM in '83. They were on Letterman and did this song. As I recall I was staying up late with my dad; it was unseasonably warm out, I'd had an away soccer game or something and couldn't get unkeyed and to sleep yet. Letterman was on - Dad never really got him but I watched Carson as an indulgence to Dad, I think he indulged me by letting me watch Letterman. This band with crazy long hair came on, and just started jamming like mad. Letterman had a lot of fun with them. They mumbled the lyrics. The music... damn, it swept me away. These guys were like nothing I'd ever heard. If I recall correctly I asked my dad what he thought of them after Radio Free Europe - "not much." Same thing he said about "Slapshot," only with that movie he said, "not much... did they have to do all that cursing?" He wasn't impressed with REM but I was blown away. Holy shit, ask and you shall receive - it's on YouTube.
I damn near shed a tear just now thinking about sitting up late with my Old Man, not really talking or anything, just hanging out. I think we both just liked the company even if we didn't understand each other much until I was in my mid-20's. Funny thing was, he was there the moment I really fell in love with music, and I don't know if he knew it. Yeah, that was a nice alt-garage sound they had back then. But the nice sound doesn't account for how they totally blew my mind. They were so unlike the arena rock bands, the art rock, the disco and soul and nascent urban contemporary stuff. It's a bit like what Nirvana or Guns and Roses did. They just turned the scene upside down for a lot of people.
Then they played So. Central Rain.
It was all over for me. Not long after that I got the Murmur album, which contained this song:
Driver 8 and the great range of songs on Fables of the Reconstruction was the next project they did that I really loved.
Damn, what a great song. The next year or so after that album hit I was serving as a young G.I. in Europe. It was really funny getting to know a bunch of German students my age and hang out with them. They were very into American music and I turned them on to all this alt.rock stuff they never heard in Germany. They enjoyed a lot of it, couldn't believe the post-punk and hardcore stuff I liked, but they loved it. They loved my roots music too, the blues and jazz. But REM? They didn't get that even after REM came and played at the Tor in '89 on the Green tour. It just didn't resonate with them. Except for this song:
Oh my God, they butchered that old Roger Miller song in that video, and they butchered it 4 years later when I caught them at the Tor. But you can't not listen. I discovered that on a German issue CD in a back alley music shop (probably a pirate outfit). That's the good old REM when they played hammered, had a raw nerve ending sound, and they couldn't pronounce oboe or mandolin, much less play harmony with one. My German buddies would listen to my music and laugh, then we'd go hit this underground punk club called the Limelight and we'd get hammered until dawn and slamdance and watch the sun come up, all draped on each other and a bunch of chicks on the steps of this big public hall overlooking a plaza a few blocks away from the Rhein. And there was this German communist performance artist I dated, a spiky haired punk chick from Koeln who had a case of the ass with U.S. defense policy, except perhaps for the portion of it responsible for deploying me to Germany. She seemed to view her own agreement with that portion of U.S. policy as one of those compromises that a committed revolutionary accepts as just another step along the way as the dialectic spools itself out on the way to utopia. I don't think my viewpoint was quite as sophisticated. This made the relationship somewhat ironic at its core and doomed, and in all likelihood I wrecked her for any subsequent leftist dude who wanted to date her. She's probably married to one of the Mannesman heirs today, such is my ability to mess other people up. Those were the days. Funny how the music weaves into and out of it and the little things you remember. I've been waiting to unload this REM post for a couple weeks and listening to old REM lately... been going through a lot of old mental files at the same time. Lotta junk in there, lot of old mental photos I remember pretty fondly too.
Here's another raw one from back then: Can't Get There From Here.
Their later albums picked up a lot of musical sophistication but I never lost my memory of how they just tickled me early on, and really appealed to a young guy's search for musical novelty. Novelty isn't the only thing that does it for you though. Weird Al Yankovic is novel, but his music isn't that good. The music has to be novel but it has to speak to you for you to fall in love with it, it has to speak to you just so. REM did. I just got along with them, particularly for the first ten years or so.
REM probably screwed up a lot of things later on; their later music sometimes sounds over-produced and ponderously artsy to me, the same way Moody Blues probably hits people raised on The Who. But I can forgive them a lot of errors because of how good they were, how perfect for me they were, for the first 10 years they were on the national scene. The music seems better because of the good times I remember, but the music helped make the times good.
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
- An hour of L2 work on a hotel Lifecycle is the closest thing to the 7th Circle of Hell man can achieve this side of divorce court. The seat is huge preventing comfortable spinning. The geometry is wrong, too slack, making the thighs and knees bear all the pressure. And the co-workers, who have never seen you sweating a flood and gasping as you melt down and lose power in the insufficiently-cooled hotel gym... well, they probably didn't need to see you that way. Their idea of a workout doesn't really qualify as a cyclist's idea of a workout.
- Most irritating travel trend: people sitting at the back of the plane, putting their bags in the overhead baggage compartments near the front of the plane. They board the front last. God help you if you're trying to stow a suitbag there. When I boarded the Airtran flight they pushed me to the rear for stowing the bag. I did. Imagine my gobsmackedyness when these three women who were sitting at the rear of the plane strode up to the front and each took about three small suitcases out of the overhead compartments near me. You sneaky bitches! So I had to wait until the plane emptied completely to go to the rear (completely empty compartments) to retrieve my bag.
- The clam chowder here is good. Really frickin' good. Tender clams, good other ingredients. Very nice.
- I hate business travel any more. The business of the airlines is to make your time in the air as miserable as possible. I particularly hate taking the discount airlines. It's great they save the employer some money on the flight. But the cost is that my knees are bumping up against the seat in front of me for the entire frickin' flight. It is painful. Good thing I haven't been sleeping much lately otherwise there'd be no nappy-time relief on these trips.
- I'm getting old. I had an opportunity to go out and get hammered tonight. I turned it down to go to be early and catch up on some sleep.
- I like my job and most of the people I meet. It's very nice to be able to say that and probably pretty rare. It may have something to do with my attitude, more than the fact that I've got an okay likeable job.
- I can't wait to get home and ride my own bike. Man, I miss it when I'm off it for a day or two. I feel like an addict.
Monday, September 21, 2009
But you people want more, so I'll try to tell you about the day. With photos.
First, I rolled up with Jon "Gears Are For Wussies" Seibold and Ryan, the mechanic whose primary responsibility in life is fixing the bikes I break. Weighty duties indeed. On the way up, we joked about how being a 'cross racer is like being the World's Greatest Slayer Fan.
Y'know, you see somebody a friend walking down the street in a 'cross T-Shirt, you know... you literally know... you just know... CROOOOOOOOOSSSSSSS!!!!!
SlayerFan doesn't just turn up there. He was at the Rosenberg family Bar Mitzvah last week too, rocking out. He's a living metaphor for putting everything you have into wringing all the joy out of your life.
Kind of like 'cross. You just know... It's like a lot of really great things in life. The people who don't know can't possibly understand; the people who know can't possibly explain it.
The first cross race of the year is always special, particularly when you can make it to a real happening like Charm City. The race there is as much about the scene, about having the First Annual Reunion of the Graduating Class of Last Year's Cyclocross Racing, as it is about the excellent racing itself.
The racing was indeed excellent. With the race winning UCI status for the upper classes, Charm City done gone to Paree, and went bigtime on us. The supporting classes didn't feature the same elite riders as the two upper card matches, but they were stacked with the same rockstars from Gotham and Kissena Velo and the NYC hammerheads and the DCCOD studs who make solid MABRA "B" racers downgrade and race the "C" (4) at Granogue or Beacon. A result of any sort in those fields is something to be really proud of, and my Coppi brothers and sisters' results yesterday were stunning, something to be proud of.
As for me individually...Alas, though cheerful, I was not excellent. Maybe some of you have followed my sad tales relating to foot surgery, the slow road back to mediocrity, and all that crap. Yes, it's tough when a brother gets knocked off his solid perch square in the middle of the pack. I guess it's not an excuse if it's the simple truth but I am not in racing shape and even were I blessed with Lars Boom's legs and Greg LeMond's nutty tenacity, I couldn't have achieved racing shape in the time alotted this summer. I'm working pretty hard on it and have made some strides since getting back on the bike in mid/late June, but it takes a while and Gros has me on a trajectory to achieve Racing Mediocrity once again, by mid-November. So in the wake of 12 hours of fairly hard riding this week, including a long ride with some efforts on Saturday and 3 days of anaerobic intervals and a good hard crash at practice, I didn't know what to expect when I lined up for the race, except an ass whooping.
And it's nice when reality meets all our expectations, isn't it? I had no legs at all and tried to focus on just riding hard tempo, and not crashing, the latter task being made difficult by an unfortunate choice of front tire pressure which caused front wheel sliding in many of the turns, an unsettling tendency on a bicycle. I did have a nice start - street drags are something I can do - right up until this kid who was killing himself to sprint to the front stacked it in the first grass turn, forcing half the field to pretty much stop. It's okay though, the front-ish position I'd established, maybe 25th? 30th? wasn't sustainable for me anyhow so I settled in and tried to ride a hard and steady effort, within the limited means my legs were willing to provide. Many, many people passed me, and I settled into a couple small groups, all of which exploded. I had a lot of fun dicing for three laps with Bega - you probably know him from City Bikes or from Hub Racing. Weirdest trash talker ever, but man, it was fun passing him and getting passed back. "Hey, nice pass big man." "Not so fast Jim." "Hey, way to not crash in that turn." And so on. It's hard to race strong against a gasping guy who makes you laugh your ass off. I'd kind of known Bega before from the shop or around the races. But his race chatter was something I didn't expect... hilarious.
Then I came off the bike all weird going into the sand pit, kept running, left the bike tumbling behind me, drilled my right ankle with the bike leaving a big bruise, and just generally went butt over teakettle. My pity party over the ankle pain distracted me for a half minute and I took too long to get over it, giving Bega an insurmountable gap. I came in with an 80 something finish, I don't even know exactly; I think Dan Gilman told me but I don't remember, possibly out of convenience or shame, possibly because of the post-race headache. I was glad to finish, but was mainly grateful to be able to race at all. That was in some doubt a couple months ago, so the internal monologue was a weird one yesterday, not "go harder, go harder" but more like "be happy! be grateful!"
And I was happy, and I was grateful.
The rest of my day was filled up with bringing up a huge crescent wrench to fix the CO2 cannisters at the beer tent thus saving the day for hundreds of people (you probably think this is an exaggeration but it is not, amazingly, and was by far the best performance I turned in all day) and cheering for my teammates, who raced amazingly. The only bummer of the day was that Wife of Rouleur was sick with pinkeye and Son of- was down with some allergies, missing Charm City for the second year in a row. Kid loves the L'il Belgian races; we'll have to hit some of the later races.
One question for you guys though: how can I possibly give a shoutout to all my renewed friendships, and new acquaintances who gave my Tough Day On A Bike a very positive vibe? I can't, but some people need a special shoutout for sure. Beth Mason told me how to square away my dinged up shoulder. Then she went and raced strong as all hell. She probably went and did some more on-the-spot physiotherapy and knocked out a few bike fits in between to kill a little down time - she's an industrious kind of gal along with being all knowledgeable. Fat Marc gave me a hug. I needed it just then, being between beers and all. It's a great race he and the S3 crew stage... well, it's a great race. You just know... Kim Perna Dubeck gave me the smile of the day, or at least of the Day Up Until Then, maybe it wasn't so great but compared to riding up with John and Ryan, it was significant. That was cool. I've been following her blog with some degree of poignant sympathy, as she's bounced through a series of life and medical challenges this spring and summer. I can relate to that, y'know? So seeing her there, and happy, was awesome. And Steve D, who gave me more inspiration for future blog posts than a quart of brown liquor and a box set of Jackass. And my teammates... man, I think the world of them.
So where does that leave us? Hell if I know. We're back in the grind of cross season.
Near as I can tell, there's a few workouts on the calendar, then Ed Sander Cross up at Lilly Pons on Sunday. Then some more workouts, and some more Cross. It's great to be back at the grind, and the cool thing is, it doesn't seem like the vibe is being wrecked by bigger numbers. Maybe the dick quotient has gone up - but the cool folk quotient seems to be going up at the same time too. Getting big, without success going to its head, I hope. And this cross thing is so good, it deserves to get big. There isn't enough fun in this world, people; we should share what we have, or if you prefer a capitalist model, make more of it so everybody can get some.
Fact of the matter is, if you don't race cross, I think you should just go to hell.
Pure Sweet Hell, that is. And see what it's all about.
Failing that drag out an old mountain bike or throw some knobbies on an old ten speed, and give it a shot. You can't go wrong.
Sunday, September 20, 2009
Friday, September 18, 2009
And I'll be honest, fellas... Cyclocross is good... but I could use a little more cowbell...
I'm tellin' ya fellas, you're gonna want that cowbell. You're the cock of the walk, baby! You're gonna be wearing gold plated diapers!
See ya at Charm City.
Thursday, September 17, 2009
I had that epiphany tonight after wondering what to do with the bumper crop of jalapenos I've pulled from the plant (which I refer to as Hell's Own Oral Bullwhip) recently. I got the bright idea of taking a few jalapenos and frying them up alongside my hamburger.
I cooked 'em 'til they were soft. I ate the burger (with blue cheese, thanks) and a home made pickle, and a Sierra Nevada. Ooooh, so good.
Then I tried the jalapeno. I picked up the little one. I slipped in in my mouth. Nothing major. I waited a second. No burn. I bit into it.
OH! FOR THE LOVE OF GOD!
It was somewhat hot. For some reason, I felt an immediate need to drink a glass of milk. Then another one. The burning was frightening. Even my teeth were burning. I know that's hot because I haven't had that kind of burn since I ate the 7 pepper wings at the Wing Wagon in Utica in 1986 (heat rated from one pepper, to 7 peppers). I tried some bread and butter, yet still it burned like... well, like hell. I tried a plain piece of bread. I was sweating like Jimmy Swaggart outside a brothel. More milk. Two half liter glasses of ice cold water...
Eventually the burning settled down. But even now, an hour later - with a huge liquid bloat on my gut, and the pepper just a receeding memory - my teeth hurt and it feels like I just drank a shot of Frank's Red Hot. That had been larded up with fresh ground black pepper and maybe some tobasco, for good measure.
Daaaaamn, that was a hot pepper. It was good too, though I probably shouldn't have just crunched down the whole thing. That was a couple shots of insanity washed down with a chaser of dumbass, right there. Won't be doing that again soon. Not until after the burning in my mouth subsides in a few days, anyhow.
So it's Friday. Let's have some fun. First, I rode Metro at rush hour today for the first time in ages. Some observations.
- The 400 pound dude with the eyepatch - I don't know what Big Sweaty's story is, but I bet he's got one, and it's suitably horrifying.
- The Grad Student Dude and the Young Idealistic Female Political Staffer Trying To Impress Each Other - they are lucky I didn't cram their I-Phones down their smarmy 23 year-old pie holes. Her story was that her life is so hard being so young and in such a responsible position, because she has a verrrry important job. (Don't worry, honey, you won't have to suffer for long once they have a chance to backfill your campaign volunteer self with a career civil servant). His story was that he's getting a degree in national security studies, focusing on end of the world scenarios. (Um, yeah, like when Daddy quits picking up the $45k/year tuition - that's your armafuckingeddon right there). I was about to beg them to go to the back of the train car and discretely cheat on their spouses, so they'd have an excuse to stop talking and boring the rest of us, when the train stopped and I got off. I don't know jack about being in an important job or saving the world, but I do know that when they got done talking, loudly, their two huge egos had sucked all the oxygen out of the train car and I was praying for a crash just so I'd have an excuse to get out of the car and run away screaming down the tunnel. Hey, it's feasible... I was riding the Red Line.
Here's a little Offspring for you:
offspring come out and play
And maybe just a little bit more:
And while we're being all upbeat... here's a little Gnarls Barkley for you.
I don't know why I like GB, but I just do.
Ps. Charm City Cross on Sunday. Even if you aren't racing, come on out and enjoy the scene.
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
On the third effort, I was going all out. Literally all out in 46-12 on a pedestrian path and getting ready to transition, at a 45 degree angle from the path, into the grass. A combination of my full power and inattention lightened my front end, and in a heartbeat I low sided. The first thing that went through my mind, other than some damp pavement, was, "my bike is cornering at a funny angle." After I hit I laid there for a minute half in the grass, half on the tarmac. The inventory (feet... knees... thighs... butt... junk... gut... ribs... face... arms... mitts...) didn't reveal any problems. The wet grass felt really nice. I looked up at the sky for a while. I thought the rest of the team might be coming along on a hot lap at any time, but I told myself that I didn't care, they could just avoid me. In reality if I heard them coming I'd have been whimpering and scuttling away like a crab.
After a long while it felt better, so I got up, rode back to the park bench that forms our rally point, gathered my crap, and left. The will to do the last 3 one minute efforts just wasn't there. Total damage from the tip over - 1 raquetball sized hematoma on the hip, a huge butt strawberry, and a flensed left thigh and calf. I think I also strained my shoulder. I was also irritable all day but that may have been unrelated to the crash.
Oh well, it's just part of the game. Unmitigated fun and ease? These are not the things you're looking for.
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
MABRACross Race #5, The Tacchino, is set for November 8, 2009 at Rosaryville State Park.
Same great race, great new venue! With 11% More Cowbell!
Squadra Coppi is pleased to announce that this year's edition of the Tacchino will be hosted at Rosaryville State Park in Upper Marlboro, Maryland, about 15 minutes from the I-495 Beltway.
Many of you know the park from its highly groomed single track mountain bike trails, but the Park also features rolling fields with pavilions, bathrooms, and a nice mix of tarmac, gravel and dirt paths that will make it a great site for our race.
It will be spectator friendly as well. Pineapple Alley Catering will sell Belgian sausages and pommes frites at the race, and if you're 21 or over you will be able to wash it down with a selection of Belgian beer while you cheer.
We'll post more information about the race in a few weeks when the BikeReg page goes live.
Squadra Coppi promises 11% More Cowbell, or we'll give you your suffering back, no questions asked!
Many thanks to The Rosaryville Conservancy (the non-profit that actually operates the Park), Pineapple Alley Catering, and to Mid Atlantic Off-Road Enthusiasts (MORE) Trail Liaison for helping us secure this venue.
Some general notes for the curious on the change of venue and what it means.
1) It's tough finding a good venue for cross. We had to move from the old location in Leesburg, and the MORE Trail Liaisons for the Park came through for us big time. I am very grateful, and now feel clever for having gotten to know them by doing trail work.
2) I'm amped about this venue because Rosaryville offers some interesting possibilities - like doing your warmup or cooldown on the cross bike-friendly, smoothly groomed 10 mile circumferential trail. Or doing some mountain biking, hitting the 10 mile trail and the two mile technical spur, and then spectating the 'cross race with a cold beer and some hot frittes. We do encourage you to race though. The field sizes are huge this year and NooBs are certainly welcome, particularly in the Cat 4 race, where nobody is going to give you grief for racing an MTB, a fixie, or a beater road bike with tiny knobbies. It's all good!
3) We haven't finalized the course layout yet. It's going to be based around the fields in the upper pavilion area. It's a lot less hilly than the old course with not as many forehead-slapping features as the old course. Ref approval permitting, we're going to have to generate features using the many off-cambers and smaller lumps in the ground, so you're going to wind up with a tape-technical euro-style rolling course. Ref's approval permitting, there will be an uphill tarmac sprint finish, a short section of narrow but groomed singletrack (not part of the main trail, just a spur), a long stretch of double track, a double sided pit, a nice little wash pit, and whatever else kind of funky crap we can dream up.
4) Show some love to the people who support the sport. Pineapple Alley Catering runs the Mount Airy Mansion located off the Rosaryville Road side of the Park. The mansion is spectacular, and is available for rent for weddings, big parties, and corporate events. MORE advocates for mountain biking in the region the way WABA does for commuters - except MORE also helps build the 'roads' we ride on. Please check out the MORE web site, and do some trail work when you get the chance.
Monday, September 14, 2009
'Fraid it's going to be a tougher ride than that tomorrow morning.
Charm City is coming up on Sunday. There are a few registration spots left. Come on out and join the fun. Even if you aren't racing, come and check out the scene. Charm City Cross is a total carnival, a great day of racing and cameraderie set in a beautiful urban park. It's one of the two or three showcase cross races of the year. You come to this race, you'll leave knowing what cross is all about.
The new Coppi cross/MTB/winter training kit is in. It looks spectacular. Well done, Giacomo! The rest of you people will see it on the road, mostly on the Sporca Azzuri.
Big announcement about Coppi / Tacchino Cross venue and details coming up later this week. Stay tuned.
And now, for no apparent reason, other than I think you'll find it weirdly fascinating, a Kafkaesque Gnarls Barkley remake of an awesome Violent Femmes song, Gone Daddy Gone.
Gnarls Barkley "Gone Daddy Gone"
If that little slice of Gnarls got you down... well, you need another dose of Gnarls to pick you right back up. Check this out and tell me if it's not the musical equivalent of Red Bull in Vodka - pick you up and make you feel good all over at the same time.
Sunday, September 13, 2009
Then it hit me - literally. The vile stench was coming from my helmet. Much relieved - but still a bit sick to my stomach from the horrendous odor - I thought that there are some things that make you feel like a real cyclist. Riding clothes and helmets that smell like Death's more odorous little brother are one. If you ride hard for any length of time, your stuff will stink.
But there are other things littering the shore of the Rubicon you cross when you truly become a cyclist.
You really feel like a cyclist when
- you stand up to walk around the house and your legs hurt like hell, and it makes you smile.
- you inadvertently make a hand signal while you're riding down the road... in your car.
- you're a bit hungry at night, and you pass by the Belgian chocolate on the counter, some fresh fruit, and some French cheese in the fridge to eat the Odwalla Pomengranate and Strawberry Bar left over from the morning ride. But you'd definitely draw the line at a Clif bar and eat the chocolate instead. Maybe.
- you dream about riding, and in the evening you daydream about going to sleep because you're going to dream about the great ride you had that day, or the one you're doing tomorrow.
- you know that rest day is going to be depressing as hell, what with all the free time, no chamois time endorphin buzz, and all the food you can't eat.
- when you choose hard liquor over beer because it has less carbs... or drink beer over a cocktail the night before a ride because it has more carbs.
- "going to bed early" isn't a code word for anything. You seriously plan on sleeping. Gotta get that recovery time, right?
- you ride down a deserted road practicing your no-hands victory salute, even though you know that the only way you'd ever win is if an airplane crash took out the lead group and the fireball somehow missed you (because you were so far back perhaps?)
- you don't dread hard workouts, but actually look forward to them and are bummed when your schedule involves "two hours, L1/L2" and similar easy spins.
- you don't mind getting passed by Freds any longer when you're riding recovery, and actually laugh at their beady-eyed challenges. "Wanna race?" "No thanks. Training."
- people introducing you to their friends describe you first as a cyclist, or at least as "he rides a bike a lot." Then they try to hook you up with their other bike riding friends.
- a hot girl drives by in a BMW, but you stare at the DeRosa on the roof of her car. She returns the smoking glance... eyeballing your well-used Specialized Tarmac.
- you have two totally different circles of friends - those who ride, and those who don't - and the circle of riders is as large as, or maybe bigger, than the other group.
Saturday, September 12, 2009
After hitting the head three times pre-ride (guess I shouldn't have had the Spicy Italian sub for lunch yesterday) I warmed up a bit, in the dark. The legs didn't feel promising and I knew I was dehydrated, and not feeling great. Ehhh... Not good. I ratcheted it up for about 6 or 7 minutes to try to get some power numbers going, but it was hard to do L3, much less threshold. I was at 315 or 320 or so most of the way, but just not getting it done. After a raw score of 336 on the last test, Gros figured my threshold was probably about 317. That's a bit low for me, so I knew if pulling 320 was a problem, this was going to be a bad test.
Eventually I got to the starting point down at the end of Gray's Ford Road and paused for a moment, deciding to try a new method of doing the test. The lights came off since the sun was now up. I zeroed out the Powertap real quick, put up the average power on the "Watts" line, and then hit it, rolling up the false flat.
I started getting pissed at how I felt, pissed at myself for whingeing, pissed that I was being such a fuckin' pussy. No two ways about it. The average power started climbing pretty fast, and I thought about what I needed to set as a goal, maybe that's what I needed to work better, was a goal. So it had to be 350 watts. That would work and would be around 5% higher than my figure from three weeks ago.
As I churned up Grays Ford towards Piney Orchard Parkway, or Patuxent Road or whatever it's called, I thought about a local racer I kind of know in passing, Heidi VonTeity, who was at the time out there in the dark, doing her 24 hour ride to get ready for RAAM. From her writeups, it sounds like she suffers like a pig, and I mean that as a total compliment. But hell, if she can do 24 hours, I can wring myself out for 25 minutes, right? (That's putting a positive spin on what I told myself. The actual inner voice said something about getting chicked. The truth hurts, but it's also motivational sometimes). I also thought about how lucky I am to be riding right now, when my riding was in a bit of doubt all winter and spring, and post-op, how many people would kill to just have a chance to ride. This added a little bit of positive motivation to my steaming, smoldering junk heap of negative energy.
This all went through my mind in the first two minutes and distracted me from the closed up leg problem. Evidently, it was the right combination of motivators, because I looked down and noticed I was pulling an average wattage of around 357. I eased it off just a tiny bit; my legs were burning and the knees were crunchy and everything just hurt, I didn't think I'd be able to maintain that pace. Up a few hills, up up and up to the stop sign and the four way, and I blew through it out into the flats going toward Odenton. I kept a steady grind up.
Oh dear Lord, did it ever burn my legs. I also had this weird lung pain that I think was allergy-related, but I just kept yelling at myself, trying to focus on keeping the power level up. I tried maintaining a good spin for a while, and that worked for a bit. When that stopped, I'd upshift and slide my butt to the back of the FiZik Arione, getting a bit more leverage to mash the crap out of the pedals. When that started to cause my adductors to cramp, I slid forward into the drops, and mashed. After a minute of that, I'd sit up, breathe deep with my hands on the hoods. But I was going now, I didn't need particular motivation, I just needed to not stop, to not ease off.
As I rolled along my power started to dip a bit, the average slipped down slowly, about a half watt per minute up to the turnaround point which was at 12 minutes or so. I kept trying to calculate if I could put in another watt or two of effort and keep it up; the few rises on the course were taking it out of me, with 500 watt efforts to clear them and keep my speed up - not to keep the speed up per se but because slowing down necessitates gear shifting and it's hard to keep up consistent power if you're running up and down through the gears.
At the turnaround, since I can't ride it steady, the level dropped to 346. I started to concede that I wasn't going to hit 350, but thought for a second - "what if I could just keep it here, try to recover really quick on a couple of the little dips, and push it up hard in the last five minutes?"
I focused on 350. The spin was steady. Great big drops of sweat were falling off my nose now, onto the stem and top tube. I was fairly gasping and it felt like there was a burning lump of coal in my right lung. (Stupid allergies...). I kept grinding it, keeping the speed over 25, the average wattage slowly but steadily climbing back up to 350, then past it, to 351. As I came up to 19 minutes, then 19:30, I was shouting at myself internally not to slack, not to let the Monster of Easing Up sneak up on me. "Don't quit. You can hang, asshole!" About 30 seconds out I figured, "I can do *anything* for 30 seconds..." and upshifted twice, and began a big acceleration. By the time I was on top of my pedals, at 90 RPM, I was past the 20 minute mark, about 25 or 28 minutes total into my hard effort. I eased it on up, with 353 showing as the average wattage for the 20 minute effort within the big effort.
Caveat: once again, I'll say it. Impressive numbers if I was 170. Not so much at 80 or a hundred pounds over that since power-to-weight ratio is king. But, as a metric of fitness, this is about 4% off of the strongest I've ever been, and it's a 5% improvement over where I was three weeks ago. Nice. I'm close to having the legs & lungs I need to race cross semi-effectively. As importantly, the mental side is coming together at the right time. When the mind is right, it doesn't take much effort to get it focused on overcoming difficulty. When I'm focused, I'd say the distinguishing feature is that I don't think about much, there's no special motivation needed, for the most part, just an occasional reminder not to slack, coupled with a reminder that I am in fact motivated.
Looks like it's time to double down on the nutrition side.
Friday, September 11, 2009
It's been a week long computer meltdown at work. Computers have gotten sophisticated enough that migrating to a new machine involves something rivaling the cultural complexity of the the Irish migration during the great famine, and about as time consuming. (About 3-5 years, just in case you were wondering, with political fallout lasting a century and a half so far).
Not only do I have locally stored files (thumb drive, CD-ROM, on the two hard drives) on the old desk top, but I have three or four "network drives," storage nodes on various parts of the more or less remote areas in the network, some of which are not formatted correctly, some of which are not suitable for migration, some of which are no longer in existence, or at any rate no longer reachable from within my part of the network at work.
The crux of my problem with the new computer is that some of the network's file systems are as deaf to my new computer's call as Granny O'Brien was when they told her Hamish was leaving for America, with the promise of a lucrative new job in excavation management.
So migrating my files from my old computer and network node to the new one (same desk, new computer, no new job, if you were wondering) took about two days.
Then we had this catastrophic hacker attack, which may have co-opted one of my computers, or both. IT Guy Calls Me: "Um, hey, are you on [Computer Name] right now, and doing some work on the servers?" Me: "No. I'm not exactly an IT Guy and I don't have network admin access privileges." IT Guy: "Well, I think somebody is logged in under your name and fooling around in there."
Yeah, so then they had to scan both my new computers, the old one, all the places in the intranet at work where I've stored documents...
But it's okay. It's not like I was crashing on a litigation deadline this week...
Oh, the hell I wasn't.
So it was migrane city by about 10:00 AM yesterday. Just freaking wonderful. This is where I was getting the rat turds in the martini glass before the gin even went in. Just a nasty day.
Things turned around toward the end of the day.
I got the work done on the litigation by hopping around between the three messed up computers, using the one that was the least messed up at the time to get the documents reviewed and my input for the brief. I only had two last minute calls asking me to review 50 page documents, which I managed to get done using my super power, which is Skimming For KeyWords. And I did a bunch of other unrelated crap. So it was a *terrible* day but I got a ton of work done.
I also made some phone calls, locked up the race venue, maybe got some catering lined up for the event, and possibly nailed down a couple sponsors.
In my *spare* time.
The way I did this, of course, was with copious amounts of coffee. Now my friend Rude Siggy says that coffee is for the weak. Perhaps that's true. But I'm a weak man who gets a ton of crap done, with the help of the Magical Bean. Yep, I'm a coffee achiever, and I don't care who knows it.
(In case you were wondering, David Bowie, Kenny Anderson, Kurt Vonnegut, Pat Benatar, some dude with long hair, and Cicely Tyson).
It was unbelievably hectic this week, even by my standards. I usually keep up a sick op tempo. My dirty little secret is that I'm actually a fairly lazy man, but I crank out huge amounts of work product in my moments of productivity by working smart, with a good degree of accuracy, and fast. Man, do I ever work fast. But today was insane, it was like being a chipmunk on meth - just flying around gettin' shit done.
It's a good feeling, except for the fact that once my mind kicks into fifth gear, it doesn't slow down. Then once I slow down, I'm not going to get jack done for a week. I'd swear it's manic depression or something, except without the depression. I'm starting to think of the slower periods as staging for a lot of projects, which I can then close in a big burst of activity. Thing is, it would be nice to be able to be more productive through the slow spots. Can I do this by applying myself a little more consistently? Maybe so. Maybe I need to drink more coffee to avoid the low spots.
Oh yeah, I'm a junkie, Siggy. Doesn't bother me in the least, either.
I'm a high functioning junkie, you see. A closer.
Thursday, September 10, 2009
Y'know, I've only ridden twice this week, counting Sunday. I feel fat and a little bloaty. And rested. Damn, do I feel well rested.
Listened to some Doors on the commute today. People tend to forget what a raging, trippy band they were. They were also capable of playing some pretty good blues when they felt like it.
Did I say blues? Why, yes, I did. And you can't say that without mentioning BB King.
Here. Have a little blues piano with Memphis Slim.
And you want to hear something really crazy? Here's Memphis Slim with Willie Dixon, Billy Stepney, and Matt Guitar Murphy. That's a sort of '27 Yankees lineup of modern blues artists.
Have fun this weekend, all y'all. Stay safe.
All true cyclists drink espresso. It has negative calories, the work required to make it burns off more than it puts into you.
Like a brutal crit or difficult roadrace, it is demanding, pure, and strong. The phrase "it's not everybody's cup of tea" was probably coined to describe bike racing and espresso at the same time.
Properly made espresso is the distilled essence of coffee. It is to coffee what cask strength bourbon is to corn, the ne plus ultra expression of the screaming demon at the heart of the grain that makes it what it is.
Like bike racing, espresso is simple to execute - in theory. Like bike racing, it is extremely difficult to do to perfection. Bike racers, even the best ones, have a lot of DNFs. Espresso afficionados do too. They're called "sink shots." Or maybe "I made a cafe Americano for my wife this morning."
Like bike racing, it's a little pricey to get into but you can find a good machine, particularly a good refurbished used machine, for a couple hundred bucks. Then it's up to you to make it work.
Like training to race bikes, a good espresso shot isn't about high volume; it's about quality and consistency.
Like bike racing, pressure is what makes a champion shot. A good machine needs to put steam through densely packed grounds at about 15 atmospheres of pressure. Too much pressure and it's bitter. Too little and the results are weak.
Just as there is an efficient way to train yourself, there is an efficient way to produce a good espresso shot. Start with really fresh good quality espresso ground beans - fresh ground is best but no more than a few days old store-ground works okay. Put 14 grams - or 3 level tablespoons - into the microfilter. Churn the grounds a little with a toothpick to fluff them up and even out the consistency. Tamp them down with a properly sized tamper, pressing fairly hard. Insert the microfilter, then hit the steam valve. The espresso dribbles out.
Just as in training to race, less is often more. The best tasting shots are Ristretto, about 2 ounces of espresso per double shot (14 grams) worth of beans.
My preferred bean is from Caffe Pronto in Annapolis, also available at Whole Foods in Georgetown.
For all the press that Murky Coffee used to get, Caffe Pronto serves a better shot than I ever got at Murky, and their roastery produces better tasting beans, particularly their Cafe Vincente.
The Vincente has just the right balance of bitterness and a dry sweetness to it, with very potent dark chocolate notes, and occasionally, if the atmospheric conditions are just right, a hint of melon in the finish. It produces a lot of crema, and the texture is somewhat silky on the palate.
Their Espresso 49 also produces a very good shot, but it is a less exotic, more straightforward espresso with less crema and fewer unusual notes. When you drink Espresso 49, all you really taste is coffee - the way all you taste when you drink Brandy is grapes. Really densely, super distilled, straightforward coffee flavor. It has a bit more bitterness, less crema, and a slightly thinner texture, but it is quite good - just an honest, traditional tasting shot of espresso.
The bottom line with espresso is that like bike racing, it reveals the truth. Race results tell you where you are in terms of talent+fitness+ability+desire, and maybe you need some luck to get it right. Espresso tells you what a particular type of coffee bean is about, how skillful the roaster is, whether the grinder was set properly and working right, and whether the barista has the skillz to pay the bills.
I can produce a good shot consistently on my Starbucks Barista machine (a rebadged Saeco purchased used for about $80), and once every week or two, I produce a shot that is transcendent. The beans are essential to this; you simply can't produce transcendant shots, or even good ones, with mediocre beans.
There is no faking it with espresso. You have to know what you are doing. If you don't, the shot is a disaster.
If you get used to good espresso, you will realize that most coffee shops you walk into, maybe 90% of them, are utterly half-assed, and their shots are disastrous, just awful to drink - the most common error being that they run 4 or 5 ounces through beans sufficient only for a double shot (2-3 ounces, normally).
Maybe 6 or 8% of the shops kind of know what they are doing, and they produce good shots consistently. These shops are excellent and deserve your patronage.
Perhaps 2% of shops produce really great, consistent shots of espresso, and sell topnotch beans. It's worth going all fanboy over such shops, and going out of your way to patronize them and talk them up.
Caffe Pronto is one of those places, and their Cafe Vincente beans, IMAO, is their home run product - though their new triple basket (21 grams of beans) ristretto shot is unbelievably good as well, worth the trip to Annapolis.
Wednesday, September 09, 2009
Work is sucking the life out of me the way FatMarc sucks the HighLife out of an ice cold 7 ounce split.
That ain't the half of it. I think I may have gotten drunk at a team board meeting the other week and volunteered to be race director for our cross race.
It's possible that I wasn't drunk and didn't volunteer, but then I'm going to have a tough time explaining how "I BEE RASE DIRECTEURR BEOTCHES!" came to be written on my face backwards with a Sharpie. And where did I get that Italian-themed turkey tattooed in between my toes? Seriously. I was half-shaved the next morning before I figured out what I'd gotten myself into. Holy *$&%... did I consent to that?
I guess I did.
What does it mean for the Tacchino? Some changes. We had a bit of a shakeup coming anyhow due to other unrelated factors, and that was disappointing because I think we got our course in Leesburg well and truly dialed in last year; it was a well balanced, demanding course. But now the club has gone all over the top and handed the keys to me. Probably while I was passed out. That's the only thing that would explain how I woke up with my hand in a glass of lukewarm Magic Hat #9 the next day, and a suspiciously chilly feeling in my fundament.
What does this mean for you?
Well, you're going to have to wait and find out. I *think* we have some good stuff afoot and some good news in the works. The news will come out on the MABRA listserve, and the MORE board, and here. But as for what the news is... you all are going to have to sit tight for a bit. Just trust me that some good stuff is afoot.
Would I lie to you?
No, I probably wouldn't.
Unless there was some personal gain to be had.
Meanwhile, I have to reprint a comment I made at Stevil's place, in response to his praising Fried Baloney Sandwiches. Seem that if you can get me ranting, I sometimes say funny stuff. My buddies from Upstate and maybe some of the Yinzers will enjoy this.
Yeah, the Baywatch dude says you don't Hassle the Hoff, but my credo is you don't whack the Weck. I try live by that belief system. I really do.
And just in case you were wondering, Anacone's on Bailey had the best Weck in the world. I'm related to a guy who downed 8 of them in one night. There's history there. Or there was. It's gone now, I believe. But the Weck lives.
Tuesday, September 08, 2009
Yep, I love cross because it hurts me so.
And what am I doing up late? Funny you should ask. I'm trying to get my brakes toe'd in properly. Gotta love the cantilevers. Man, I knew I should have studied geometry harder in school...
Sunday, September 06, 2009
- Speaking of WKO+... have you ever wondered how many days of low or reduced effort it would take you to get to "form" from where you are right now? Simply go to the Performance Management Chart dropdown menu, and "set custom date" for the date range shown on the chart. Set the chart to show a week's time from now. That'll tell you how many rest days - complete rest days - you'd need to maintain form. It'll also show you how much fitness you will lose in the process of "peaking" if you just shut down to rest. The trick is to keep your fitness high but still recover with a true rest week, where you combine rest with some efforts to keep your CTL high.
- Do you have trouble figuring out how life works? Check out GraphJam. It's like GamJams, except they explain how life works rather than explaining MABRA results. Consider it Lifehacker for the illiterate. Case in point:
- Did you notice that Cadel Evans recently moved into the yellow jersey at the Vuelta de Espana? Yeah, me neither. The Vuelta is like the crazy ugly cousin who shows up at Thanksgiving. Maybe if nobody talks about it, it'll go away and stop bugging us, and not cause any major embarassments. Where was I now... Oh, yeah, Evans. That he is in the lead appears in Velo News, and the article isn't touting how revolutionary and strong the R-Sys wheel system is, so I have reason to suspect it may actually be true, far fetched though it may sound.
- Speaking of pro racing news, George Hincapie recently moved over to BMC, presumably so he can ride with Mike Birner. Can you blame him? Meanwhile, a tearful Levi Leipheimer signed with Radio Shack, or Teh Shaque-uey, as I think they are now billing themselves in ads. Radio Shack, apparently unaware of the rule against giving one's self a nickname, is seeking to upgrade their image from stodgy, somewhat geeky and unspectacular but solid performer in a dorky business, by signing Levi. Um, yeah, that'll change things around. No word yet on whether they were able to sign Milton Waddams as Directeur Sportiff.
- The NFL is coming in just a few days. For some reason this year, I can't wait. My fandom wanes and waxes from year to year, but some years going into the season, I just feel it. I know I'm going to watch a lot of ball this year, and just love doing it. I don't know why it is, and couldn't tell you why I return to the gridiron every few years any more than sockeye salmon could explain how they wander the ocean for 4 or 5 years before returning to the stream of their birth to spawn and die. Also like the salmon, I am in living in mortal fear of the Bears this fall...
- Finally... it's Labor Day tomorrow, an excuse to love your girl or guy, love your family, love your friends, and love havin' a good time. C'mon y'all... wring some fun out of the day.
Thursday, September 03, 2009
Training – the art of riding hard enough that it feels like you were run over by a train.
- “PowerTap’ does not describe a new method of pumping beer from a Keg-ger-ator. It should though.
- Allen – a tool that is very helpful if you've got a couple screws loose and you’re into racing bikes. Also, a type of wrench.
- Functional threshold power – riding hard enough to puke… but not quite. Forever.
- Critical Power – the ability of a Powertap through quiet, numerical recriminations to induce rider self-hatred stemming from pathetically low power output.
- Acute training load – the power output of a good looking girl on a Powertap-equipped bike.
- Chronic Training Load – Jamaican national track cycling team out for a leetle speen, mon.
- Training stress points – riding so much that your wife/husband/SO starts screaming at you, stressing you out. A good method of training for the Keirin.
- Training stress balance – the moment of equilibrium on a ride when the pleasure of riding the bike suddenly and perfectly offsets the pain of getting yelled at by (spouse/SO/boss/homophobic redneck in an F-150) about your love of riding bikes.
- PowerTap – electronic device designed to suck the fun out of riding. Originally meant to supplement broken collarbones, bad roads and “that guy who keeps showing up for the club ride,” later versions are capable of handling the fun-sucking job all on their own.
Wednesday, September 02, 2009
Pardon me while I have a combination zen moment / hippie far-out-man freakout.
This was really interesting. There's a gravel dogleg on our course that I wound up taking repeatedly at speed, little or no brake, cranked over as if on a road turn, but pedaling through and drifting mildly toward the apexes. *That* was fast. Then I was just smoothly pedaling the off-camber straight on the side drainage area of the soccer pitch. I discovered that when I made big power pulses, I bobbed right and left, and this slowed me down. But if I focused on a smooth spin, I could carry speed with a lot less effort, because I wasn't bobbing. There was just less friction on the tires. *That* was fast too. Grabbing up the sack, throwing it over my shoulder, and riding hard into the two 90 degree turns off the sidewalk, letting the wheels drift in the wet grass, was also fast, but that required putting a bit of a surge in to keep the wheel slipping in a predictable manner rather than hopping across the grass. Slip-sliding in a more courageous way than usual, was also fast. The uphill and the super-tight off-cambers atop the hill... well, I sucked through there because I was determined not to work the uphill that hard (not like my power:weight limitations permit me to hammer the hill anyhow), and I just haven't figured out the off-cambers yet. And the long grass flat... well, that will improve when I put the tubulars on. Right now that's a long slow grind.
But otherwise, I learned a big lesson. Spin, spin, spin. That's the ticket for getting around the course fast. Forget my big grinding accelerations and pedal mashing and feeling like you're working hard; just keep turning the pedals in a steady manner.
Life is good at work too. A friend of one of my co-workers stopped by, a musician buddy of his, a real interesting fellow that I happen to be a pretty big fan of. My colleague and the musician just wanted to have a chat but all the rest of us went all fanboy / fangirl on him - maybe predictable considering the age and background of most of the people in my office. We couldn't help it; I'm sorry. It was cool though, a big uplift. I'm smack in the middle of what is starting to look like an epic stretch of very tough projects, just some ridiculously enormous challenges, but this little bit of serendipity brought a lot of unexpected joy into my day. I got a chance to thank the musician for providing me with a lot of smiles, particularly back in the days when I used to have to deploy in a treesuit, and he took the news that he used to get sandwiched between Garth Brooks and NWA with aplomb; "At least I was in there." Damn straight he was. Garth and NWA were good, but He made desert island music - y'know, "if you could have only one CD..." I wasn't cheeky enough to ask him what it was like to get hammered with P.J. O'Rourke and watch Dennis Conner fighting for the America's Cup. He's a hell of a businessman and a hell of a musician so you know there's some iron in there, but I think what I'll remember about him is that he's the most gracious, humble, pleasant guy you'd ever care to meet.
Would Just Quit Hanging Around My Office...
I've met some people with impressive resumes before but in terms of celeb / political / sports / business people that I've met in real life, I'd rank King of the Parrot Heads number one on the list. The guy is richer than Croesus and didn't have to be gracious to a bunch of his friend's colleagues, but he damn sure was, in spades. Words fail me.