More on this tomorrow, but a quick post to let you know that I finished seventh at today's Adirondack region qualifier to the Empire States Games. This results qualifies me to join nine of my fellow cyclists from this region in the state-wide competition, which takes place in late July. Let the training begin!
Saturday, May 31, 2008
Thursday, May 29, 2008
It's funny that a week that only lasted three days felt as long as a regular, five day work week. As usual, this week was filled with highs and lows. As per the norm, I'm going to offer you a brief snapshot of the week's best and worst moments:
Tops from the week:
1) Mini-vacation on Cape Cod with Becky. three wonderfully relaxing days!
2) One last family dinner with Travis, and now it's off to France with you!
3) My tour of the Serotta factory today, but more on that next week.
4) The Scott Addict is back up and running! After I got the saddle and bar tape last week, the new derailure hanger came in on Tuesday, and we're ready to go, in time for Saturday's ESQ qualifier.
5) Tom Wolfe's Man in Full, pretty good so far.
And because I'm feeling particularly optimistic tonight:
6) New York State takes a huge step forward in protecting the rights of its residents.
7) The "Sex and the City" movie opens tomorrow! You can bet I'll be lining up, even if the Times didn't like it.
Bottoms from the week:
1) Never ending dishes! Argh.
2) Rain on Saturday. Should make for a soggy return to racing after a two-week break.
3) Traffic on South Broadway. I can't wait for project to wrap up.
4) Eight of my former peers were very, very stupid.
5) Trying to figure out what to get my Mom for her 35 birthday.
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
My buddy Tom came to visit last week, in between mountain biking with Dante and packing to head out to a summer job in Colorado. We didn't have a lot of time to catch up, but he did show me some photos from the semester he just spent in Hawaii. This post is all about Tom, who
I miss sorely, and who is one of my closest friends, and probably my most dedicated blog reader (my Mom just lost that title after she admitted to not reading for several weeks).
During a break in his studies, Tom spent four solitary days hiking 70 miles over Mauna Loa, the second-tallest volcano on the state's big island. Here are some of the photos he took. For the evening, I'm going to forgo my usual captions, since I don't really have handle on what all the photos are.
Tuesday, May 27, 2008
How about in a club?
On the floor?
In this club, yea, in this club, yea, in this club
I wanna make love in this club, yea
In this club, yea, in this club, yea, in this club, yea
I can't take it no more
Baby, I'm comin' for you
You keep doin' it on purpose windin' and workin' it
If we close our eyes it could be just me and you
I guess we can give listeners a pass on the Soulja Boy song. After all, I had to do extensive research and deep meditation while poring over reams of data to figure out the lyrics' meaning in that case. Although, we're bestowing only a low pass, because any fool should have notice that "supersoak 'dat hoe," didn't make any sense within the standard confines of the English language. But that's neither here nor there.
No one is getting a pass this time around. Usher is using his nectar-sweet voice to woo us all into submission, and given the song's top position on the Billboard top 100, he's succeeded. We're all so captivated by his voice and the lilting beat that we don't even hear what he's saying.
Keep it up girl then I swear
I'mma give it to you non-stop
And I don't care who's watchin'
Of course, if you ever feel like trying, I'll be the nerdy white buy in the corner, dancing the microwave.
Monday, May 26, 2008
NASSAU – Bicycle racing is a funny sport. If you’re doing it right, it’s rather painful. The person who wins a race is usually the person who was able to stand the most pain, or the person who can capitalize on the suffering of others. On Saturday, I’ll be joining about 74 of my fellow sufferers in a race to qualify for the Empire State Games.
Since 1978, athletes representing six regions of New York State have come together to compete in 28 athletic contests at the summer games. Modeled after the Olympics, the Empire State Games were the first “state games.” Now, more than 40 states hold similar games, and more than half a million people participate across the nation. In New York, there are now four sets of games, with one set in the summer, one in the winter, one for high school students, one for the disabled.
Just like in the Olympics, not anyone can participate. For cyclists, since we’re a clan that thrives on pain, qualifying to represent your region involves suffering through a 75-mile qualifying race. Your prize if you’re one of the first ten across the finish line? A ticket to the summer games.
This summer, they’re being held in Binghamton. At the games, those who have qualified from the six regions will compete in four events. The first is an individual time trial, in which cyclists will race alone, as hard as they can over a ten-mile course. Winning times will be around or below 20 minutes. Four riders from each region will also compete in a 40-mile team time trial, in which teams of four riders will compete against the clock.
In more standard road racing formats, competitors will also face off in a 78-mile road race and a 32-mile criterium, all packed into four days of racing in late July. That’s a lot of suffering.
For the Adirondack Region, which includes Saratoga County and most of the capital district, the qualifier will be held here in Nassau this Saturday at 9 a.m., rain or shine. Pre-registration is mandatory, so visit www.empirestategames.org.
Unlike most bicycle races, it’s free to participate in the qualifier for anyone who holds a USA Cycling license. Also, unlike most bicycles races, this one isn’t broken down into experience categories; first-year racers with a category 5 license will line up with semi-pro category 1 racers. Men and women will also race together, although women will race half the distance of the men, completing four laps of a 9.5-mile course, while the men will race eight laps.
My own history with the Empire State Games is short and sweet. While living in Brooklyn, during the summer of 2006, I raced in the New York City regional qualifier. As are many bike races in the teeming confines of the city, this one is held in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park.
I know Prospect Park like the back of my hand. It’s less than two miles from my parent’s house
in Brooklyn. As a kid I played little league baseball and youth soccer in the park. As a bike racer, I’ve spent countless hours riding laps around the park’s 3-mile loop road. It was a boring place to ride, but it was never more boring than the morning I raced the NYC regional qualifier in Prospect Park.
The 75-mile qualifier required 25 laps around the park’s rolling loop. As a lowly category 4, I knew that I would have only a small chance of placing in the top ten, but I figured I’d give it a shot. Besides, how often do you get to race your bike for free?
So, as luck would have it, the skies opened and released a deluge on the morning of the race, so I saddled up for 75 soggy miles of suffering. At the end of, I had managed to finish, and did not qualify. I was tired wet and cold, and not really interested in racing my bike ever again. But, of course, I’m a glutton for punishment, so I came back, probably the next weekend.
I had to skip the NYC regional qualifier in 2007, so this year will be the best chance that I’ve had to qualify for the games during my career as a cyclist.
I won’t be so bold as to make any predictions ahead of Saturday’s qualifiers, but I will say that there are some very strong riders living in the Adirondack region, racers who know how to suffer. The open racing format could throw out a few surprises, as racers from the lower categories will do their best to unseat more established racers.
Regardless of who comes out on top, one thing is certain: only those with a strong desire to inflict punishment on themselves will be racing with an eye toward July’s state games.
Thursday, May 22, 2008
I can say with certainty that this has been one of the most difficult weeks in recent memory. Between my friends leaving town forever, Becky working the 3 a.m. to noon shift and rain all week, I'm now exhausted, sad, and in desperate need of a shave. To top it all off, I've either got a terrible cold or awful allergies, AND, I need a haircut like David Patterson needed eye surgery, but haven't managed to find time to get it done. Forgive me if I'm a little droll.
On a much happier note, Becky and I are going to Cape Cod for the weekend to hang out on the beach and relax. I think we both need it. As such, there will be no post on Sunday or Monday. I'll catch up with you on Tuesday. Have a great Memorial Day weekend, and remember, there's a reason we mark this day, and it doesn't have to do with backyard barbeque's.
Tops from the week:
1) Tom came to town. It was so great to see you, stay in touch!
2) The Brooklyn Bridge. 125 years and still going strong. I wish they built everything to last that long. And it's fun to bike over!
3) Scott's new look! So clean, so sleek.
4) Those Putnam sandwiches. Very tasty, too bad they cost half a week's pay.
5) Going to Cape Cod! It's been a whole year, I can't wait to go back.
Bottoms from the week:
1) Everything I said in the first paragraph.
2) Six day workweek. Uhg... Although, I did ask for it.
3) Gas. Enough said.
4) The power outage today. But it could have been a lot worse.
5) Ineffectual protests.
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
Well, it's now been more than a week since my disastrous crash at Bear Mountain. My body is well on the road to recovery, and now, with a little help, so is my bike.
Today, thanks to the generous warranty policy at Fizik, I now have a replacement for my wrecked saddle. To take the cake, the new saddle even came with matching Fizik bar tape. Now that's euro styling!
And speaking of style... My new helmet also arrived today. As any cyclist knows, a bicycle helmet protects your noggin by shattering. When I crashed at bear mountain my trusty white Bell Sweep performed admirably, and is now on its way to the trash.
The STI levers are scuffed, but you don't notice when you're riding
To replace it, I took advantage of my employee discount at Blue Sky Bicycles to purchase a new Sweep. The new one is nearly identical to its predecessor, but this one is in a yellow, black, titanium color scheme, which matches my team's kits. It's not the team issue Giro Ionos, but it's a whole lot cheaper, and I know it's comfortable.
Will be keeping my head safe
And making sure that I only ride in yellow and black!
At this point, I only need one more piece for my bike to back in working order. I'm still waiting on the new derailure hanger, which is on its way to NYC Velo, where I bought the bike, as we speak.
So, I'm hopeful that I'll have my bike back on the road as soon as possible. With a little luck, my bike could be ready to roll before my skin heals completely!
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
I just found the second best thing on the Internet. Obviously, this blog is the first-best thing on the Internet. The second best thing is Dave Zabriskie's blog.
DZ is one of my all-time favorite pro cyclists. He's the undisputed North American king of the ITT, and he's one of only a handful of riders to win stages in all three grand tours, with ITT victories in stage 8 of the 2005 Giro and the prologue of that year's Tour, and a road win in stage 11 of the 2004 Vuelta.
In addition to being a total bad ass on the bike, Zabriskie is quite a character. The mustache speaks for itself. He also enjoys serenading his fellow competitors before the start of road stages, and has recently been talking ad infinitum about his new chamois cream, known as "DZ nuts" -- pronounced "deeznutz." The product, which comes in a tube that could pass for a fashionable face wash, is due for mass-market release any day now. His perfect-10 wife is also pregnant with their first child.
Despite leading his team to TTT victories in Georgia and the Giro d'Italia, DZ has recently had some bad luck. He crashed on stage two of the Giro, cracking a vertebrae in his lower back. Ouch. This could hurt his chances for an Olympic berth, where he would be a serious contender for a medal in the ITT, because preferences for those slots will be given to riders with top performances in Europe. But we'll see.
Well, I think I've gushed enough about DZ. Go over and check out his blog. It hasn't been updated in the past few days, presumably because he is recovering from a serious injury, or perhaps because his wife gave birth. In any event, I'm sure he'll be back on the blog soon, and reading will be well worth your time. Enjoy!
Monday, May 19, 2008
From left to right: Me, Dante, Tom, Travis
Count 9 fingers. We all used to live at 99 Lawrence Street
I have three really good friends from my college years. Today marked the last time that all four of us are likely to be together in Saratoga Springs -- the place that marks the geographic origin of our friendship -- for a long time.
I like to think that all four of us are bound by more than our universal love for cycling. I like to think that we also have certain personality traits in common: optimism, honesty, good will toward others, etc... Some of us are messy while other are neat. Some of us are loud while others are quiet, but we always got along like peanut butter and jelly, like pizza and beer.
I met Tom when we were freshman, and had both expressed an interest in joining the then-fledgling Skidmore Cycling Club. The next year we spent countless hours riding and racing together. Tom, from rural Connecticut, was always curious about my home, and it was always fun to take him down to the city, where the lights of Times Square provided near-endless entertainment. Then there was that time we went to Coney Island, and Tom had to save Molly (another good friend) from being flung from The Cyclone. Now, that was a good time I could have done without.
In that second year of our friendship, when we were in our second year of college, we met Dante. Tom formed a bond with Dante over their mutual love for mountain biking. Dante and I bonded over journalism and skiing. Years later, I now credit myself for having helped to convince Dante to occasionally come out of the woods for road rides and -- gasp -- shave his legs. Dante, often working in concert with Tom, would go out of his way to keep my ego in check -- a very necessary role for people around me. In my junior year of college -- after Dante and Tom and I had spent a year eating pizza in the Skidnews office, riding bikes, hanging out, and just generally making mischief, we decided to live together on the same floor. That's where we met Travis.
Travis had recently given up on the lacrosse team, and wanted to try bicycle racing. It was pure coincidence that he happened to live down the hall from me that year. Trav, with his exuberant energy and spontaneous bursts of song, was a welcome addition to the posse. A man with many passions, Trav was happy to share with me his excitement for film, for sports, and for Dublin Mudslide, a flavor of Ben and Jerry's ice cream. With Trav just down the hall, I soon found that I had a training partner who matched my dedicated on the bike, even during the long Saratoga winter.
Living with other cyclists was so great
The whole year was one giant bike ride.
With the 2005-2006 academic year drawing to a close, Trav, Dante, Tom and I decided to share a house off campus for the following year. Although Dante and Travis swapped semesters, while each was abroad for half the year, and only overlapped for a bit in the middle, both of their spirits inhabited our musky, cold house for the whole year. They overlapped for about six weeks in the winter, which I fondly remember now as some of the best days of my college years, even if the house was a little crowded.
After graduation, Tom took off for California, and then two years of studying for a master's degree while riding around on a converted school bus. Dante and Travis would return to Skidmore for their senior year. I was in Brooklyn, with no plan for the future. It was only by happenstance that I wound up back in Saratoga Springs, just in time to spend most of a pseudo fifth year of college with two of my three best friends.
On Saturday, Dante and Travis graduated. Travis is off to lead a bicycle tour in France for the summer, and then off to China with his girlfriend to teach English for a year. And by this time next week Dante will be well on his way to Alaska for the summer, and Tom will be well on his way to Colorado for the summer. I'll be here.
Tom came to visit us a few times over the past year, while on breaks from his masters program. Today, he stopped in to town on his way to go for one last mountain bike ride with Dante, and to visit with Trav and I before they both head different parts of the west. All four of us sat down to lunch at Uncommon Grounds. It's sad to think that future reunions won't be as easy as Tom coming to Saratoga Springs, where all the rest of us live. But I know that this afternoon wasn't the last time we'll all be together, even if future meetings take more work. Friendships like these don't come along very often, and I know none of us will let that go.
Sunday, May 18, 2008
Like many cyclists, I think, I got started on my serious riding career in the protected and non-competitive environment of charity rides. My first charity ride was a fund raiser for Multiple Sclerosis research in New York City. My Dad and I rode a 60 mile route on that cool fall day, and we raised a couple hundred dollars for the cause. Not only did we get to participate in a favorite activity, but the charity aspect got us pedaling with a purpose.
In later years, we would become more sophisticated in our fund raising, eventually topping $15,000 in the 2007 event. We were even eventually able to recruit others to ride with us. We have relatives and friends with MS, and it felt like a great way to do something to help them out.
Eventually, I figured out, as some cyclists do, that you can ride faster, longer, and harder in competitive situations like races than you can in charity rides. But your purpose changes. Instead of riding for a cause bigger than yourself, the sport shrinks a little. It's still fun, maybe even more fun, but it becomes a lot less selfless.
So, I was heartened to learn about the Billy Grey Ride for Research that rolled out of Saratoga Springs this morning. Billy Grey was a young boy when he died of brain cancer in 2001. Since then, his family immediately dedicated themselves to finding a cure anyway they could. In addition to work with various not-for-profit organizations, Billy's father Ken also decided that Saratoga Springs needed its own charity ride.
So he created the ride for research. At first I wasn't going to ride, because I figure that I do my fund raising in the fall at the MS ride. But then it turned out that all of my usual riding partners were going. And then Cherie Grey, Ken's wife, asked me to participate. How could I turn that invitation down?
So I found myself in High Rock park at 7:45 this morning, standing in the closed road, getting ready for an easy 5-miler out to the Battlefields and back. Several of the Tuesday night Blue Sky crew was out, as well as some of the regular Sunday morning riders. This being a charity ride, there were also a few riders with aero bars on their bike, presumably triathletes.
That's the thing about charity rides: they tend to bring out anyone who owns a bike, and they tend to bring out the Lance Armstrong in everyone. So we cruised through the 50 miles. At the end of the day, I'd enjoyed a nice ride through Stillwater with some of my friends, and I'd pedaled with a purpose, contributing something to an important cause.
To donate to the cause, visit www.teambilly.org.
Thursday, May 15, 2008
So, the work week is over. I've got a busy weekend planned, with a 70 mile ride up to Hadley tomorrow, followed by my friends' college graduation. And then, on Sunday I'll kick the workweek off with a ride to raise money for brain cancer research on Sunday morning. All in all, this was a busy, but productive week. It would have been a lot better without a certain event last Sunday, but so it goes.
Tops from the week:
1) The support that my friends and team mates poured on me after my disastrous crash at Bear Mountain.
2) My friends celebrating the end of their college career, and getting to celebrate it with them.
3) Having a second bike on hand to ride when Scott was damaged.
4) Getting invited to race in the prestigious Lou Maltese Team Invitational.
5) The spring weather, and the bright flowers.
Bottoms from the week:
1) The painful and costly spill at Bear Mountain.
2) My friends are moving on, but I'm staying behind...
3) Rain this weekend... thumbs way down.
4) The gunk sticking to my body from the bandages.
5) Those danger dogs of the Adirondack foothills. Watch out, they'll get you!
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
But they harbor dark secrets
I was out for my usual mid week training ride in the foothills of the Adirondacks this morning when something wholly unexpected transpired. Something so shocking and frightening that I think my world may never again be the same. It seems that one quiet Adirondack village is not as quiet or innocent as I once thought it was.
I was mid-way up West Mountain Road, a long, grinding climb that takes you from Rt. 9N to South Shore Road, on Lake Sacandaga. I've ridden this road dozens of times during my time here in Saratoga County. But never before today had I realized that right under my over-sized schnoz, something diabolical and scandalous was happening. Something so horrible that it could make the Manhattan Project seem like a mere sneeze in a galaxy of evil doings.
Here's what happened: I was riding up the mountain, cruising by a sort of run-down looking domicile that you expect to see up here in the boonies. This one has several broken down trucks and rusty race cars in the front yard. As usual, this one also had a couple of intimidating dogs running around in the dusty yard. Not the sort of place where you expect scientists to be working on high-tech weapons.
But those assumptions left me just as soon as one of the dogs attacked me with a flurry of barks and jaw snaps. The dog ran at me as I rode by. This sort of thing happens on a semi-regular basis, but usually the dog turns away at the last second. This time was different. The dog ran straight for my rear wheel, and with a snap of its jaw, removed the valve stem on my rear wheel, instantaneously giving me a flat, and taking away my ability to escape the dog's wrath. With me unable to ride away, and with little chance of running in my cleats, the beast reared around to charge again.
Of course, I did exactly what any cyclist would do in this situation, and shouted at the dog to heel. The dog was undeterred, but my shouts summoned the owner/creator, who corralled the beast. Of course, he didn't bother to ask if I needed any help after the dog's attack. I didn't say anything either, because I was too flabbergasted at what had just transpired.
I've never before seen a dog bite through metal. And that's how I knew this was no regular dog. I had just been attacked by what is apparently the most heavily-guarded military secret since the Manhattan Project, and right here in Corinth. Well, after I got home, I immediately went into reporter mode.
The one that attacked me was much more advanced
That one even smelled like a dog
I pulled on some olive-drab and went into deep cover, infiltrating the U.S. military complex. I wasn't able to learn if these beasts are already taking down terrorists in Iraq, but one thing is for sure: photos that I was able to obtain from a secret contact I met within the Pentagon shows how advanced the device that attacked me must have been.
to control the robodogs via remote control
In this photo, a prototype is carefully observed
During my investigation, I learned that the Army has been developing the weapon system in secret, in the Adirondack foothills. Apparently, they rationalized that no one would ever look for weapons so far away from likely sights for weapons development. Well, it may have worked for a while, but whoever let that dog out this morning didn't anticipate me coming along. They thought they would be able to let these dogs carry out secret missions, completely unbeknown to mainstream media and public, but I think the public has a right to know that man's best friend might not be so friendly.
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
First off, thanks to everyone who expressed their concern over my crash. I really appreciate that so many people care about my well being. I'm happy to say that I'm doing much better. My ribs and back are much less sore than they were yesterday, and my neck is nearly back to normal. I've still got some bad road rash on my hip and knee, and the bruises on my back, which will likely take a few weeks to heal, but so it goes.
My bike is on a slightly slower road to recovery. The saddle has been sent back to Fizik for a possible warranty replacement since the base is cracked, and a new derailure hanger is on the way to replace the one that got bent on Sunday. I've also got new cork tape for the handlebar. In the meantime, I've been enjoying Douglas.
The funny thing about Douglas, is that it's a great bike, but I'd forgotten how damn heavy it is. Compared to the carbon Scott, it's a damn tank. Oh well, at least I have a back-up bike to ride in a situation like this!
Anyhow, in the interest of writing about Bear Mountain for at least three days this week, I just wanted to mention again that my team mate Danny placed third in his 40+ race, following a tremendous effort and months of training. Here are some photos:
Better get used to looking at their rear ends, cause you won't see the rest of them!
The Wonder Wheel riders seems to be a little confused about where to go
He's looking warm in that long-sleeve
But sleeves were the equipment of choice on Sunday
I think I was making Danny uncomfortable with the camera
But I knew we'd want to remember this...
Danny races for the neutral start, probably a wise decision
There was a crash in the neutral roll out in my race
I also went to watch my team mates race in Prospect Park on Saturday morning. In retrospect, I wish that I'd raced, then at least I'd have something to show for my weekend. Still, it was fun to spectate.
Monday, May 12, 2008
I've got something really big on the stove tonight, so I have to keep this ultra brief. In addition to my horrific crash yesterday, which caused severe damage to me and my bike, I also broke my floor pump. This pump has stood steadfastly by me since I first went to college in the fall of 2003. May it rest in pieces. One more thing to buy. Next time, I'm buying one with an analogue gauge. This digital one never worked for crap. See you tomorrow.
Sunday, May 11, 2008
You know what they say about a picture being worth 1,000 words? Today I raced the first lap of CRCA's Bear Mountain race. My race, which had been going well, ended unceremoniously at mile 13 of 72, when two riders got tangled up in the front of me on a slight downhill, where speeds were 25 to 30 miles per hour. The two riders were soon on the ground, and took out the riders behind them, and then me. I'm OK... ish. Here's the story:
The aluminum bar beneath is gouged as well
the jury is out on the necessity of replacing the bar
I'm not sure what happened after I hit the riders in front of me and flew through the air
but it seems that I hit my head pretty hard
My head still hurts from the impact
At least it did what it was supposed to
I've straightened it out, and although it's scratched to shit, it still works fine
So much for my shiny new bike
I didn't figure it out until I was half way back to the car
My color-coordinated Arionne ruined.
Not only is the leather cover split, but the saddle's base is cracked.
In much better news, my team mate Danny Iona, who raced in the cat 5 40+ race, rode one of the best races of his career to finish 5th in what is a monument of north east racing. He was backed up by team mates Jordan and Joel, who all finished with great times. Congrats guys, I'll see you out there soon!
Thursday, May 08, 2008
Another week that is! As per usual, I've got your top and bottom five lists. This week is slightly different from most weeks, in that I'm going to work at The Saratogian tomorrow, where I usually have Friday off. Why am I working on Friday? Because I'm not working on Sunday, and will instead be racing Bear Mountain instead. Funny thing is, I thought this trip downstate, which coincides with a fake holiday about Moms, would be a nice opportunity to spend time with my Mom. Unfortunately, my Mom and my brother are leaving for Colorado on Sunday. To add insult to injury, my Dad is going to Florida, leaving me all alone at my bike race. Oh well, at least I'll be kicking ass on the bike! (hopefully.)
Anyhow, let's get to it, because it's late and I'm tired.
Tops from the week:
1) I sold a bike all on my own today! Woo hoo...
2) The bat in city hall this afternoon... that was good for a few laughs...
3) The Giro d'Italia starts on Saturday!
4) Next week is ride your bike to work week. For me, every week is ride your bike to work week, but whateves...
5) Lunch with L. Hall. Thanks for your advice, and your interest in my career!
Bottoms from the week:
1) So busy, all the time.
2) The weather at Jiminy Peak. At least I had my cool Belgian Knee warmers!
3) This Look 586. Ugly.
4) Working six days in a row. I can't pretend I enjoy it, but at least it keeps my in dollars.
5) The still-rising price of gas. At least I got my car turned up. Maybe it'll use a little less gas.
Wednesday, May 07, 2008
When in college, my biggest concern was having an expansive desk on which to work. I was fortunate in that Skidmore provided its students with relatively large desks, and I availed myself of mine by spreading papers out across it, pilling books up high, and generally making use of every available inch of workspace.
It was an important aid to my education, I think, that I always had a place to sit down and spread out some books and a laptop.
At home, I had a very nice wooden desk that my parents bought for me when I was young, and which I used whenever I was at home. When Becky and I moved into our apartment, the plan was to turn one of our bedrooms into a study. The plan, originally, was to eventually bring my desk from my parent's house up here. After months of waiting for a promised rental van (during which time I was dong most of my writing on the sofa, in front of the TV, couldn't you tell?), I gave up and took matters into my own hands.
Well, sort of.
One night I was sitting at my desk at work (which is small and very cluttered), when my phone rang with a tip: a local elementary school had thrown away two dumpsters full of classroom furniture. The caller felt strongly that some sort of scandal was afoot. I was less concerned with a possible scandal than I was with a certain age-old adage: one man's trash is another's treasure.
As soon as my shift ended, I hoped in the car and drove over to the school, where I found, exactly as described, a dumpster full of furniture. Together with a few other dumpster divers, I pulled one fourth-grade sized desk out of the container. It easily fit in my trunk, and appeared to be in serviceable condition.
I got it home a few days later, and raised it up to high-school height. I used my drill to put two holes in the back of the desk's cuby-hole, through which I planned to run various cords. Although the desk doesn't boast much in the way of work space, the cuby has proved ideally suited for hiding my external hard drive, USB hub and various other wires.
Best of all, this silly little desk, pilfered from a dumpster, has given me a place where I can sit upright in a chair and compose, without the TV in the background, and for that, I'm extremely grateful. Now, all I need is a better chair...
Tuesday, May 06, 2008
There's something very cool about a shiny fire engine. I suppose this is a little kid thing that I've never grown out of. I love watching fire trucks drive by with their lights flashing and sirens wailing. I love how strong they look, and how utilitarian they are.
I had the chance to visit the Saratoga Springs Fire Department's main station on Lake Avenue on Wednesday. I didn't get to ride in the truck, or even slide down one of the station's many fire poles, but it was very fun to be in the station's cavernous garage, where the department keeps three fire engines, one ladder truck, a rescue truck, a brush truck, a confined space rescue truck and an ambulance.
I'd been the fire department on two other occasions, but I'd never before been allowed into the garage. On those occasions, I was visiting the firehouse on Christmas and Thanksgiving, to write about what firefighters do on those days. Yesterday, I was writing about a thermal imaging camera. The cameras are kept on the fire trucks, which are kept in the garage.
While there, I also had the opportunity to ask the assistant chief about the department's new truck. Yes, that's right, a new fire truck!
The new truck, which is going to cost about $232,000, and I fully plan on writing near endless stories about the new truck in an attempt to convey my excitement about the new truck.
The new vehicle, when it arrives, will take the place of a truck purchased in the early 1990s. That truck will got to "reserve" status, and will fill in when other trucks are in use, or in the shop. An older truck, purchased in 1977, will be put out to the proverbial pasture.
The Asst. Chief said it might eventually sent to South America, where it would be a significant upgrade. Otherwise, it would be scraped for parts. So, one more big shiny truck joins the fleet. I fully plan on pressing my nose to the window every time the new truck rolls by the office.
Monday, May 05, 2008
But look at the diversity!
And not a shred of spandex to be seen.
This Sunday, when I was slaving away at work, and while rain drops were falling from the sky, 30,000 cyclists took to the streets, highways, and byways of Manhattan to participate in Bike New York!
This recreational fun ride is a staple of spring in the city, and sends cyclists on a circuitous path through the city, from the Battery, up Fifth Avenue, through Central Park, briefly into the Bronx, down the FDR Drive, over the 59th Street Bridge, through Queens, into Brooklyn, onto the BQE and eventually over the Verrazano Narrows Bridge and into Staten Island.
Needless to say, this was a staple of spring when I was younger. My Dad and I would wake up early in the morning of the first Sunday in May, schlep over the Brooklyn Bridge to the start, just in time to stand around for five or six hours, waiting for congestion at the start line to ease up.
My interest in Bike New York fizzled at about the same time I entered my first bike races, because, despite what you might have been led to believe having read BikeSnobNYC's post on the topic, it really isn't much fun to race against unwitting competitors. Also, the risk of getting injured in a crash with some yayhoo on a hybrid is just to high to overlooked.
Still, this event has a tremendous draw in the area, as evidenced by the 30,000 people (about the population of Saratoga Springs) who participated in the rain on Sunday. I know at least three people who traveled from here specifically to ride in Bike New York, and I met several other people gearing up for the ride in the bike shop over the past few weeks.
Among those who rode is my former colleague at JackRabbit, Troy, who has only recently become enamored with cycling, but has not yet (as far as I know) been bit by the racing bug. In what is surely a tremendous demonstration of his dexterity and cycling skill, Troy shot this video during the tour:
I'd say this is a fairly accurate representation of what it's like to ride in Bike New York! I also got a report from local bicycle advocate and Naval officer Mike Root, who said it "was fun to do once." That sounds about right.
So whatever it is, it is certainly an event of note. I can't say that I miss participating, but I do take comfort in knowing that it's out there and still drawing a ton of people.
Sunday, May 04, 2008
After spending last weekend not racing, I got back into the swing of things yesterday at Jiminy Peak. I like this race a lot, and I've done it the past two years. Previous to this year, it always feel immediately after the end of the collegiate season.
That sometimes made for an interesting race. In 2006, the first year I raced Jiminy, I was at a party celebrating the end of classes until late the night before. This obviously led to me oversleeping the next morning. I all but flew to the race, arriving at the start line panting with only minutes to spare. But I made it. My teammate Scott gave me quite the bemused look when I showed up completely disheveled.
Last year went better, from a time management perspective the race still didn't that well, but at least I had time to warm up. The course, in western Mass., is pretty nice. It starts at the Jiminy Peak Resort, and completes an 18-mile loop on rolling hills. The finish is at the top of a moderately long (one mile) but not very steep climb.
I woke up on Saturday to see that it was raining something fierce outside, which was less than exciting, but I went through the motions anyway, and got myself into the car and down to Clifton Park, where I met up with another local racer, Mark Sumner, for the trip to Jiminy. Fortunately for me, Mark drive a truck, and our bikes got to ride inside, where they stayed warm, clean and dry.
The race got going, and I was feeling slightly optimistic about my chances, as I have been climbing reasonably well of late, and thought the uphill finish might suit me. Inspired by my optimism, and in spite of the rain, I dressed in full-on Euro style, with white over socks over my shoes, and eschewing fleece knee warmers in favor of the Belgian variety.
This race traditionally comes down to a mass gallop up the hill on the last lap, but last year a small group got away, and I wanted to make sure that such was not the case this year, so I got close to the front early on and made it my business to stay there. Of course, that meant that I was using a lot more energy than I really should have been.
On the first trip up the hill, I decided I was just going to ride my own pace. Oops... My own pace sent out ahead of the field. Going over the top of the climb I had a 30ish second gap. I knew I'd never be able to ride away on my own, but my quick climbing gave me a false sense of confidence. Now sure that I could climb against anyone else in the race, I redoubled my efforts to stay at the front.
As the story goes, I quickly wore myself out by doing this, and it was all I could manage to not get dropped on the next trip up the hill. I made it over the top sputtering and gasping in the rain. I did my best to recover on the third and final lap. Realizing that I was now in serious trouble, I tried to stay close the front without going on it. A strong headwind on the backside of the course made this difficult as the pace slowed to a glacial crawl.
Then we got to the base of the climb, and I had nothing left. I rode to the top like a sack of potatoes, finishing anonymously close to the rear. Damn it.
In retrospect, I think my problems were three-fold:
1) Obviously, I raced to hard during the first two laps. I was working when I should have been sitting in.
2) I didn't eat enough breakfast. Because I was worried about being late to meet Mark, I rushed out the door with only a bagel in my stomach. I tried to make up for it with gels during the race, but by that point I was already so far behind in my calories that there was no coming back.
3) I warmed up to hard on Friday. I've long believed that a medium-intensity ride on the day before a big even can loosen your legs up, but I by riding a two difficult, steep climbs on Friday, I think I overdid it, and then I went to work at the bike shop, where I didn't have any chance to recover.
I'm hoping that knowing what I did wrong will allow me to do better at Bear Mountain next Sunday. I've raced this course three times before, and have yet to not get dropped, but that was before my successful diet. Hopefully this year will be different! At least I looked serious with my Belgian knee warmers!
Mark, my travel companion for this race and hopefully others, also had a mediocre race in the 45+ category, which saw him crash twice on his brand-new (first race ever) Jamis Xenith with full SRAM Red and Zipp 404s. Ouch. Fortunately, both the bike and the rider were OK, and able to finish.
Sorry I didn't get any photos.
Thursday, May 01, 2008
Notice anything different? I've turned the title around this week... neat trick, huh? I sold a bike at the bike shop today, which was pretty cool. It was a Trek Lime, in the Lime color (imagine that). That, combined with Amanda and Eryn's visit over the weekend, were some of the best moments of this week, which otherwise saw me working long hours. I might even get some overtime out of it!
Anyway, on to the lists:
Tops from the week:
1) Amanda and Eryn come to town!
2) 200 and still going strong!
3) Eric. Accepted to his two transfer schools. Now he's got a tough decision.
4) The public library. I'd forgotten how nice the library can be.
5) Jiminy Peak! Saturday! Saturday! Saturday!
Bottoms from the week:
1) The anticlimactic barn collapse.
2) Freezing ass cold on Wednesday. That sucked.
3) Gas prices. Way, way, on the bottom of things this week, and with few prospects for moving up. I think I'm going to buy a hybrid.
4) April showers. At least it's May now.
5) Skidmore's graduation is in two weeks. I'm excited for my friends, but damn will I miss them.