"It never gets any easier. You just go faster." ---Greg Lemond
"Don't buy upgrades. Ride up grades." --- Eddy Merckx
"You drive like shit." ---The Car Whisperer

30.8.07



Born again hard.

If you had told me a year ago I'd be doing 22mph into a stiff head wind on the lakefront at 5am I'd have laughed in your face, then ordered another Jameson on the rocks from the bartender on a Monday night. I certainly never would have (and still wouldn't) have suggested it or came up with the idea, but that is what teammates are for. And there I was, this morning before the sun came up, drilling it into the wind for a three and a half minute interval, my 3rd of 6. And enjoying it.

The daylight was just beginning to peek over the horizon, a rich, juicy orange rimmed by a sugaring of azure blue. The wind gusted in my ears lustily, and I attacked into it with a vigor I didn't think could possibly exist before 9am, and then even on race day. I felt good. Really good. Strong, and powerful. Muscular and lean. Veiny.

Confident.

It certainly doesn't sound like a man who has recently joined the ranks of the unemployed, does it? I could have easily been curled up in bed, half-asleep, kicking myself for not getting up and missing out, tossing and turning and stressing over the coming challenges that await me these next few weeks. But instead I was soaking in the endorphins and the secrets that pre-dawn Chicago bestows only on a chosen few who dare seek her knowledge. No matter how hard it is to get up in the morning, to stand at that line, or to commit to that attack, it's always easy when you remind youself how good you are going to feel when it's all over and counted, no matter what the outcome.

I believe I have been born again. Born again hard. The last year was spent under a rock, digging and waiting, like a pulsing, mindless, eyeless grub. Racing, with it's commitments and demands, and it's natural networking and team building, got me out and into a cocoon. But Monday, when I got the news, was the catharsis. I'm out. Free and naked and wet and clean. There are pathways and roads leading everywhere. But every step forward now has a goal. And, lessons learned from my mistakes, away I go.

28.8.07

free

The sun rises only twice in your life.

The first time, you're too helpless, toothless, and weak to do anything but cry in it's blinding light.

The second time, most of us are too sleepy to care or notice.

But sometimes, the rays come streaming in through the venetian blinds, working their way through eyelids and bouncing around, faster and faster, black to purple to red...to orange, to pink...to blue. You blink, maybe sit up. Scratch.

Maybe you just go back to sleep and wake up in the dark. There will be no more sunrises.

But instead, some smell coffee. Freshly ground, earthy and lovely bitter, waiting in the bottom of a spotless, clean French press carafe, and the roiling water's squeal wailing like a tornado siren.

It's time to get up. You've got the whole day ahead of you.

Make it.

27.8.07

Sunday FunDay








"And That's Racing Folks!"

I became a bike racer yesterday.

Not content to just hang on, sit in, and roll in. Well, I still rolled in at the end of the morning's race, but not without the most fun I've had enduring 3 laps of hell all season.

The rain slacked off and drizzled to an end just as my mom and I arrived at Sherman Park. Situated between The Back of the Yards and West Englewood, the park is one of the true jewels of the Chicago's Southside, at least from what I could see. It was originally built at the beginning of last century as a bike racing venue. The outer part is ringed by the road - a graceful oval with no sharp turns. Inside that is a kind of moat, or self-contained creek. And within that - trees, manicured grasses, shrubs and the like, and finally a field in the center. No such parks of this stature exist on the Northside, as far I can tell. Most are under such heavy use as to mandate only softball and soccer fields. It's a thing of beauty to see these parks anchoring such gritty neighborhoods. One would think that under-use by the surrounding residents would bode ill for the Park's upkeep, but it is only underused as seen through the eyes of this Northside Yuppie. Just because there are no softball teams playing doesn't make it neglected or unappreciated. By midmorning there were several neighborhood folks walking the paths, enjoying the races and the sunshine, or fishing of one of the three stone bridges spanning the "moat."

We watched the 5s race as I got dressed and stretched, a continuous stream of bikers going by as it split up into several groups right away. I love seeing the 5s race as much as the pros. Unlike the 4s, especially, the disparity of racing knowledge and fitness among the riders rips the field up quickly, but even the no-hopers work together off the back, doing what they can to ensure the best placing possible. Newt Cole and Peter Strittmatter, two xXx-ers completely sandbagging due to lack of racing time, worked the front hard and fast. Newt unfortunately flatted out with 2 to go, but Peter came away with the 1st place on the podium.

I passed my camera to my mom and waited at the line with a small field loaded with xXx-ers. It was just then that I saw my friend Sarah, waiting for the race to start. I think she was the first friend who came out to see me race this season. It was good to have someone to race for! Others showed for the afternoon race, but it was about the morning race I was a bit nervous. Anyways, we got our instructions and squeezed just a little tighter and closer, trying to get ever last advantage, no matter how small. We rolled off just a few minutes behind schedule.



Immediately it was a train of us at the front laying down a fast pace in what was supposed to a relatively uncompetitive race late in the season. Compared to Evanston it was slow, but the first 5 laps resembled a team ride headed west out of Highland Park, each of us taking strong, hard pulls at around 27 - 28 mph. The pace stayed fast the whole time, and aside from the potholes and puddles, it was a smooth race due to the lack of any sharp turns.

A couple primes were announced but both times I had just come off a pull and riders were accelerating past me on both sides when it came time to be in position. As we came around with 5 or 6 to go, however, the bell rang again. I remembered it only as we came around the back of the oval, and I was soft-pedaling around 80 per cent in the draft, about 3 wheels off the front. I waited for the pace to accelerate, as would have much sooner, earlier on in the race. But everyone one else was tired from having chased down teammate Brean on his earlier flier, and also smelling the finish line. I figured this was the time to go. Baby steps, so go grab that prime. "What the hell?" I thought, and hammering away I went.

Photo by Luke Seemann


At first I thought I may have gone too soon, but as I finally reached the rise at about 100 yard to the line, I looked behind expecting to see a train of wheel suckers waiting to embarrass me, but I was treated to a welcome sight of only pavement and a huge gap. I still sprinted to the line and rechecked. The gap was even larger. Teammates were blocking.

"Well, Brain (not a typo). It's just me and you." Let's go.



So I was on my own, and held it for just over 3 laps. Brian Stockmaster urged me on the pace car, but as I ticked off the laps, I felt myself getting more and more desperate. Considering my goal of a top-10 finish today it was a pretty stupid move. I blew up crossing the line with 2 to go, and the pack was closing. I figured I better count my chips now and find a wheel for the end game. So I sat up, but slowed too much and barely grabbed onto the end as riders swarmed me on all sides. I had been hearing my name called on each lap of my flier by teammate and emcee Brandon Antoniewicz calling the race at the announcers booth. But strangely, it was most enjoyable as I heard it the last time, crossing the line with one to go, barely hanging on to the end of the pack:

"...and that's racing folks!" I heard from the dark depths of oxygen depletion. "Brian Morrissey tried..." and then it faded with any chances I had on that last lap. I tried for one more flier up the left side to deperately try to make up ground. I passed maybe 3 or 4 riders but the rest of the pack was just accelerating with me, and my legs grew even more leaden. My breath was coming in hoarse rasps as I futilely tried to stay in the draft. The fight just left me. I wasn't going to place and I knew I was done. But I was happy.

I had finally raced. I've had good finishes this year: an 8th place in Wheaton and 14th at Spring Prairie. But the former was just dumb luck and the latter was riding to stay alive. Today I put into practice what I've been slowly learning all season and was catalyzed at Elk Grove. "If you're not moving forward, you're moving back." I had made a move. A move that stuck, for a while anyways. Next year, I'll come to the fight with a sharper spade, and in this situation, which I plan to be in, I'll be able to dig deeper for a much happier ending.

I raced again later that day in the 3/4s, and easily met my goal for that event. I only wanted to take my pulls at the front, help keep things fast, and prove to my teammates I belonged in the 4s. Twice I took long rides sucking wheels to the front, early on with a Get a Grip rider and later with teammate Brian Boyle. The former was on a prime lap, and as soon as I realized I was going to be second wheel too early on I should've pulled out and looked for a better position. But I guess I was wondering just how far this guy would get me along.

Not far enough. He bailed off leaving me in the wind much too early but since my only purpose was to hammer, again I figured, "what the hell," and attacked. I swear I heard from behind me someone yelling "Too soon, Brian!" but I had already committed. I stayed in the lead and at around 100 yards to go I checked under my arm, and sure enough, there was the train of wheel suckers. Just as I tried a futile attempt out of my saddle three of them blew past me.

A good lesson in balancing recovery with pace came next as I was swarmed and nearly dropped. I told myself to breathe and stay glued to a wheel, instant recovery isn't possible. Gradually I dropped back to manageable territory, and a few laps later was stringing things out with Brian Boyle.

The were a couple close calls crashwise. I got bumped in tight quarters mid-race but held myself upright by staying cool, in between a multi-rider crash earlier and a single Get a Grip rider going down on the last lap. I swerved to the left each time, as I strangely found myself riding inside almost the entire race. It was a bunch sprint behind the break-winner Matt Smith of Big Shark. As in Elk Grove it was clogged at the finish and I had to slow as I came up between the barriers and teammate Chris Lozniak just before the line.

I was very happy to finish with the pack in my first real 4s race, and definitely hanging in there and spending some time at the front with the 3s. It was as fast as I thought it would be, but it was nowhere near being out of my league.



The Brians pulling:


"Mmmmmm. Elbow."
Photo by Luke Seemann


My season is almost over, the team time trial on the 9th in Utica will be my last event before I take some time off for music and some rest and recovery. Speaking of which, please take a look at my next entry. I spent all day at Experimental Sound Studios with Shrieking Violet today. I've posted some rough mixes. They're not close to being done yet, but it will give you taste to whet your appetite for a live show, hopefully.

23.8.07

Question...

What's the deal with the "road construction" wherein they simply rip out a strip of pavement only to repave over it again 2 weeks later?

I would guess this was some sort of racket between the union and the city to prop up job hours, but Chicago is completely free of any corruption, so that couldn't be the case. Well, today was the first time I actually saw crews working. 8 crewmen and two steamrollers for about 500 square feet of repaving at the corner of Elston and Kedzie. Traffic was backed up past Belmont. Excellent. I usually only see their handiwork for the first time upon realizing I have a pinch flat.

The city that works. If they need job hours so badly why did it take Milwaukee Avenue so long to get repaved through Wicker Park? 2 summers before this was done they completely resurfaced North Avenue between Damen and Ashland 3 times in as many months! And what about the Oak Street Beach curve on the Path? Or between Monroe and Roosevelt? Something tells me the distribution of road work funds among the aldermen at a city council meeting resembles a 2nd grade lunch table of 2 fat bullies - who've already had more than their fair share - and 5 skinny kids all fighting over 3 cookies.

22.8.07

Let's Go to the Races!!!

Hi Friends,

As you all know, at the great risk of life and limb, I have taken up the sport of bike racing this summer. It has certainly had it's ups and downs, crash-ups and beat-downs, top-tens and tap-outs. It's been a ton of fun through it all, and I'll always look back on my first year in "real" cycling and not have to wonder, "what if" or have one ounce of regret. Except for that urine test.

And so I invite you to come and see the fruits of my labors, this Saturday, 8/25 in Sherman Park, on Chicago's Southside for xXx Racing's annual Sherman Park Criterium. There could hardly be a more beautiful location for a bike race in the city, as this park was designed for it. I will be racing twice on Saturday: At 8:45 and 1:30. In between I will be volunteering and watching many other exciting heats. There are races for beginners such as myself, and for women and men of all levels, including the Pros. See the links before the locations and schedule.

It would really mean a lot for you to come and show some support. Bike racing is hard. REALLY hard, and having friends on the sideline cheering really makes a difference.

See you Saturday!
Brian

Click here for Location

Click here for Schedule


Hump Day

Some random thoughts for Hump Day:

But first - Phhhhhffffffeeeewwwwffffftttttt!!!

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At lunch today, sitting at the bar of Bandera with my friend Loren, we ate, talked and watched CNN on the TV. There was one of those teasers, for some upcoming expose called: "The Dark Side of Polygamy: One Woman's Escape." This would assume that CNN believes there is a good side. "Coming up...The Totally Awesome Side to Polygamy: One Lucky Fuck in Utah."

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I have been getting really annoyed at idle chit chat lately. And especially the type where it's obvious the person chatting is on complete autopilot. It's rotten of me to think so, and I should just be a nicer person, but I believe if you don't have anything meaningful, or at least worthwhile to say, a smile and "hi" will do just fine. There is one woman at my office, for example, who can only talk to me about biking. My biking, specifically. No matter what the weather is she will ask me, as she were Sandy Duncan, if I "rode in this awful weather today." It could either be paradise outside, or hell had frozen over. And my answer is always "yes." And on the one day I don't, because I was going someplace or doing something it would be inconvenient to ride to, I must have finally, "given up, huh?!" Or, she ask me if I crashed again. Come into the office one day 18 months ago banged up from a crash and that will be the image people have of you for the rest of your tenure. Rashed-up face, split-lip, broken nose. "So ya haven't CRASHED yet again, have ya?!" Does it look I crashed again, Sandy? I actually had to tell her to stop asking that before she finally jinxed me. Other times, you can't really blame people. Such as at a family reunion, especially. Distant 2nd cousins, once removed and the like, all standing around, drinking Diet Rite and eating Cheese and Crackers. You have to say something. But of all the topics I don't want to chat about for the 5th time in 10 minutes, explaining my job to a Midwestern housewife is definitely one of them. And, yes, the Big City certainly IS exciting. And seeing how you live in Madison, I'll have to take a pass on getting on that blind date with your neighbor's daughter's friend.

---------

I am really looking forward to these next few months. Recording and touring and gigging. It's been a long time since I've had a good road story. I think tonight I'll write about a couple good ones. Warning, they aren't exactly family material, either.

20.8.07

The Family Label

Stop lights, your job, and your favorite TV shows may change, but your beer and your family are forever. The Conrad Reunion (otherwise known as Cheese and Crackers 2007) comes but once a year, and the chance to have a cold one with my Uncle Jack and cousin Rick at the Trivial Pursuit game is the penultimate. Nothing gets in the way.

Not even the training. The family force is unstoppable. We arrived at my Aunt Judy's new condo in the Southwest Milwaukee 'burbs on Friday night. It seemed serendipitous at first: awaiting Rick and I were giant plates of linguine, homemade-homegrown pasta sauce, crusty loaves of the fresh baked bread and bowls of homemade-homegrown pesto to smear on it. Friendly faces to greet us, wine glasses to tempt us, and the ice cold Old Style sang my name from inside the fridge.

It was almost useless from the start to resist.

I was planning on being up for a training ride at 6:15 to make one of either two training rides in Milwaukee the next morning. There was the Transition Cycles ride out of Pewaukee, but I knew I had to bike 13 miles one of the city's busiest state highways to get there, so I was already rationalizing not making that on my ride up with my parents, just in from Alaska, that afternoon. I had also made a call to Rainbow Jersey Cycles earlier that day and heard about a ride that left from Atwater Park, just north of the city along the lake, possibly at 9am(ish).

"You have to get up at 6am to do what?"

We, us cyclists who hang out with mostly non-cyclists, have heard this reaction many times. And if you are musician - or engage in any other extra curricular that requires late night and weekend action - you know the marginalized feeling of explaining why you're about to head to bed on a Friday night. Riding 70 miles on a Saturday morning to the average person definitely does not seem like something which to sacrifice a Friday night out with friends.

But we know differently. Hitting your stride at 8:30, 20 miles in, pulling 12 teammates up a long false flat, your bike computer in for repairs, and the pain your legs and no one attacking past is the only feedback you have. Nothing feels better as you move off and they come past, each thanking you for taking them up.

Don't get me wrong, there is a balance. My friends mean a lot to me, and I will make room. Those of us who struggle to find this balance got into this sport pretty late in life, hence the mostly non-cycling friends. You certainly don't want to come home from a team ride some fine Saturday afternoon and find out they've all given up on you. But we still fight the fight so that we can reach for everything we want. Because there's nothing worse that regret. No matter how much it sucks to get up at 6am to ride, or how nervous you get at the starting line, what keeps you going is the knowledge of how good you are going to feel at the end. Or, pulling your teammates and friends up a long hill.

But family brings a different weight to bear. You just can't get up from a conversation with your mother whom you see only once a year to go leave for bed. And sitting on a back porch, reminiscing about years and reunions past as the sun sets, another beer and handful of the cheese and crackers seem to be just the perfect thing in all the world. You only see them once a year, and cycling is such a cumulative sport. The family wins. You will ride the day after. I won't see many of these family members again for months.

So I woke up at 6:15 to turn off the alarm, and finally got up around 7:30. I filled my bottles with water and my jersey pockets with gear, and rolled out around 8:15. I'd mapmyride but when I tried earlier, the satellite pics were out of date and much of the second part was out of date. I headed east to the lake on Center, and turned north once I reach Humboldt Boulevard. After a mile or so I found Milwaukee's great Oak Leaf trail and rode that to Santa Monica, then west on Silver Spring, to Green Bay Road.

I got in several tempo intervals heading through Milwaukee's north side and the north 'burbs. Traffic was very light, and I at one point I past a pack of older cyclists geared up and heading south. Heart still pounding, I shouted across the highway, "Where you headed?"

"Alterra Coffee!" was the reply.

Then I decided they looked to be moving slower, and they had several (married?) couples off the back, and as much as the temptation for conversation was, I opted to continue drilling it north. That is, until I reached a merge with Highway 100 and the traffic load got considerably sketchier. There I had to ease my way past a set of entrance/exit ramps so I turned around at the next mall parking lot and headed back south along the same route.

I actually passed Silver Spring this time and caught another section of the Oak Leaf trail as well as the group of coffee riders I passed earlier. I rode behind them, but soon stopped to check my map. I got my bearings and remembered a coffee shop at the corner of Humboldt and Center and made that my immediate goal. I pulled up to Fuel Cafe and gave the counter girl a look that said, "OK if I bring this in here?" I got the nod and came in for a couple espressos, a cookie, and the remaining Clif Bar in my pocket.

It was as hipster-friendly as any Humboldt Park or Pilsen coffee shop here in Chicago. Even more so because smoking was allowed. It was wooden, worn, and weary looking, yet clean, save for the tobacco haze. 20 minutes later I pulled up and rolled out, heading south and then east to the Lake on North Avenue, picking up the bike trail again at Oakland. I went past the lakefront grounds, then in the midst of Irishfest, down around the harbor entrance, and through the third ward, in search of the Hank Aaron State Trail. The wind was blowing out of the Southeast, and it was a grey slate sky that matched the water.

I eventually found my coffee seeking friends at Alterra Coffee, Milwaukee's answer to Intelligentsia. I got some directions and another double espresso, and took off. A left, two rights, and another left, and I was heading west through the Menominee River Valley, winding my way to Miller Park and beyond. I finished my on the Menominee River Parkway, back to Burleigh Road and back to Rick's house just a bit after 11am. And there was the feeling. Of not one ounce of regret, and so glad, solo or not, that I rode. Especially noting the rain just beginning to fall and 2200 calories my computer said I burned during.

Two hours later we headed off to Uncle Bob's and the official reunion and platefuls of bratwurst and a cooler full of Old Style. The reunion went on, and everyone asked me how the ride was. I was much happier to be able to answer that question than to talk about my job for the 5th time that night. Trapped inside as the rain came down made it a little harder to escape the idle chitchat and the awkward conversations, but for the most part it was wonderful to see everyone, and satisfied weariness settled in like the sunset, aging with the evening.

A fun moment came when my mom's cousin Kathy put me on the phone after I responded to a conversation about her son's reading assignment that The Grapes of Wrath was one of my favorite books of all time.

"It's not about his writing ability, and get over the crappy metaphors," I told him. "You are reading the words of a person who experienced the Westward Migration and the Great Depression first hand. A lot of people get the same enjoyment out of Hemingway as well. They don't like his terse, perfunctory style, but his prose is history alive of the American expatriates of the early 20th Century."

That sums up my family reunions, whether it's a simple weekend with Rick and Uncle Bob, or the entire living tree shows up to fill an entire backyard, or kitchen, weather prohibiting. Lively conversation, huge laughs, awkward moments and lost tempers alike. It supersedes everything. And that's how the weekend worked out so perfectly. That a great ride was able to fit so neatly in between, it all seemed meant to be.

18.8.07

Wisconsin Roots

Beer Run.

B Double E Double R U N, Beer run!
B Double E Double R U N, Beeeeer ruuuuuuun...
All we need is a ten and a fiver
A car and key and a sober driver
B Double E Double R U Ennnn, Beer run.

Up in Milwaukee this weekend. Overslept my club ride I found, so I did 50 solo miles this morning and have been at my uncles since 2pm on a steady IV of Old Style and bratwurst.

Riding back to Chicago from Kenosha tomorrow, in the rain, it's looking like.

Good times.

16.8.07

Good Morning, Chicago

I thought, just for a second, about getting out of bed this morning at quarter-to-five and joining some teammates for their early morning interval session at Montrose Harbor. Then I felt the cool sheets on my cheek and I hugged my blanket like a four year old and rolled over. I still managed to get up at 6 and roll out around 6:30. Coffee First. I wanted to get a picture of the city at sunrise - and although too late for that, it was still a nice view down around Diversey Harbor. The orange glow filtered through the haze and splashed lightly off of the buildings. I pulled off and got out my digital camera. Only to find out the batteries were dead.

I have to got to get better at making sure I have power in that damn thing when I need it. I lead an interesting enough life and take decent enough pictures that it is worth it to always have the camera at the ready. So next week I'll post one. It'll be better anyways. I originally wanted to get up at 5:30 and ride south to 55th, and then over to Sherman Park for a little pre-race riding. I think I'll do this a couple times next week. I've fallen out of the habit of getting up before 7:30 lately, so up at 6am was pretty good, relatively speaking.

Funny that today I missed my regular route downtown. I wonder if anybody else saw this: my cube neighbor April said her friend, who works at a bakery, got his hands on a bunch of leftover bread last night, and so he decided to make breakfast. As in, French Toast for every bike commuter that passed through Milwaukee and Division this morning.

Mmmmmmm. French Toast. I will get some this weekend. I can't wait to go to Milwaukee this weekend. Not specifically for French Toast, but I guess I can get some at George Webb. Actually going for my family reunion.

And speaking of getting served, look at this. Only in Japan could this many people be in the water at the same time and not have a riot.

15.8.07

Hump Day

This is the Dan Bern song I was referring to in my Elk Grove write-up: "Tiger Woods". Triple X-ers: this is required Race Day listening from now on (right click and "save link as"). It's the ultimate song to psyche yourself up. Not only Race Day, but a job interview, asking a hot girl for her phone number, stealing your neighbors patio furniture, or even going shopping at Costco.

Check out the newest additions to the "Friends, Faves, and Freaks" column to the right. But first, check out these (way too many) words on G n' R's "Sweet Child o' Mine."
"[The song] narrates and enacts the latter 20th Century’s transition from myopically romantic optimism to increasingly troubling disillusion."
Uh-huh...somewhere, some morning, Slash read this, farted, had a sip of bourbon, and then farted again.

Anyways, bikesnobnyc is the website for you if you find yourself laughing, scratching your head, or ranting and frothing at the lower points of Bike Culture. The Bike Snob has a particular affinity for revealing the true (custom powder painted) colors of the current fixie movement, now on the downslope of it's trendiness curve, where Skateboarding was at the end of the 1980s.

There's really nothing to say about fixie culture that the Bike Snob hasn't already, so I'll leave it at this: the trajectory of it's trendiness in nothing new (ala my skateboarding comparison) but it's got a unique bit of sadness to it, because it evolved out of the bicycle's utilitarian side. Messengers originally started using track bikes back in the 60's and 70's because they were so cheap. Track racing was at a complete nadir from it heyday back in the early 20th century, and a messenger could buy a brand new track bike for 20 bucks. They were akin to surf and ski bums. Live to ride, ride to live, on a literal level. And as always, the essence of any culture is co-opted by others who somehow manage to glean something deeper for it, where nothing was before. But depth is certainly not to be found in custom powder painted beater frames, toptube pads, colored chains, and going brakeless on city streets overrun with impatient drivers and garbage trucks with sightlines that don't go below 6 feet. No brakes isn't art. It's stupid.

14.8.07

You look

You look sexy in your glasses.
You blink at me, your smile surpasses
All the good words said to me
All the kind things done for me.

Your voice is funny, careless, light -
Dancing on a wave like the moon might
At night on the beach, yet deep and sultry
Like the rumble of the surf whispering gently.

13.8.07

...and one more observation.

Look at the "labels" column to the right. Look at the top of it. Now look at third from the bottom.

Art imitates life. (Sigh.)

12.8.07

Tour of Elk Grove, Part II: Something Clicked (or was that just my knee?)

(Photos by Luke Seemann)

I woke up this morning not wanting to go anywhere except back to bed. Sleep was was so-so last night, with a car alarm reseting a few times outside my window around 2am. And then the venetian blinds nearly being ripped of it's mounting by the winds from the passing storm. I had prepacked everything the night before, so by time 6:30 am rolled around, my only items on the to-do list were to put my bibs on, eat a bowl of cereal, and grab 40 winks on the couch before Mark Watkins called me to tell me he was outside.

Today's race, save the cringe-inducing crash that neutralized the race at 22 minutes to go, was thoroughly enjoyable and was, at least I think, a break-though for me. All weekend really, but definitely today. Gone was the "oh-shit" feeling as I came around each corner, over-geared, then under-geared, riding at redline to catch on to the back of the pack.




I was still up and back constantly, unable to play much into excellent teamwork and punishment the rest of the xXx-ers were laying onto the peleton. I would get up to the front, find a wheel, try and catch my breath, and the next thing I knew I was being passed on both sides and finding all my work for naught once again. But I think I found the "feel", "touch", of gearing down before the turns, diving in and sprinting out, all within the draft of the wheel in front, and then attack and make up ground. With all the talk of the danger of these turns presented this weekend in Elk Grove, this weekend was the safest and most confident I'd felt in the lean during my entire brief racing career. That was click #1.

The front 180 U-turn:



Number 2 was finding a right gear to hammer in and stay with the acceleration of the pack after the turns. The realization of course, came with the previous click of making sure I am on a wheel coming out of the turn. So many times before I would come out, shift up once, and spin out without realizing I was spinning out. I finally looked down at my computer sometime during the race today and saw my cadence around 125. The pack was still moving away, and I was going anaerobic. Nothing new. I upshifted, only thought form (and an accelerating train) and it happened. I caught back with relative ease, and I didn't get gapped again for the entire race.

I still fell back again on the last lap however. Sometimes the nervousness still hits me at the hairy parts when I need to be more aggressive. It was really stringing out after the back 180 turn, and I was way off the front for the final left before the home stretch. But, I remembered the feel of my gearing "discovery" and thought only of force and speed. I was surprised to see myself flying past rider after rider, going faster than the day before, and just below redline. Or maybe I was above, but the joy of passing so many riders and feeling so strong negated any of the pain that was torturing me the day before.

I was approaching the main bunch sprint from the behind, but could only get out of the saddle for a few seconds, because I was about to run into a wall of riders. There was no around and the only thing to do was slow down and call it a race and 38th place finish. I tried to throw past teammate Rick Dearworth, but missed by just a few inches. Anyways, never do that to somebody who gives you a ride to the race and introduces you to the music of Dan Bern. Madonna. Rome. Too soon, too soon. Although she's getting kind of old, so I'm going ahead with.

xXx - Athletico cleaned up the Top Ten, and just narrowly missed the podium. Mark Watkins missed third place by about 1/2 a bike length. Michael Kirby came in with 6th, Jacques Cartier was right behind with 7, and El President, Bob Willems, grabbed 10th. Other teammates were working hard at the front as well, and ensured this great placing.

Chris Sheriptis sacrificing it all, he and Jacques laying the hurt down on the peleton:


The final sprint:


I felt like a chump for not being able to stay up front and missing all of the action. But, click number 3 happened on the ride home with Mark. He said to me: "If you aren't moving forward, you're moving backwards." That was like getting slapped in the face. Of course. Always keep looking for a good wheel, but don't ever be satisfied. Keep trying to move forward, even at the front. Take your pull, get off, and you're moving forward again. But the whole time, you still looking for that wheel, and banking calories even as you are moving up. Bike racing is all about balance. Between the physical and mental. Between intensity and rest. Of pain and relief.



All tallied in the end, it was an extremely fun weekend of racing, and I learned a ton. Enough, dare I say, that I guarantee a Top 10 at Sherman Park in two weeks in the Master's 4/5s...(just making sure you're still reading. Ha.) I'm also upgrading this week and I'll race the 3/4s race that afternoon. It will probably be my last race of the season before I turn it all over to music full-time for fall, and my parents will be there as well, so I better make the most of it!

Oh, if anyone who's reading this has any information regarding the rider who crashed, please email me or post a comment about his status. I sincerely hope he is OK.

11.8.07

Tour of Elk Grove, Part I: Focus Pokus

(Photos by Luke Seemann)

It was almost over before it began and I was still completely gassed at the end.

Today was the 1st edition of two days of racing in Elk Grove Village. It's almost 12 straight hour of bike racing on Saturday and Sunday, with every category represented from Big Wheels to the Pros. There was a parking lot full of venders with everthing from local bike shops to one of xXx's bigger sponsors, Goose Island Brewery. I would just like to throw a big shout out to GIB for their free water for xXx-ers today. And the complimentary glass of Orange Creme Soda (real sugar, baby) they gave me with my 2 chicken andouille sausages.

Rick picked me up at noon after I spent the morning waiting in vain for the Comcast Cable guy to come and fix my internet. At least I was able to get a good sweaty hour on the trainer. (Of course, when I returned home it was fixed on it's own - hence this blog entry. Comcast does it's best work when they don't do anything.) We arrived less than an hour later in the growing heat, and I got in a decent warm up with Jon Dugas on the suburban streets before the first heat of the Category 5s went off, about 20 minutes late. Jon and I stood in the staging area just behind the finishing line in the middle of the boulevard and watched the four laps.

The course was a big L shape, with only 1 right turn. At each end were two 180 degree u-turns. The first Cat 5 race eventually broke apart into about 4 or 5 groups, but xXx had 2 riders in the top ten - Newt Cole grabbed fourth and just missed the podium, and Erik Dridriksen got ninth.

Jon and I were the only xXx-ers in the seconds heat. The race started out at a fairly decent paces, yet I felt much stronger than I did in my last race, the debacle at Evanston. I recall coming around the home stretch for the first time, sitting 10th wheel or so, riding around 27 - 28mph. For much of the first 2 laps I went from the very back of the main group to pulling on the front. But not for very long.

I felt I had a lot more focus in this race, which was a victory in itself. I'm a very ADD person, and much of first 10 races I've spent undergeared, overgeared, getting gapped at turns, simply too overstimulated just protecting my wheel and riding an entire race at 85% and above.

Coming past the line on the 3rd lap, 2 to go, I grabbed a great position on the left front side of the pack and sucked on a strong wheel, about 3 or 4 wheels back. Jon Dugas was either pulling or sitting second wheel for the whole first half of the lap. At this point I was just sitting in, waiting to see what would happen. For the first time in a criterium I felt strong and comfortable at the front, and I was able to focus on more than just protecting my wheel. I even had to fight for my position a few times, once returning a couple of elbows to a guy who directly tried to force me off. The race was going to be over too quickly for anything to really develop, and nothing had gone off up to that point.

And then of course, just as I was thinking this, there went the first attack, by a Vision Quest rider sitting 2nd wheel to the left in the echelon formation. Jon immediately gave chase. Since I was boxed in on all sides, the decision was made for me that I would stay and block. I sat of 2nd or third wheel, and pulled the main pack a bit around the right turn and subsequent 180, and then pulled off to immediately grab 2nd wheel again.

Jon's break:


Not really sure what happened after this point except that it got pretty fast. I not only lost my focus, I lost my position coming into the last lap and was running at red line from there after. I was in the pack but unable to hold onto any one wheel for very long. Jon was caught with less than half a lap to go, and I found myself in a familiar position at the last 180 turn: being out of position as the rest of the pack accelerated for the home stretch.

I ended up with a 23rd placing out of a pack of 50 that started. A good race for me, with not a great finish. I say good because I still accomplished a lot. I stayed mentally in the game for most it, which is much better than I have done in previous fast criteriums like this. Plus, my goal at this level is not win, but to learn as much as I can so I can start winning when it counts: in the 4s. I still could've and should have finished better.

I think I was a bit undergeared at the end. I felt like I was spinning pretty fast and still not able to make up ground. Those anaerobic moments are my weakest, and my muscle memory and form really fall off at those points. The pain in my legs is almost numbing, I pound away at ground, neglecting the other 270 degrees of my spin. I probably wasn't in the drops either, until the 200 meter mark, and by then the pack as speeding away. I did get one minor victory: a rider in front had just fallen off the finish and was sitting up. I got out of the saddle and sprinted past him to the line.

It looks hot, don't it?!


It definitely wasn't one of my finer ends to race this year, but I definitely learned a lot, and found a lot more focus than in previous races. I am not going to get frustrated by not finishing well. I race because I love to go fast and to ride with other great cyclists. I will do what comes naturally to me in the pack, not make the same mistake twice (or try to - it seems to be a hobby of mine), and ride as hard and as smart I can. As long as I keep learning and trying new things, I will become a better racer.

I also saw the definite pay off of intensity in my training, and realize I need a lot more. The key will be to find a good balance to take me to the end of the season without overdoing it. I don't have much of a foundation, as I've said before, and building on a weak foundation can bring the whole house down.

It was damn hot day as well. I felt I had drank enough water today, guzzling water constantly all day yesterday and today, up to the start of the race. But coming through the back stretch of the first lap I was already feeling the dry mouth, and I wasn't sweating as much as I should have.

Tomorrow should be a better race. It will be faster, as the payouts, with primes, are $5,000. $600 goes to the winner, so that is one sprint I do not want to miss.

10.8.07

Macbonds

I have a feeling we just finishing up Act VI here.

Barry Bonds would be perfectly at home in a Shakespearian tragedy. The irony of his current situation follows so closely to that of Macbeth it is almost tragic. Sorry.

Yet, here we are. A great baseball player, a sure lock for the Hall of Fame. The perfect all-around player: hits for average, fast on the base paths, and plays the field well. He could easily finished his career up in 2003 or so with 500 home runs, and 500 stolen bases. He's close to 3000 hits now, but in actuality his best years for average were between '01 and '04. Which leads me to the irony.

Steroids don't really do much for a slugger. Probably 90% of hitting a home run is simply making contact with the ball. It's the hardest thing to do in sports, it has been said. Power does come into the equation sure, as does the percentage of fast twitch muscles, which is probably the part were steroids affect the equation. However, the biggest role for performance enhancing drugs, especially for a player striving to reach a goal that has much more to do with career longevity than power, is it's effect on recovery.

Steroids allow for muscle and joint recovery to happen much quicker, and it's benefits for an older baseball player in the regard are undeniable. Barry Bonds has never hit more than 49 home runs in a season except for that one year. For the most part he's been a day in, day out 35-45 home runs a season. It's just when he's still doing at age 40, then 41, and...wait...42?! (really?!) is what is remarkable, and what has gotten to the event of breaking Hank Aaron's record earlier this week.

If it hadn't been for the steroids, we would seen the injuries take over, the starts diminish, and a great player having the sunset of his career around 2002. Instead, from 2000 to 2004 Bonds hit for an average .341 and 307 home runs. Not exactly an evening stroll after dinner for an old man.

The man could've had it all if he'd just left things to their natural course. Respect, adulation, and a bust in the Hall of Fame. Instead, he wasn't satisfied with his accomplishments and became mired in jealously over others (ill-gotten) fame - McGwire and Sosa. For some reason his current career path wasn't good enough and it had to be all about the home runs. So it was - his fatal flaw. So then Barry Bonds had arguably one of the best 5 year runs in history, let alone for a player over 35.

And at what cost? He has arrived at Baseball hallowed ground with Babe Ruth and Hank Aaron's record in shatters, and what has happened to the respect and adulation? Gone, under all the speculation of steroid abuse. And it's pretty obvious to anyone who has been paying attention, to the released court documents, to all the parties involved, that it is much more than just speculation.

And just as in any other tragedy, when the deed is finally done and people begin to talk, the man with the fatal flaw begins to wilt and sag under the crushing weight of the guilt and shame and realization that had he just let things be he'd be much better off.

9.8.07

Free Baconators

It's going to take all night to wash the grease stain out of Tribune Plaza.

Doesn't Wendy's have enough of their own stores that they have to take over public space to hawk their burgers? Who controls that space? I hope that if it's the Tribune, they exercise full disclosure the next time the run an article on the American Obesity Epidemic. Much like society as whole, 60% of the line waiting for a free Baconator was morbidly obese.

And it's not just confined to Tribune Plaza. All up and down the Mag Mile I was accosted by assholes wearing stupid red wigs with wired braids - "Did you get yer Wendys?! A-heee-yulck!"

Our public space in these modern times are our temples. And they are being sold to the highest bidder:
Jeremiah 7:11
11Has this house, which is called by My name, become a den of robbers in your eyes? Behold, even I have seen it, saith the LORD.

Geese, Payback, and A.B.

First, a clarification about the geese comment. Yesterday was the xXx fitness-check time trial. Everyone on the team meets up at McFetritch St (the east/west street that's just north of Soldier Field) and the Lake Shore Path, right next to that big steel monument to Chicago's families, or mothers or whatever. We go off at 2 minutes intervals, heading south to the turn-around point at the 52nd St. overpass. Then head back, pretty simple. Except for the geese on the path. These things are lazier than pigeons. Even when, what must look like some kind of frothing, panting monster, comes barreling at them at 25 miles an hour, they refuse to get out of the way. Coming back I had to scream at one, lest his dumb neck get tangled up in my spokes. However, teammate Matt Moran informed me that they do respond well to honking. Yes, honking. He demonstrated a good one for me. I needed another hour of endurance yesterday, so I headed back out at lunch and tried it out. Worked pretty well. So remember, give a couple loud honks as you approach the gaggle of stubbornness sitting in your way, and they will move.

By the way, I continue to improve. My first effort back in April was 29 minutes flat for the 9.7 mile route. Just over an average of 20 miles an hour. It was a brutally cold and windy day however, not to mention, it was probably the first time I had ever ridden that hard in my life. My second effort six weeks later netted me a large improvement at 26.40 on another equally windy and crappy day. On my 3rd installment of the FCTT I clocked in at an RCH under 26 minutes - 25.58. And yesterday I knocked over a half-minute off it, at 25.23. Yeah!

Payback

Speaking of my lunch time ride... As I was headed back north yesterday, around that section that juts out right next to the water, just south of the 35th street skate park, I passed this absolutely gorgeous woman on a nice bike. She was moving well, had good form, looked pretty experienced. Except she was wearing no helmet. So I thought I'd have a little fun. "Where's your lid?" I asked as I pulled up along side her. She grinned and replied, "It's in San Francisco."

"You know, we may not be as hip as San Fran, but we do have bike shops here in Chicago."

She didn't think it was very funny, and told me, in more choice words, to ride on. Which I did, without further comment. However, less than a half-mile later, a got a flat. And I had stupidly neglected to transfer my tube and pump in my backpack to my jersey pockets before heading out. She came by about a minute later.

"Why don't you go find a bike shop!"

Somebody did stop, on account of my team jersey, and donated a tube and some air. Turns out he knew one of my teammates, Nico. Nico, if you read this, email me and I will pass along his name. Your father sold him his house.

A.B.

A.B was the owner of the little shop across from the security desk at the entrance to 410 N. Michigan, the North Tower of the Wrigley Building. He always greeted you with a cheerful hello in his thick Pakistani accent, if he wasn't on the phone, or always tried to hilariously upsell you a beverage with your banana or granola bar: "Sumt'ingk too dreenk??" He's been a fixture in the building for as long as I've worked here.

Every once in a while the gate would be drawn, if he'd decided to take a day off, but it was never more than just a day. However, it has been closed since Monday morning, and today we were told that A.B. had died on Saturday.

It made me sad, and I felt like a writing a few words about him here. I only knew him through the few dozen or so words he'd spoken to me, but he was as much a part of the Wrigley Building as it's Clock Tower, or the brass molding over it's elevators.

8.8.07

7.8.07

Fat Bottomed Girls

Last year I purchased a mint copy of Queen's Jazz off of ebay. I wanted the Bicycle Races poster that came with it.



I am finally getting it framed.

Having a really rough day at work today, and I am listening to "FBG" right now, via iTunes. Nothing picks me up faster. But I will also note that this LP is one of the best sounding recordings I have. It's richer than fresh gelato and deeper than the Grand Canyon. It's so alive with sound my living room is literally shaking. And sometimes I just like to open the album casing and stare at the 2 cover spread picture of their recording studio, and drool. But not as much as over the poster.

Random Tuesday

Random thoughts for the morning:

When it's storming early in the morning in that half sleep area before your alarm goes off, the sound of the rain and thunder makes me have this recurring dream that I'm a flood-rescue worker. I'm constantly diving back in to rescue people. I think there was a helicopter in it this morning. My friends are always in the dream, although they alternate.

Once, at bible camp, an archery instructor accidentally shot a girl camper in the arm.

When I was a little kid of about 5 or 6, before I sat down to watch Saturday morning cartoons - before my mom was even up - I'd make myself a snack of graham cracker and Kraft singles sandwiches. To this day I can still taste them.

6.8.07

The Orphanage

The clouds were giant white stacks, contrasted by the orangish haze of early sunset, moving like silent leviathans above us through the mugginess and humidity.

The sweat was already rolling down the small of my back and we'd only begun to move the first piece of equipment. The heavy stuff is always better first. The keyboard. The amplifier cabinets. Their corners are hard on the joints of your fingers. Your blood pools in the tips, behind your fingerprints as you try to keep your knuckles from scraping against the door jambs. The worst is going up or down the stairs. Backwards or forwards. The weight of the Fender Rhodes is either pushing you off your feet or seconds away from slipping out of your hands and crashing down on to the steps. Meanwhile, a single bead of sweat leaves your hairline, tickling it's way down your forehead, to be momentarily stopped by an eyebrow, yet inevitably run into your eye.

Once the big pieces have occupied their proclaimed space in the back of Rudy's Suburban, everything else knows it's exact place. It fills up like perfectly, like one of those 3-D jigsaw puzzles. The small places left over are the perfect size for the small things left waiting. Each piece goes just where it went the last time. Keeping that kind of order makes it easier to see what's missing. You always do an idiot check after loading, but if you don't have a system, you'll miss something if in a hurry.

The evening was probably the stickiest we'd had all summer. The heat wasn't so bad, but it was like walking through soup. Rudy's truck is about the biggest monstrosity on four wheels in the city, not something I'd want my bicycle-friends to see me riding in. But, with it's soft cloth seats and cool A/C, it was exactly where I wanted I to be, about as perfect a place for me at the nook the crate full of chords and tuning pedals was sitting in behind me. We were on our way to Bridgeport.

We got off the expressway at 18th street, and then turned left on Halsted by the Skylark. A few more blocks though the sleepy neighborhood and we were pulling up in front of the First Trinity Church Community Center. We all arrived at the same time, trying to figure out how to get into the place. I found the right door and was dismayed to find out we'd need to unload all the gear up 3 flights of stairs. Un-air-conditioned stairs. But, if you keep talking, and keep moving, and have little moments of laughter thrown in, it goes by pretty quickly.

Such as, once Charley and I got to the top of the stairs and the door that said, "Welcome to the Orphanage." Charley opened it, and immediately closed it after a quick, "Oops! Sorry."

"What was that?" I asked, laughing. "Was somebody naked in there?"

Then somebody behind the door told it we were OK and to come in. The door opened wide again, and I was walking though a kitchen, with two people at a giant steel counter preparing a meal. Veggies and bread were spread out and bowls of pasta were being filled. The color of the food was matched by the bigger room were walking into.

Decorative trees and rich red tapestries. Wall paintings, sculpture of all kinds, and Christmas lights. Tables and chairs. Sofas and loungers. And immaculately clean. And gorgeous, young woman whirling a hula hoop in the center of the room.

Borrowed from The Orphanage myspace.com page:


A large stage was at one of the of the room. This was the Orphanage. A performance space/art gallery/vegan kitchen in the heart of Bridgeport. And apparently, fairly undiscovered. The Orphanage only opens on Sunday nights, and tonights crowd was sparse, mostly made up of the performing musicians, or the volunteers working there. Yet, it was to be probably the most unique and fun gig I've done with The Midnight Shows ever. A classic night that could only come from within the underground scene, a pre-gentrification wave, of Chicago's Southside.

After we loaded in and had a drink of water, Charley, Tonya, Kelly and I headed up to the Skylark for a drink. I love that place. I've only been going there for the past 18 months or so. I always expect to run into people from my recent past in there, but never do. The vibe is chill, there's always a seat, and the food is great. Yet, we just wanted a drink to unwind and get a little louder music into our brains for a second. The space at The Orphanage was so radically different from what we were accustomed - quiet, smoke free, courteous staff - we needed to immerse ourselves is something a bit more familiar to ease the transition into the evening.

We headed back after an hour, and walked in on a pretty blond woman sitting solo at the piano playing a eclectic set. Rudy, Charita, Heather, and her boyfriend were sitting at the tables, along with the rest of the crowd enjoying the music and eating the vegan fare that came along with the requested $10 donation. She announced in between songs she mainly worked with a children's repertoire, and then went into several funny tracks from Super Mario Brother and the Legend of Zelda. She had a light, yet comforting voice, and even as she finished with a couple of darker tunes about misguided lust and love, we all tapped toes, bobbed heads, and rewarded her with vigorous applause.

It was then announced that Inkbat had apparently forgotten to show, so The Midnight Shows were next. It was simple set up. The room was box, as we say in the biz, which means "live" so no extra amplification was needed. We just plugged in, turned on, and away we went. Initially, most of the crowd (which was about 6 people) stood in front and danced, but halfway through, the lack of a bigger group to keep them there had them back in the seats, eating, lounging, and bobbing their heads. The applause got louder and louder, however, and they really seemed to enjoy the set.

It was roasting up there, as always. It didn't help that Charley needed the fan all to himself and that the nearest A/C unit needed to unplugged to accommodate the equipment. Any stage light, only one, will cause me to sweat profusely. Two songs in I was soaked. But dancing, smiling, and really taking in the sounds of us. A great mix, just like rehearsal. The best performance, musically, athletically, in any idiom, happens when you lose yourself in the moment. You just will it - huge thoughts, beautiful sounds - and your body takes over subconsciously and brings it all to fruition. When you stop thinking about your fingers, the frets, and just listen to everything but yourself, and that is when yourself is fully realized.

Heather played great behind her kit. Her first show, she made very few mistakes and took my cues very professionally for the most part, and brought all the style, bombast, and musicality that we loved so much to have her play with us in the first place.

We were cut off a bit early which was fine, for the school night. Grandpa Know was up next. Just a three piece, of two guitars and and drums (and looking for a bass player.) They gave us a mix of White Stripes and Pixies with a touch of very early uptempo Jesus and Mary Chain. Very treble-y, too loud to hear any of the vocals, it didn't matter. Performance-wise, it was hit or miss. Some songs were very together and others sounded as if they were being written right then and there. But it didn't matter. As the set came to a close it all came together and made complete sense and brought on raucous applause.

A few more people had stopped by for the evening, but the crowd remained very diverse and sparse. None of my northside friends, or southside for that matter had made it down. I would have loved for them to have experienced us in this environment - devoid of the usual falseness and pretension - i.e. meaningless shouting, bad-ass fronting, binge-drinking, (although in many situations this leads to some very genuine behavior!), and soul-sapping unoriginality - and filled with genuine expression and attention to detail and the essence of the presentation.

For this is what The Orphanage is. Originality and the true essence of presentation - qualities that only remain pure in small, handmade batches, and that do not last long once mass-produced.

Go there. Now. It won't be here forever.

3.8.07

Random Friday

The day started off with a bit of irony. On my way to my chiropractic appointment, no less, I was nearly crunched by an errant taxicab, backing out of an alley at careless speed. It was topped by an advertising billboard I myself had produced.

The morning was saved by a some great spinal adjustment and this poignant moment: as I was unlocking my bike from the appointment, a woman recognized my xXx kit and introduced herself to me.

"Hi, I'm Shara. I knew Beth."

The pain from the previous weeks that faded with the heat of the summer and racing came flooding back. But, in her face I suddenly saw Beth's smile - that I had only known for a week, but with her untimely passing it will be with me forever - and so I took her extended hand and said, "I'm Brian. Pleased to meet you." Shara had lived in the same building with Beth and had gone running with her on several occasions. She told me she loved watching the xXx peleton pass by on Saturday mornings for the team ride, and she passed on her best wishes for all of us. I left for work feeling just a bit blessed and lucky for having received that little gift. At the risk of being saccharine...much like hearing a symphony, or reading a book, it's the memories and your legacy, not matter how small and insignificant, that keep us all alive forever.

Perhaps it was this good feeling, that stayed with me throughout the day, that gave me such a proud moment on my way from my post-work work-out (heh heh heh). As I was leaving Logan Square heading North on Kedzie, an SUV (of course) roared past me, the driver stoking it's engine as though it were a penis-extension (probably needed), and "get on the sidewalk, asshole!" came flying out like a piece of litter. I up-shifted, and began chase.

I missed catching up with him at both lights of the Belmont/Edens intersection, and thought, just as well, considering the last time a driver used that language with me, but then I got lucky with the red light at Elston. Completely cool, mindful of the uniform I was wearing, I pulled up to the right of his compensator, and calmly said, "Driving on the sidewalk is illegal, Sir."

"Get the fuck out of the road, loser. Yer gonna get yourself killed!"

Normally, this would have sent me into a frothing rage. But the magical powers of the xXx kit had my central nervous system in it's complete control. "Well, Sir, if you would drive with a little more respect and care, everyone around could be safe, no matter what they drive. Also..." as I pointed to the Shared Lane w/Bicycles sign that was serendipitously right next me, "...we all have a right to the road." And then, as the light changed and I pulled away on the shoulder to pass all the bumper to bumper traffic with ease, I left him with, "Share the road. Have a nice day, Sir!" I suppose he was left stewing behind, stuck in the traffic jam.

I'm off to enjoy a couple beers with a friend, so I'll leave with this: No! REALLY?! (And check out the review from The Onion, AV Club. Best. Blurb. Ever.)

1.8.07

More

Tough day. Blasted tired.

Left work immediately at 5 to get up to Evanston for the Turin bike shop ride. First group ride - that wasn't a race - since the second week in July. In a word fast. We left a bit after 6pm, heading up Ridge from Davis Street, and by Wilmette, we were really booking. I felt pretty strong at first, letting off a couple flyers to get up to the front and grabbing a strong wheel from a Get A Grip guy. The pace was really getting quick by time we were going through the thick of the Sheridan 'burbs, however, and it was a good thing I had to pull off at 6:30 just north of Highland Park, cause I was going to get dropped.

Yep, we made it from Evanston to Highland Park in about 20 minutes. We were cruising at no less than 25 and above 30 for large stretches - top speed, for me at least, of 35. And I didn't sprint once. I started at the front and held it for a while but I started getting passed on the turns, and was not keeping my pace very smooth on the hills by shifting properly. A rider in a Peet's Coffee kit let me know about it too.


Still, however, I'm feeling good. I got out, rode with a group, and got it in when I could've easily and understandably just kicked it before rehearsal. I took a few minutes to get going again south after I pulled and headed home. I was able to get few tempo intervals in but, it's pretty amazing how the lack of other riders can affect your motivation.

Tonight I sleep hard and rest tomorrow - the most important part. I'm just trying to stay competitive for the rest of this season, but I can't wait until this winter when I can lay down a real base for me to put all this intensity over next year. I can't to see what I'm capable of accomplishing with a real plan. All of which I am just beginning to understand. Right now everyone else is just so strong. I feel like I am barely hanging on fitness-wise, and while a lot of it definitely is the lack of base training, a big part as well, is rest. Or the lack of it, and the jumping into this racing thing headfirst with no base for the intensity of the middle of the season in really making things hurt. And drag.

But I don't regret doing it this way. I was told to just race. Don't think too much about it. And now, I can see, and feel, the demands that this sport places on me. I can see why a plan, that allows for growth, rest, and setbacks, is so important. And a plan is in the works, one that will accommodate my crazy schedule. With a proper base, the volume can go way down, and I will have to make up for it with intensity. But this will allow for my musical exploits to flourish as well, and not have so much conflict with my scheduling and, let's face it (as bike racing and music cultures are almost mutually exclusive) dual lives.

Rehearsal was great tonight. Our new drummer is a very strong musician, and we should have a top notch show at the Orphanage in Bridgeport this weekend. More info on that later. Sorry for this awful blog, but I wanted to get some thoughts down. I gotta get to sleep.

Happy August

More tonight...but here's something to hold you over: I call it, the definition of Ennui.

Butterfly Fuck-Swing Filled With Junk Mail

The Onion

Butterfly Fuck-Swing Filled With Junk Mail

ELMHURST, IL—"The wife and I sure had some crazy times on that thing before we had the baby," said Nathan Moscone, hanging his suit jacket on the swing.