"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


Hump Day White Noise

Leave this on at bed time, perhaps one room away...it's strangely hypnotic and may help you sleep at night.

(Courtesy of Pufferfish...)


Asheville, Part 2 - Mt. Pisgah, Devil's Courthouse

Day 2 of Asheville was back to the Blue Ridge Parkway, this time finishing our climb at the junction with the highway - most of the work was on the way up.

We rode at chatting pace until about 10 miles out from the climb, then it was hammer-time and we broke up pretty quickly. I finally gapped, with Randy and Riekert when it started going uphill. This time Chris climbed well, staying just behind JT, Jacques, and Randy. Another beautiful day, and we stayed together on the descent back to the back down to the Ashville, nearly 30 miles all downhill. There were some very long tunnels, however, where once in them, there was no light. Even with the taillights blinking in front of me, it was tough the fight the vertigo and follow the curvature of the road.

Peter, Jacques, and I

That night's dinner @ Tupelo Honey, in downtown Asheville. Jalepeno marinated NY Strip, mashed sweets, and brussel sprouts.

(Unrelated, my Chicago Cycling Examiner page is back. Wicker Park is profiled in my ongoing bike-friendly neighborhoods series.)


Asheville, Part 1 - The Drive, Mt. Mitchell

Asheville, NC. Sparta Camp. Except Spartans didn't eat peaches on their french toast. Or french toast, period. Especially in a bed & breakfast camp.

But the riding this weekend would've broke them off far worse than the Persians did.


Randy finally arrived late Wednesday afternoon at my Old Irving apartment, and after a stop at Active Trans (formerly the BikeFed) we were off in our 15 foot van, loaded down with bikes and wheels. We planned to stay the night in Nashville at my old friend Jessica's condo there, before making the final leg to Asheville on Thursday. Once there, we'd check into the Oakland Cottage Bed & Breakfast, unload, and head to Charlotte to pick up the rest of the guys, who were flying in from Chicago.

We made great time, stopping for a quick dinner at Wendy's at some Godforsaken rest stop, and again for gas only once. A huge tank on the van ensured steady driving, which ensured I got to know Randy quite a bit more than I already have. As the hours ticked off, I picked his brain on motivation, tactics, his career, and listened to him help a pro acquaintance of mine - a client of his - negotiate a spot on the Pan Am Games women's team over the phone. I also learned he is quite a good classical guitar player and actually minored in music in college. We were never at a loss for words.

Jessica was waiting for us outside when we pulled up just before midnight. After 7 and a half hours of driving, we just wanted to hit the sack, but the trip was all so surreal, all three of us stayed up a bit talking. Jessica was my senior prom date in high school - yes, in Alaska - and had actually just been to Chicago two weekends before, for a Morrissey show at the Aragon. Before facebook we'd not talked in over 15 years, and now a year later, we'd seen each other three times over the course of various random travels.

After a quick recovery ride in the morning through a beautiful neighborhood on the outskirts of some university campus, Randy and I were on the final leg to Asheville. One truth I've learned about road trips: McDonald's only tastes good on the interstate.

That night, after a long drive back from the airport, complaining and starving the whole way, then a lagging (separate checks) and huge, heavy dinner at Texas Roadhouse, just outside of Biltmore Village in Asheville, we joked and unpacked in our rooms, and were then briefed about the weekend's riding. Like last year, we decided to move Mt. Mitchell to Friday from Sunday, due to some thunderstorms in the forecast that day.

Mt. Mitchell is the highest peak east of the Mississippi, and at 6,500 feet is tall enough to cause it's own weather, and make whatever is rolling over it a lot worse. So on Friday morning, a beautiful and sunny, yet brisk day, we rolled out after breakfast at 9am to take on one of the most epic climbs a cyclist can ride anywhere in the world.

Our planned route was 125 miles, from Asheville to the town of Marion, and then up Highway 80 to the junction with the Blue Ridge Parkway, which would lead to the entrance to Mt. Mitchell State Park. We fooled around for most of the first 50 miles, wagging our tongues at any toughguy pulls, warning about the hardship ahead. As the base of the real climbing started, however, so did the hammering, and at mile 60, we started to break up amongst the trees and the sound of the creek below the quickening switchbacks.

I hung on as long as I could, pushing steadily over 350 watts to try and stay on with JT, Jacques, Randy, Peter, and Chris. But no sooner would I close the nascent gap when I'd be falling off again. Chris was gapping in front of me as well and soon fell behind me. I was going anaerobic and realizing I'd need water and a piss soon anyways, and let off the pace to gather my wits and give myself a chance to climb strongly over the remaining 25 miles and over 10,000 feet.

Chris, Grant, Ken, and Jeremy all passed me as I pulled over. I took my time. It was a long climb. I shook off, took a sip, and got humpin' again.

Soon, those four were back behind me and Peter was now my mark. His style on these huge training climbs to hang on as long as possible, no matter the cost...but that cost is the big CRACK. It seems to work however - the man gets results. I prefer - as I stated earlier - to dial it back, and let myself get the most out of the entire climb.

I passed Peter just a few switchbacks below the Blue Ridge Junction, and then once on the Parkway, settled in for the long, lonely battle. The views were beautiful, and the weather stayed clear and sunny. It was warm and calm, and I softly sang and talked to myself over my breathing rhythm, running steady just below or at my tempo heart rate of 165 beat a minute.

The turn off to the state park entrance came much sooner than I expected. I find that odd about repeat rides - that the second time around seems much shorter. Regardless of the fact that I did in fact do this climb 10 minutes quicker, the opposite would seem to the be the case...that it would seem longer, and more drudging, now that the newness was gone. Added was the fact that my right foot had gone from an irritating ache, through a steady throbbing, to excruciating agony from the almost 2 hours of constant pressure on the ball of it. Round and round..pound, pound, pound.

As I passed the "3.9 miles to summit" sign I began to worry whether I'd be able to pedal all the way up, and thanked God I wasn't racing. Every five minutes I'd unclip it and single-leg it, which immediately alleviated the pain, but that wasn't sustainable on the steady 5-8% grade. While the first 22 miles flew by, the last four were interminable. I wanted off my bike. Now.

The three at the top were surprised to see me arrive only 9 minutes behind. But, I know that for a guy my size - high 170s - I am a decent climber. Long training climbs like this are obviously not realistic for me to "win" but they give perspective and they clarify, as well as imbue power and form for climbs I can do well on - short intense efforts, ala Snake Alley, or Fox River Grove.

It was glorious up there, looking out on top of the world. The sun shone down on us with warmth in our time to relax, waiting for the others; a reward for our effort. We ate. Clif, fruit, candy, sandwiches. Anything we brought we put it in our mouths. We watched what few people were up there with us prattle around, before asking one of them to take our picture.

We'd descend directly down to Asheville this time, instead of back to Marion and the shuttle bus as we did last year. The Parkway was closed that side of the ridge, but cyclists generally weren't hassled about it and Randy was upbeat about the route. Within 5 seconds of working my past the barrier, however, I dropped my chain and sucked it into my bottom bracket, where it stayed, wedged it tight. I could see chunks of clearcoat gouged out, and it was obvious I wasn't going that way back to Asheville.

Still able to coast, I floated back to the park entrance and flagged down a service vehicle. I was joined by Chris, who'd just flatted minutes before, and we hitched a ride back to Marion. My cell service was just enough to get a hold of Andy in the SAG wagon and tell him where we would be. On the way into town, just out of the last decent we passed Greg, who I last saw flying off the front of the group. He must have loaded the wrong Garmin file and turned left instead of right.

No matter, it all came together in the end. Except of course for the ice cream shop being closed. They'd provided the us the "Greatest Milkshake Ever" after last year's ride. I saw someone working inside, who told me, with a straight face after my knocking on the window, that their first day was tomorrow.

Greg rolled up just as Andy did, and when we got in, there were three ice cold cokes and three creamy Lil Debbie oatmeal cream pies waiting for each of us.

Tomorrow - Part 2: Back to the Blue Ridge, Mt. Pisgah and Devil's Courthouse



The Midnight Shows

Before I was riding hundreds of miles a week, I played laid down Motown-esque grooves on a 1976 Fender Jazz in the local band, The Midnight Shows, fronted by my good friend Rudy Gonzalez. Before I had to quit to pursue my riding about this time last year, we went into the studio and recorded three tracks. Rudy has finally posted the initial rough mixes on the band's page, and I encourage you to go and give them a listen. They sound great.

Hearing them makes me feel sad and nostalgic for those days, but that's the great thing about memories. They make you hurt, but only because they are so real.


And now...

I would like to take this opportunity to welcome back the Baha'i Temple Sprint.

You may continue with your day.


Dear Zach

Dear Zach,

I hope you read the comments here and realize the error in your thinking. And specially after consulting with Michigan’s vehicle codes. The roads are for everyone.

Being delayed to your next red light because you had to wait to pass a cyclist safely is not a legitimate reason for killing him or her. How is waiting to pass a cyclist safely any different than waiting to pass a mail truck or other slow vehicle? Just because they are a cyclist absolves you and gives you the right to run them over?

As it is, your mental processes in this line of reasoning expose your lack of intelligence, as well as your insecurity over your incredibly small penis, which you attempt to compensate for by flying into a rage at being inconvenienced by someone whom you view as “weaker” than you – a false perception given off by the fact that you are encased in a steel, 4-wheeled, C02 generator. But, sorry the 200 horse power between your legs does not make your tiny little penis – rendered shriveled and useless by years of drinking Bud Light, listening to Corn and Linkin Park, and repeated viewings of Rob Schnieder movies – any larger.

This type of mentality is going the way of the mammoth. It’s time to take a more thoughtful approach to getting around, consuming and wasting less, consolidating our resources and using them in smarter ways, and just plain getting along with other people.

Which excludes running them over because they’re in the way.

Recovery Friday

The drain from Wednesday's idiocy was readily apparent on yesterday's moderately paced work-commute -"GAP!" Seriously, I could not stop eating:
  • huge bowl of oatmeal, with yogurt and a fried egg for breakfast
  • Clif bar on arrival, followed by a granola bar at my desk
  • Office cake @ 10:30
  • Chinese food from cafeteria, w/pot stickers (went back for pudding)
  • Ginormous 400 kcal krispie treat from the Starbucks kiosk

All this was before getting home and eating a Nutella and jelly sammich followed by a wok full of homemade salmon pad thai.

Today's recovery regimen couldn't be more welcome.

Diddy Kong and I are taking our bikes on Metra to work, and then riding home. Stops include Evanston - Turin for the team's SRAM order and The Spice House - and then Devon for some saffron for tomorrow night dinner party.

It's not really a dinner party, per se. Just a little get together to thank the neighbors for making me feel so welcome. Making the recent Risotto Milanese recipe that was posted on PEZ. If I know you and you'd like to come, drop me a line over the nets and I'll send you my address. We should have plenty.

I suppose however, that in honor of Paris-Roubaix this Sunday I should be serving something a little bit more...northern provincial...rabbit stew with a nice bottle of Chatteneauf de Pape?

No bother. It will be incredibly delicious. I'm sure Tom Boonen would eat it.

I'll get Jack out to the park for another ridiculous exercise session with his new favorite toy, the under-inflated soccer ball. The trick is to just keep kicking it back and forth until he begins to trip over his tongue trying to get at it.

Then it's early to bed for this guy. Maybe even 8. Three Sisters is on tap for tomorrow.

Just now I heard a spokeswoman for some sort of Friends of Douglas Park on Chicago Public Radio say, regarding the Olympics and permanent infrastructure, "Who's going to use a velodrome in the City of Chicago?"

The listener comments number is 312-948-4701.


My Dumb Century

Bit off more than I could chew today. 93 mile Wednesday. I gotta figure out a way to do Turin and still have enough energy after riding the round trip to work in Northbrook. Not starting off the day with a 10 mile time trial would be a good start. I was getting gapped into Highland Park when my bottle blessedly fell out of the cage. Thank Jesus. Starting this ride at mile 60 ain't gonna work.

(click for detail)


From Martyr to Gladiator

A sun-baked statue, in the crowd's dull murmur
Bathes in the gaze of an unrestrained fervor.
The glint of my sharpened blade cuts just as deep
As the eyes of the lion pierce my will to resist.

Prayers alone once gave me the strength to leap
Providing a mantel on which courage to keep.
In that giddy state I’d give his mouth my wrists
And fall to my knees to await pity and capture.

Yet the spit from the mass would only persist
A frothing and oily anger, screamed and hissed.
Still slick with naiveté, I’d only stare and demure
At the shadowy hate - backlit madness - and weep.

The heat of the sun sucked up, one-by-one, my tears
And breathed life into a single flower, sown in fears.
And the petals grew black, grown sour in the heat -
I’ll give spit, sweat but no more my own blood.

At this affront, the crowd stood in their seats,
And cried, showered me in their graces and screamed
With love for me, for my birth from that bud,
For my certain death by teeth, club and spear.

Now that I fight with the beast in the mud,
Not accepting release from his bite in the flood
Of hurled spite and venom, and rotten sneers -
I stand in the sun and welcome my defeat.

Monday's Perspective

Good times in Hillsboro on Saturday, even with nothing near the result I wanted.

Our race stayed together until the end, and first race jitters kept me from going out on my own, like I'd told myself I would at least try. Moyer, Briney, William, Wiberg, Stocky, and I had a lot to do with keeping it together however. But I could think of a couple of moments when, just after chasing a break down, or when Wiberg's and William's own break was reeled back in, where I should have just kept on going. All it could've needed was one more push. Hindsight is foresight...

Coming into the feedhill on the last lap I was off Moyer's wheel by about three or four bikes when he attacked, and I could not get my legs to go any faster. As I started going backwards, lots of people went around the gap and there I was. I recall seeing William finish about 50 yards in front of me with a few in between and he was 21st, he told me. So I was 25th maybe.

I can't remember if I big-ringed everything last year, but I did race with a 27 cluster back then. This year I did big-ring it all, and rode with a 23. Maybe that was ambitious? I climbed much stronger last year, or maybe the pace was that much higher this year, but in either case that hill just KILLED my legs on Saturday. My heart rate was not elevated, however. I'm not sure if I saw 180 all day. I raced in the Stingers and I just had the HR on. No idea - I have to download the data now.

It was a fun race to be sure - a great way to kick off the season. Plus I rode the new Stingers - tubies - and the wheels felt GREAT. I kept them just a bit underinflated and they took the bumpy turns sure and true. Smooth and great power over the cobbles.

I can't wait for a nice flat crit to race those on. But I'll have to have a better strategy in place for my next race, which is Baraboo, in actuality. It will be a good one since it's 2 weeks after Asheville, but I'll have to be more mentally ready for that climb.

The next two weeks, however, are just very hard training. The first sprint clinic, Fit Check Time Trial - both in sub-40 degree temps - and then a long team ride on Saturday. Sunday will a Delucca ride followed by breakfast at my place with anyone who'd like to join in pancakes and an online stream of Paris-Roubaix. Then a week from this Wednesday I leave for Asheville. Nothing more to say about that trip.

Well, other than I love the Asheville camp and have been looking forward to it all year. But I'll be happy just to find some Baraboo legs there. At the very least I'll finally be able to stop spending money on camps and get a couch. But then Moyer just pointed out a man has to have his priorities. After all, couches make you softer, camps make you harder. I better put this one to good use for the 'Boo.



See you at the line

Off to Hillsboro.

Some required listening for the warm up with the iPod.

Race safely!