I went to the Great Allentown Fair earlier tonight, and did an absolutely terrible thing in that I didn't take a single picture of the carnies, gigantic pumpkins, jumping dogs or midway games to share with my blog readers. Oops. See, I was too busy looking for female mullets and rat tails of any gender -- because that's the kind of friends I have.
I also did another terrible thing, in that I deprived myself of any fair food -- no big greasy giros, no sausage-and-pepper sandwiches, no funnel cakes, no pierogi, no beer, and no ice cream -- hard or soft. OK, maybe that wasn't such a bad thing, but I did have to dig deep to resist temptation. Regular readers know how much I love some good junk food.
So, why did I hold out? After a brief scare that it would be canceled on Monday, in the wake of Hurricane/Tropical Storm Irene, the Green Mountain Stage Race is on, and begins on Friday with a prologue time trail. It's four days of racing, and will be the only stage race I line up for this year with what feels to me like proper preparation and reasonable legs. So, I'm anxious to not undue my training with poor eating.
This will be my fourth GMSR campaign, the last being 2009, when I was a newly minted cat 2, and had a correspondingly bad race. 2008 was better -- I was a high-flying cat 3 then, and although I was never in contention to win the race, I did wind up second on the KoM standings, and finished very well on top of the Appalachian Gap, at the end of the race's queen stage.
This year, my training has been good since I began my post-broken wrist come back, and although I haven't really raced since the Tour of the Catskills (which didn't go that well), I think I should be set to have a descent race this weekend. Of course, it all depends on who shows up, and what form they've got. So, we'll see. Mostly though, I'm looking forward to racing up in Vermont -- which has some of the best views and venues that I've ever raced.
GMSR is very well run, the courses (even the revised courses we'll race on this year after Irene caused some road damage) are great, and the whole event has a great, relaxed end of season vibe. I was sad to miss it last year when I had to work, and look forward to enjoying my time in Vermont this year. I think I'll even take a ferry to get there.
Tuesday, August 30, 2011
I went to the Great Allentown Fair earlier tonight, and did an absolutely terrible thing in that I didn't take a single picture of the carnies, gigantic pumpkins, jumping dogs or midway games to share with my blog readers. Oops. See, I was too busy looking for female mullets and rat tails of any gender -- because that's the kind of friends I have.
Monday, August 29, 2011
So, the weather here was pretty awful this weekend -- I got rained during the Sowing Seeds charity bike ride on Saturday, then nearly drowned in a flooding basement (OK, that's a slight exaggeration), and there was no racing to speak of -- but it was much, much worse in points North.
The fact that we had a little rain, and some strong winds didn't amount to as much of an inconvenience as some thought it would. We didn't have power overnight on Saturday, and I was actually looking forward to breaking out my Whisperlite for some camp-style cooking on Sunday evening (I've got an electric stove), when the electricity came back on in the afternoon. I suppose I'll have to actually go camping to get a chance to use my camping equipment.
I couple of things caught my attention during the weekend. The first was that my cell phone continued to work all weekend, so I didn't miss a social media beat. I was also able to stay in touch with friends in other places, to let them know that we were doing fine, even without electricity.
It got me wondering, though, what would have happened if our phones had all died. Would my parents have worried? Would I have been able to check in with them? It also made me think that I might start designating some time to turn my phone off for a bit, if only to give myself the illusion being less dependent on my phone.
The other thing was an email I got today from our electric utility, PPL, which, I thought, did a pretty good job of getting our power restored quickly, did send me an email to talk about their efforts to restore the grid. OK, yes I do have a smartphone, and yes, I just mentioned that my phone continued to function throughout the blackout. But, I couldn't help but find it ironic that an email was the preferred method of contact. Had my power been out, and had I not had a functioning smartphone, I would never have received that email, or been able to check PPL's website for information, etc.
Of course, I don't have a good alternative to suggest to PPL. There was a time when landlines were everyone's preferred method of reliable communication, but now, many of us don't have land lines, or, if we do, we have cordless phones that don't work without power. So, that's interesting.
The other thing I was thinking about this weekend was that I did not fall victim to the apparently common urge to rush out and spend money on things like batteries and bottled water. I wouldn't say I regretted it -- I had a few flashlights around, and together there was enough juice in them to get through the brief outage. But I did wish I'd bought ice. Predictably, our local gas stations were out by early Sunday afternoon, at which point we thought the outage was going to continue until Tuesday. Had the electrical predictions not been wrong, I would have had to throw away a lot of food, and that would have been sad. Or I would have had to eat a lot of previously-frozen meet on Sunday night.
So, I was glad not to have been caught up in the hysteria, but maybe next time I'll take the warnings slightly more seriously. I'll also, though, stay focused on thinking of the folks who had it worse.
Sunday, August 28, 2011
Followed by hurricane beer and hurricane cookie
Thankfully, we do not have a hurricane day at work tomorrow
It's pretty well-known that cycling and food go together exceptionally well -- like franks and beans, peanut butter and jelly, or pizza and beer. These days, there are few things that give me more pleasure than coming home from a ride nice and hungry, and eating enough to satisfy my tummy and my legs.
One thing that I've come to appreciate about food is its ability to engage multiple senses at once. While I'm steadily becoming a better cook where tastes, textures and scents, but I continue to struggle with the visual aspects of food. I don't know, but I'm convinced that it's related to my inability to draw anything more complex than a stick figure. It's something I'm always meaning to work on.
But, there are many challenges to being a busy cyclist and journalist, chief among them being constraints on time, so I'm often left to eat simple things -- like past with unembellished red sauce, or simply cooked chicken breasts. Today was a rare day when I didn't have much to do, and had a well-stocked kitchen. My fortunes improved further when the power was restored after an overnight outage caused by the passage of Hurricane Irene through the Lehigh Valley.
So, I did what I like to do best, and put a few things -- red onion, red pepper and a Pink Lady apple, all chopped into inch-long, thin pieces -- into a pan, and let them simmer for a bit in olive oil, salt, pepper and lemon juice. Once everything was tender, I slid in two pieces of salmon, marinated in a Teriyaki peanut sauce, and let it all cook for a bit.
I served the fish with broccoli and brown rice, which lead to a delicious meal, but an unfortunately flat color pallet. Next time, I think this dish would have looked better with something brighter -- maybe a Jasmin rice instead of the healthier brown type, and maybe using more pepper. Also, although the fish tasted really good, as it always does, I overcooked it a little. Which was sad.
Wednesday, August 24, 2011
So, we've been having some incredibly nice weather lately. It just seems that every day since the rain ended last week has seen a perfect blue sky with big puffy white clouds, comfortable day time temperatures, and cool night air. The late summer and early fall has always been my favorite time of year, largely due to the reliably nice weather. Even the shortening days are only momentary tragedies.
I was thinking about all of that this morning, when my Dad called me from somewhere off the coat of Rhode Island. He and my Mom are off on their annual sail around New England, currently on their way back to Long Island. The plan was to get home Saturday, but then Irene came along, changing theirs, and everyone's plans.
Like most people who live near the coast, we've been though our share of bad storms. The worst was Hurricane Bob, which hit Cape Cod while the family were there on vacation in 1991. The ensuing week, without electricity, was fairly memorable. Aside from some felled trees, though, that was a fairly minor hurricane. Another time, we were on a chartered boat in the Chesapeake Bay, when a fairly powerful, albeit brief, storm blew through. We were secure on our anchor, but the rolling, pitching boat was a less-than-fun place to be. In fact, although I'm not necessarily averse to it, I haven't slept on a boat since (except two nights on ferries while schlepping around the Mediterranean in 2006, but that was a different kind of thing).
I guess that Chesapeake storm didn't have as much of an effect on Dad, as he's spent countless nights on his boat since then. He did, however, decide to heed the weather service's warnings about Irene, so he and Mom will seeking safe harbor, in the literal sense, to ride out the storm this weekend. Although I love sailing, I can say with certainty that I hope to never be stuck on a boat in a big storm, and I'll be hoping the two of the are securely moored this weekend.
My weather-realted challenges are slightly easier to deal with, and certainly require fewer logistics: I was planning on racing Saturday evening, but it's increasingly looking like that race might get washed out. Having once raced in a monsoon, it's nothing that I'd like to ever do again.
Tuesday, August 23, 2011
A poet I once knew told me that journalism was easy; "You just push it out," he said. Poetry, on the other hand, can require years or incubation, he said.
That was a long time ago. I was in college, and he was a recent graduate. We were both interns at a small, failing magazine in Brooklyn. We spent that summer sitting side-by-side in an airless basement closet. The publisher, such as he was, sat in his own airless room next door, pleading with advertisers to help him finance the next issue. My poet friend and I talked a lot about the folly of our chosen career path.
Years later, I've come to see that my friend was right. At the newspaper, I wrote as many as five stories a day: You pick up the phone, you record some quotes, you push in the transitions, commas, periods, and quotation marks before sending it over to the copy desk and moving onto the next topic.
I can't speak as a poet, but as an essayist, I can agree that good writing requires a certain period of contemplation and reflection. Everyone's process is different, but mine often consists of collecting notes to myself on scraps of paper, setting them aside in safe places, losing them for a while, then finding them while cleaning and thinking about how my life has changed my thinking on a certain topic, and how that might fit into an essay. Sometimes a topic lays dormant while I await inspiration from a life event. Sometimes a topic that sounds good in my head rings hollow on the page, lacking needed life lessons that I'm simply to young to supply. Sometimes (not often), my notes to myself wind up on my computer, in little-visited folders deep in the hard drive.
One of these digital folders, buried way deep, is titled "love letters." I'm not going to talk about the contents of the folder, yet, but it represents an essay I've been contemplating, about the way people communicate these days, specifically the way we talk to close friends, family, and loved ones. There was a time when people wrote letters to each other. There was a time when people had no choice. Even in my lifetime, I can remember writing letter to my parents from summer camp. Then sending letters to the girl I'd met at camp, once we'd returned to our homes. Do kids still do that? I sort of doubt it.
My Dad once bought me a book of Portuguese love letters, written between lovers spread between the homeland and colonies in South America -- at one time, he was a poet, too. I think I was 16 when I read it, but I wasn't too young to be moved. Back then, even if I didn't realize it, I was already a historian in the making, and was impressed not only by the letters' (translated) prose, but also by the fact that the documents -- written on paper and shipped across an ocean at least once -- had survived for so many centuries. Hence the folder on my computer.
But now, most communication between friends (both close and not), as well as family and lovers, happens instantly, via phone, email, messaging, facebook or text. An email might take a few minutes, and span to several paragraphs, but without an envelop to lick, most of us don't even bother to trigger the spell check. A text gets little or no thought; it's ephemeral, it costs nothing (or nearly), and does not require a ship and team of horses to carry it upstairs, or across the ocean. A letter that may never reach its destination will be written with care and beautiful prose. A text doesn't even warrant correct spelling.
And yet, that doesn't make it any less valid of a form of communication, or any less meaningful to the people transmitting or receiving. So, my essay on love letters, currently incubating, percolating, and simmering in my head and hard drive, was going to include lengthy recitations of text conversations that I've had with various friends, family, and lovers over the years.
there was an Earthquake I dropped my phone, effectively giving it a lobotomy -- it sort of looked the same, and could handle some of the same tasks -- and yet it was somehow different. So, I called my cell phone provider, who told me I had to visit a store. The store was way on the other side of the valley, so I trekked up there after work today, and spent a couple hours reading the new Bicycling Magazine, wringing my hands, and pacing, while the clerks fixed my phone. Unfortunately, fixing my phone required deleting about six thousand text messages I sent or received between now and July 31, 2010.
Like I said, ephemeral: We've lost more than an interest in writing out longing prose -- we've lost the permanence of the written word, trading it for missives that can vanish as easily as they're created. There's lots of material left, and always new material to be gleaned, but if those Portuguese letters can survive the Atlantic, it's hard to imagine that my modern equivalent couldn't survive a small tumble.
Monday, August 22, 2011
But at least I'm closer
Hopefully I won't need to clean again for a while
I wouldn't say that I like cleaning, and I wouldn't say that I'm very good at it. I would say, though, that I recognize the importance of tidying up from time to time. And, while I love living alone, I would certainly admit that I was a more frequent cleaner when I had a room mate. I suppose this is a fringe benefit to living the bachelor life.
Living alone, I clean only when the spirit of disgust moves me, or when my feet start sticking to the kitchen floor, as they had been recently. Of course, it took me about a month to go from acknowledging that I really should clean up a bit to actually doing any cleaning, but with no racing this weekend, and a relatively light riding schedule, the conditions were perfect for cleaning.
Although I was home from my ride and fed by 2 p.m., it was 6 p.m. by the time I quit procrastinating and actually got around to clean something. Most of my cleaning was focused on the two rooms that are easiest to clean, the kitchen and bathroom. Once the tub, toilet, mirror and vanity were nice and shiny, I moved over to the kitchen sink, counters, and cook top. And that was enough for Sunday. With a little Bar Keeper's Friend, I'd discovered that there was a relatively shiny sink underneath a layer of grime in the kitchen, and that my bathroom faucet was easily relieved of dripped toothpaste. So that was all good.
Today, I spent a while cleaning the floors, which are most decidedly no longer sticky, and returned to their former linoleum glory. And that was enough for today. Depending on whether or not I can motivate myself for a third day, I'll break out the vacuum, but I wouldn't want to get too crazy all at once -- and I may need something to look forward to this weekend. If only I didn't have carpets, I'd have had this place swept up already. So it goes.
I also managed to get rid of a lot of paper that was hanging around, and moved two extraneous bikes back to the office. The trouble with cleaning, of course, is that I feel really good about how this place looks right now. But cooking dinner tonight already undid some of my hard work, and little bit by little bit, the place will once again need cleaning. The great cycle of life?
I would point out that I'm much better about more day-to-day cleaning responsibilities like laundry and dishes.
Sunday, August 21, 2011
I was pretty happy to not have to go anywhere this weekend. Yesterday, once I got home from a really nice ride up to Hawk Mountain with some friends in the morning, the farthest I went from my couch was to Allentown. Today, after The Derby, the farthest I ventured was to the far side of the triangle for some take out Thai food.
It was pretty awesome, really.
In the midst of a whole lot of couch sitting, I had a bit of wrenching to do, which was somewhat cathartic, and sometimes frustrating, but also a lot of fun. I don't get to do much wrenching these days -- mostly because I'm not competent enough to be of much help to Mike in the office workshop, but also because I've been fortunate not to have too many mechanical problems this year, or many bike projects. That all ended this weekend.
Things started out on a positive note, when I went to hang components on what is, unquestionably, the most unusual bike that's ever been in my workstand, a custom steel bike built by Kelly Bedford for an upcoming Bicycling Magazine test. Not just an unusual frame, the bike is getting some unusual components in the form of SRAM Red, in black. More normal components include wheels, a bar, stem and post from Easton, Fizik saddle, and Continental tires. Mike's going to finish the build this week (because I'd fuck it up), but I was happy to be able to at least start the process. I expect that he'll have an especially good time with the internally routed brake cable -- but he'll at least know how to do it, unlike me, who would probably try use some combination of dental floss and old spokes to thread the housing through.
Here's the bike as it appeared on Friday afternoon, before I'd tracked down a clamp for the front derailleur, pictured with the painted-to-match Serotta fork:
I'm looking forward to getting this guy on the road soon
Integrated features include the press-in headset and BB30
Speaking of doing things the wrong way, while riding my bike up Hawk Mountain with friends on Saturday morning, two of my chain ring bolts broke. I heard some creaking start on the climb's steeper pitch, and although it was certainly not a good noise, I thought it was just a creak in the bottom bracket or a hub wanting some grease or spokes relieving themselves of some pressure, or something. Then, no sooner had the creak started, it stopped, and the chain popped off. I'd having a really nice trip up the hill, and was pretty bummed to be interrupted mid-climb. I stopped to put the chain back on, only to discover that it was wedged between the two rings -- and that the inner ring was bent pretty far toward the inside.
So, I finished the climb in the big ring (which wasn't as hard as I thought it would be). At the top, we ran into the Saturday morning Velo ride, and Torch helped me redistribute the remaining three bolts in what he appropriately dubbed a "home-getter," as in, it'll get you home. It did, though I was restricted to the big ring from the rest of the day.
Today, after getting a new set of rings from Dan (who just happened to have a spare set in his car, for some reason), I went to pull the crank to replace the rings, only to find (unsurprisingly), that I'm not strong enough to loosen the bolt. So, after struggling with it for 30 minutes, I gave up and resolved to find a bigger wrench tomorrow. Then I cleaned my toilet and microwave, which was at least as important to my mental well being as fixing my bike. I did not vacuum, though, which I'd really wanted to do, but there are way too many bikes in here right now to accomplish anything.
I've never been a good mechanic, but I've always liked trying. Working at a bike shop gave me a good opportunity to learn from lots of grate mechanics, but I don't often have the chance to use those skills -- or to build on them. So, today was a rare opportunity, and I'm glad I took advantage -- because even if I can't do every job, it's satisfying to try -- just like it will be satisfying to sit on a clean pot in the morning.
Thursday, August 18, 2011
I could have circled the world. Instead, I stayed home. It's been 80 days since I broke my wrist at the Tour of Somerville. Looking back at the photos today brought back painful memories from the crash -- I'd all but forgotten that in addition to the broken bones, there was lots and lots of broken skin.
Skin heals fast, though. Bones, it turns out, take longer. To recap: I had surgery three days after crashing. I was in a cast for two weeks, during which time I couldn't ride a bike at all. I wore a brace all the time for two weeks after the cast came off, but I was allowed to ride inside. About a week after the cast came off, the stitches from the surgical incision finally came out and the four-inch wounds started healing. Then I wore the brace for another three weeks, mostly just for riding and started physical therapy to regain movement in what had become a very stiff joint. I started racing again at some point in there, after six weeks away from the competition.
Now, after six weeks of physical therapy, I'm been, in the parlance of the industry, I've been discharged.
Am I completely healed? Not quite -- still a little deformed and still a little stiff, but I'm healed enough that I'm beyond the ability of current medicine to do anything further -- and that's just fine with me. As nice as my physical therapist was, and as much as I enjoyed our twice-weekly sessions, it's two hours of my life that can be better spent.
The injury did give me a new perspective on things though, and for that, I'm grateful. Because I wasn't able to ride for a few weeks there, or was restricted to riding inside, I took time to do things that I haven't made time for during past summers, and it was kinda fun. Also, not driving to a race every weekend wasn't exactly a bad thing.
Of course, I'd say that I missed racing, quite a bit. I didn't accomplish everything that I'd hoped to on a bike this summer, and I certainly didn't get as established as I would have liked in this new racing community. Mostly, though, breaking my wrist really put things in perspective for me. Besides realizing that there's more to pedaling bikes in circles, I also came to understand that racing bikes, for me, is just a hobby, and won't ever be more, no matter how fast I get or how much time I dedicate to it.
To what lengths are you willing to sacrifice yourself for your hobby? Your health? I gotta say, that I'm not really interested in breaking any more bones. The surgery and following recovery was a huge pain in the ass that impacted my work life almost as much my cycling life. Yes, typing with a cast that goes to your bicep is a huge pain in the ass.
In part, I wound up at the Tour of Somerville because it's a big race, and everyone who's everyone was there. So, I went, in short, because I felt as if it was expected of me. But, would anyone have really cared if I had stayed home? Probably not. I hate crits, and I'm not good at them, and that race is a known crashfest. So, I'll skip it next year. Same goes for Chris Thater, which is next weekend, and which my team will race without me. It's just not my jam.
Instead, in the coming seasons, I'll focus my energy on racing events I like (or think I'll enjoy), without worrying so much about where I think I'm expected to be. I highly encourage you to do the same.
Wednesday, August 17, 2011
Something happened today with my work computer and I had to re-set my network log in password, as well as my email password (the two are linked). Unfortunately, no sooner had I changed the password than I forgot the new password.
Incredibly, I can remember meeting a friend of a friends two summers ago at a pot luck dinner in North Hampton, Mass. I can remember what we drank that night (a nice Pinot), and, after not seeing or talking about the friend-of-a-friend for two years, I can still remember her name. Yet, when it comes to passwords, what I ate for breakfast, or which day I'm supposed to go to physical therapy, my mind is like a sieve.
The net result of this, today, is that an IT guy logged into my computer to address whatever issue was going on got to watch as I struggled to enter the correct password to log into my machine. Of course, once logged in, the computer takes over and remembers all the passwords for me -- the one for email, our internal travel system, twitter, facebook, and other essential applications. It's good that technology helps me out in this way, as I'd have no chance on remembering any of them on my own.
To improve my chances, I've tried using the same password for everything -- but that degrades fast, when you're periodically prompted to change you password. Sure, you can add "1" or, @, but unless you change all of your passwords at the same time once prompted to change one password, you're suddenly out of sync -- and then can't remember which log in requires "Emmaus1," and which requires "Emmaus2," etc. It's all very confusing.
This all got compounded tonight when I got home, cooked and ate dinner, showered, and repaired to my sofa to check the interwebs for new and exciting things, watch a little Top Gear, and, of course, blog. Part of the ritual is to check my work email, in case any of my west-coast colleagues were working late. BUT, I don't have my work computer at home. I've got my home computer at home, which does not have all my passwords stored on it.
So, instead of relaxing and watching The Stig run hot laps around an airfield, I spent about 10 minutes trying to guess my email password. I tried every permutation of my usual ones, including several attempts at what I thought I'd changed my password to this morning. Eventually I gave up, and I hope that no one needed an quick response on any queries this afternoon. Or maybe the password will come to me as I'm brushing my teeth. That happens some times.
Earlier today I was looking for tricks to help remember passwords, but eventually decided that the only trick that will ever work for me is the oldest one in the books: writing these things down -- with a pen, on paper. Then, of course, putting that paper somewhere safe.
Tuesday, August 16, 2011
There was a time when I was good at climbing. I thought of myself as a climber, I rode away from people on climbs and then soloed to the podium at bike races, I was the undisputed king of Lake Desolation, and I seemed always to be able to spin the crank a little faster to go a little faster, no matter how steep the grade. I was a Cat 3 back then, of course.
I'm not quite sure what happened to me. I can't blame my getting fat, as I've weighed about the same amount since 2008. I can't say that I'm just generally slower, since I seem to be going better in TTs and can even kind of sprint now -- much better than I used to be able to, anyway.
And yet, at the Tour of the Catskills last weekend, I went out the back of the peloton about as fast as a newly minted, 36-year-old Cat 4 in his first open master's race. It was ugly, and on the rainy, long car ride home from the race I did what an anal-retentive Cat 2 would do -- I went crying to my coach.
Coach Scott reminded me that I did recently break my wrist, and that I hadn't done so many hard efforts in a row since before my injury. He also reminded me that I was climbing just fine in the spring, before the injury. He also brought out a coach's sharpest tool -- power data, pointing out that my numbers are below where they were, and that with more training, they would continue to get back on track, hopefully in time for GMSR.
OK, so maybe that's a little bit of an excuse, but I still don't buy it.
Back when I was good at climbing, a lot of my riding consisted of endless reps up and down Lake D, that glorious, 4-mile climb in Greenfield, NY. Since those days, I've done lots of other kinds of training, but none of it has measured up. I also didn't use a power meter or heart rate monitor in those days, and it was just fine. Some people say that you don't need to climb to be good at climbing, but I think I may finally have Coach Scott convinced that I do.
How can I tell? Last week he asked me about the longest hill in the area. Of course, having only lived here for nine months, I don't really know what the longest climb is. There are some great climbs on Blue Mountain, but those are a little far away for after work rides. The longest climb that I know of within after-work proximity is Reservoir Road, in Alburtis.
Instead of Lake D's 18 minutes, Reervoir is only about 8 minutes, which means -- yay! -- more reps. So it goes, and such is the price that I'm willing to pay to get my ass in shape. And, so it was that I spent last Tuesday morning riding up and down the grade, and then returned this evening. The thing about pointing your bike uphill is that it requires a specific combination of spin and torque to get the maximum speed. That's where I struggled at the Catskills -- I spun too much and couldn't go fast, or I tried to add torque and couldn't turn the pedals over fast enough.
So, I started to feel a little better tonight, though I could have done without the confused looks from the neighbors on the fourth and fifth laps. Is there hope for me to regain my past climbing skills? There are a lot of good climbers in the elite peloton, so probably not, but at least I can maybe get a little better.
Monday, August 15, 2011
I've got two things to write about tonight: First of all, a little follow up to Thursday post, in which Acura Matt and I were harassed by a local driver.
Yesterday, the trooper who took our report called me back with a little follow up to the case. Apparently, after sending Matt and I on our way, he went to the man's house, where he found the perpetrator. The man claimed that he stopped short to avoid hitting an animal. What's more, he claimed that he left the scene because he was intimidated by Matt and me.
Besides the fact that I find it hard to believe that I could intimidate anyone, even an elderly man, I find his story about the animal hard to believe. So to, I suppose, did the trooper, who said he had a feeling he'd get that kind of bull shit when he found the guy. Still, even he doesn't believe the story, and I don't believe the story, and Matt doesn't believe the story, there's no way to prove it in either way. As such, the guy gets a citation for leaving the scene of an accident, a dressing down from the trooper, and nothing more.
On the one hand, I'm pleased that he was given a citation. On the other hand, it's pretty clear to me that Matt and I were the victims of an assault, one that could have sent either of us through the car's real windshield. And that would have sucked quite a bit. So, it would have been nice if the law had shown a little more vigor in teaching this motorist that harassing cyclists is not only uncool, but also unlawful.
On the upside, I will be getting the driver's address and insurance info. Perhaps we can start a database of trouble drivers? I'll need to recruit some tech help for that, but I'm good to contribute to the marketing!
Here's the second thing:
Over the weekend, I traveled to Saratoga Springs, and then on to New Hampshire with Steve and Lindy, to help our friends Jamie and Rachel celebrate their recent wedding. Aside from spending, like, a million hours in the car (I drove 1,200 miles between Aug. 5 and 14), I got the chance to spend time with some of my friends from Saratoga in a beautiful spot near Hanover, and listening to (and dancing to) some great live music. Really, it was a pretty great way to spend a Saturday evening.
Unfortunately, Steve turned the heat on (instead of the A/C) in the hotel room we were sharing, which made for a rather warm night, but it was otherwise a flawless weekend.
More than just a good time, Jamie and Rachel are one of the best couples I know, and their marriage was a long time coming (or so it seems to this outsider). Their wedding was very much their own celebration, without hardly a nod to traditional weddingisms (honeymoon suite? They stayed in the tree house. Yes, really) -- they just had fun with their friends and family, and we had fun with them. It was all pretty beautiful, and I had a lot of time to think about how happy I am for them on the drive home yesterday. Top two among weddings that I've been to, for sure, and I'm thinking positive thoughts and wishing for the best for the two of them.
Also, I hope that even thought they're married now, they'll still let me crash with them when I visit Saratoga!
Coincidentally, I saw the Hangover Part II tonight. You know that scene at the end when everything has worked out beautifully (aside from Ed Helms' face) and the wedding has occurred, and Mike Tyson has done his thing and everyone launches lanterns-as-hot-air-balloons over the sea? Well, we did that in New Hampshire, for real. I'm pretty sure the Pierces have done that before, and long before it was ever featured in crappy movies, though.
Thursday, August 11, 2011
I had a first today, a near-physical confrontation with a driver during an incident of road rage -- or maybe just rage against cyclists. It was around 1 p.m., toward the end of a very pleasant lunch ride with Acura Matt. We'd ridden a nice loop through Macungie, Longswamp, and Alburtis, and were rolling back toward Emmaus on Indian Creek Road at the end of our loop when a driver in a new, red sedan roared up behind us, laid on his horn, then swerved into the oncoming lane to pass, honking as he went.
I'm not positive, but I think, as usual, I took my hand off the bar to wave a friendly hello to the displeased driver. I like to do this when I can, as I think the demonstrated disinterest in a confrontation is both confusing and disarming to angry drivers. Unfortunately, it didn't work in this case. No sooner had the car merged back into our lane than the driver slammed on the brakes, screeching to a halt directly in our path.
We weren't going too fast, but we didn't have a lot of room to stop, so we both slammed on our own brakes. Matt, who was riding closer to the edge of the road, slid off into the tweeters before coming to a stop alongside the car. I was to his left, and was a little less lucky, unable to stop before my shifter hit his trunk. It wasn't much more than a fender bender, but it was enough to cause some cosmetic damage to both my shifter and the car, as well as to dislodge the brake lever from its pivot (it snapped easily back into place).
There was an odd pause, until the driver emerged from the vehicle. It was an older man, and I was somewhat surprised by the aggression with which he came at us, appearing to want to start a fight. He was yelling, demanding to see our IDs, and yelling about the damage we'd caused to his car. Matt and I both drew our phones. He called 911 while I took a photo of the car's rear plate, all the while, the man kept yelling -- before getting back in his car and driving off. I believe that's called, "leaving the scene of an accident."
Meanwhile, Matt had reached an 911 operator, who sent a State trooper to take a statement from us, and from a witness who had seen the entire incident. I was pretty impressed by the police's response -- in addition to the officer who arrived promptly to take our statements, a second officer went to the driver's house, to try to locate him (he wasn't home). I am familiar with PA vehicle and traffic codes, as they pertain to cyclists, and it's pretty clear that Matt and I were riding in a manner consistent with the law -- riding two-abreast on the right side of our lane, without impeding the flow of traffic. In other words, riding along, minding our own business.
We'll see what charges come of it, hopefully the police will throw the book at this guy, but regardless, I'm mostly glad that neither Matt nor I were injured. The whole incident reminded me of the case of Christopher Thompson, a former doctor in California who pulled the exact same maneuver -- gravely injuring two cyclists in the process. That guy, though, received a five year prison sentence. I sort of doubt the punishment will be so severe in this case.
It goes to show, that even in a cycling-friendly area like this is, there are drivers all over who, for whatever reason, feel compelled to take their aggression out on us. We need to be safe out there. We also need to keep in mind, that when the inevitable confrontations do occur, we stand tall, stay cool, and resist the urge to weaken our standing in the eye of the law by turning to violence or other base instincts. In this case, it was impossible for either Matt or I to keep ourselves from yelling back at the man who had just attacked us with his car, but, despite being provoked, we did the right thing by calling proper authorities, rather than escalating the confrontation.
Oh, and getting the guy's tag number was an essential step that I highly recommend.
Tuesday, August 09, 2011
I’ve been thinking a little about mortality today. In part, this morbid topic has been on my mind because I spent about eight hours stuck in the Detroit airport, which, at times, made me wish I were dead. But mostly, it’s because the NYC Triathlon has been making headlines in the non-sporting press after two racers in Sunday’s event died, both apparently suffering heart attacks during the swim leg.
Of course, reading about those deaths brought back memories of Natalia Hogan, who died during the first bike race I ever helped to promoted, the short-lived Saratoga Criterium, in May of 2009. Like the two recent deaths, Natalia died of a heart ailment -- in her case, a pre-existing condition of which she was aware. She chose to continue her active lifestyle, playing ice hockey and racing triathlons, despite the risk. A period of reflection and examination is expected any time someone dies in what should be a safe, controlled environment. I’m still parsing Natalia’s death, more than two years after it happened – how quickly did the marshal call 911? Were our instructions not clear on that, most essential point? Did the heat that day exacerbate her condition? How come it took the ambulance so long to arrive? And once it did arrive, why did it take so long to depart? Should we have just put her, unconscious, in a car and driven to the Emergency Department? And now, in light of some of what’s been written about the recent deaths, I wonder if I would have let her race, had I known about her condition. Ultimately, I’m glad that decision wasn’t left up to me – besides not wanting to ever have to play God, I strongly believe in everyone’s right to make their own choices.
Life, as surely as it has a beginning, also has an end. Most of us don’t get much control over the end of our life – personally, I just hope to make the most of mine while I’m here, impact those around me in a positive way, and exit the scene without causing anyone too much grief. It doesn’t seem like a lot to ask. Natalia got closer to choosing her own way out than many, and while I wish her death had been under different circumstances, I certainly respect the conscious decision she apparently made.
Grandpa Phil didn’t get to make that kind of a choice. He died shortly before I graduated high school, in 2003. Phil was pretty old, and, as far as I can remember, had enjoyed a life that consisted of making my Mom uncomfortable with sardonic humor, bickering with my grandmother over matters of extreme importance, such as the location of the Ketchup (“In the fridge! On the door!”), and of watching the Yankees play ball on TV from his the rocking chair in the Florida room – that’s living room in most parts of the country. Toward the end of his life, though, it was becoming harder and harder to distinguish the Bombers’ pin stripes; Phil had cataracts. The doctor could fix his eyes, but a pre-surgical stress tests revealed a more pressing issue: After a life of eating a healthy, Jewish diet of delicious saturated fats and sugars in the form of chopped liver, roast beef, pot roast, kinish, corned beef, potato kuggle, stewed prunes and matzah brei, the lining of his heart was pretty well coasted with fatty deposits. Doctors didn’t think he would survive the cataract surgery with his heart in such a state, or even if he would make it through another meal. Open-heart surgery followed soon thereafter and Grandpa never regained consciousness, dying after languishing in a hospital for about a month.
My Dad, grieving his Dad’s death, pointed out that grandpa would probably have preferred to have one more roast beef sandwich and die peacefully in his rocking chair, while telling Joe Torre how to do his job. But no one gave him the option – the doctors were too eager to extend his life, and men of his generation were not trained to question the doctor, as we are now.
So, he died, and probably a little before his time had come. Can we say the same thing for the two athletes who died over the weekend? Mabye. I don’t know anything about either of them, really, so I can’t say. But I can say that their deaths were not the fault of an event in which both were willing participants. To me, the tough talk coming out of certain Borough of Manhattan offices this week is fairly meaningless. You can’t blame a race or race organizer for these deaths any more than you can blame on a mountain the death of a climber who falls from a cliff, or gets swept away in a slide. The challenge was ahead of the climber, they did their best to meet it, but came a little short.
None of that makes it any easier on the bereaved, who are mourning the loss of loved ones. In our overly-litigious society, though, I hope that the parties involved aren’t too quick to sue. Both athletes knew the inherent risks of sport, you hope, and if they failed to see a doctor for a regular check up, well, that’s their business. The fact of the matter is that events in interesting places are cool and fun, and that’s why folks are willing to fork over $1,000 to swim in the sewage-tainted waters of the Hudson, and why thousands of runners will pee themselves while waiting to run over the Verrazanno Narrows bridge in the New York City Marathon. People die in that event, too, by the way.
And yet, these events persist, and triathlon, especially, will continue to grow, because people like the challenge. Is it supposed to kill you? No. Is that a risk in any sport? Of course, and anyone who believes otherwise is tragically out of touch with the realities of athletics. And what about Grandpa? For a man who’s proudest moment, aside from watching his great-grand children run around at various family gatherings, was helping to construct the battleship Arizona during World War II, watching baseball was a chief pleasure as he got on past 80. So maybe Dad was wrong – maybe his Dad was doing what he thought he wanted or needed in order to continue enjoying the life to which he’d become accustomed, just as those triathletes thought they were doing something they’d trained and prepared for.
See, you really can’t pick your moment.
Programing note: I'm traveling in North and South Carolina on Wednesday, and will be home late, so no blog post tomorrow.
Monday, August 08, 2011
While racing this weekend's Tour of the Catskills, I decided that I might just quit the sport.
OK, I probably won't quit the sport, but it was the kind of racing that makes me wonder why I do what I do, and think seriously about getting myself down graded to a 3. Or a 4. Or maybe I'll just say fuck it all and become a track sprinter. Probably not, though, I like the road too much.
Things didn't start poorly: I did pretty well (for me, anyway), in the opening day's time trial, and beat all three of my team mates. But then I got dropped on the first climb in Saturday's 96-mile road race. I'd been in the peloton for all of six miles, and couldn't manage to hang on when the road turned skyward. It was truly pathetic, and I've scarcely felt less like a bike racer.
Still, there was one more day, so I soldiered on, riding with others who were having similarly crappy days. Eventually, it started raining, and then we turned into a soggy collection of unworthies just in time to scale the punishing heights of Devil's Kitchen, a steep, winding Catskill ascent with sustained grades skywards of 28 percent. Once over the top, mercifully, it was only a short hop to the finish line in Tannersville.
After flogging the others off the back, and putting myself out to about my limit for a ride of that length, I managed to miss the 20-percent time cut by about a minute. I knew it was going to be close, and pushed myself about as hard as I could to get up the Kitchen, and was a bit perplexed when I looked back and saw two of the others I'd been riding with walking up the climb. Thankfully, I had a 26 on my bike, and made it up the climb without dismounting. Of course, the officials took pity upon us pathetic, dropped riders, and allowed everyone to start the next day, even though we all technically should have been out. In retrospect, I'm not sure if I should really feel thankful about that.
On walking up the climb: it's one thing for a beginner to walk up a climb, but I never would have thought I'd see it in an elite race. I've never previously done a race where just staying on your bike is an accomplishment. I suppose there's a first for everything. Actually, it was a day for two firsts, as I've never before had to worry about missing a time cut at a stage race, so that was fun.
But still, I had some excuses at my disposal -- I recently broke my wrist and am still on the comeback swing, I hadn't eaten properly in the morning before the race, I didn't get a good warm up, the climb came much earlier in the stage than I'd anticipated, etc. And, since the officials had taken mercy on me and allowed me to continue racing, I assured myself and my team mates (who all did much better than me on Saturday) that Sunday would be better, and that I'd fix all of my mistakes.
Of course, it didn't go better.
Actually, it did go better, but not much better. On Sunday, I did fix pretty much all of my previous day's mistakes, ate a better breakfast, did a good warm up, and carefully reviewed the stage profile. I survived the initial flurry of attacks to get to the top of the descent down Route 23, and survived the descent, although I (purposefully) missed the breakaway. At the bottom of the descent, I was able to sit comfortably in the peloton, which was rolling along at a quick, but not absurd, pace. Then we hit the day's first KOM, which was, like, a million miles long, and seemed to climb into the sky. I made it about halfway up before getting spat out the back, for a grand total of about 26 miles raced.
See, better than the day before, but not by much. I didn't summon the gumption to finish another stage off the back, and instead did a second trip up the first KOM, and rolled back to the parking lot in time to watch the finish. I had lots of company dropping out of what was, unquestionably, a really difficult race. But still, it's clear that I have a lot of work to do if I ever want to be competitive at the elite level of this sport. Weekends like this are discouraging, for sure, but I suppose the name of this game is coming back from a discouraging weekend, and getting right back into the swing of training.
Sunday, August 07, 2011
I got home from the Tour of the Catskills at 11, and have made good use of my time this evening unpacking and cleaning up a bit, but I have not left time for blogging. Apologies, but I'll return to the blog in full tomorrow.
Hope everyone had a good weekend!
Thursday, August 04, 2011
Earlier this evening, I was at a friend's house (another friend is house/dog sitting, so, as tradition dictates, everyone moved in to take advantage of the beer and cable -- don't worry this is part of friend #2's compensation) watching Shark Week. I'd been hearing a lot about Shark Week all week. Although I've never seen any Shark Week programing, I'd certainly heard of it.
Now that I've seen a few minutes of it (a segment in which Andy Samberg both sat at a half-submerged desk AND donned a diving bell, and in which the sharks may or may not have been CGI creations), I can safely say that I haven't been missing much.
Here's the thing: I don't have a great interest in marine biology during the other 51 weeks of the year and no amount of promos could change that during this week. Of course, it's possible that I'm just resisting the pop culture, as usual. Or maybe I'm just sticking to one of my most basic, most important beliefs, which is that pretty much anything you can do that doesn't involve watching TV is what you should do. But seriously, who gives a fuck about an ugly fish that some producer in a booth decided to name "Chunk?"
Apparently it works for the Discovery Channel, though, and good for them. For me, though, it's just more TV.
In light of that, when Tracey Jordan says on 30Rock, "So, here's some advice I wish I woulda got when I was your age: Live every week like it's Shark Week," I suppose he's saying that we should spend every week in front of the TV? No thanks!
Of course, there's another possibility, pertaining to Urban Dictionary's first definition of "Shark Week." For Jordan, this has certain other implications, which likely don't pertain to TV at all (or maybe they do, depending on Angie's mood.
Wednesday, August 03, 2011
Two years ago, working as a political reporter covering hotly-contested City Council elections, I would have defined a campaign thusly: "A loose conglomerate of qualified and unqualified blabermouths attempting cooperation to advance a cause." You might say that I was a bit jaded by the political scene I'd been covering for a while, and certainly found myself loosing patience for the alleged politicians I was covering. (OK, some were more legitimate than others, but none will be going to the White House any time soon).
These days, I'm more accustomed to hearing the word in reference to military actions by our government in an ever-increasing number of locales -- fitting, as dictionary.com defines the word as, "military operations for a specific objective." A variant on my politic-themed definition is the third entry.
Urban Dictionary defines the same word this way: "The ability to pick up a person of the opposite sex; [sic] to have game."
Since I clearly won't be mountain any of the above types of campaigns any time soon, I've been looking for a different type of campaign, one at which I can be more successful. Fortunately, this weekend offers a good opportunity: Three of my team mates and I will launch a campaign at the Tour of the Catskills. I haven't done a proper stage race since my catastrophic run at the Tour of the Catskills in 2009 -- held in the fall that year -- and I'm looking forward to returning to the concept this year.
In many ways, it really is a campaign -- the four of us will head up to the race Friday, along with our team manager. We'll be sequestered in hotel rooms for pretty much the entire weekend (aside from when we're racing, of course), and will be working, single-mindedly toward bringing home some kind of result. As in a political or military campaign, you progress can be measured in small pieces: Maybe you score some KoM points on one stage, maybe you advance on GC in another stage. Of course, only one person can win at the end, but, maybe you achieve some other goal along the way, learn something about yourself as a racer, or about your opponents.
Mostly though, the atmosphere is one totally dedicated to racing -- there are no social obligations, there's no laundry or grocery shopping, just the race. Of course, I wouldn't rate our chances at overall victory too highly, especially having perused the start list, but hopefully we can advance our cause, at least a little.
Tuesday, August 02, 2011
Over drinks with a friend on Monday, I realized that I've been living in my apartment overlooking the triangle in Emmaus for eight months, which means that I've lived here longer than the last place I lived in Saratoga Springs. It also means that I'm flirting with a year, which would make it the place I've lived second-longest since graduating college.
These realizations instantaneously set my internal clock spinning: If it's been eight months, and it's going on a year, then it must be time to move. Ostensibly, moving is a pain in the ass, but it also has some advantages: A fresh perspective; the chance to part with a bunch of crap that you don't need, don't use, and don't want; and you get to bond with all the friends you press into service.
Truly, I'm mostly interested in saving money. My second-story apartment is really nice, with great light (thanks to huge windows), and high ceilings that make it feel light and open. Also, it's across the street from the VFW Hall and the bike shop, and there's a small room that provides adequate space for my bikes. In perfect world, the appliances would work, there wouldn't be any ugly white carpets, and I could happily live here for the foreseeable future. But it costs more money per month, in rent and utilities than I would like to spend.
So, where does that leave me? Well, thinking about my options, mostly. Housing in Emmaus is surprisingly not as cheap as I would like it to be (OK, maybe it's not that surprising), so I'll be hunting for a bargain. The search is really just starting, but I did find a lead on a two-bedroom in Vera Cruz, which is over the mountain from Emmaus. Moving to that side of the mountain would mean that I can no longer walk to work, the VFW Hall, or the bike shop. Of course, I could still ride to all those places, but it would take longer, and likely result in more car trips.
A year ago, I don't think I would have considered living anywhere not attached to a far reaching, impermeable swath of asphalt, but Vera Cruz isn't that far from town, and I've lived in cities for so long, that I'm thinking a change might be good. Also, there's a lack of outdoor space here -- and plenty in Vera Cruz.
Also, in order to save money, I'm likely going to be looking for a roommate. I've lived alone for a while now, so I anticipate that going back to sharing a home will come with its challenges. But, my last roommate relationship was a very positive experience, so I have high hopes.
So, you know, we'll see.