Wednesday, June 30, 2010
Does anything make me as pissed off as missing a ride, particularly a mountain bike ride?
No. I don't think so.
Been fuming all night. Wife thinks I'm pissed at her, Dog thinks I must have suddenly remembered that he shit the floor three times last week when we switched his food. Cat 1 is avoiding me, cat 2 is wary.
I won't be happy until I ride tomorrow.
Going to be a crappy night tonight trying to sleep.
Tuesday, June 29, 2010
This week, I'm hoping to avoid running through the poison ivy that has made my legs itchier than a congressional committee chair with a stack of blank subpoenas on his desk.
Not a lot to report this week so far. Took Monday off after the HellRide on Sunday in Armageddon-ish heat. Found out I placed around 20th or 21st out of 45 or 50 riders at Wakefield... time to bust my ass on the start tomorrow. May be time for an all-out, cyclocross style sprint to the first turn, and let others eat dust and get stuck in lines at obstacles instead of me. Knock two minutes off my pace with a good start and avoid the three chain drops, and a top 10 should be within reach. FWIW my lap times would have put me at about 30th percentile in Sport. They put me at 60th percentile in Beginner. Gotta improve on that.
I'll let you know how it goes.
Meanwhile, Big Nick goes on the blogroll, along with my teamie, Jon Burns. Nick writes well and he faces some of the same struggles I do - he's a genuine clyde, and a damn good rider, but the odds are against him. Didn't keep him from winning Reston, which is a damned hard crit. I'm pulling for him, and he's fighting the good fight. Jon gets on there because Jon is a *damn* good writer and a solid rider who comes from a family of successful, track-bound clydesdales. He's making a decent go of it in his first year of serious roadracing, and again, we have some issues in common so I find his way of getting at his issues interesting.
Sunday, June 27, 2010
On Saturday, the Shop Ride was a little hotter than usual with 18 souls taking part, including Special Guest Star The Uff Da. She and I were wondering for the first half if there was something wrong with us - we kept getting slightly dropped on all these punchy little climbs. Plus a lot of new guys were on the ride and suffering from Acute Sciuriditis - an attack of Squirrellyness. But then after the halfway point, we ratcheted up the speed to somewhat hard all around, and the Uff Da recovered, as did I. The squirrelly guys who are new to group rides swiftly fell into the hurt bucket and stopped rocketign off the front. After one particular bout of squirrellyness on a long set of rollers, we came to one of the longer hills on the ride and I decided to bust a move, and bust up the group. I did that, and the ride broke into serious racers + 1 new guy, and everybody else in the back pack, which is what I'd hoped for. Climbing around people who are suffering a bad outbreak of Sciuriditis is dangerous, and I'd rather quarantine them when possible. Eventually we regrouped but the legs were softened up enough that there were no further attacks of Sciuriditis and even those with some legs left had only minimal bits left over, with an average speed over 20 on a hilly course. Uff Da and I added maybe 12 extra miles of recovery spin at the end and she asked about the makeup of the group ride. I couldn't vouch for the new guys but the list of regulars who ride, once I thought about it, was pretty impressive - Seibold's road, MTB and cross cred is pretty well established. But we've also got a couple other expert MTB'ers on the ride, one guy who is a regional caliber expert MTB'er, another who is a serious threat at 100 mile events, a couple very solid sport MTB'ers and strong Cat 4 roadies... No slouches in the core group. So it wasn't really surprising when my legs hit bonk state and a stop for a Coke was needed during our long, profoundly uncomfortable spindown. The day wrapped up with some family time in Balmer with Pinkeye Pete, and we had a good wander around the Inner Harbor and Fells Point. Cue a 12 hour nap...
Sunday was also a blast, of the sort you get in Mr. Carnegie's ovens. The first tactical error was sleeping late and riding at 10:30, rather than at 8:00. Rolling out of town, the Fire Department thermometer said 96 degrees... and it only got worse, with temps probably approaching 120 on the open stretches of tarmac. I've never been thankful before for a stiff headwind on a steep uphill, but today I was. Two hours, around 30 miles, and a stop in the middle to get more drinks later, I got home. Yep - I drank four large bottles of fluid in two hours of riding for a total of 96 ounces. It was sooo hot, that two or three minutes of a zone 3-4 effort would cause the legs to melt down and just lose impulse power. I was glad just to be able to finish today, and had the collar of Stevil's new bike jersey to thank for it. I remember Stevil's credo: "I'd rather be forgotten, than be remembered for SLLLAAAAAYYYYYYERRRRRR!"
Okay, it doesn't say that but if it did you wouldn't be surprised. Today was the inaugural ride with my new All Hail the Black Market jersey, and it worked out... well, as it should. Nice jersey, looks good, inspirational saying on the collar, EVIL on the front. As I was cruising around the borders of Heatstrokeville I thought about the meaning of not giving up as alluded to on the jersey collar, and decided to hang in despite the fact my face was melting off like one of the Nazis at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark. Nice jersey, has everything you'd want, and you can still buy one, but just for another week or so. Here. Way to go, Stevil!
So then I hung out with the fam and we capped off the day with some swimming, and then some bi-locational picknicking with 300 of our closest friends, and later with a much smaller and nicer group. A handful of Sangrias drove a stake into the day's heart, and I'm going to go hit the sack before I drop from exhaustion. The upcoming week has me doing Teh Hard Commute on Tuesday and maybe Thursday, Wednesday at Wakefield, and lord knows what else. So this boy needs some rest.
But before I go, if you have some extra weekend to sell me, let me know. I could use more weekends like this and am willing to pay market rate.
Thursday, June 24, 2010
Gunnar, a guy who has been known occasionally to ride a bike, tip a brew and listen to music, reminded me via FB tonight of one of the better blues songs of all time.
Billy Gibbons is bad assss. ZZ Top is bad asss as well. One of the great blues bands of all time, they don't get their due, I think, because of the corny videos on MTV in the 80's. That's like dissing the Pope just because he wears funny hats.
Jack White and his ex- don't get enough credit for being good blues players either. Though they're very electric, I think that some of the seminal bluesmen would like this more than a lot of modern rock & blues. Jack's pretty damn raw here, and it works.
The Black Keys are similar to the White Stripes in some ways... traditional blues, played electric... maybe a little simpler than the White Stripes but in the same neighborhood.
Where does that kind of blues come from?
Right here, of course:
Interestingly, the blues isn't always all about haw haw haw haw, and boom boom boom boom. Sometimes it's about some bad shit that Chuck D. would have been afraid to sing.
Sometimes the blues also comes up in strange ways you wouldn't expect.
Wow. After that, gotta leave you with something mellow I guess. This'll do.
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
Some people were upset by the Algerian soccer players punching our players in the face during the game today. Don't worry! They punch out female reporters post-game, too. You stay classy, Algeria!
Two World Wars and one World Cup, doo-dah, doo-dah...Oh yeah. It's going to be a barn burner.
A naked woman in Salt Lake City led police on an extended chase today. The Chief of Police was stunned at how long it took Salt Lake City P.D. officers to finally catch up to the woman, arrest her and put some clothes on her. Apparently she grappled with the officers for quite a while too, before they subdued her and got the clothes on.
Frankly, I'm surprised it only took them a couple hours of chasing her around town naked...
To the blogroll... Megs! DC MTB. Becky. Italian Cycling Journal. Nick Versus Gravity - a man after my own heart, and appetites. Newt - funny guy. Shorpy - great vintage photos, incl. bikes sometimes. XKCD - a cartoon for smart people. The New Criterion - pretty deep thinking, usually intellectual conservative stuff though you sometimes get some radicalism. The secular, arts & culture-focused companion to First Things.
Think you're badass on your road bike? Maybe in your neighborhood or something...
I think that's Martin Ashton, who is a pioneering British Trials MTB rider.
My concern with democracy is highly specific. It begins in observing the remarkable fact that, while democracy means a government accountable to the electorate, our rulers now make us accountable to them. Most Western governments hate me smoking, or eating the wrong kind of food, or hunting foxes, or drinking too much, and these are merely the surface disapprovals, the ones that provoke legislation or public campaigns. We also borrow too much money for our personal pleasures, and many of us are very bad parents. Ministers of state have been known to instruct us in elementary matters, such as the importance of reading stories to our children. Again, many of us have unsound views about people of other races, cultures, or religions, and the distribution of our friends does not always correspond, as governments think that it ought, to the cultural diversity of our society. We must face up to the grim fact that the rulers we elect are losing patience with us.You got that? The more government (and other institutions) does for you, the more that your moral character is reduced and the less your ability to take moral responsibility for your own actions. Morals, of course, are one of the things that separates us from the animals.
No philosopher can contemplate this interesting situation without beginning to reflect on what it can mean. The gap between political realities and their public face is so great that the term “paradox” tends to crop up from sentence to sentence. Our rulers are theoretically “our” representatives, but they are busy turning us into the instruments of the projects they keep dreaming up. The business of governments, one might think, is to supply the framework of law within which we may pursue happiness on our own account. Instead, we are constantly being summoned to reform ourselves. Debt, intemperance, and incompetence in rearing our children are no doubt regrettable, but they are vices, and left alone, they will soon lead to the pain that corrects. Life is a better teacher of virtue than politicians, and most sensible governments in the past left moral faults to the churches. But democratic citizenship in the twenty-first century means receiving a stream of improving “messages” from politicians. Some may forgive these intrusions because they are so well intentioned. Who would defend prejudice, debt, or excessive drinking? The point, however, is that our rulers have no business telling us how to live. They are tiresome enough in their exercise of authority—they are intolerable when they mount the pulpit. Nor should we be in any doubt that nationalizing the moral life is the first step towards totalitarianism.
So that's something to think about, anyhow, particularly when you hear stuff like news articles touting the fact that in couple years you probably wont be permitted to buy food with salt in it.
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
Oh, the ankle? Nevermind. It was only a little sore. What could possibly go wrong with that during the ride?
On the way out to Bowie in the car this morning, I heard a snippet of the weather forecast. "Hottest day of the year... mid to upper 90's." I disregarded it because I know better, and nobody is telling me shit, right? Fortunately, I did pack two water bottles rather than the usual single.
The ride in was fun, and mostly uneventful. Sure, there was some interesting stuff, like hitting 35MPH and 180-some RPM on the steep hill at the end of Good Luck Road. But the ride was generally pretty easy because the hills on Rhode Island slope up gradually as you ride south, which makes them nice on a fixie.
They're exactly the opposite on the way out, and I had a number of epiphanies about riding the fixie long distances in tough conditions.
First, forget about the 48 miles thing. A fixie pulls about 50% more work out of you than a geared bike, and my legs sure feel like they rode 70, rather than 48.
Second, it was 95 out according to a number of bank thermometers and my cycle computer. On Rhode Island - a dark black tarmac, stuffed with 6 lanes of traffic, and big buses belching hot diesel smoke - it was probably 105 degrees. It was like an indian sweat lodge except without the solace of peyote and cool dreams, though admittedly avoiding the urine drinking was a +1 in favor of the bike ride.
Third... man, them are some long hills. Rhode Island is steep if you're northbound, and by the time I hit the big summit, I was gasping and it was hard to turn the pedals over. It was bad enough that a woman with her two young kids heard me gasping, gave me the hairy eyeball, and clutched her children closer to keep them away from the lycra-clad pervert.
The Rouleur Reacts Upon Cresting Rhode Island at 18th.
"I'm comin' Elizabeth," I said out loud to myself at one point. Near 100-degree temps are not optimal for fat men climbing hills on bikes, it seems.
Fortunately, I could coast down the hill to Mount Ranier...
Oh no I couldn't! Trying to spin 150 RPM down the hill after blowing my legs on the uphill made me realize: "Jim, you're a shithead." It made no sense to ride that bike today. There's no such thing as easy coasting on a fixie. It's all work.
Fortunately, I had cleverly frozen two bottles of water in the office fridge. I figured they'd melt as I rode, providing me cool water until I was at least past Lanham.
That was another bright idea that didn't exactly work out as planned. The front bottle was lukewarm and entirely melted by about 4th Street, Northwest; the back bottle was entirely melted by about 14th Street, Northeast. Turns out, the only thing that seemed frozen was my brain after I got up the big hill past route 201...
But make no mistake: the fact that the bottles were warm and filled with tap water that smelled like a cross between moldy Accellerade, soap, and armpit, and the fact that I was apparently suffering from some type of brain meltdown, did not stop me from guzzling the spit-warm water. It did not even slow me down.
So it was really hot at that point and I had the jersey unzipped, showing evidence of my bad eating habits to the entire world. I did not care. Nor could I tell whether the waves rising up off the pavement were heat distortions, or the first signs of a stroke. I did not care about that either. I just wanted to get the ride done.
How hot was it?
It was so hot, there were no joggers. Not even the transvestite jogger who is usually out when I'm riding through. There were other people on bikes, but they were the kind of people who ride bikes because they had no choice - no car, no Metro money, no options.
These people all looked at me like I had brain damage.
After an hour in that heat, I probably did.
Despite the strange heat, there was at least one familiar happening. This recent immigrant guy on a nice older 10 speed - I knew he was recent because his clothes were definitely not American in origin - decided to show me a thing or two, so he started hammering up Rhode Island. Which was cool because 21 or 22 is the maximum comfortable cruising speed. Mr. 10 Speed was going marginally faster than me, bobbing and gripping the handlebars with a death grip, swaying all over the road...
That's right. Different neighborhood, different language, different culture... same Pathlete behavior.
It is truly nice to know, truly edifying to discover, that riding like a jackass isn't limited to any particular demographic group, but that it's a scourge that cuts across racial, ethnic, economic and geographic lines. Why, look at Mark Cavendish, and the guy who just had to pass me today no matter what! That realization restored my faith in humanity, right there on the spot...
It worked out okay in the end. As I headed down into Bowie, cloud cover at least reduced my radiant heat problem, and a few dribbles of rain teased me. The O.G. and I got back to the car, and boogied the last couple miles home, where I took as cold a shower as the water supply of the Mean Streets of Crow-fton would permit.
Did I get anything out of it? Other than a couple highly variable workouts, some major efforts on a few hills, and a new condo in the same neighborhood as Heat Injury, probably not.
But I definitely learned a lesson today. That lesson is... I should try riding the fixie a bit further, all the way from my house. Hey, if 48 was *that* easy, 62 should be nothin'.
Well that, and if you're going long on the fixie, take your time doing it. There's no bailout option on a long fixie ride, you'd best save enough leg to get you home under your own power.
Monday, June 21, 2010
Sunday, June 20, 2010
I should beat myself up for my performance, but it's semi-hard to do that. The next slowest rider on the ride is a guy who is definitely a fit and fast mountain biker who would probably crush most of you guys. Me? I'd only crush you if I crashed into you. As he and I hike a biked up a section of Santee or Charcoal or Bug-bug-buggery or whatever the hell torturous bit of trail it was, he said, "in 20 years of riding here, I've never cleaned this section." It took me until about two hours after the ride for my jaw to hit the floor (for the second time) when I realized that in addition to being the worst rider on that ride, I'm also the least experienced by about 75% and the least experienced at Patapsco by about 90%. I gotta step up if I'm going to ride with these boys. They are *very* strong.
That fact didn't keep me from beating myself up for most of the ride and most of the day. "You're letting the team down" kept running through my mind on the uphills. Okay, fine, it was walking through my mind, lacking enough wind to run through and gasping as it went. But I was thinking that. I did alright on the downhills and flats, but (1) logs over about 16" and, (2) uphills murdered me.
The realization that I was riding with maybe 10 experts and 2 very strong sport racers and maybe I don't have tooooo awful much to be ashamed of was the second time my jaw hit the floor yesterday. The first time was coming down the shitty rock field hill on Charcoal.
The crew, using its Home Court Advantage, went pinging down Charcoal at a high rate of speed. I did okay keeping up, but went through this one twisty section with a bit more initiative and ingenuity than I should have been showing. Rather than blast through this big pile of Shaquille heads (they're just like Babyheads, only about 4 times bigger and slippery) as befits a 280 pound dude on the MTB equivalent of a Barcalounger, I decided to ride as if I was on a rigid and tried to pick a sweet line between the rocks.
As we (me, and the Big Mama, which was Salsa's cleaned up name for Big Nasty M'F'er) crested this tiny rise, I aimed between two Shaq heads, and over a medium root. As the front wheel blasted into the little opening, the Shaq heads squeezed it straight, and the root bounced the front end up into the air. This straightened me up out of left turn mode and returned me to Surprise Vertical Mode, and moved my handlebars to the right, where my right hand - still wrapped over the brake lever - bashed into a 12" maple. The rear wheel locked up, my front wheel turned 90 degrees, and I flew off the bike face down into a big downhill rock field, doing a Pete Rose-style head first slide into Ohshitsville. In the words of umpiring great Ron Luciano, he's OUT OUT OUT OUT OUT!
Damn, that hurt. The complete casualty list is being withheld by the Pentagon until the families can be notified, but the knees, both shins, the right forearm, the left calf, and my face were reported to have been scraped and bruised in the operation. Don't bother scattering my ashes at Patapsicko to leave part of me out there when I die; it'd be redundant.
I bounced up pretty quick but was shaken after that. Sometimes when you get off the mountain bike, it's no big deal and you hop back on and just get trucking again. This wasn't one of those times. It took a solid 20 minutes to get my breath back, not like there was much left after Vineyard; and I wound up limping in, damaged. God bless Mike W and later Seibold for doing a bit of handholding until I became semi-functional again...
So I should be ashamed. But I wasn't totally ashamed because it wasn't a terrible performance - I cleared Vineyard without any problem, which has this one spot near the top that used to always knock me off the bike. That was cool. But I'm way behind the curve and if I knocked 30 or 40 pounds off... well, I'd be behind but everything would be easier. Y'know the changes in diet I'd planned to start around a week before my back blew out? Yep, time for that stuff. And maybe it's also time to commit to riding more harder MTB stuff, more often. Only way to get better, is to work better, and Rosaryville ain't going to do it for me.
Meanwhile, I'm going to meditate on all the ways there are to crash a mountain bike. That's tomorrow's post.
Tomorrow's ride is a trip into D.C. by bike, aka Teh Commootz. I think we may take the Occidental Gentleman - the fixed Kona cross bike known as The O.G. - out for a spin. *That* will definitely hurt like shit. Those hills are going to suck ass, no two ways about it. Can't wait to do a 5 minute standing effort up the two long hills on Rhode Island, and that lump at the end of Good Luck Road will be sweet like battery acid... I think I am looking forward to it because, upon further reflection, I probably have a major malfunction somewhere in the higher brain functions.
Thursday, June 17, 2010
That said, it's another week down, and we're still here, knocking it out. I don't know about you but I'm feeling stronger on the bike each week. Not great - the back twinges haven't disappeared and at least on Tuesday the wind beat me up pretty bad. Not great, but stronger and better. And better is always a damn good way to feel, right?
So here's Les Claypool jamming with Gov't Mule.
And of course one dose of Les is less, and I want more, not less. So check out Les jamming with one of my favorite freaky deaky bands, Gogol Bordello. Better yet... they're doing a Tom Waits song. Awwwweeesooommmme.
Here's the original if you wanted some comparison. It's tighter musically because it's in the studio...
Pretty good song about not fearing death, but knowing it's out there waiting. Damn that Tom Waits... now he's got me thinking.
Johnny Cash had a different take on life and death with "Bury Me Not on the Lone Prairie." It's an old traditional song, and he added a spoken word prayer to it.
And while we're down, remember hearing the song "Oh Death" in "Oh Brother Where Art Thou?" I'm pretty sure that was the Ralph Stanley version, but you should know the song traces its roots through Appalachia, and probably back to England of the Renaissance or late Middle Ages, at least, in one form or another. Here's an interesting version by the Abbot Brothers. One of them does an interesting thing with the song, singing parts of it using Tuvan throat singing methods. There was a show about this on PBS or maybe National Geographic Channel a couple years ago. I'm amazed that somebody thought to mash up an old celtic / bluegrass dirge with South Siberian folk music, but there you go.
Okay, enough about death and destruction and whatnot. Can't end on such a downer. How 'bout a little Gnarls Barkley for a picker upper?
And if that doesn't get it, try a second dose.
So the mission for the weekend is to sneer at death. Or, if you're not up to that, to give it some shit and make fun of its funny black clothes and the stupid scythe he carries around. Seriously, Death... that shit is sooooo 1348, know what I mean? If you aren't up to mocking death, you should at least make fun of illness, aging, or sore knees. Something...
Really, the best thing we can do with our lives is not to worry about what comes next - because there's a bad thing around the next corner, one way or t'other - but to just go out there and frickin' live. That's what I plan to do. Living may include riding mountain bikes, eating ribs, drinking a beer or two, and hanging out with the friends and fam. Should be fun on its own merits, and even if you don't view it that way... well, it beats the hell out of the alternatives.
Wednesday, June 16, 2010
Yep, that's me speaking, the guy who walked into Radio Shack (perhaps the most un-hip store in America) to buy an HTC Hero, a phone that runs on Droid. The only people in the store were me, the clerk, and a guy buying capacitors or something for a homemade alarm system. I waited... oh, not at all. The phone was $49. It works really well. The app store is nice. I'm not at all interested in the iPhone. What's that you say? You can now *edit* the video you take on the iPhone before you post it to Facebook? Really? Well, I'm sure that's worth $400 to me. I'll have to get one immediately...
Oh yeah, and that Apple 1984 ad?
26 years on, ironically, the girl in the tight top resembles Droid, and Steve Jobs resembles the guy talking on the screen. Naturally, the hipsters are all wearing similar looking clothes in the audience...
Tuesday, June 15, 2010
I know this because the bible tells us repeatedly that Jesus saves. Clearly, he is not only a fan of hockey, but he plays goalie as well. (I presume He has a 1.000 save rate, nothing gets by him that is eligible to be saved).
I will say a prayer that these blasphemers find their way back to the true faith, and if they feel compelled to erect another statue, that it will show Him in the classic butterfly position.*
* It's possible that He is a "flop" style goalie but that sort of freestyle thing strikes me as more appropriate for a Hindu deity.
So today's commute was a total clusterfark and it was a really weird day overall. I normally stick to just the highlights, but so much weird shit happened that maybe it bears note.
On the way in, I got as far as Bowie before noticing that the clicking noise was yet another broken spoke on my Powertap/Deep Vee. The long term fix is to de-tension the spokes, re-tension them, drizzle some Loc Tite onto the nipples (kinky, eh?) and go from there. The short term fix was to return home, steal the rear of the 'cross bike, swap out the 9 speed cross cassette for a 10 speed road cassette, then head back into D.C. Not exactly a smooth start there but at least I'm reasonably good at minor bike fixes and knocked out the cassette swap in under two minutes.
Then on the way in, there were... obstacles. For starters, there was a steady 10 MPH headwind. "No problem," I thought. "That will be a nice tailwind on the way out."
Cutting down toward D.C., I caught the eye of one of the locals. He rather charmingly made a throat-slitting gesture at me. How lovely. A little further on I was stopped at a light and a couple gents were telling each other how they were going to "f*** some motherf***ers up today." What?
Once into D.C., riding down 11th, I settled into a little pack of 4 or 5 commuters, and we all got cut off by a woman who felt compelled to run a red light, and turn left in front of us, to completely block the lane. "F***in' Bitch!" yelled one of my co-commuters... I guess it was warranted, she nearly T-boned us.
After I got to work it took about 7 hours to stop sweating. It was a stressful day, spent mostly in reading impenetrable documents, writing worthless analysis of them, and generally burning off 9 hours of my life that I will never get back. (This was the only normal part of the day).
I got a Subway Veggie Patty sandwich for lunch. Yes, I like them despite my constant tofurkey jokes. It's a fairly light lunch, and like methane, the soy patties are tasteless, odorless, and otherwise undetectable. I mainly get them because the sandwich makes a good vehicle for about 3 tablespoons of crushed red pepper paste, about 25 jalapeno slices, and enough vegetables to... um... create a shortage of vegetables.
The jalapenos and crushed red pepper paste didn't do anything to help the sweating. Come to think of it, neither did the ham sandwich I ate yesterday for lunch, which was made with ham that (maybe) (possibly) (pretty likely) was expired. It was 7.5 days out of the local Giant's deli, and it didn't taste quite right... but Mr. Saving Up For Bike Parts thought "waste-not-want-not" and made a ham sammich with it anyhow. Let's just say that I've had a good opportunity over the last 24 hours to test drive a lot of toilets. *A Lot* of toilets. On the upside, I had a lot of time to check out the soccer games using the smart phone...
So the bottom line, as it were, was I left the office with a massive, massive headache, staggering around like a drunk, with an aching low hindquarter and a coat of sweaty sheen that would have done a suntan lotion model proud. I had this feeling of overwhelming dread stalking me, and as I cruised along I thought I'd throw up. It isn't often that I have a headache so bad that it makes me start to drool out pre-vomit drool, but today I did. Miracle of miracles, it didn't affect my riding, and miracle of miracles, I didn't barf.
Nor did the wind affect my riding; which wind was strong, and again in my face on the way home. How the hell can I have a strong headwind on the way into town, and on the way out? I don't get it.
I trudged up Rhode Island hating life. Those couple of hills are non-trivial, my friends. The sunglasses came off. I poured water on my head. I tried to alter my breathing, and tried spinning, and then mashing. Nothing worked. When I finally hit the calmer portion of Good Luck Road, where there's a bike lane, I took the damn helmet off and clipped it to my handlebars. The cool air on my wet hair was a Godsend. It helped ease the headache a little bit, though I felt really schlocky knowing little kids might be watching me and learning the wrong way to be. I passed a few bike commuters from there on out, and man, did I ever get some funny looks.
It wasn't all headaches and moaning and funny looks, though. A couple guidos in a minivan with New Jersey plates drove by while I was at 193, and one or the other shouted "you f***in' faggot" out the open window. That never gets old, but it makes me wonder which one of their mothers told them to say that, because I'm going to slap that old girl next time I see her.
Eventually I got back home, ate some aspirin and orange juice, had a long hot shower, ate dinner, and mostly killed the headache. It's still lingering a bit. I'm about to collapse into bed and hope that some sleep kills the thing off the rest of the way.
See what I mean? There's nothing really freaky that happened today, it was just a strange day, and everything was off. If my life consisted of a bunch of Star Trek episodes, this would have been one where I wandered around the crew decks invisible, "out of phase" with this particular strand of space time as a result of a transporter accident.
Rough day or not, I'm still glad I rode, but damn... there sure was a lot of weird in it.
I'm not the only one who had a bad day, however. Check out this crash from the bunch sprint in today's Tour de Suisse stage:
Yep, if you don't want to take the risks, you don't belong at the front in the bunch sprint. It's dangerous up there, particularly when a couple young sprinters think they're invincible and start handling their bikes like a couple assholes. I did particularly enjoy seeing Boonen ride over Cavendish. That seems appropriate, somehow.
But if you think they had it bad, and weird, thank your lucky stars your name isn't Al Gore. Now that guy had a damn rough day.
Sunday, June 13, 2010
- I have a weird relationship with soccer. I played it for quite a while in high school and for fun after that, and sometimes like watching it. I usually watch the world cup and will tend to watch if the FA cup or one of the UEFA Cup matches is on. It's... mildly entertaining. Let's just say that once every few years, after the Stanley Cup playoffs are over and the NFL season has yet to begin, it fills the time. I guess that's a mug full of 'meh,' huh?
- On the other hand, the buzz of the now omnipresent vuvuzelas is pretty damned irritating to listen to after a while, with its monotone buzz. Is this what severe tinnitis is like? It's about as annoying as your friend who insists that you'd looooove soccer the way they do, if only you got it. Um, no thanks. I do get it. That's exactly why I don't like it much. Just because it's foreign, doesn't make it good, and just because you're in the brie & chablis set and think that all things imported are upscale, doesn't mean that soccer is. After all, they import Volkswagens and day laborers to this country too; that doesn't make them upscale, despite their welcome and even essential presence at houses in Potomac. Soccer is the opiate of the drunk factory worker, the unemployed, and the blue collar yob worldwide. Does that put it into perspective? It's occasionally interesting, when played well. But as for loving the game? Well, it's like a coked up brazilian party girl soccer fan. Fun to love or at least be around once every four years, but you probably wouldn't want to live with it. As for the Vuvuzela: it's the drunk, low income skinhead's stradivarius. Seeing a bunch of affluent tourist fans blowing on these things is akin to asking for a PBR at Mortons to have with your filet. Maybe they have a case of it somewhere... but why the fuck would you want to go slumming like that?
Oh yeah, authenticity. Sorry, forgot. The local yobs do it that way so the tourist yobs are going to do it that way.
But really. If we host a World Cup match in Detroit, are you going to celebrate by declaring bankruptcy, shooting some of your friends, and setting some cars on fire? Just because the locals do it doesn't mean you have to accept it uncritically...
- Off to bed now. I've got the looong commute in tomorrow. Can't wait. For bed, or the commute.
Thursday, June 10, 2010
After that, it's back to the mean streets of Crofton, where I'll pick up snacks for tonights little league game (yeah, I'm coaching... I'm like Burgess Meredith in Rocky except I don't chew the kids out, I just burn their arms with a cigar when they aren't putting out). Later, I'll pick up Son of Rouleur from school and we'll go for a bike ride on some flat bike trail, where I'll teach him my secrets - how to ride the hell out of flats, and how to bitch about hills until the cows come home. Quick dinner, then off to coach the kids. Then we're taking the kids out for end-of-season ice cream and to hand out nice "Hey, You Showed Up On The Last Day So Here's a Trophy" trophies. After that I'm going home and I'm going to drink bourbon until either my stomach is full, or the toilet is, whichever comes first.
And that's just Friday on a slow day off.
Can't go into the weekend without some lessons learned while riding this week. They are:
1) The absolute godawful worst drivers I have ever, ever seen in my life are in Northwest PG County. Cripes! The Right Hook isn't the cause of occasional bike accidents there; it's a way of life. And I can count on the fingers of one leg how many turn signals I've seen used around there. My god, people...
2) Mountain biking and cross pay off on the road big time, but... I discovered today riding in on wet roads that the Michelin Lithium tire is the slipperiest thing you can put on the front of your bike, and that includes other tires, a 700c sealed bearing in place of a tire, and teflon nano-particle space shuttle switch lubricant.
3) Got up to two commutes (~50 miles round trip) for my weekly riding. If I can get it up to three commutes next week, with some judicious early-to-bed early-to-rise action, I'll net 150 training miles just going to and returning from work. This is the ticket. Y'know, if the PG County drivers don't kill me.
Without further ado...
Check out the Greyboy All Stars. They are funkdillyicious.
One isn't enough of that. Check this out:
That's mellow enough to make you think you've been smoking something; funky enough to think your old college roommate left his socks under your sofa.
While we're working on upping your funkquotient, check out some John Scofield, playing with Martin, Medeski and Wood. Smooth jazz and fusion meet funk in a bar, have some drinks...
That's pretty good. But after meeting the others in a bar, Funk stumbles out all drunk and wanders into Buddy Hankerson's basement, where this happens:
Damn, dudes & dudettes. There's more talent in Buddy's right hand, than there is in pretty much my whole body.
And while we're talking about funk bassists... check out Larry Graham.
Does he sound familiar? He should. He's Flea's role model.
Happy weekend, and happy riding friends.
Wednesday, June 09, 2010
Event: Your cat pees on your camelback / jersey / messenger bag / helmet.
Meaning: Cat is making sure that the thing in the house that most smells like a rotting dead corpse is clearly marked, so that if it returns to life and starts wandering the world seeking brains zombie-style, a stinky alarm system will be triggered. Cat thinks you should be grateful.
Event: You run a red light. Driver honks at you, flips you the middle finger.
Meaning: In Azerbaijan, raising one's middle finger is a special salute, meaning "I praise your enormous manhood." Honking one's horn means, "It is terrifying when engorged." This may refer to your bank balance, or your manhood. When the two honorifics are issued together, it takes on an entirely new meaning, "Your cycling skill is enormous." You should feel honored.
In Azerbaijan, this salute is normally followed by the driver gunning the engine. This means "I now run you over and squash you like bug, smelly Kazakh asshole!"
Event: Your wife says, "It's the bike, or me!"
Meaning: "Isn't it time for you to go out with your friends and do that 125 mile Blue Ridge ride you have been talking about for a couple weeks? Don't worry about Chad and Tiffany's wedding in Raleigh... I'll take that neighbor kid who used to mow our lawn... y'know, the one who plays tight end at Penn State now."
Event: At the water cooler, your co-worker notes that you commute by bike and asks, "isn't that scary in the traffic?"
Meaning: "Please regale me with terrifying tales of your stupid commuting and bike racing, so that I and your other co-workers can laugh at your stupidity behind your back. By the way, your office stinks of your stupid bike racing clothes, and cat pee. WTF?"
Event: A cute girl pulls up to you at a stop light on her sweet Pinarello and says, "what's the quickest way over to Georgetown from here?" You wonder... "Does she think I'm hot? Should I ask her out?"
Meaning: "Not in a million years, Goat boy. I really only want directions to Georgetown. Nice bike... my boyfriend would look really hot on that. God... does that dude smell of cat piss?"
Event: The club president approaches you to promote the club's big new race. You are flattered.
Meaning: "Um, we couldn't get anybody else to donate a couple hundred hours of spare time and sleep time to this brutal project, and were looking for a sucker who would be flattered by taking this on. Um, you're our only hope, Obi Wan. Try not to screw it up. The club has a lot riding on this, and we're going to demonstrate it by not volunteering to help in droves. No pressure..."
Event: You ask a question about what tire pressure you ought to be running on a road bike. Everybody on the list serve responds, "8 bar."
Meaning: 6 bar for average sized riders. 8 bar for lardasses. In the interest of saving some time, we can safely assume you need 8 bar. God... what's that stench?"
Event: A friend or relative is compelled to pick your brain about the latest doping scandal in cycling at a wedding / office get-together / random social event.
Meaning: your friends are really insecure and they suck, and can only feel good about themselves by running down your passion in life. Your friends also think you smell like a vagrant who has been pissed on by cats, particularly right when you are wrapping up a bike ride.
Event: You read your favorite bike blog. There are a bunch of hypothetical scenarios that are strangely like your life. You think the author is laughing at you.
Meaning: The author is laughing at you.
Tuesday, June 08, 2010
The things you see and learn on your commute... I'm getting comfortable with the northeastern route into D.C. from Bowie, AKA the Northeast Passage. It takes me through a lot of neighborhoods, particularly because I'm trying to figure out an efficient way to get from near the White House, to Brentwood. I hear some crazy ass conversations along the way, and see unusual things.
- "So I told her she's going to get an abortion, and he's gon' pay for it."
- "You in?" [sidewalk craps croupier, to a random guy walking by]
- "Hey, keep it up" [me, to a woman struggling to jog the steep hill I was riding up slowly]
- "Damn. That was one ugly transexual. Lotta beard on that one." [me to self, moments later]
You think cycling has problems with doping? Turns out, the World Cup is being plagued by a bunch of gamblers who are smoking vulture brains to see into the future, which will help them with handicapping the games.
Vulture brains? Shit. I think I'd rather have somebody sticking CERA-filled needles in my ass all the time than smoke vulture brains.
Marc Slavin... creepy touching guy.
Apparently the news crew showed up to ask questions about a hospital's alleged misdirection of donations into paying for private luxuries for hospital administrators. Marc Slavin is the hospital's communications director and... well... he just sort of snapped into action. What a creepy little dude... The reporter didn't knock him out, but if you ever meet the guy, you probably should, just to restore balance to the Force.
"Astroturf" is where somebody sets up a fake grass roots organization or protest against somebody else. Did you know that a lot of Wal Mart opposition is actually astroturfed?
Yeah, neither did I.
Mr. Saint, a former newspaper reporter and political press secretary, founded his firm 26 years ago. It specializes in using political-campaign tactics—petition drives, phone banks, websites—to build support for or against controversial projects, from oil refineries and shopping centers to quarries and landfills. Over the years, it has conducted about 1,500 campaigns in 44 states. Mr. Saint says about 500 have involved trying to block a development, and most of those have been clandestine.So your opposition to something like Wal Mart may be genuine and enthusiastic. But sometimes it pays to look into who else is with you, and why. Otherwise you may be just serving as the tool of one corporate interest as it seeks to gain an unfair competitive advantage over another one.
For the typical anti-Wal-Mart assignment, a Saint manager will drop into town using an assumed name to create or take control of local opposition, according to former Saint employees. They flood local politicians with calls, using multiple phones to make it appear that the calls are coming from different people, the former employees say.
As for Wal Mart? I've got mixed feelings. I like the fact that they leverage their market power to bring a lot of good quality consumer goods to the masses at an affordable price. On the other hand, I don't like how Wal Mart has the effect of wiping out commercial downtown areas in some of the towns where a store is built. On the balance, as in antitrust law, I have to put more stress on whether the consumer is benefited rather than the merchants hurt - I'd rather have a couple hundred million consumers live better off than several hundred thousand retailers do so.
I guess this makes me an asshole in a lot of people's eyes. But then, Target and CostCo and a host of other big box retailers do exactly the same thing. I wonder what makes them different and beloved?
I give you British actress, Abi Titmuss.
She, and her name, are full of teh win.
Monday, June 07, 2010
- The latest sign of the apocalypse and/or MTV's utter demise
- A festering nest of morons which serves as a vector for STD's
- A neat slice-of-life involving Italian-Americans
- The best thing evuh! It Rawwwwks!
b) You're having a serious problem with your nuts. It's like they're frozen. Who do you talk to?
- A doctor
- Your best friend
- Rosie Palmer and her five sisters
- Popular Mechanics
c) What's the word of the day?
d) What is Fagin's Law?
- Hindsight is a perfect science
- The rule of threes as pertains to the effect of compound interest
- "If you spill your mate's pint, you buy a replacement."
- The current state of play in American politics
a) 2 b) 4 c) 4 d) 1 and 4
I hope you enjoyed that.
Thems of you what know me, know that I am preoccupied with the question of how we know things, do we really know them, and are we making the right choices based on actual reality, rather than on our version of it. Chief Mario Vittone's point is that everything we know is wrong.
I think he's right.
And, in all seriousness, if you or your kids swim, read the bit on Drowning Doesn't Look Like Drowning. Watch the first 15-20 minutes of this video. It's Chief Vittone's discussion on how we got everything wrong. He's talking about Coast Guard training at the end, but his broader points deal with theories of knowledge; how we "know" things and why we're very frequently wrong. It may well be the most important thing you read or listen to this summer. If you're actually listening to him, it should change how you think, for the better.
Sunday, June 06, 2010
According to Fat Marc, it isn't a bad course. It's in his backyard, and he does about 3 laps in 15 minutes. There are a couple minor rises on it, but no elevation gain to speak of. A few rocks, couple roots, couple berms... basically, a day on the C&O Canal Towpath, only smoother.
So, as I shot through the Big Dip, blowing the front tire off the rim near the bottom of it, I naturally thought about Marc's description. His ironic hipster understated-ness maybe isn't the most effective mode of conveying information, I decided, as the WTB Weirwolf made obtrusive rubbing noises on the Reba forks.
But seriously, it was as fun as a 4 hour endurance race could be. They started the endurance racers first, with M geared, M single, and W endurance going off at one minute intervals, then the Cat 3 (beginner) race. It took me a minute or two to work to the back of the open pack, and for a bunch of single speeders to rocket by. Pretty soon, a lead group of women passed me...
You might think it was an uphill doing me in here. It wasn't... it was the rocky downhills that gave me trouble. I may have set a world record for slowest first lap. The course was eminently rideable, but it's the kind of place that a rider probably ought to pre-ride. It's reminiscent of the rocky bits of Granogue, with baby heads and sharper rocks embedded all over the place on about half the course. It's also dead twisty and narrow - call it single-point-two track.
It is also pretty climby, in a sneaky way. The smoother and milder uphill bits have either a bit of mud, or a middling amount of roots on them, which means it's work the whole way. The rougher uphill bits involve grades that mostly aren't terribly steep, but which are absolutely pocked with baby head and smaller rocks, either floating around loose or in the case of the sharp ones, embedded in the dirt with the business end pointing upward.
You might think I'm complaining here. I'm not. The course was a hell of a lot of fun. Not exactly my cup of tea but the way you get better drinking that particular cup of P.G. Tips is to practice it. Riding up hills... check. Descending fast among treacherous rocks... check. Dodging trees despite the roots and rocks in nearly every turn, just dying to uproot your front tire and fling you into the nearest rock maple... check.
The way you get better at mountain biking - besides long hours on the road, doing intervals, etc. - is to practice your handling. The way to do that is to take concentrated doses of the shit you absolutely cannot handle. I figured this out last week downhilling at Wisp - there's nothing better to remedy a weakness on the rocks than riding rocky trails. Doing this at a race is the Concentrated High Dose version of the same medicine - you get so much of it you choke on it.
Not that I was exactly swigging straight from the bottle today. After the first lap I was headachy and a little out of it. Getting chicked a third of the way through the first lap by a pack of women that started 2 minutes back will do that for you. So I decided to try to salvage the race.
My on-the-fly strategy was to try to stay off the brakes and rock the downhills, pull one gear high on the flats - so I was working the flats pretty hard - and to ride the uphills in the granny or granny +1-2 gears, walking when I started to go into the redzone. By concentrating on my handling I think I turned in a couple decent laps.
There are still some limits though. Without discussing in detail where my fitness is [insert litany about the back injury, the time off, etc] my back was starting to feel vaguely wonky on the middle of the third lap, about 2:30 into the race. So I decided to pull off after three. Then I got up to the Finish line, rode past it, and I felt good. The momentary joy from passing the cheering crowd and the relatively-somewhat-almost-okay feeling in my legs convinced me to keep going.
It's at that point that I blew the tire off in the double dip, not realizing it until I was a hundred or so yards past it (darn... it's hard to pedal... wonder why my front end is making that rubbing noise...). After spending a few minutes digging out the right stuff, deflating, re-inflating, and checking, I got back on the road. At this point, the errors in judgment started happening, and more than once I had to cram on the brakes in a corner because I was going to blow it and shoot off the hillside. The partially cramping lower back turning into a no-shit cramped upper back, and my legs cramped too in order to keep the upper back company. (Note to self: start hitting the upper body workouts in the gym at work). So I slowed wayyy down, and made a point of letting the hard charging sport class riders blow past me.
Eventually, it was up and around past the finish, and I pulled off at 3:30 or so. I could have managed another lap, but it would have been a bit reckless and considering today's training goal was "a nice long ride in the woods" I hit my goal. I think most of folks in my class probably did 5 laps, with the really strong folks knocking out 6. Nice ride, nothing to brag about, but I'll take it.
Afterwards I discovered that the best way to make friends is to bring extra icy cold watermelon chunks. Major recovery food, that watermelon...
Thursday, June 03, 2010
As I was pedaling home tonight in the near-dark through a heavy shower, a motorist honked at me. Realizing the motorist probably had trouble seeing me in the downpour, I reached down to turn on my rear light. Imagine my surprise to find it gone, stolen off my bike while it was parked in the office parking garage and I was off working today.
This gave me cause to think of you. First of all, however, I thought of my family. Road cycling is a little risky and I have a young son and a good wife to support. Cycling is a guilty indulgence for me, and it's turning into a gas saver now that I'm riding into work from near home - 22 miles on the short loop. But it's more of an indulgence than anything else and I already feel a little guilty about it. I would feel particularly guilty about getting needlessly injured while I ride. I therefore take steps to minimize the risk. One of these involved purchasing the brightest taillight I could find, the Knog Skink. It is just the ticket in bad weather and darkness, throwing off a laser beam that wakes up inattentive motorists and lets them know I am there.
Without that light, my commute is substantially more dangerous. I was thinking about that, and thinking about you, as I pedaled along in the rain. What kind of a low rent, amoral prison punk of a cyclist steals a $20 light from another cyclist? Who is so low that they'd endanger the life of another cyclist - and endanger a young boy's daddy, and a wife's husband - for $20?
Your parents must be proud of themselves for raising you to do this. Next time you see them, make sure you let them know you're the kind of adult who goes around stealing shit off other people's bikes. So what I want to know is what you do in your spare time - take money out of church collection plates? Trip elderly people as they hobble by on their walkers? Seriously, you and your midget version of morality are pretty scummy and I'm interested to know what your depraved little hobbies are.
You see, stealing people's bikes, or stealing things off their bikes, is an intensely personal thing. It's like groping a man's wife, or tearing up a woman's flower garden. It's a bit nastier than, say, shoplifting, because it violates personal space. It goes somewhere you don't get to go without permission. In this instance, you made my long and somewhat sketchy commute actually dangerous, because you took the one piece of equipment I rely on for safety from me. When you do something like that, you open yourself up for retaliation. Did you also loot some tail bags? I ask because I saw that a few tail bags on a couple bikes were open, and empty, and stealing spare inner tubes strikes me as the kind of thing you'd do, you feckless turd bucket.
So please, consider yourself on notice. I know you work in the building or the adjacent one, because it ain't a tourist garage; only people who work here park here. I know you probably ride a bike, likely a stolen one. Somebody who doesn't ride would have no use for the goofy mount on that light, and the kind of person who won't pay $15 to get their own adequate light, certainly wouldn't pay a couple hundred bucks for a bike, because that kind of person is a low rent asshole. I also know you're probably a moron who is counting on being able to indulge in your selfish little whims without any fear of retaliation, because after all, who is going to flip out over the theft of a little $20 light?
This guy is, that's who.
You will no doubt ride your shit ass bike to work, and one day you may forget to pocket the light before you get into the garage. Rest assured that if I can identify you, I'm going to knock your fucking teeth out, then pick them up and tape them to the bike rack as an example to other any other piece of shit thieves who stumble by the bike parking area.
I hope you enjoy the light. It's going to cost you a hell of a lot more than I paid for it, if I catch you.
Am I grumpy this week? Fuck yeah, I am.
Wednesday, June 02, 2010
I nearly saw a girl run down yesterday on my way down 9th Street in D.C. She was booking along in heavy traffic. I made room to let her by on the right. Cars were moving at about 15, she was doing maybe 20. By the odd happenstance of lights, she wound up a little ways in front of me when the road opened up. An asshole in a Jetta gassed it to get past her and went to turn right in front of her, cutting her off. She hollered and braked hard, he just stopped and sat there blocking her. Had anything happened, I was definitely stopping to stick around and be a witness for the cops. It was a bullshit maneuver on his part but what you'd expect.
Speaking of bullshit maneuvers... check out the film of a Miami-Dade bus driver running down a cyclist that is posted up over at Drunk Cyclist. But for the grace of God, there go I...
Now here's something that's pretty funny, and it may be a sign of (1) the apocalypse; (2) that we should all stop what we're doing and start drinking, hard. It's Ted Nugent speaking sense, more or less, about energy policy. It's in garbled, jacked up TedSpeak, but I think most of what he says is correct. Y'know, once you translate it into Englishy. Ted's thesis:
When gas prices go up, Americans condemn big oil for making profits. When catastrophes happen, such as the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, Americans demand that big oil be severely fined, demand more government oversight of the industry by a proven incompetent Fedzilla and demand that more safety features be implemented to prevent another oil spill while expecting gas prices to stay low.That sounds right... we want plentiful, low cost fuel, on a massive scale beyond the Fed's capability to regulate, and we want no environmental impact. I think that sums up the voters' sentiments about national energy policy pretty neatly. Ted goes on to more or less articulate a bunch of implications of that belief system, and why it isn't rational, in his editorial. He's a crazy sumbitch, but in his own way he speaks the truth as he sees it. I like him for that. And for the gnarliest 70's heavy rock anthem, Stranglehold.
That's a great song if you're climbing some long hills - like up at Thurmont. Good rhythm you can grind to, or double up on and tap a fast cadence. And I know this is midweek and you aren't used to music here right now, but I can't help myself:
"When in doubt, I whip it out, got me a rock 'n' roll band it's a free for all!" Yeah, Ted may be crazy but dang, he played some good music. Just as time would pardon Yeats because he wrote well, time will also pardon Nugent of his nuttiness because he gave us some great music.
Former University of Maryland student / porn star goes on killing spree... Terps representin!
In the wake of Cadel Evans covering himself in glory yet again, this time at the Giro ("I didn't punch that doggie..."), Ritte van Vlaanderen's excellent summary of Cadel bears further notice. Please click through.