"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



"The bicycle, the bicycle surely, should always be the vehicle of novelists and poets."

- Christopher Morley

I'm back outside, and back on top. These past weeks will go down as lesson to always ride outside, whenever possible. If anything, those extra-special muscles get the real-world workout so sorely needed (pun intended) and at best, you get to see some pretty weird shit. The combination of viewing the world from a bike and the endorphins it gives you is enough to make a writer out of anybody.

The clear sky and +20 degree temps were all I needed. This week was hard work. I feel it, but I am also feeling it. I finally took some initiative and made sure to work in outdoor riding into my weekly travel, regardless of that fact that Milwaukee Avenue is more cratered than a DMZ. I actually managed over 4 hours of outdoor riding between Tuesday and Thursday evening. And last weekend was the end of a rest week but we still rode hard. The emotional low of the incident at North Center Six Corners has still stayed with me even now, but I've tried to judo the negative energy into a positive physical response to propel to a higher plane for camp and beyond.

Yesterday was a no-drop Men's Development Program ride of the Old School route. It was a testament to how much stronger I've gotten as my year anniversary of xXx membership approaches. We hard a hard time keeping ourselves contained through the stretches that are now instictively hammerfests, and even a 1 mph difference in tempo would bring a teammate up to the front of the line with a request to "slow it down, there are guys popping off the back." If the man I was last March was on that ride, I'd have been one of those guys.

I contested all of the sprints, and the first two my jumps were ill-timed and over-geared, resulting in four or five teammates coming past as my legs burned out when I should've continued accelerating. Finally coming into Wilmette I anticipated the attack - which came off the front while I was still about 4 wheels back, bridged up while staying in myself, and just barely managed a few kicks into the wind and pulled past before crumpling like a beer can in Robert Shaw's fist. Hardly a sprint to be proud of, as I was barely hanging onto the wheel in the first place. Race Day I would've been burnt toast.

Recovering through Evanston afterwards, I found my coach, Mr. Steady Endurance, and we rode to his condo for my scheduled bike fit. Quite a big adjustment to the saddle height and position, in fact. I feel too low, but where it was he said I was far too high and losing a lot of power right at the 4:30 position of the crank. It's certainly not painful, however, and while I feel more compact, I don't feel cramped. And looking at my passing reflection in windows, my back is still good and flat, and I stay that way in the drops, as well. I had to concentrate on my spin a bit more consciously however, as being directly over the gear tended to make me stop scraping the ol' shoe back past 6 o' clock.

During today's vomit-fest in Palos Hills I definitely felt the power savings a bit, and needed it, as peeps who've been riding longer than me were bringing the pain. But first, I must tell of the craziest scene I have perhaps ever been witness to in my nearly 11 years in this fair city.

Leaving coach's house in Roger's Park I headed back to the team route to get home. I found myself at Peterson and Ridge, waiting for the green light to turn left. In the intersection was a woman standing outside of her car, talking on a mobile phone, possibly a hit & run victim, and a cop was sitting behind her. At the corner to my right was a homeless bum, drunk and carrying a half-finished 40 ouncer, catcalling to the woman. (Sorry to be un-PC but in my book when your drunk at 1pm walking around the neighorhood, you are a bum.) He was barely getting her attention, and the look on her face said she certainly didn't need his help.

I watched and just laughed, and he turned to me and gave me a look that said, "I know! Crazy bitches!" I didn't give him an affirmative, and then the cop told him to move on. The man stepped in the intersection just as the Beemer waiting there to turn right on the red began to move. Had the man been sober, he would've surely jumped back and avoided getting hit altogether, or at least maintained his balance, as the car wasn't going much past idle speed. But down he went, beyond my view, in front of the car.

I wrung my hands, cursed, and walked around to the front. He just lay there, screaming, and yelling, "Hell no! Hell no! Ahhhhhh!" and I saw the car back it's right wheel...off of his left leg.

It was obviously broken.

I had to stick around to make a statement, and it certainly appeared that the driver was in the wrong, as a pedestrian always has the right of way, under all circumstances. But, I just wanted to get out of there as soon as possible, as the image of his bloated body, shirt hiked up around his chest, and spreading bloodstain on his pants is now burned into my retinas.

Today's ride was a good way to expunge at least some of the negative, through sweat, pain, and vomit in my mouth. It's going to be a good year. I'm riding in some strong company. I nearly got dropped on the second hill, found some strength but ended up with leg-killing pain on the next couple, and finally found a good gear, spin and some cheap KOM points on the last.

That route is definitely going to be revisited, and will make me a hard, hard man:
Me: "What's that?"
Mark (riding fixie and attacking past to catch Newt): "That's a hill you wuss!"
Me: "Bla-a-a-rf!"
Peter, pointing down: "Watch the puke! Right!"

There will be some trainer sessions this week, as snow is on the way and I need to adjust to my bike fitting, but coming back from California, it will be relegated to short, very specific workouts. Riding outside is here to stay. It makes me stronger.

And the Poet of Albany Park, The Car Whisperer, is begging for its life-giving inspiration, it's aspiration.

The mustache must be working:

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