Saturday, January 30, 2010

the january blues

It's kind of complicated, how I got there, but the other day it hit me like a glass bottle over the head (or the tinkle of a goblet): I am decidedly less inclined towards subversiveness and rebellion than I was, say, 20 or even five years ago. I'm probably also much less angry and fractious too.

This realization is not welcome. It seems a move from vibrancy to dullness, action to inaction, the violent love of live to the passive acceptance of death.

Because the opposite of the subversive spirit is to be docile, obedient, compliant, etc. It is to read the newspaper and find myself more ambivalent than agitated, more disinterested than disturbed. I feel medicated. House-broken. Like a cow pushed to the edge of a field by the wind. Like a fish that doesn't bother to swim against the current.

It's not a nice feeling. For me, anyway. It leaves me feeling almost desperate to piss someone off--through active not passive aggression, that much is clear--and that in doing so I'll recapture something lost--mojo, I guess. Or the reminder that I'm alive.

Except that everything I written doesn't quite explain how I'm feeling. It's only accurate, sort of. It's not fully true.

But it could be true. If I were a writer I might describe a character that way, and when interviewed I would feel truthful in either denying or acknowledging that I was writing autobiographically.

And so that's where I am.

Swimming. In circles. Sort of.


It's cold today. Twenty degrees. Skiing later with Audrey. Perhaps a little time on the bike this morning. And I'm going to build a fire. While Valerie's making waffles. I'll have mine with lots of syrup. I need the sugar.

Friday, January 22, 2010

riding & (aack) running

I've been trying to run a little more this off season. I know. I can hardly believe it either.

But, since time, weather, and other constraints keep me from being able to ride everyday (but oh how I would love to if I could--I don't think it's so much about fitness or training, it's just that I love riding's just that awesome), I've been trying to run on the off days.

Since there are so many reasons not to run (I mean, come on, no matter how you dress it up, running just sucks), I have to keep reminding myself of the reasons to run. Here are some:

(1) It's faster. You can get more of a workout in less time running than riding (though you certainly can't cover as much ground, it's certianly not faster in that regard). I'm not sure exactly what I mean by that, but probably I mean that I get tired faster. My legs do, anyway. The rest of my body is usually disappointed at just a 45-minute workout. Maybe what I really mean is that at equivilant heart rates, your muscles are working less hard running than they would be running. In other words, to maintain something like 140 bpm I feel more muscle fatigue on the bike than I would running. I think. Whatever.

But mostly by "it's faster" I mean it takes less time to get prepped (dressed, etc.) and de-prepped for and from a run than a ride, it's much easier to do in the dark, and I get tired faster so I'm actually exercising for less time.

(2) It's social. Which is to say I get to run with different people than I ride with. I like that.

(3) I like to be in "running shape." While it's not a key focus, I like to be in good enough shape that if I do run hard I don't pull both calves and generally hurt for a couple of days.

(4) I lose weight faster. This is big. For whatever reason I lose weight way faster running regularly--say, three hours a week--than I do riding regularly--say, ten hours a week.

(5) I like to run the occasional race/fun run thing. Whenever circumstances allow, I love to run a turkey trot 5K on Thanksgiving. (This year I did it in about 18:20, but the course may have been short.) If it works out, I've been mulling over the Chambersburg half marathon in March. I last did a half marathon in college, some 13-15 years ago. On minimal training, I finished in 1:31:30. It's always sort of pissed me off that I couldn't at least get under 1:30 for a half marathon.

(I think I like making lists.)

Anyway, so I've been running, sort of, the past several months. Most weeks I do well to run twice a week. Some weeks I don't run at all. But this is the thing, my body just doesn't like to run as it did when I was a kid. I don't feel good when I'm doing it. It beats me up. Sometimes my knees hold a faint ache the rest of the day.

I could ride 2-3 hours everyday, some days hard, some days not, probably forever and just love, love, love it. I'd feel good all-around. But running... If I don't run for a week and then get out for 40 minutes or so, it feels pretty good. But when I run two days in a row, or even with a day in between running days, I invariably feel crappy on that second day. And I'm not trying to run hard--probably seven to eight minute miles, usually.

It's weird. But more evidence of the foolishness of running.

My sense is, painting with a broad brush here, that running is something the contemporary (evolutionarily speaking) human body can do, and do quite well if trained for it, but indeed something the body would just rather not do. Or at least not do that much of it. As I tell people all the time, the only future in running is bad knees, broken ankles, hip trouble, and probably a few surgeries.

Ride a bike. Run sparingly.'s for the dogs.


On a completely different note, I think this is awesome. And it reminds me of this bit of awesomeness from a while ago.

Quick summary: This south Australian riding club picked a rider at random and became fans. Well, someone at random given a few constraints: someone doing their first pro race at the Tour Down Under and someone who doesn't speak English. Then everyone became a hard-core fan and promoted the dude relentlessly. They printed t-shirts. They painted the road with his name. They went all Facebook crazy. The dude is a nobody and he has more fans than anyone else there.


Wednesday, January 20, 2010

the january thaw

We've had some dee-lite-ful weather in south-central lately (when it's 40 degrees and partly sunny and you're calling it good weather, you know it's been pretty miserable) and its put me in a good mood. I'll ride when it's 20 or 25 degrees, but I enjoy it much, much more in the 35-45 degree range.


The thaw made skiing last Friday really nice. Even at night it stayed warm enough to keep the snow soft and moving nicely under my boards with each turn. And the squats are paying off... Each year it seems to take a little longer to get my ski legs back. (Not that you need much of a leg for our hills around here, but, still, a tele turn is a tele turn, and even after just 500 feet of vertical you can feel the burn.)


Locals, mark your calendars for Saturday, February 13 and Saturday, February 20. There are special events planned.

2/13: la course de l'arbre et cultive

2/20: the tour of south mountain

Cue sheets will be provided. Awards for the fastest and slowest finishers.

Ah yeah! Let the bike games begin.

Thursday, January 7, 2010


Tuesday, I was mauled by a ferocious beast.

The beast:

The mauling:

(Photo was taken about 20 hours after the incident.)

Note from the first photo that the perpetrator's interests include walking through the kitchen with dirty paws and snuffling through garbage cans. Sure signs of incorrigible delinquency. Anti-social bastard.*


So I guess I'm obligated to tell the story.

I was riding along the rail-trail, minding my own business, but that business was pretty slow going. My fat tires only roll so fast through the crunchy snow and I was spinning along at 7 mph max. The dog came at me first from the right, then swung around to my left for the attack. But it really surprised me that it acted so aggressively. Usually dogs are cowards. Growl at them, show your teeth, say something angry and they back right off. But this dog reacted just the opposite. When I got aggressive it went crazy. And of course I was going so slow. And so it got me. But, really, when it was yapping along beside me I thought the worst it would do was take a shot at my heel, and as I was wearing my winter riding boots I wasn't too concerned. Then the bite. In the calf. I was too shocked to be mad. More amused, really. That is, at first. The anger came later. About five seconds later. And as my veins filled with adrenaline I wanted blood. But the dog was long gone. A coward after all.


Twenty-three years ago was the last time I was bitten by a dog. For years afterward I would have dreams of being attacked, then launching a counter-attack. Slowly, systematically, I would wrestle the dogs to the ground, take them around the neck, and brutally snuff the life right out of them.

All that reappeared in an instant. This was a small dog. I was a big human. I had no doubt I could have killed it.


Yesterday, the dog warden paid a visit to its people. It's had shots. All current, she says. So no rabies for me. Probably.

And the adrenaline rush is gone. So the dog lives. Probably.

(Facebook users: to see the video, check the blog.)

* The state of his parentage has been assumed, not verified. But I feel, given the dog's otherwise questionable character, somewhat justified in maligning his ancestry.

Monday, January 4, 2010

2009: the year in review

Is it 2010 already? Yikes. And I meant to do this a week ago...

The year 2010 was not a good record-keeping year for me. I'm something of an obsessive cycling statistics record-keeper, but my spreadsheet for 2010 ended up too complicated. Opening the thing took minutes, and with every change Excel took about 20 seconds to run through all the calculations and whatnot. It made the spreadsheet unusable, and instead of simply simplifying it, I became disheartened and just gave it up.

(For those interested, I think--but am not sure--that it's the conditionals, especially conditional formatting, that Excel stumbles on. My spreadsheet had lots of conditionals, both computational and formatting. The nature of the data I was trying to keep track of called for a database program, but I'm too lazy/distracted to teach myself Access or some other such program. So for 2010 I've simplified.)

Anyway, a record must be made, even if incomplete. I've no hour/mileage/ride-type/workout-type totals (the kind of stuff I would have if I'd kept my running record), but I remember the races. So here goes:


03/28 -- Philly Phlyer (7th of ~55; report)
04/18 -- SOYOCO (3rd of ?; report)
05/02 -- Turkey Hill (crashed out with 200m to go; note)
05/30 -- Fulton RR (12th of 50+; musing)
06/06 -- Race Ave Crit (38th of 50+; not-a-report)
06/27 -- Poolesville RR (12th of 75; report)
07/11 -- Tour of Mt. Nebo (really bad of a lot of fast riders; report)

The Philly Phlyer may have been my favorite race of the bunch, but the Tour of Mt. Nebo was clearly my least favorite. I liked Poolesville and Fulton a lot too, but Fulton had those nasty turns at the bottom of the hills atop slick fallen leaves which still give me nightmares and Poolesville, well, MABRA races are always run on too narrow of roads and kept to a single lane of traffic, which drives me crazy. At Poolesville, the dirt section offered enough selection, and no one pushed the pace just after, so it allowed things to shake out to the strongest riders by the last lap, who had enough room to pass, but those narrow roads and policed passing still drive me a little crazy.


09/19 -- Masters State Championship TT (1 of ?; no report...I'm the reigning men's 30-39 individual time trial state champion and I didn't even bother to blog about it)

(Ironmasters TTs: No dates, just a post.)

Given that I generally do well time trialing you'd think I'd do more of it. But it's painful, emotionally, so I keep it to a minimum. But I do need to do more stage racing (multiple race races that include a time trial).


04/04 -- Marysville Relay (I had one decent lap of four; photo one, two)

It's hard to believe I only did one mountain bike race in 2009. This needs to be corrected.


09/26 -- Whirlybird 'Cross (9th of 73; report, more, pics)
10/03 -- BCA (Hagerstown) Cross Masters 3/4 (6th of 56; report)
10/03 -- BCA (Hagerstown) Cross Masters 1/2/3 (20th of 34)
10/10 -- Iron Cross Lite (3rd of 17; musings)
10/11 -- Iron Cross VII (16th of 275)
10/24 -- Murrysville Cyclocross (3rd of 35; musings, aftermath)
11/07-- Wyane Scott Memorial @ Fair Hill (4th of 44; report)
11/14 -- Mercer Cup (out w/ mechanical; report & pics, more pics)
11/21 -- Howard County Double Cross - Schooley Mill (2nd of 67; report)
11/28 -- PA State Cyclocross Championship (9th of 32; report)

Only seven road races and one mtb race. And I call myself a bike racer...

But one finish in the money and a state championship medal in the ITT. That's better than last year.

A more successful cyclocross campaign. It was nice to end the year like that, even if the very end (a disappointing 9th in the PA State Championships and being too sick to ride the next week, the last race of the year, in Marysville). Also, second place in the PA 3/4 series, three visits to the podium, and a category two upgrade. Next year will be harder.


My early season fitness was really pretty phenomenal this year. I remember in early April telling a friend that I was probably in the best cycling shape I'd ever been in my life. There were two reasons for this. First, my collarbone break in early October 2008 left me antsy to get on the bike in November...and I rode right through to the new year. And, second, getting my boys in shape at the Tuesday Night Races in January, February, and March (the collegiate season runs from the last weekend of February through the first weekend of May) had its impact on me as well.

But come July I was fried. And in August I took quite a bit of time off, not racing at all (except the SU Cycling Starlight Criterium Series, which was tons of fun). And I guess the time off paid off, because in September, October, and November I felt good again.

Goals for 2010

Now that stupid cancer is behind us--at least I sure as hell hope it is--maybe I'll be able to pull off a bit more bike racing during the bike racing season. Last year I only got eight road race and mtb race days in through August. This year I hope to double that.

goal #1: Fifteen race days through August.

This year a major goal is do significantly more mountain bike racing. This also means I need to improve my mountain biking skill level a good deal too. That means more mountain bike riding, and more mountain bike riding with dudes a lot better than me. Which may mean showing up to the Michaux group rides more often. And then more experimentation with tires and air pressure. With handlebar width and height. And, hopefully, with a shiny new 29er come spring.

goal #2: Of those 15 race days through August, five on the mountain bike.

I'm only planning 10 race days on the road (excluding time trials) in 2010, but I still want to do well. Or at least race aggressively. I don't mind losing a road race, badly, if I raced to give myself a chance to win. In '07 and '08 I usually raced too passively/defensively, but that's a super bad strategy for winning bike races. And it turns out that the races of which I have the fondest memories I raced aggressively, attacking, counter-attacking, and generally trying to mix things up. I've learned my lesson, and in 2009, I generally raced aggressively, occasionally to reward. In 2010, more aggressive racing. If I finish with a pack it had better be with tongue dragging on the asphalt for having attacked and counterattacked and attacked again and again throughout the race. Win or lose, I want to be buggered by the end of each race. But I also want to do well.

In 2009, I finished in single digits in two of seven races. In two more I finished hard 12ths. I'd like to improve upon that.

goal #3: Single-digit finishes in at least half of my starts.

Last year I didn't race a single stage race. In the prior three years I raced several, and at least one four-day stage race each year. I want to do more stage racing. It plays to my strengths. So...Fitchburg again. Or, if I'm in good shape at the end of the season, Green Mountain. Washington County. And/or perhaps some other race of which I'm unaware (Memorial Day weekend?).

goal #4: Start at least two stages/ominium races, one a marquee four-day race.

(I'll count stage races as just one race in the previous goal regarding 15 race days.)

Related to the above goal, I pledge to do more time trial specific training...which includes simply riding the time trial bike more, tweaking position, etc.

goal #5: At least one training ride on the time trial bike every other week.

That's probably enough.

Ok, one more:

goal #6: At least ten cyclocross race days.

Ship Cycling 2009 Overview

In 2009, we had three major successes:

(1) Eight students raced at least once on the road or mtb. I didn't keep track of total student race days, but I'm sure it was well over 20. Plus several students raced over the summer. Given where we've been, that's a huge accomplishment, and I'm proud of it.

(2) Ship Cycling organized not one, but two bike rodeos. Great successes, both of them, on a variety of levels. I feel super good about that.

(3) The Tuesday Night Races (and other non-sanctioned not-really-a-race "races"). I'm committed to the principle that you can't get race-fast without doing a lot of racing...and if you can't always be racing, ya gotta simulate it. Fast weekday training races are an essential componet to an amateur cyclist's race development. Low cost environment for experimentation with tactics. The chance to see and experience a lot of stuff, tactically and physiologically. Practicing group riding skills. All of that. Consistently (at least through August) there was at least a small group out to ride fast, and occasionally a rather larger group. Varied participation from folks all up and down the valley. I hope we can do even better this coming year, but 2009 was still a success.

As for 2010 goals, there are so many things, but I've only time, energy, and sanity for some. So I've got to give it a good think and prioritize before I commit.

For a later post...