115, shit. That's pretty high for standing still on the start line. Is my shoe loose? No, it's OK. Oops, time to go, better start the clock. Uhg, my brakes sound like shit. I'm going to scare everyone. God damn, this is sketchy. "CAR!" I can't believe I haven't fixed these brakes yet, the sound terrible. That turn looks sandy, here, we, go. OK, stay on that wheel. Wow, single file already, what's it been? Three miles? Yup, three miles. Good God, we're going fast. They know it's 85 miles, right? They couldn't keep this pace up the whole time, could they? OK, another roller, at least I final got the shifting dialed. Until that f-ing cable breaks. I'll probably make it another week, right? Maybe I should change it before Catskills. Nah, it'll be fine. Wow, my seatpost is creaking. This bike is probably about done. Yeah, it's had a good run, I'll figure something else out for next year. I just hope nothing brakes today. Wait, is that breaks? I can't remember. Fuckin' A, I need to focus here. Are we still going fast? Yup. Wow, how long can this possibly keep up? Wow, there are a lot of guys behind me. Is it really single file? This is serious. I wonder if this is harder than Hilltowns last week. I think it might be. That one had a bigger climb, though. God damn, why am I in the big ring? This isn't a rolling hill. Matt said it was all rolling hills. Oh well, I'm OK, I'm OK, just stay on that wheel. Stay on that wheel. Stay on that wheel. OK, stand up, Go. Sprint mutherfucker, sprint. And down. Calm down. Shift gears. Wow, hard turn. The rolling enclosure's pretty nice, I kinda wish more races would give us the whole road. Yeah, but I guess I'm still sketchy on these descents. What did I tell Dan yesterday? Descends like a feather? Descends like a feather in an updraft? Yeah, that's about right. I feel bad for the guys behind me. Oh well, it's there fault for getting behind me. Wait, I guess it would be their fault. I should probably focus a little more. Is that sweat? Yup, sure tastes like it. It's pretty early to be sweating like this. How early is it anyway? Wow, still not even 8. Why is it so early? At least I'll get home early. How much longer is this race anyway? Oh, just about 75 miles. No biggie. Huh, I guess that means the lap is almost over. Wait, really? I haven't had anything to drink at all, have I? Maybe I did. No, that was last week. I should probably start drinking. Jesus, it's so fast, though, I don't want to take my hands off the bar. Damn, and the pavement sucks. Wow, if I don't have a get soon I'm going to run out of gas. There's a lot of mile ahead of me. Lots of racers behind me, I need to eat. OK, feedzone, I guess now's the time. I can toss this wrapper here, right? That's what the feedzone's for, right? OK, need some water, too. I really hope three bottles is enough today. I wish I had a girlfriend. Then I wouldn't have to carry this bottle on my back. That'd be nice. This was a bad day to forget my towel. There are way more women here than normal. I wonder how many of them are racing, seem to be a lot on the side of the road. This road's still scary. Damnnit, how are we still going this fast. How long's it going to keep up for? Who's driving it? God, I don't know anyone. I should race in PA more. Wait, there's Ryan. I know him. Maybe I'll ask him how he's doing. No, I'll save it. Too much work to get up there. Actually, maybe I should move up, that climb is coming soon, right? God, I wish these guys would slow down. Can I keep this up? I don't know, maybe another lap. If I can make it halfway, that'd be good, right? Jesus, what's wrong with me? Of course I can make it. I can make it. Just get back onto that wheel. It's right there, just six inches and you'll be OK. Fuck, Ryan's right in there. If he's not getting dropped I can't. either? I think that sentence would be better if I put either on the end of it. I'll try it later. OK, UP! Harder man, harder. You can do it. Just get on there and chill. My stomach does not feel great. That's why I don't like early races. So hard to fuel for it. Maybe I need to burp. Yeah, that'll make me feel better. Gotta wait until I'm not breathing so hard. When's that gonna be? Man, this hill is so fast. Maybe I should race with an 11. I think SRAM makes an 11-21, right? I'll have to check the website when I get home. Do people really race on compacts? That Cervelo would have been good today, on these fucking potholes, but man, that compact wouldn't have done it. I wonder if people would have noticed the new bike. People at Hilltowns liked it, and it was just on top of the car. I guess Ian's riding that new bike. No one seems to care about that. That's pretty nondescript though. pretty nondescript, though. Yeah, that needs a comma. Jesus, stop writing and focus. Write later, race now. Are we going uphill again? I wonder if there are any flat roads around here. Every race should have at least one flat stretch, right? Actually, this race is kinda like that race in Albany, except harder. Should I go to that race this year? I wonder when it is, anyway. GMSR is going to kill me. Those fucking hills... I wonder if anyone else is going up for that? That's a long drive, it'd be nice to have company. Would've been nice to have company this morning. Ah, whatever. The tunes were good.
Thursday, July 28, 2011
The trouble with bike racing is that it can lead to misguided use of time. Setting aside the amount spent riding (a.k.a., training), and racing, and traveling to and from races, there's all the time where you're unable to do other things because you're resting ahead of a race.
Although I certainly complain about all that from time to time, I really like the structure that cycling gives my life. What I don't like is that I sometimes find myself doing things that come pretty close defying any perceptible logic and reason. For instance, I spent two hours riding around in the rain this evening. That's tow hours when, if I weren't so stuck to my coach's carefully planned training schemes, I could have been inside, dry and doing something more fun with my time -- or, at the very least, vacuuming my apartment.
So it goes. On the upside, this weekend's race, the PA State championships (which, unlike the NY State Championships, appears to actually be a race that people care about), starts at the ungodly hour of 7:15 a.m. The upshot, besides an absurdly early alarm, is that despite the race's 84-mile length, and it's located only an hour from home, I have a reasonable shot of being home from the race before noon. I can honestly say two things about that: 1) What the fuck am I going to do with my afternoon? Guess I'll final get to vacuum. and 2) I'm really looking forward to not spending an absurd amount of time in the car, after last weekend's tour of New England.
Of course, the respite is brief. Next Friday I'll be heading back up north of the Tour of the Catskills, which should be an incredibly difficult race, and good prep ahead of the Green Mountain Stage Race -- which I'm hoping to able to race this year, after missing it in 2010.
Here's a non sequitur on a topic that's likely to show up in a future post: I hardly ever ride with music. Aside from making it harder to keep an ear open for that 16-wheeler trying to run you off the road, I also find that music distracts me from two things: The many thoughts bouncing around in my head that get sorted out on rides, and whatever pace I'm trying to maintain on the bike. However, even if my ears are nearly always unadorned with headphones, there's nearly always music in my head when I ride, and a race never passes when I don't have some track, usually one I heard on the radio in the car on the way to the race, playing on loop. On Saturday, at the Tour of the Hilltowns, it was Nicki Minaj's Super Bass. Go ahead and laugh, but it's better than two weeks ago, when I was annoyed to find that I couldn't stop hearing Toto's Africa.
On second thought, maybe I should keep these things to myself.
Wednesday, July 27, 2011
I'm back from a four day jaunt to New England and upstate New York, and I'm pleased to report that things up north are progressing will, despite my absence.
While on this road trip, I went through at least three tanks of gas, visited friends from high school, college, and my life in Saratoga, and, most importantly, rolled over many of my favorite Saratoga County roads in some great company. But, more on all that later.
I also raced the Tour of the Hilltowns, the New England regional championships, in Windsor, Mass., on Saturday. Between being given clearance to ride and this past weekend, I participated in two Thursday night crits and a race in Prospect Park. I've now realized that none of that was really racing. By that, of course, I mean that it was shockingly hard.
I've raced Hilltowns every year since upgrading to 2, and every year has reminded me of why I like racing bikes: The chance to find my limits. The 97-mile race went exactly as I thought it would go (more or less). It was fast from the gun--so fast that I was spinning out my biggest gear, a 12x52--and we completed the first 30 hilly miles in about 70 minutes. Somehow, I managed to hang on, even when the group accelerated over some medium climbs, which I can only assume my fitness is rebounding.
It was a very hot day, and most people were racing with an extra bottle tucked into a pocket. To supplement that, we were all getting water from the official's vehicle and taking bottles of neutral water, most of which was immediately poured over our heads to aid the evaporative cooling. The first lap, on a shortened course, went by really quickly. The second lap, over a longer distance, contained both a fearsome descent down some of the worst pavement I've raced over (including roads we traversed in this year's Rapha Gentleman's Race), and then a long, steep climb back out of a valley. The pace going to the top of the descent was nutty, as positioning was key for anyone who had aspirations of doing well. For my part, I just wanted to survive a little longer, and was pleased to not get dropped before the long downhill.
I fully expected not to make it up the climb with the leaders. In fact, I was fairly confident that with my legs still in comeback mode, I'd get dropped. That happened, but with the added caveat that moments before hitting the climb, I slammed into a particularly sharp pothole, which caused my handlebar to slip. I tried to get a tool to fix it from the officials, but it wasn't happening, so I set out up the climb with my lever hoods pointing in a downward, instead of forward, direction. I mostly did the climb on the bar tops, which were still in the same place, but not being able to stand up certainly slowed things down for me.
So it goes.
Up ahead, the big guns, including pros from the Jelly Belly, Jamis, Team Type 1 teams and probably others that I didn't notice, along with some of the strongest New England amateur teams were fighting it out. Done racing but still 30 miles from my car, I was happy to come across Vinnie Scalia, who was also dropped (although he was dropped after heroic efforts at the pointy end of the race). We enjoyed some conversation over the following miles, eventually reaching the finish line as the last two finishers. One the way, we enjoyed a rather lengthy water stop during which I was able to procure a multi tool, with which I fixed my handlebar.
If nothing else, it was certainly an interesting day on the bike, and, as Vinnie pointed out, a good day of training ahead of the Tour of the Catskills, which is now just a little more than a week away. Hopefully I'll manage to climb a little better then.
Thursday, July 21, 2011
It's been really, really hot here in the Lehigh Valley. Tuesday was the cool day, with temperatures in the 90s. Today, it reached 100, or possibly hotter. The kind of day where you break a sweat walking from the office across the street to our workshop. It was certainly a hot day for a bike ride, let alone a bike race.
And yet, it was Thursday, so I rolled over to the training crit with some others from the Emmaus crew. The ride over was really, really hot. I was kind of prepared for it, having shoved an extra bottle of water into my pocket. It was a good thing, as I ran through a whole bottle during the 7-mile ride to Trexlertown.
Riding through the hot air made me feel like I was trying to push my bike through a swimming pool. So, we started racing, and now there were 50 of us trying to push our bikes at high speeds through the thick air. It was not a super awesome feeling. We all did our best to race our bikes, but the speeds felt markedly slower than in previous weeks. I can't speak for others, but for me, it was the kind of night where, no matter how hard I thought I was pushing the pedals, the speed didn't seem to go above 22 mph.
Once the race was over, I stood around with the others from Emmaus dripping sweat off the tip of my nose and watching a pool of sweat form on the blacktop beneath my bike -- a sight usually reserved for the indoor months of winter (or of broken wrists).
Mercifully, it had cooled down during the race, and the ride home was more pleasant. I'm grateful for the opportunity to take a dip in Bill's pool afterward, it was sorely needed.
Tomorrow's not looking any more promising, with temperatures again forecast to hit the 100-degree mark. It makes me grateful that temperatures for Saturday's Tour of the Hilltowns are *only* going to be in the mid- to upper-80s. That certainly puts things in perspective.
Wednesday, July 20, 2011
Yet more good news in the ongoing saga of my broken wrist: After seeing Dr. Stansbury for the fifth time since the original injury occurred, I've been given the all-clear and declared nearly healed. What does this mean? While my mobility is still not 100-percent, it's close and getting closer. In fact, it's close enough that I no longer need to wear my brace to ride. I will, however, have to continue physical therapy for a little bit longer as the joint continues to gain strength.
Most importantly, this means the odd shading -- and lack of shading -- on my hand, fingers, thumb, wrist, and forearm will finally start to meld back into a healthy tan, and my arm hair, which is apparently black, will turn translucent again. It's funny, the ways in which breaking your wrist effects your life beyond the mere rending of bones.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the country, Coach Scott broke his elbow in a bike race last weekend. After berating Scott for following my lead when he should have seen the error in my ways, I offered some advice that he gave me when I broke my wrist: Take advantage of your time off of the bike; do things you wouldn't ordinarily have time to do, and enjoy the summer -- to the fullest extent your injury allows.
It was very good advice. I don't know what Scott will be able to do. I mostly took advantage of my time off the bike by exploring some local hiking trails, tubing on a local river, and partying like it was November. Good times, while it lasted. I hope Scott does the same. Mostly, though, I hope Scott heals quickly -- even quicker than me, if at all possible.
One interesting thing the doctor mentioned in parting today, and which will skew in Scott's favor, was that when he was a resident in medical school -- probably about 20 years ago -- the type of plate he implanted in my wrist didn't exist. Without that type of hardware, I would just be getting my cast off and starting a three-month rehabilitation program. I'm pretty glad to have missed out on six weeks in a cast during the hottest time of year, to say nothing of the misery of difficult rehab. He also took a minute to extol the benefits of exercise, commenting that fit patients tend to heal much faster than "couch potatoes." Clearly, I found the right doctor -- though I am glad not to have to see him again!
Tuesday, July 19, 2011
I donated blood today, an honest pint of A+. Donating blood is something I started doing in college, and have tried my best to make it a regular habit since then.
I've been fairly fortunate in that there have always been blood drives in relative proximity to wherever I happen to be: In college, I used to have to walk across campus to the athletic center. While working at The Saratogian, the blood drives were either directly across the street in City Hall (this was convenient for other reasons too), or a block in the other direction, at the library. Either way, it's always been a fairly easy way to spend an hour over lunch.
More importantly, as someone who enjoys good health (broken bones notwithstanding), giving blood is an easy way that I can help those who have less fortune with their health. It's a personal issue, as well. While no one in my immediate family has required a blood transfusion (that I know of ), there are many in my larger circle of family and friends who have needed to borrow a pint or two from blood banks, and if my blood can help one of them, or anyone else, then it's an hour well spent, once every six weeks.
All of that being said, I had to interrupt my regular donating schedule when I got a tattoo in 2009 -- banks won't take your blood is you've had ink in the last 12 months, just in case you develop Hepatitis from a dirty needle. Fortunately, the needle wasn't dirty, and I was able to resume donating around the same time I moved here to Pennsylvania, and Rodale often has blood drives right in the building. Unfortunately, I missed a few opportunities because of travel, but I was finally able to make the drive today.
I've noticed a few differences between New York and Pennsylvania in the eight months that I've lived here, and that continued today. While the general donation procedures were the same as in New York, I noticed that the questions that were somewhat repetitive in NY, were repeated somewhat less in PA.
Most interestingly, though, while there's a wide range of phlebotomists in the world, and while I've met quite a few of them, I have to say that the woman who took my blood today was among the least professional. Case in point: After swabbing my arm, applying a tourniquet, and laying the lines and bag along my arm, Katy Perry's song Fireworks came on the radio, and suddenly the woman about to stick a needle in my arms started dancing, telling me about how she knows the song backwards and forwards on Guitar Hero.
OK, that's fine. I can't relate, but whatever.
I was a little surprised to find her suddenly tapping a rhythm on arm, "Cause baby you're a ... needle stick." Interesting approach, I guess, but I hope she was confident that she was going to hit that vein among all the Guitar Hero reenactments.
Was it worth it? Of course.
Monday, July 18, 2011
It's nearly the end of July, which means that, in addition to getting back to racing, it's time to start planning for the 2012 edition of Spa:CX. (You can "like" us here.) The date is Oct. 23, the Bike Reg page will be up soon, and of course I'll provide a link as soon as it is. Brownie points with the promoters for registering early!
Great things are in the work for this year's race, in addition to returning to the ECCC 'cross series for the second year, we'll also be re-jiggering the course to get a longer lap at the challenging loop off the back of the Saratoga Race Course. One area that we'll be paying particular attention to is the run up -- even with all that sand, it was still too easy in 2010. With two years under our collective belts, we'll also have registration down to a science, addressing on of last year's chief concerns.
Tell your support crew to start planning their costumes, the Run What You Brung will be back for its second year, and kids can race and ride on the kid's course all day.
We're also going to be making a few other changes, including commemorative numbers and Spa:CX merchandise -- who wouldn't love a "Don't blow it" mug for their morning coffee? A Spit and Spat mouse pad? Of course, we'll have a great assortment of prizes from our new and returning sponsors. Stay tuned for more announcements in the coming months.
Sunday, July 17, 2011
Well, that was a long, unexplained absence from the blog.
Let me apologize. The reason for my unplanned break from regular updates was a business trip to Monterey, California (yes, again), where I attended an event with Specialized Bicycles, at which they launched there new bikes and products for 2012.
While a trip like that certainly came with plenty of notice, I had thought that I'd have time to blog while away. Such, obviously turned out not to be the case. between sitting in classroom sessions learning about new technologies, riding the new products, and socializing with other members of the cycling media, there was no time leftover for GBBM.
Anyhow, I got home at about 2 a.m. last Thursday morning, got up and went to work, then jumped on a 2:30 p.m. bus to head into the city for a Tour de France viewing party, sponsored by Bicycling Magazine. After the party (which was legitimized by a bar fight over a well-inked woman), and after drinks with some of our NYC-based co-workers, the PA crew and I again got home at about 2 a.m.
After work on Friday, I headed briefly to The Velodrome, then drove into the city to race in Prospect Park on Saturday morning. When I finally got home after racing and riding away most of the afternoon, it was time to eat a burrito then chill with some of my high school friends.
So, I may not have been blogging, but I've certainly been keeping busy.
Of all of those many activities, the one I'm most excited to write about tonight is, of course, Saturday's race in Prospect Park. Although I did enter a training race last week, this was my first real race back since my injury. It felt pretty fast to me, but I was able to do my usual Prospect Park thing, which is to move around the pack, advance (and sometimes attack on the hill), and generally stay near the front.
Although there were a few small moves, including one that I got in with about three laps to go, and lasting about half a lap, but nothing was sticking. With two laps remaining, it was clear that the race was coming down to a field sprint, and all the usual suspects were heading to the front of the peloton. So, Roberto, Sergio and I did the same, and were in a good position as we headed out on the bell. As the least skilled bunch sprinter of the three of us, I position myself as the set up man, with Roberto to handle the final lead out for Sergio.
I wound up hitting the front a little early, and put in a big pull to the top of the climb, then swung off, having emptied my (still recovering) tank. Roberto took over, and lead out the sprint, and Sergio held on to take 7th place. Roberto crossed in 14th. Considering that the three of us hadn't raced together in a while, it was a pretty good effort. Plus, $70 was more than adequate for lunch.
Good times, it felt really great to be back racing, and to see that I was not only fit enough to sit in, but still fast enough to participate in the race. The real challenge, of course, will come this coming weekend, when I head up to Massachusetts for the Tour of the Hilltowns. Attacking in Prospect Park is one thing, if I can hang in on the major Berkshire climbs, then I'll really know that I'm back.
One thing is clear, though, I'm back to blogging, and happy to be here!
Thursday, July 07, 2011
In the 37 day history of my wrist injury, I've twice gone against medical advice where exercise is concerned. The first time was relatively soon after surgery, when I engaged in some secret training, which left my cast sweaty and my body sore. The second time was this evening, when I went out to the Thursday Night crit for my first race effort since the Tour of Somerville. Although I'm not really supposed to be racing, I did, of course, wear my very stylish brace, which takes a lot of the strain off of the still-injured joint.
It was the first hard effort I've done in a long time, and while it felt pretty good to blow everything out of my legs, it was also clear that I have some work ahead of me to get back into racing form. To put in the parlance of Phil Liggett, my box of matches currently contains far fewer matches than it ordinarily does.
The good news, however, is that matches contained therein appear to be just as bright and hot as ever.
In English, what I'm trying to say is that I found I was able to race more or less effectively, and even got myself some points (even if one of those points came by way of sketchy line changes -- sorry Paul!). And yet, when there was a big split about halfway through the race, I found that I was unable to get on any of the wheels I needed to be on, and made a hasty retreat off the back, where I joined the grupetto.
So, it wasn't exactly the best night of racing, but, I didn't crash (on either side, but especially not on my right side), I got a good sense of where my fitness is at, and the work that needs to be done. Also, it was fun to see people I haven't seen in a while, though a race is never the best time to catch up.
The race was also my first chance to put the new Cervelo S5 through its paces. I'll certainly need more time to figure out how the bike rides, but after a few miles, I can say that the quality of its ride is pretty similar to Bicycling Magazine Editor's Choice-winning Cervelo S3 -- which is to say that it feels very efficient, but still takes the edge off rough pavement. One of the key differences, of course, is the aero features of the new frame, which are hard to notice on a test ride, but surely make the bike faster. We'll have a full report in the November issue of the magazine, and I'll be showing the bike off around the Lehigh Valley for the next three weeks, or so, before we send it out to another member of the test staff in California.
Wednesday, July 06, 2011
It's been a long day, so I'm offering one of my trademarked super-short blog posts tonight. Earlier, at trivia at the Bethlehem Brew Works, there were five questions pertaining to the Tour de France, and related matters. Clearly, this was my moment to shine -- and a shining moment of which I could be more vocally proud than that time I had to admit to watching Star Trek.
I'm pleased to say that I got all five of the questions right, and we were the only team to do so.
The answers to the five questions were:
4) Wouter Weylandt
Can anyone not on tonight's trivia team figure out the five questions? At the very least, the first and last should be easy to most GBBM readers. No. 2 could be the answer to a few questions, so I'll say that the question pertained specifically to Monday's stage.
Although this fun of correct answers put us into fourth place out of, like, a million teams, we did not correctly answer the final question, and didn't win. So it goes, trivia is a cruel game. Good night!
Tuesday, July 05, 2011
When I got home last night, after spending seven hours driving home from spending the long July Fourth weekend on Cape Cod (totally worth it!!) it was to, in the words of Francis Scott Key, "... rockets' red glare, the bombs bursting in air..."* It was a very dramatic trip to the grocery store with those fireworks booming in the background.
I can't remember ever thinking about it previously, but I guess I have a sort of love-hate relationship with the Fourth of July. I mean, I love the the day off and have made good use of it over the past couple years, but find the traditional means of celebrating a bit, shall we say, off message. Right? I mean, Independence Day was a singularly awesome moment in our nation's history. We said "fuck you," to the British, and backed up bold words with guns, brawn, and bravery. It was a moment not dissimilar to the revolution currently ongoing in Libya. But I can hardly imagine any American -- fat on hamburgers, drunk on Bud and blinded from reality by "reality" TV -- taking a similar stand on any matter today.
Maybe that's an indication that things are better than they were in 1776. I mean, surely they are better, most of us now receive representation in exchange for our taxes. But, I do find myself wishing that we had a holiday that better paid tribute to our Founding Fathers' heroics. From where I'm sitting, it's hard to see how eating burgers and watching faux bombs bursting overhead represents patriotism on that order -- unless the course the point is to take an America-loving communion using the (literal) flesh of the fat of our land in place of a wafer.
I supposed this isn't out of line with similar celebrations in other western countries, but there's still some kind of a disconnect between the awesome moment that was, and the just-another-holiday that is.
Of course, since I've been writing this, I've been trying to think of a more appropriate celebration to honor John Hacock and his 55 co-signers, and haven't come up with anything appropriate. Should we have a blood letting on a statue of Thomas Jefferson? Burn an effigy to King George III (and piss off our British neighbors in the process)? Perhaps we should re-enacting the signing of the Declaration -- every neighborhood can have their own ceremony.
At the risk of becoming the next target of Joseph McCarthy's Committee on Un-American Activities, I will admit that I have not been feeling especially patriotic recently, and I suppose that's where this tirade is coming from. It's because, in the past ten years, I've seen my country get involved in two wars that I do not support, while countless social injustices remain unaddressed here at home. What the hell kind of representation is that? The Founding Fathers wouldn't have stood for it, so I find myself wishing their holiday made an attempt to achieve their level of care for the United States of America.
*10 points to anyone who correctly identifies my grammatical correction to Key's punctuation.