"Don't buy upgrades. Ride up grades." --- Eddy Merckx
"You drive like shit." ---The Car Whisperer
Have a nice trip. Thanks, Al-BERT...(jeez am I dumb...I had Abbie's picture up here all day...meanwhile, I'm thinking, he doesn't LOOK 102...and you all are thinking, doesn't he realize the difference between Abbie and Albert?)
Interesting fact: Hofman's first intentional LSD trip was experienced on his bicycle.
As I mentioned, April was National Poetry Month...so here is a new one for the last day since I missed most of it:
As I give you at sunset that to bear,
The shim’ring gold of your bewilderment
Is shades untold beyond your gods compare,
I will have taken as mine no discontent.
While ages ago we ran in fields to play
Then screamed when bells rang, killing those of us
Who fled or clapped on chains, throughout the day
While crying, dreaming, longing of green grass?
And you foretold of misery unbound,
You prophesized that I would never be.
My prayers were heard, and earthquakes shook the ground
And split the grey and graveled walls which held me.
Well, here I am. I’ve come for you at last
To stand in golden rain and say it’s passed.
Some info on the current U.S. Poet Laureate, Charles Simic...
...and his interview on National Public Radio last year...
...as well as the feature on All Things Considered that alerted me to the fact that I had been asleep during this entire National Poetry Month...
And probably my favorite poet and book of all time:
In other news, I am all moved in. There is the usual domestic friction...due in no small part to two facts: I am a cyclist and musician (I have a lot of stuff) and her other roommate is still living here until Sunday morning. Basically her living room disappeared over the course of an afternoon on Saturday. 4 bicycles really do clash with the furniture.
This is a pretty good representation of my life this week.
At dawn the red cart called me to the door,
And red was in my eyes and through my heart.
The wind and clouds blew quick, yet promised more,
As did my legs and mind to do their part.
For then my fear had been replaced by fire,
To drive and hear their moaning lamentations.
Ne'er high'r flames I saw through my desire,
Then I gave it all to rid my demons.
We waited for, and watched their soldiers die,
And in a flash from out the woods we sprang,
And dipped our swords in water and the sky...
Where is beauty in all our songs not sang?
Pity them, for they can't know, life in June
Is dying on a springtime afternoon.
Let's see now...
...First there was the Hiring fraud
...then you were named as Public Official "A"
...now, Karl Rove's name...Karl fucking Rove?!?...has now popped up in allegations that you and others had conspired to get federal prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald fired, in retaliation for his investigations into your corruption.
You, know? I could take all this, on its own. But not with your Sears-dishwasher-salesman smile, belied by your beady little eyes, framed by your 1982-5th-grader haircut, spewing your self-serving platitudes in that patronizing tone as you nearly fuck up every single piece of legislation you touch. (Fine, seniors can ride CTA for free. That is great. The motives behind that move had NOTHING whatsoever to do with their own welfare, and nearly sent the whole deal crashing down like a game of Jenga at a frat party bumped by some drunk freshman who wasn't even playing.)
You're going down, asshole.
It’s incredibly ironic and prophetic that author Jim Kunstler (of the article linked above) refers to the rail service between Minneapolis and Seattle as “pokey and slow”. Do any of you know what the original name of this line is? It is “The Empire Builder.” Think about that for a minute. That has relevance far beyond those two cities. Let’s set aside for a minute the circumstances of the clash of civilizations that preceded this, and focus on the fact that the railroads were what made this country whole.
In a span of less than 60 years the United States went from a backwater, backwoods, inefficient, uncultured society to a global power. And the ability to bring all of its self-contained natural resources to bear, from coal to oil to wheat to people, through its railways, was the catalyst for all of it.
And the free-market system that arose to such heights on the flatcars, in the boxcars, and in passenger cabins, traveling on the thousands of miles wood, iron, and gravel, stained with sweat and blood, soon outgrew its industrial roots. It eschewed the rail system as egalitarian and beneath a society of such wealth, plenteousness, and opulence.
Oil was cheap. The technology was there. The people demanded it.
With this shift our rails and city centers fell into disrepair, as suburbia, highways and airports alike sprawled out of control.
It was “nice” while it lasted.
Once, a $100 barrel of oil was unthinkable. We’ll see $150 before summer is out. Procuring a stable supply is draining our treasury, and driving inflation skyward and the dollar's value to the basement. Spending $800 a month on gas is a reality for many people.
Meanwhile, as it takes us almost 2 hours to get from Milwaukee to Chicago by train, every month France and Japan are setting new land speed records on their high-speed commuter rail lines.
Our answer is still planes and cars, and we are headed towards disaster. All it takes is one look at the news on a daily basis to see the death throes of the airline industry on display for all to see.
They are bleeding money. Last month, four airlines went under, 4 more are possibly merging, and American Airlines may be out of business - the second largest airline in the world! – by the end of the year. My father told me two weeks ago the current fuel cost for a 777 airliner to make a one way trip from New York to New Delhi, India is over $470,000. The airlines simply don’t have the cash to fill their tanks on a regular basis, and even the largest are now operating week-to-week. And as the price of oil is indicating, demand is stretched to its limit.
They need to increase prices as much as 20% by one estimate just make ends meet. And with the economy and dollar going in the opposite direction, more expensive airline tickets with smaller seats, no amenities, and hours of waiting, customers won't be flying anywhere.
Highway infrastucture is crumbling and unable to keep up with increasing congestion. The needs are clear. Soon, a major part of our country's power and resources, it's people, will be unable to travel as freely, or at all, as they have for over 100 years.
Yet our railways rot. Amtrak trains don't even have right of way on the few routes they do run. Chicago's own CTA has more slow zones than an Old Country Buffet line. Yet we continue to raise new taxes to prop up this outmoded infrastructure, while subsidizing highways and air travel, instead of investing that money into real change and a state-of-the-art, integrated rail system.
It's time for the old attitudes toward public transportation to die. It's no longer a matter for just the social conscious and the societally immobile. Stop the socialism-baiting.
What's that? You say, why haven't the airlines been investing more , if any, into alternative modes of transportation to survive in a changing marketplace? That they should've seen coming years ago in 1991 with the first Gulf War? How the airlines and the auto industry missed this opportunity to save themselves I will never know. How you could be at the top of such a huge industry and be a part of such powerful networking and not see this coming is beyond me.
A catastrophe is imminent. I give affordable, domestic air travel in the United States 5 more years. And those adjectives will be on a sliding scale downward over that time. By then, gas will be at least $6 a gallon and it will take far longer to upgrade our nation's rail system to a capacity level that we currently accustomed to, and forget about the airlines and the auto industry leading the charge. They don't have the cash reserves on hand to initiate the change and ensure a smooth transfer for their business model in time. Only one seems to have seen the opportunity in time and gotten on board.
Got a huge box of Kashi Cereal. The Go Lean Crunch.
I love this stuff.
I OD'd. Two bowls for dinner. Two for breakfast.
There should be a warning on that box.
"7 Whole Grains on a Mission."
Yeah, a mission all right.
To the toilet.
In coffee, races, burgers
Still, three ain’t enough.
Me, myself, and I
Among speed, experience
Just try to keep up
I drew the picture
With a sharp and hard pencil
And shapes formed, strong lines
One to go, got it
Hey, get in line Triple X!
I say to myself
That’s a fast turn man
Tucked it back in, still the square
Aw, hell! Where’d you go?!
Hard breaths, a fast fade
Shelley Levine versus Blake
Pain squishing my strength
Fall back, can’t react
That damn turn still outsmarts me
Have body, got a brain?
For my last time through
By fingernails in wet clay
At least it was free
Translation? Hard day. Feeling it even now. In retrospect I should’ve maybe only done two races to have a bit more for working with teammates, as well as put priority on two better chances for points. Instead, after doing well sitting in solo, keeping up with fast the fast Masters boys and getting completely schooled on the last turn, I didn’t have enough for the rest of day, with a half hour break before my second race.
10 minutes into the third race, with no break, I didn’t think I’d make it, even after a really slow start. The first race I was killing the hill, now it was killing me, and I didn’t have enough left to react in time to anything. So I sat at the back to recover, nearly got dropped behind a couple of fading wheels, but with three to go, got back to the front at the headwind. But the final surge just left me behind.
Peter won the 4s race. He’s super aggressive and rides with purpose and initiative. He needs one more win, and he's got his upgrade - and he's finding those like quarters under the vending machine these days. There was some teamwork, but very disorganized. A bit of a train came together with 2 to go (I can’t remember which race that was, tho) with Jacques, Newt, and myself, but broke up in the surge. Nothing was getting off on a hill with a headwind, at least in our races. But bottom line is I need to pay a lot more attention. I tell myself this before every race, but I have such a hard time focusing once everything starts.
The day's total: Master’s 3/4 = 14th place; Open 4 = 16th place; Master’s 4/5 = 22nd place.
I hate baby steps. But I guess they’re gonna be my MO, so I’ll learn from them. I took some wheels, smartly bridged to a couple nascent breakaways…but, and here’s the entire day summed up in one run-on sentence:
I lacked initiative to be where I needed to have the balls to get to the front of the pack to take turn 4 on my terms, instead of having to slow down to get in line and missing the jump…every GOD DAMN TIME.
Oh well, it’s April. I'll learn and refuse to get frustrated. It's fun, damnit! Let's have some fun! Although I am very glad I didn't have to drive home from Madison yesterday with only my thoughts.
Also good: I like sausage.
Back when Pope John Paul II was elected, it created quite a stir amongst the Polish of the world. And no where was it more poignantly expressed than through the prideful masses of those expatriates here in Chicago. After all, the Windy City is home to more people of Polish birth than anywhere, save Warsaw itself. And when the Pope announced that Chicago would be on his agenda during his U.S. tour, one of those Polish in our great city took special notice.
Singer Bobby Vinton had fallen on a bit of hard times back then. His career was on a downturn, and he just wasn’t relevant to many people, anymore. When he heard about the Pope’s upcoming visit to Chicago, he saw a golden opportunity to use it to his advantage. After all, they were both Polish, and who was more popular with the Polish than the Pope at that time?
So Bobby called the Vatican and asked for an audience with His Holiness in Chicago. Actually, he left a message. Several messages. And, he never really got a call back. He did get a form-letter though. The Pope would be unable to see him.
But Bobby was a fighter, and didn’t give up that easily.
The day before the Pope’s parade downtown, Bobby headed down to a prominent State Street men’s store and was fitting for a suit. It was a real beaut, too: white, with wingtip shoes, and a gold watch chain. This would really get him some attention.
The day of the parade, he found a choice spot along the route, and waited. He stayed out of the way while the crews worked to set up the barricades along Dearborn Street, and as the crowds began to arrive and pack in, asses-to-elbows, he stayed patient.
Soon, however, a huge cheer arose from the masses, as the motorcade leading the Pope-mobile turned the corner. Tickertape streamed from the tops of office buildings and music blared. Bobby stepped forward as the Pope approached, a look of self-confidence on his face, and held out his hands as if to say, “Eeeeeeeh, here I am!”
And got absolutely nothing. The Pope didn’t notice him at all, and drove straight past, waving, oblivious. But, just as Bobby was beginning to realize what happened, then suddenly the brake lights did come on. The door on the Pope-mobile opened, and out stepped the Pontiff.
A thick silence of anticipation fell over the crowd as he slowly walked towards the curb and approached a filthy, disheveled, homeless man, about 20 yards down from where Bobby was standing, a look of incomprehension across his face.
The Pope leaned, placed a hand on the street-person’s shoulder, and gently whispered something into his ear. Then he turned, gave a wave to the crowd, to it’s huge, delight, and got back in the white car and continued the parade.
Bobby immediately ran over to the bum and demanded what the Pope said. But the bum was too drunk to say anything, so Vinton picked him up and led him to an alley. There, he undressed the bum and changed clothes with him, then placed a wad of $20s into his hand, and left him leaning against the curb.
Back out to the parade he ran, to find another spot by which John Paul would pass.
Again, the Pope-mobile approached, and Bobby maneuvered to make himself as conspicuous as possible. And this time, the Pope looked right at him, and ordered the car to stop.
The crowd again fell silent as the Pope stepped out of his vehicle and approached Bobby Vinton, standing on the curb wearing the homeless mans soiled and filthy clothes.
Anticipation welled up in Bobby as the hero of his people approached, walking straight towards him, an arm beginning to outstretch, that gentle expression of love on his visage. Soon, close enough to see John Paul’s blue eyes, the hand reached out and touched him on the shoulder, and the Pope leaned in to his ear.
“I thought I told you to get the FUCK…OUTTAHERE.”
Why do some drivers insist on waiting until the lane is ending to merge, even though signs have been indicating such for the last 2 miles? Like they're really gonna get that far ahead...and then brake as they can cut somebody else off so they can merge in time before running out into the curb. Meanwhile, since he's braking, the person he's cutting off has to brake, and then so on down the line. These are the people who have absolutely no idea of the bigger picture here, who are unable to sacrifice one ounce of their sense of self for the greater good...(and that's as far as they see it, the word "communism" usually stops these people's brains anywhere in this paradigm)...but wait! In this case the greater good leads to greater individual good, i.e. better traffic flow.
"Yeah, well, sorry, I just don't really give a fuck about anyone else but me...wait, hold on...better get over here, I didn't see that sign, I was on my cell phone."
"Yo, dude!!! Look out for the cyclist!"
"Hello!?!" [me raising hand]
People who use the word "paradigm".
Do you know anyone who uses a roll of toilet paper in less than two days and runs the dish washer for bowl, a pot, and two spoons? I do. I hate her.
And why the hell can't I stay balanced on my bike when someone's holding it at a timetrial start? Man, my bike handling skills suck.
So it was fitting that today was the first Fitness Check Time Trial of the season, and there were over 20 xXx-ers waiting to see where they stood amongst peers. I was second off the line, and as if I needed more incentive to drill it maximum overdrive, I was Peter's Minuteman. In the last FCTT, my time was almost 90 seconds behind Peter's. So with him waiting right behind me, off I went. My time was 26:34 with a stiff headwind going out. Not bad, considering I'm 48 hours removed from the most punishing 4 days ever on a bike. 71 seconds behind my last time, back in August. Peter nearly caught me too. 5 seconds behind me he finished. Which means he gained 55 seconds on my ass in under 10 miles. Wow.
Upon arriving back at Katy's, I realized I left my wallet down on the lakefront. Already late for work, and after tearing her place apart to find it, I reluctantly kit back up and hit the pedals again for the Museum campus. As I am tearing down Milwaukee Avenue on my second time trial of the day into that ridiculous headwind, crossing through the Chicago intersection I hear, "Morrissey!!! I have your wallet!!!" It was Loukis. He'd taken it with him after a passerby found it and thought to hand it over to the group still left there.
So on this Hump Day, and this anniversary...a shout goes out to teammates. This site, this little doorway into my brain, is about friends and passions. To Diddy, Dick Rearworth (Out! ha), Holland, Twelve, Newtron, The Guillotine, George, Leo, the Matts, Tamara, Dr. Kirby, JT, Ed, Dugas, FattyM, WATT!!! and of course Loukis! (I owe you a beer)...and certainly not least - the best for last, Luke and Randy. And to everyone else, thanks for all your encouragement and help and advice and all the shared good times.
Here's to racing hard and many and much, much more.
That was the theme for Friday's opening ride of Coach Randy Warren's 2008 Asheville Cycling Camp. It's always better that way. The uncertainly is what gets you out the door and up the mountain. And what a mountain. Mountains. Everywhere.
We all arrived safe and sound on Thursday. On the flight in from Chicago were myself, Peter, JT, Josh, Chris, Jeremy, Trish, and Matt. Ed arrived on an earlier flight and Randy was waiting for us at the airport. Everyone ate their footlong at Subway and we found Joe and Ken waiting for us at the Oakland Cottage Bed & Breakfast around 10:30. It was a beautiful house, 2 floors (not including the basement which had no guest rooms) that accomodated us fairly plushly, save the cold showers if you were not the top three in after the day's ride - and you certainly weren't safely removed from anyone else's bodily functions. It was high Arts and Crafts style, from 1910, with lots of hard wood molding and intricate window panes.
A full - and I mean full - breakfast awaited us every morning. Friday the smell of coffee and berry cobbler roused me before 6:30 and I was even the first one to the newspaper. The tranquilness of the scene belied the personal trial and test of fortitude that awaited us all later that morning.
We rolled out a bit after nine, all of us taking a little extra time to get it together. We were fully aware today's ride was to be 120 miles, but the gravity of that number wasn't fully realized as we'd (or maybe just me) never trained in such hilly country. We had a full day with nothing scheduled other than a catered dinner back at the cottage at 6. It was a warm and gorgeous day. We rode through some familiar areas I knew from spending time in Asheville with my family, at one point we were within a mile of my parents' house, just off of a pretty busy thoroughfare we'd taken from close to downtown. From there we headed off into the valleys and hollers beyond Asheville on our way to Mt. Mitchell.
With a smaller, relatively stronger, and more cohesive group than at San Luis Obispo, we pretty much all stayed together on the flats and smaller rollers. It would also be fair to say the big boys (Ed, JT, Joe, and Chris) were tempering a bit in anticipation of the climbs, but from my perspective at least, Peter, Jeremy, and I definitely had improved our fitness and form over the last month. While the occasional attack would split the group, but we came back together eventually.
This all changed at the base of Mt. Mitchell. The peak, the tallest east of the Mississippi, shattered and broke everything about that day. The ride, the timing, our confidence, the weather. Our temper.
Randy told us the climb was basically 3 parts. 8 miles up to the Blue Ridge Parkway (the WPO project of the New Deal and National Park in it's own right), then 16 or so to Mountain...another turn right off the highway on a spur to the summit was in there, too.
As the tempo ramped up, my modus operandi to drop back and find my rhythm early seemed the best option. On much shorter climbs later in camp I was able to match the tempo of Ed, JT, Joe, and Chris, and then only by almost physically grabbing a seat post, but I'd never be able to sustain their wattage on this mother. But soon I was in my zone. I seperated from the riders behind me and caught Ken, then Jeremy, and saw a glimpse of Randy as well, up on the switchback just below the Blue Ridge junction.
I almost missed it. There was a sign just before that said the Parkway was imminent, but then just an unmarked left turn appeared before Hiway 80 bombed down the other side of the ridge after passing beneath a quaint little bridge. It was lucky I was alone. I turned and cranked up the steep pitch and was rewarded with a sign pointing left: "Mt. Mitchell - 16."
The day remained warm at first. The clouds drifted in increasing number however, and the blue sky greyed with my mood.
I wondered where Randy was. When I'd seen him last he wasn't that far ahead, but coming through the tunnel, a short descent answered my question. I eventually found him, a few miles later, on the side of the road, massaging his cramping feet. I asked if he was OK or needed anything, but nothing was getting me off that bike as I entertained fleeting notions of maybe, just maybe, catching onto at least one of the Fab Four.
The tenths of a mile ticked off agonizingly slow as my speed ranged from about 7 to 9mph on the 6% or so grade. I kicked up a bit when I looked back to see Randy back on the bike and gaining. My seperation held him off.
It was now fully overcast and colder. My heart rate was keeping me warm however and I continued to churn the pedals, making big circles and focusing on my breathing. I tried not to look at my odometer for longish periods to make the gains in my milage seem more fruitful. Le Femme d'Argent by Air played in my head constantly since I passed Jeremy and had been on my own.
I'd completely lost track of the mileage basis by time the spur for Mt. Mitchell State Park arrived. I was entertaining visions of the summit parking lot just ahead out of sight, when the van drove by. I asked the quiestion, and Ben said, "dude, only two and a half miles to the top." It was aggrivating as hell, but then, just 500 yards later, a taunting, vicious, monstrous sign laid it out for me: 3.9 miles to the summit. The pitch of the climb increased, and as I realized I had another 30 minutes on the bike at the pace I was doing at that moment, my scream of anguish reverberated throughout the Appalachians. It did level off a bit, and though seemingly hours more, I soon passed the ranger station, the closed restaurant, the entrance to the campground, and then arrived in the summit parking lot.
I saw Ed rolling my way, looking for other riders. I assumed he'd been there a while with the other three and was getting impatient. When we met, I said, "I wanna die. Get me off this thing. He simply replied, "No fucking way!"
"What?" I asked. "Where's everyone else?"
Well, that didn't make sense at all. I hadn't passed JT, Joe, or Chris, and had been alone since catching Randy 10 miles earlier. Unless...
Wrong Turn City.
We laughed for a bit, knowing they surely missed the Blue Ridge junction, at the very worst, Ben would round anybody up who needed it. Actually worse would be any extra climbing they'd have to do to just get back to the ridgetop. And then I noticed the apple Ed was eating. I'd been out of food for several miles. When the van passed me a couple of times ago and asked me if I needed anything, I was so deep in the pain cave and determined not to stop lest I not start again, I just shook my head and moved on.
Now seeing the apple, real food, my eyes must have seemed to pop out of my sunked, sallow face, and Ed wordlessly handed it over. It was like biting into Christmas Morning, your first nudie mag, and a unicorn fart all at once.
Endorphins gushed out of the back of my brain and down my body. I took two more bites and grudgingly handed it back. But I must've looked I was on the edge of an orgasm because he handed it right back. I finished it.
Ed had been there for 13 minutes. Randy arrived 7 minutes after me.
It was cold. My arm warmers and vest were in the van. And the van was busy. We were standing outside the shuttered snack shop, shivering. I found that the employee door was unlocked, and in we went. It was warmer, but I was still getting chilled. It helped to wrap my arms around my body, but I was still ravenous. We all had salt lines on our faces. Ed began poking around in some boxes and came up with some beef jerky. I understood Randy's disapproval, but this was life or death here. Protein and salt. Enough said.
Gradually, riders began to arrive, and we got the full scope of the drama that had unfolded below me as I labored intensely over my bike. Joe first, then Jeremy. Joe and JT (and use the comments section to clarify, people!) had been dropped by Ed and Chris, and then Ed dropped Chris. All three of them missed the turn onto the Parkway, thinking they would catch back on the descent, before realizing they'd gone to far. Those three had an additional 5 miles of climbing added on to their day. As JT said, it took them deep into the "hurt locker."
Jeremy's tale was even more harrowing. Shortly after I caught him he began feeling light headed and started to get off his bike and that was all he remembered until he came to lying on the ground with Peter slapping his face and giving him water. Peter later said he'd encountered him leaning against the guard rail, with only the whites of his eyes showing and near collapse. Peter may have saved this trip from a major medical emergency.
But Jeremy made it. Peter made it. JT and Chris made it. Trish, Josh, and Matt made it. We all made it to the top of that goddamn mountain. And not without prodding from our van driver Ben. If he'd just let those who wanted into the van...
A few did understandably get a ride back down. Shaky and tired, a 24 mile switchbacking descent might not be the best idea of the underfocused. Ed already long gone, I'd gotten my rest, and three new layers later, Jeremy, Randy, and I rolled out of there. We soon met Joe, and the four of us were hitting the last tricky turns before bottoming out on the flats back into Marion.
I was close to bonking then, and couldn't keep up with the tempo, and watched them roll away with 4 miles to go. Minutes later as they disappeared, I shifted to my big ring, heard a loud metallic pinging, and felt everything go slack. I looked down to see my chain on my foot. The outside edge of my front derailleur had snapped off.
As 120 miles clicked over on my odometer, the rendevous intersection appeared and I steered onto the grass and unclipped both feet while still rolling to a stop. Ed was finishing off a milkshake from the ice cream shack just next to us, and looked at me with a look that said, "get on this train, Jesse James."
"What's in it?" I asked.
It was somewhere around $6 when I paid for it - chocolate, bananas, strawberries, peanut butter, peaches, walnuts, at least - maybe there was some Fois Gras and Gold dust in there as well - but worth every penny. It was chased by a large root beer and a hot dog with everything. In Western Carolina that apparently means ketchup, mustand and cole slaw. It couldn't have tasted any more heavenly.
From there it was a half-hour drive back to Asheville while Randy waited with the bikes and a copy of Velonews. He wouldn't get back for over 2 hours.
As tired as we were, we were up for a while, reliving the day. I posted several pictures, and spoke with a couple teammates on the phone. Since thunderstorms were forecast early the next morning, and I needed a new derailleur, we wouldn't roll until at least 10am on Saturday. We ate plateloads of food, lounged, and laughed. And then slept.
There's not much else to write about that would touch on emotions or experiences not covered or that were beyond what we experienced here. Each night we were absolutely destroyed by the day's ride. Everyone was whining about the pain and soreness. Saturday was an 85 mile ride to Mt. Pisga, back on the Blue Ridge, and Sunday was another century to Mt. Doggett and back where I experienced the joys of riding 30 miles off the back on my own, without a cue sheet. I threw a little tantrum once at a point I thought I was totally lost, but then sheepishly realized I was right on track, and later not that far off the back at all as I rolled into Marshall. Earlier that day, on a short, but tough climb, I'd managed to stay with the Fab Four all the way up, but come Doggett, was already way behind them, and with them was my motivation to get back to the Pain Cave. Meanwhile, Jeremy and Peter had found themselves off of a front of a group that wasn't working hard, and worked hard indeed to increase their lead to as much as six minutes before finally being caught on the descent leading to Mt. Doggett, the third big climb of the day.
And on Monday's ride, we found ourselves back in Marshall, 23 miles and exactly one hour from check out. That was as intense and focused a paceline as I'd ever taken part of, and we hit the driveway of the B&B at exactly 10:30.
My legs are still sore, but better from the massage I received last night. My shoulder is in a lot of pain actually. I wonder if it is from overuse on the climbs, trying to keep them lower to free up my breathing. It's got chronic problems from 4 crashes on it in the last year - including the car hit and the SLO pileup.
I'm back, and while not ready, that was a hell of an off-season. Racing awaits, and I can only do my best. I hope my best is enough.
Just heard about a stage race I think I'll be doing. The Tour de West Lafayette. May 17-18. Means I'll have to miss Monsters of the Midway, but that's ABR, this is USA Cycling. So 3 chances to get points. It's all Cat 4/5 and 3events: Saturday Criterium of 35 minutes on 1.3 mile, 8-corner course. The road-race looks pretty lame, though. a 5 laps on a 4 mile course? With maybe a couple thousand feet of climbing over the whole race. Meh. 5 mile TT right after. It looks overall like a quick and intense effort, but a very good chance to get a lot of points towards my upgrade. But there is also a team category, and I think there will be at least the required three of us (myself, Jeff Holland, and Jon Dugas) to be eligible. This could be quite fun.
Dropped off Uhuru (my Trek...get it?) at Coach's house last night. He's driving the bikes in the van to Asheville tonight. I leave with the rest of us tomorrow on a 3:45 flight to Charlotte. We'll arrive in Asheville at the B&B around 9:30. The first ride is Friday morning, up Doggett Mountain. My Dad got a kick out this when I gave him our itinerary. He lives in Asheville now, of course, but back in '79 through '83, he lived just around Doggett, between Asheville and Great Smoky Mountain National Park, in Spring Creek. My Dad's house he built is still there, although he doesn't know the people living there, except that they were assoles who wouldn't even let him on their property..."Lady, I BUILT this house!" Oh well. 9,100 feet of climbing that day, and then Saturday is Devil's Courthouse. Sunday is the real fucker, Mt. Mitchell. The tallest mountain east of the Mississippi. This ride, along with Friday's, is a century. Talking with Randy last night about the weather, he is toying with the idea of switching these days due to the fact that Sunday could be much colder and rainier, so we might try to the really high climb done in Friday's warmer climes. So Mitchell could be right off the bat. Awesome.
It's going to be a great camp with all very strong riders and a great chance to push myself even harder than San Luis Obispo and catapult my fitness into some really uncharted territory.
Speaking of which, after this weekend's team ride and racing, I've really realized how much stronger I've gotten over the last year and in all seriousness, it's just time to harden the fuck up and change my approach to my racing. If I'm well rested and have proper recovery and warm-up, the threat of getting dropped while just being in the pack is not the threat it used to be. Seeing the pictures of the finish in Beloit this weekend, I was a lot closer to the winning sprint than I thought I was...and I had quite a bit of gas left. Now I'm not so much down on myself as I am pissed-off. I was afraid to stick myself out in the wind for even a second to better my positioning, or to hug the shoulder and rub wheels. And what fun is being afraid? As Peter says, it's time to get mean.
Now I just have to wait almost 2 weeks until my next race, and I think I might just go insane. Good thing though, cause I was going leave my sanity on top of Mt. Mitchell anyways.
Quite a thunderstorm last night, eh? Spring is here.
The anticpation at the starting line as Burnham Racing's Spring Super Criterium was the extent of the excitement for me yesterday.
On the upside, at least the near perfect weather helped me get a head start on my tan lines. However, from an cyclist's point-of-view, efficiency-wise, I may as well have just put my kit on and watched the race from the lawn chairs we brought, for all the work I did. In either race.
A complete shame. It was absolutely dynamic out there. The pack was in constant motion with strong south wind affecting all the back stretch turns. The course itself was a dream. No roughness. No gravel. No obstacles of any kind. Just smooth black pavement and wide sweeping turns you could theoretically pedal all the way through.
I won't bellyache or moan or bore you with self-pity, as I usually do in this space. I'll just say this: yes the 4/5s race was pretty sketchy. I made a couple of boneheaded moves myself, one fully my fault, moving up on the outside to jump on an attempted break coming inside and swerved pretty drastically after a few kicks. But for the most part it was just 45 minutes of praying to stay upright on the turns as handlebars shook all around me and rims shrieked against brakepads.
It did get pretty interesting with Jon's two (at least) attacks and Calvin's prime win, but with the wind, nothing was getting off. And I was at the front working with the blocking when I could, but of course when it was time for the final blast, I had fallen back and had to make up way too many riders on the sprint. My name didn't make it into the original posted results, but on contesting my placing, it was revealed that my poor-form bike throw netted me a 13th placing by about an eighth of my wheel hub. It was that close.
XXX did very well over all, with a 2nd place (Peter Strittmatter), a 5th place (Calvin Smythe), 7th (Newt Cole), and 10th (Jeff Holland). Upgrade points for all.
The 3/4s race was much smoother and faster, but that's all I can really say about from my perpsective. There was always a break off, but nothing ever stuck. Other teammates were up there doing a ton of work trying to help JT and Shane, but I could never get it together mentally to stay up there. The swarm would always push me back when the pack slowed on the head wind. Again, mid lap I was close to the front, got boxed in by the surge and finished midpack.
My racing tactics percentages are way off. My concern for my safety in the pack is really holding me back to the point of still being tentative, and my aggressiveness needs a lot of work to blossom with my smarts. If you asked me, I couldn't tell you who was in ANY of those breaks or even what teams had the strongest riders in my races. If my tactics were a smoothie, it would be mostly protein powder and unblended chunks of banana.
Not smooth at all, that's for sure.
Oh hell. It's only my first criterium of the whole season. I had to have learned something, right? All lessons I already know but: A) Take the time and scan the field as you warm up and wait at the line. B)Move up, move up, move up. C) Keep focused on what is going on - externalize the race! D)Have a plan. For yourself and for the team. Even if it's only to be plotting where you need to be as the final lap is approaching, whatever your time frame is. E) See B.
Lots to do between now and Whitnall Park. But there's also lots in which to do it in. Matteson will be to fun and loose-no-pressure tune up it always is. Leaving for Asheville on Thursday afternoon for 4 days of riding that will include two centuries and over 10,000 feet of climbing. Then up to Wisconsin for either Menomonee Falls or Great Dane Criterium #2.
Spring's here. I want more than just tan lines.
People who hold the door open for me even though I still at least 15 steps away. A distance where I'll have to pick up and give a little jog, so there won't be this awkward moment while you act as a door stop for me. Well, I'm not going to run. I will say, "thanks, I'll get it," with a condescending little eye-rolling smile. But you never get it. So fine. Stand there.
The guy who just stood there as his four dogs, teeny little ankle-biters, all with leashes trailing behind them, ran freely on the bike path just as Peter and I were coming north about 25mph, with a fat tailwind, over the little rise after Burnham Park. What is it with these people? Do they play in the street like this? Maybe they should so they would get out of the gene pool.
This could come in handy:
I was actually looking for Mel Brooks doing his comedy routine for Emperor Dom, "Politics, Politics, Politics, Politics, Politics!" I'm just wondering how much longer this primary season is going to drag on. That bowling joke was the last straw. However, how ironic is it that for all the jockeying to be the earliest primary election (and even more so that Huckabeast garnered the early headlines), Pennsylvania is the huge player now. Good things come to those who wait.
And as glad as I am that we have no where to go but up in this election, I am really not looking forward to having to make a choice between any of these three. Obama is mostly platitudes and zero experience, and after 17 years of voting, I've come to realize "change" never, ever, happens. Not to mention, with the Resco thing, I believe he is nowhere near as clean as he claims to be. Clinton? I'm really just getting tired of her smug sense of self-entitlement, and she is absolutely the prefered choice of the establishment in this election. I am actually leaning more towards McCain, believe it not. I believe he is the cleanest candidate from corruption, and his stance on improving U.S. Foreign Relations is spot-on, yet I have no idea how he plans to do it on prohibiting water-boarding alone, since he certainly plans to keep us in Iraq for at least 4 more years. As well, his remedy for what is now being called the New Great Depression by some is to have less regulation?!?
I am really looking forward to racing in Beloit on Sunday. Burnham Racing (Vitamin Water-Trek) is holding their first race at The Blackhawk Farms Raceway. While not on a motorcyle, thankfully, I plan on racing smart, attacking as hard as I can, and being in the sprints at the end of both the 4/5s race and the 3/4s. There will be a lot of really strong, ambitious cats racing with me, and of course many teammates, and I am going to use this race as a chance to really rev the engine, take some chances, and see what I can do, egg on my face or not.
Blackhawk Raceway (thanks CBR):
I can't believe the Asheville Camp is only a week away! Next week, Thursday 4/10, I fly to Asheville, NC with a select group of teammate for a racing and climbing camp in the mountains of Western Carolina and along the Blue Ridge Parkway. I've been really aching for a chance to do this trip, and now it's finally happening! A teammate of mine took a cycling vacation there a couple of years ago. We'll be climbing Mt. Mitchell, the highest mountain east of the Mississippi, and in four days we'll have equaled the climbing we did in eight during the camp in San Luis Obispo.
As well, this will be a bittersweet venture back to a home of sorts. My father has lived in North Carolina for almost 30 years, and in Asheville for the last seven, with an earlier stint in the mountains back in '79 to '83 in nearby Spring Creek. My stepmom got her dream job in Rockingham at the community college there, and is already serving as the Univserity President. My dad is awaiting my sister to finish high school, but the house is already sold, and as early as April 18th they could close. This will likely be my last trip to Asheville with family.
So I hope to make the most of it.
I plopped down a wad of bills for my USCF License online, and then headed over to the Goose Island Brew Pub and dropped even more cash down for my xXx Racing membership, after nervously waiting at the back of the room as all these hard-as-shit badasses gave their race reports from Hillsboro. I immediately began 2nd guessing my decision.
I had no idea what I was getting myself into.
The next day I attended my first ever team function, a sprint clinic given by team coach Randy Warren. It was raining with 15 mile an hour wind and about 40 degrees. Underdressed of course. The very first drill was a 50 meter jump in my 39x23. I nearly crashed and almost knocked over teammates Mark Watkins, Joe Ebenroth, and Jeff Watt after both my wheels seemingly left the ground.
Thank God for second impressions.
The very next day was the Fitness Check Time Trial, a 9.7 mile out and back down the lakefront path from Soldier Field to the 52nd St. overpass. Coming back into maybe a 20mph headwind at around 35 degress, it took me 29 minutes. I almost quit. But I didn't.
So I think I'll have a piece of cake at lunch to celebrate today, and then add an extra interval onto tonight's session. I've earned both.
Quite naturally, as evidenced by the number of links to the lower left you might have noticed whilst perusing this page, I had to start blogging about my experiences. Coming up very soon, is the 1-year anni of this very blog. Stay tuned.
Katy and I got a cat yesterday! (Picture coming soon.) His name is Steve. Steve the cat. He is perhaps the Koolest Kat ever. He is also nocturnal.
I am not.
As bike racing grows, it has squeezed out the music in my life, much to my regret.
Saturday April 5th, please, please, please get your post-race/ride nap in, especially if you are racing in Beloit on Sunday...
The Note, 1565 N. Milwaukee, will be the site of my last performance with The Midnight Shows. We do go on fairly late...officially 11:30. In reality? Probably more like 12:30. I am getting my sleep on Thursday and Friday, and of course am headed to bed straight after the gig. So I'll understand if you can't make it, but still...we were a GREAT band. They still will be, minus the little extra of me.
And the only thing I love more than playing for friends is riding with them, so if you can, come on out to The Note this Saturday night and watch me play some of that sweet, sweet soul one last time.