I'm not sure what happened tonight, but something about being away from home for 10 days left me with a lot to catch up with at home. I got back to Emmaus this morning, after catching a ride with Daniel from Brooklyn, then went straight to work.
There was a ton of junk mail that I had to separate and recycle, a new VFW membership card to be inserted into my wallet and a new issue of the competition, which need to be perused.
Plus, the date for SpaCx v.3 (Facebook users, put your thumbs up!) has now been confirmed for Oct. 23 -- so there was social networking to work on (though this mission was mostly unsuccessful). Followed by grocery shopping, dinner, and kitchen cleaning.
After all that, there was The Office to watch, and 30Rock.
I managed to unpack a little, mostly digging out things I needed for a brief recovery ride on the rollers tonight, but still have two bags mostly stuffed in my hallway.
All things being equal, it was a moderately relaxing evening, but I was hoping to get to bed MUCH earlier than I will be to at this point. Oh well.
As you've probably guessed by now, this is all a roundabout way of saying that I'm going to offering only a short post tonight.
More on that recovery spin: I rode 23 hours in Austin last week, the most I've ridden in a single week this year. It would likely have been more, but I arrived late in Austin on Monday, and didn't have time to ride before by 6:30 a.m. flight on Sunday. Even so, it was enough. I was really tired Sunday and Monday, and my legs felt dead as I limped around the office.
An hour spinning easily on the rollers helped move all the crap out of my legs, and left me feeling a lot better, like, a lot better. Thanks to today's recovery ride, I'll be able to get back to training tomorrow. With the season's first races coming up this weekend, I can't wait!
Monday, February 28, 2011
I'm not sure what happened tonight, but something about being away from home for 10 days left me with a lot to catch up with at home. I got back to Emmaus this morning, after catching a ride with Daniel from Brooklyn, then went straight to work.
Sunday, February 27, 2011
It was quite a trip out west. Awesome skiing in CO with my bro, followed by six great days of riding with my co-workers in Austin and two days spent drooling at the North American Handmade Bike Show.
I'm going to keep this post very short tonight because I'm beat, but here are some highlight photos. Check back tomorrow for more on the trip!
The plane got a flat tire
Needless to say, this was no the only flat of the week
Yes, it is taller than the US Capital
Riding through the streets in any city is always fun
Thanks to the guys for giving me one last working-over on Saturday
We would have been lost otherwise
There was plenty of BBQ
This was the grill at The Salt Lick
The locals were a little confused by the spandex parade
Any guesses on the cost of those bikes?
Thursday, February 17, 2011
I don't remember when exactly it was, but some time last year I read one of those Velo News stories where you're not sure why you're reading it, but you still come away learning something. The headline was something like "Inside the pro's suitcase."
A video with the story consisted of a pro (I don't remember who it was) telling viewers how they pack for a race.
Well, I'm not packing for a race, but I am leaving, at 4:45 a.m. no less, for a 10-day trip to ski in Colorado and test bikes and attend to some business in Austin. As such, I've just finished packing up a ton of shit. Somehow, I got everything into one checkable bag, one carry on bag, and one small backpack. We'll see how much stuff I forgot when I get to Austin.
Back to the Velo News story: I took away one important lesson, which is not to risk losing your cleats. If you get to the race and find that you've forgotten your bibs or your jersey, there's a good chance that someone else will have a set to lend you. But no one is going to lend you their cleats. Avoiding the risk of lost checked baggage is fairly simple, you just pack your shoes in your carry on.
For this trip, I took it a step further by packing one of the two pairs of cleats I'm bringing along, as well as one set of cycling clothes, my helmet and a couple of other basic necessities into my carry on. I'll still be sad if my checked bag, which contains the bulk of my clothes and all of my ski gear goes missing, but I wouldn't miss a ride. And that, of course, is the most important thing.
My schedule while in Austin will be fairly rigorous, so I will not be able to regularly update the blog until my return to the east coast on Sunday, Feb. 27, at which time I'll resume regular updates.
With that, I'm bidding the blog adieu. Of course, stay tuned to twitter for tales from the west!
Wednesday, February 16, 2011
Gary Fisher, father of the mountain bike, stopped by to say "hello"
Some of his ideas are a little wacky, others are right on
In my previous life, at the newspaper, we would occasionally receive surprise visitors. Usually, these people fell into one of three categories: old codgers with nothing better to do then to tell us how poorly we were doing our job (always appreciated), candidates seeking office (some more legitimate than others), or the visitors who we thought might be mentally ill and came in telling us that Christ had arrived in Saratoga and was communicating through radiator pipes (true story).
Bicycling's offices are pretty far off the beaten path and the local residents don't seem overly concerned with how well we're doing our jobs (a pleasant change), so unexpected pop-ins take a little more effort. But, that didn't stop Gary Fisher, inventor of the mountain bike, from stopping into our offices today.
On Gary Fisher's company website (Gary Fisher is now a
Gary, who apparently used to work at Bicycling, was making some appearances in Pennsylvania to talk about a favorite topic of his: how bikes can changes the world. Gary, who lives in San Francisco, is apparently in the midst of pushing an ambitious program there to remove all those polluting, unhealthy weapons from the streets. He's talking about cars, of course -- in case that's not obvious.
The most salient point that I took away from the near-four hours I spent with Fisher today, was that Dutch-style bikes don't work here in the US because we don't want heavy, slow bikes that we leave outside all the time. Instead, we want fast, slick-looking, maneuverable bikes that are utilitarian but can still be carried upstairs. My own experience agrees -- as much as I enjoyed riding to the grocery store on the various cargo bikes I've been testing, I recognize that I have a lot more fun riding to work on my fixed gear.
We also spent a long time talking about bikes with electric assists. Using one of these gets you to where you're going without sweat -- great for people reluctant to ride to work for fear of arriving sloppy. Similarly, there's nothing like an electric assist to get you over that hill between home and work. But, says Fisher, there's a serious need to standardize assists, as we don't want people riding around on mopeds and calling them bikes.
Unfortunately, we got into a little trouble on twitter when Gary tweeted that he was "at Bicycling magazine offices... no one knows who I am." Of course, everyone who works at Bicycling knows who Gary Fisher is, but the same can't be said for Rodale's receptionist. As soon as she called up to announce the surprise visitor our offices started buzzing with Fisher's imminent visit, and everyone dropped what they were doing to sit and hear his (rather impressive) rap. After all, visionaries don't wander in every day.
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Tuesday, February 15, 2011
Everyone has their limits. I think I may have found some of mine this evening. As I've been doing all winter, I set out to complete three 20-minute intervals at sub-threshold power levels. Coach Scott has raised the target power zone for this workout each week, putting me at a new high tonight.
While these workouts, which I've been doing twice a week, are always painful, tonight was, by far, the most painful. I pushed through the whole set, but it wasn't easy. Maybe because it was my 11th-consecutive day on the bike, and I probably didn't take my easy ride on Monday quite easily enough. I've got one more workout planned for this week, another set of three 20-minute intervals, and I'll certainly be taking tomorrow's easy day very seriously so I can hopefully get through the week's last set.
Don't worry about me over training: Following Thursday's ride, I'll be off the bike for four days, skiing with my brother in Colorado for two of those days, and traveling for the other two. After that, it's five days of riding in Austin. If that sounds good to you, rest assured that it sounds even better to me. While in Texas I'll be riding some of the best and brightest bikes of 2011 in the process of determining Bicycling's Editor's Choice bikes, and will not be riding my own bike at all.
The privilege of testing new models is, at once, one of the most exciting and onerous aspects of my job. To clarify, I say onerous only because I'll be separated from my power meter, which I've quickly come to view as an important training tool. There was a time, really not that long ago, when I viewed even a simple cycling computer as an ugly, unnecessary addition to an otherwise clean and beautiful bike. How things change. I guess, if I miss the quarq too much I'll just console myself in some Super Record or Di2.
Life, is rough. And, as we all know, even if I'm complaining about not riding my own bike, I have no limits where new gear is concerned.
Monday, February 14, 2011
Another day of weather-related firsts: First ride of the year without a jacket and wearing knee warmers! It was windy today, but otherwise a great day for a lunch ride. I know I still have a few more roller rides ahead of me, but I'm getting the sense that my days of indoor rides are numbered, and that's a beautiful thing. I'm hoping that tomorrow and the rest of the week will bring more of the same type of dress.
On a somewhat down note, I broke my rear SRAM Force shifter yesterday on The Derby, leaving it without any detents. Needless to say, this is quite a pain in the ass, and left me with only a couple gears to use on today's lunch ride.
Fortunately, the shifter is still under warranty, and I'm hopeful that I'll be able to get a replacement soon, but, in the mean time, I've brought an old friend out from the storage rack to ride.
Although my old Scott Addict is tired after tens of thousands of miles, it's always been a great bike and I'm thoroughly looking forward to getting it out for a few miles this week. However, I'm not looking forward to cleaning the bike once the ChampSys rig is back in working order, as I'd never be able to store a dirty bike -- much less a dirty, white bike. For anyone who ever asked why I kept around the hardly-used bike -- this is why.
In other news, today is Valentine's Day. In celebration, now that I've confirmed my status, yet again, as a bachelor, I did nothing -- save enjoy a "man date" with a friend at a local watering hole. Two beers later, I'm still single. So it goes.
Enjoy this collection of love-related posts from other writers.
Sunday, February 13, 2011
I accomplished two things this weekend: I spent nine hours riding my bike for a grand total of 175 miles over the two days, and finally hanging curtains in my living room, pictured above. Unfortunately, I couldn't back up far enough to get a photo that really does the room justice (there was a wall in the way), but I think the rust-colored curtains look pretty good, and do a nice job of warming up what was a cold-feeling, all white room. The curtains also work pretty well with my new area rug and furniture.
To answer the question that burns in your head: Yes, that is a Tour of the Battenkill poster on the wall between the two windows.
I got the hardware for the curtains up a week ago, after borrowing a ladder from a co-worker, but I quickly realized that hanging the curtains without ironing them first would only add credence to the notion that I'm a poorly put together slob, and I'm hoping to avoid that kind of image.
It took me a week to get around to borrowing an ironing board and making the time to iron the large panels (each window is eight feet high). Now that it's done, I don't ever want to iron again. Unfortunately, I still have to hang a curtain in my bedroom, but that project is going to wait for at least a few days.
I drifted back to snap this photo
I hope to be competitive some day -- once the really fast guys leave town!
On the bike, I linked up with big mile groups on both Saturday and Sunday this weekend, putting in five hours Saturday including a trip to the north and west on roads with which I am only marginally familiar. There's still some ice around, but by-and-large, the roads were in good shape.
Sunday was the largest Derby I've yet been on, with crowds drawn out by the relatively warm air. About 80 riders were in the group today, without a doubt the largest group of cyclists I've ever seen assembled outside of a more formally organized event. At one point, after sitting in the middle of the group, I decided to drop back to take the photo above, and realized the enormity of the group when it took me several minutes to reach the back.
As large as the group was, the ride still played out in a fairly predictable manner: It was fast from the turn, then went faster over the smaller rollers, and then went really fast over the Topton Hill, with a cadre of pros driving the pace. Once again, I made the selection, and hung on until about the last mile, when I couldn't get back onto The Animal's wheel, and popped off the back to ride it in on my own. So it goes.
I'm trying to see the bright side: I may have gotten dropped, but I was dropped by pros from Bissell, Kelly Benefits, and United Health Care, along with an Olympian and other assorted really fast guys.
All in all, a pretty solid day on the bike. The forecast for tomorrow is really warm and I, for one, am looking forward getting out for a nice recovery spin.
Thursday, February 10, 2011
After a respite earlier this week, it looks like the winter weather is going to give us another break this weekend, with temperatures in or near the 40s for both Saturday's and Sunday's rides.
I, for one, am pretty excited to get a lot of miles in while it's warm(er) out. We're well into base-building season now, and I'm looking forward to racing my way into shape in just a few weeks, meaning that I'll be wrapping up my super long-mileage weeks in the relatively near future, and replacing them with shorter, more intense workouts designed to build speed.
As a cyclist, I'd rather do the 20-minute intervals I've been doing thus far this winter any day than shorter, more intense intervals, which tend to be quite a bit more painful and harder to recover from, for me. But, the goal is to win bike races, and you can't do that without high speed intensity. Just ask Mark Renshaw.
To get ready for big miles this weekend I put in some cadence work on the rollers tonight (if you're looking for a thrill ride of a good time, try keeping your bike rolling smoothly on Kreitlers at 150RPM), and will hopefully get out for a relaxing lunch ride tomorrow, in warmer (but not yet warm) temperatures.
Yup, there's lots to look forward on the bike in the next few days.
Side note: Off the bike, this winter I've skipped the weight routine from last year, which I hated and which produced no measurable results, and instead have been working out with a Swiss ball at home. Doing simple exercises like push ups, crunches and planks on the ball forces your core and stabilization muscles to work hard, efficiently toning your muscles (gotta look good!), and, I think, improving balance.
Wednesday, February 09, 2011
For years I lived without a TV. I never had one in college, didn't have one after college, and I was grateful for the time I didn't waste staring at the idiot box, as my friends and family became increasingly invested in drivel such as Dancing With the Stars and Celebrity Goose Wrangler, or whatever.
But, I'd be lying if I said I didn't miss the flickering appliance from time to time. And in the past year I've emerged a little from under my rock, watching some shows online. I'm pretty selective about my media intake, but damn -- 30Rock is funny, and so is The Office, and why shouldn't I get to enjoy like all my pears?
Then, shortly before I moved a former co-worker gave me an old TV that he didn't want. It really is an old TV -- from the vacuum tube era, and pride alone gave my brother the strength to carry it single handed up the stairs to my apartment (it would have taken at least two or three cyclists to move that behemoth.)
Now, I don't have an antennae, satellite or cable, but I do have a Roku box, which lets me stream content from the Internet on the TV. And so, for the past month or so, I've been watching way more than my fair share of TV. I don't feel good about it, but I find myself compelled to turn the damn thing on every evening.
With the TV on, I'm less productive, stay up later, and wind up with more typos here on GBBM. In fact, those are the very same reasons I cited for not owning or watching a TV for so many years. So tonight I made a concerted effort not to turn the TV on. Instead of repairing to my usual spot on the sofa, I'm making use of a sort-of-comfortable chair rescued from the trash following a friend's move, with my back to the TV (and to the construction zone currently occupying my living room, but that's a story for another day).
While sitting here tonight I worked on an essay I plan to submit to some non-fiction journals later this month, edited a bike review for work, and, of course, wrote this post. I also talked philosophy with the same friend who gave me the chair, discussing for a few moments a tendency we share to not buy things that might tempt us to unhealthy behavior, such as Oreos. If I bought Oreos, the package would be gone by the end of the day. I avoid temptation by simply skipping that aisle in the grocery store.
I suppose the TV is a little of the same. I love TV, but it's definitely in the "guilty pleasure" category for me, and flipping it on should be a treat, rather than a daily fix. Turning my back on it tonight was a good start, not unlike leaving the cookies in the store, but I think I'll need a better way to conceal it in the future -- if only so that I can return to the much more comfortable couch.
And look at that: Thanks to a TV-less night, I'm pushing "publish" well ahead of bed time, leaving me time to fold some laundry.
Tuesday, February 08, 2011
Anwar El Sadat. If anyone's curious, he was the president of Egypt, before Hosni Mubarak. Incidentally, that was also the answer to the last question at trivia tonight at Volpe's Pub.
Not only did Team Funky Buttlovin' get the last question right, thanks to Matt Allyn (I didn't recall Ms. El Okdah's junior year history class fast enough), but we took the win with a grand total of 20 points. We would have done a little better if we'd studied the world's 10 tallest buildings, but, on the up side, I knew that the song "Bedrock" is performed by Young Money, including Lil' Wayne, the correct answer to a name-that-song question.
Of course, revealing the answer to my coworkers/teammates opened me to the embarrassment of owning up to my knowledge crappy pop rap, but hey, we won. So, whatever.
Of course, the victory was not without a little stress. Teams are able to wager up to their total number of points for the last question, meaning that a correct answer can double your points. Typically, the strategy is to wager most of your points, but after a warning from the DJ that no teams had answered the question right this week we decided to play it safe, wagering only one point. When we knew the answer, we kicked ourselves for not wagering more. The wait for the right answer was harrowing.
Well, after getting the answer right (the only team to do so) we won, doubling the points of the second-placed team. Woo hoo!
How's that for a race report?
I also rode my rollers tonight, adding miles onto a windy lunch ride, but no one wants to read about watts and sweat.
Funky Buttlovin' will look to repeat next Tuesday -- can you say "dynasty?"
Monday, February 07, 2011
I have two point to make tonight:
1) Winter is long and hard in the north east. This winter, in particular, has been rough. There's been a lot of snow, it's been cold, it gets dark early (as usual). None of this is surprising, really, but it's still a drag.
Most winters, even harsh ones like this one, have a respite, and this year was no exception. Sunday's temperature reached into the upper 30s, or possibly even the low 40s, and I was able to ride with just three layers. This may still seem like a lot, but after months and months of piling on layers, I might as well have been naked and immersed in a warm bath.
My ride on Sunday was broken into two parts: The Derby (and the ride to and from The Derby), then a ride out to Kutztown with some other Emmatians. For the second half of the ride, I even ditched my ski gloves in favor of a lighter pair, allowing me to re-discover what my handlebar feels like.
This may seem a tad over dramatic, but my outside riding has been so encumbered by layers that it was a relief to feel a breath of non-stinging air on my face and neck. It was enough to give me a taste for what riding is like in warmer, glory days, and gave me and everyone else something to look forward to.
The winter respite continued today with even warmer temperatures, reaching into the 40s. It wasn't quite warm enough, but on a wet lunch ride (all the snow is melting), I rode in just bibs. Yup, no knee warmers, no tights, no leg warmers. Not even any embrocation. In truth, I started out in leg warmers, but was so warm and uncomfortable by the time we'd climbed out of town that I had to strip the leg warmers off, exposing my pasty skin to the winter air.
It felt really good, until cold water from the road splashed all over me. Turns out that even in the middle of a winter respite, you should keep your legs covered. But, feel free to take your hat off, which I also did today -- very much enjoying the wind in my hair.
2) I felt like crap on the way to The Derby on Sunday morning. My legs were tired from a tough workout on Friday evening and a hard ride on Saturday. I thought that for sure, this would be the week that I just sat in on the way back to Trexlertown and didn't turn myself inside out in futile pursuit of a sprint win that will never come.
Well, somewhere along the way out to the turn around my legs started feeling better. Maybe it was a long conversation on politics in cycling with Torch, or maybe it was a brief stint on the back of the group by myself, lost in thoughts, but something on the roll out got the life back in my legs.
I took turns on the front, rotating with a Bobby Lea and Bissell Pro Cycling's Kyle Wamsley and Shane Kline, The Animal, and a few others, feeling comfortable taking hard pulls. Shane put in a really hard acceleration going over the climb into Topton, and it somehow fell to me to try and get the group back on terms with him. I was getting there, but I was struggling to close the last bike length, sapping my legs in the wind. Wamsley was my savior with a well-placed shove to the lower back, shooting me back onto terms and Kline's draft. I've never been so grateful.
The acceleration and chase had split the group, and just six of us made it over the top in the lead. Lea dragged us on the next stretch, and we rolled fast and hard (near red light and car pull out, notwithstanding) back to the finish. I came off the wheels about a kilometer from the finish, so I'm not sure who won the sprint, but after getting unceremoniously dumped from the lead group on the Topton climb a month ago, making it into the lead group on Sunday was as good as a sprint win.
Progress. Hopefully it'll translate to racing, come March.
Sunday, February 06, 2011
Thursday, February 03, 2011
I got a haircut this morning.
The haircut would have been remarkable enough just for it's lack of quality, but it also turned out to be memorable for the ignorance my barber betrayed while cutting my hair.
A TV new reporter on Mayor Michael Bloomberg's efforts to curb illegal firearms, followed closely by a report on a smoking ban at a state park sent the barber off the deep ban.
"Oh sure, it's a free country!" he remarked after the smoking ban report.
Then we got to Bloomberg:
"That guy! He's a communist!" Snarled the old man. He then went off on a tirade on how if we got ride of guns, we'd all be killing each other with knives and swords, "like in Africa, that country has all kinds of problems."
OK. Setting aside completely the issue that Africa is a continent and not a country, I think it should at least be common knowledge that guns are not exactly hard to come by in some African nations. Secondly, and perhaps more hilariously, the idea of calling Michael Bloomburg a communist would be like calling Chris Rock white.
See, before he was a gun-hating mayor, Michael Bloomberg created a multi-billion dollar monstrosity of capitalism. There's nothing communist about Bloomberg (the company) or the man himself.
So, I realize that I'm pretty liberal on the guns issue, but I was also trained as a historian and I know what differentiates a communist from a capitalist. I therefore feel justified in saying that this barber was way off base in his assertions. That kind of ignorance is just disgusting, and, I think it goes without saying, he's lost a customer -- not that he cares, but I don't care to keep such unenlightened company.
Guns have their place, but I really feel that no one outside of law enforcement or military settings should be able to buy a semiautomatic handgun. Thanks to Mayor Bloomberg, we now have a very real illustration of how easy it is for anyone to do just that. What a great world to live in.
Wednesday, February 02, 2011
I came across a very interesting story about Graeme Obree in the Guardian today. Apparently, the former world TT champ and aero innovator realized five years ago that he's gay and chose to publicly come out of the closet this week.
In a sport with few gay athletes (or former athletes), this was interesting news.
More interesting, to me, at least, was this passage:
Obree has spoken of his resentment of cycling's doping culture, which he feels denied him a ride in the Tour de France. And although it is rare for him to pause, he does as he considers whether he also "blames" cycling for stealing those years from him; for being the means by which he sought escape from himself. "Actually, I don't," he eventually says. "I did spend years resenting cycling. I resented it because of the doping but also the fame that came with it. I was subjugated by fear of myself, because I couldn't dare be myself."
I had to stop and think about Obree trying to ride away from his sexuality. To be honest, I think more people than would care to admit it publicly use cycling (and other sports) as an escape from unhealthy habits or thoughts. Cycling, it seems to me, is uniquely suited to this purpose, as the sport enables you to get very significant physical distance from whatever troubles you, with relatively little effort.
Taking it a step further, there's a sort of disassociation you can experience when riding on a familiar road, pedaling along without thinking. You can't do that playing team sports where constant focus is the name of the game. Unlike Obree, I think I tend to use cycling to escape into myself, rather than away from myself: I've been on rides by myself, where I'll come to an intersection miles and miles from home and realize that I have no specific memories of how I got there that day. I may remember something my friend said in that spot on a previous ride, but I won't remember if any cars passed me today, or if there were any new cracks in the macadam.
It's a euphoric, meditative experience to go so deeply into yourself that you get somewhere without realizing you're going there.
But escaping one's struggle to define their sexuality is something else entirely. I've never tried to ride away from such an integral part of my personality, but I do remember riding once with John this fall, in the chaotic weeks before I moved to Pennsylvania. It was one of those rides where you start out with a big group and head far from home. Slowly, as the ride goes on, folks turn back in twos and threes, to tend to family affairs, clean the rain gutters, or whatever.
I had just told my erstwhile partner that I was moving and things were understandably rocky. I had no reason to ride home as my only plans were to spend time with her, so at every turn I goaded John into extending the ride farther and farther until we had traced the northern boundaries of our county and were driven home by a fierce desire for lunch. On the way back to town John said I'd have to call someone else to ride the next couple hours with me. It was a joke, I was at my limit, but I think John knew I wasn't really ready to go home.
I knew I had to head home; I couldn't ride away from my relationship. Not for the afternoon, not even for a couple minutes -- I carried my concerns on every mile of that ride, just as, I imagine, Obree carrying his confused identity with him while trying to ride away for all those years.
The thing is, you've got to come home sometime.