Tuesday, December 23, 2008

"When I Say Spin, You Best Spin, Muthafucka"

Pardon the allusion to the classic new wave track "Dance Mother Fucker Dance" by The Violent Femmes (though it's more of the rock-a-billy genre).

Spinning is a time-honored practice in bicycle racing. Coaches will demand your base miles all be done in the small chainring. This is mostly to ensure you don't damage anything from trying to push a hard gear when you don't have the base miles, but it also means you have to turn a high cadence to go fast. Developing leg speed is a crucial aspect of bike racing.

They will advocate riding rollers at a high cadence to smooth out your pedal stroke and keep you riding smooth straight lines. This can be accomplished with stationary trainer, but it's easy to get sloppy at a high spin on a stationary trainer, and it doesn't really do anything for your fitness if you don't have to worry about keep the bike up. No, spinning classes don't help with spinning the pedals on a road bike, unless you're starting from scratch. Even the Great Eddy Merckx loathed stationary trainers for anything other than warming up. His famous quip on the subject was 'all you learn from riding a wind trainer is how to pedal squares'. They didn't have magnetic or fluid trainers in his day, but the concept is the same. Sitting on a stationary trainer (as opposed to rollers) allows you, and almost coerces you, pump your legs up and down, not pedal circles. (OK, I know it isn't exactly what he said, but it's the gist, and he did use the term 'pedal squares'. If you're anal enough to worry about the exact phrase over the intent, then I suggest you shut the fuck up and get on a set of rollers).

This brings me to the actual subject of this post: Fixed Gear Training.

I'm not talking about track racing, I'm talking about riding a fixed gear bike with a ratio in the low to mid 2s for a few hours at a time on the road.

My Friend and fellow blogger Exemplar Solobreak has a post on power training, where he referenced the idea of mashing a big gear over varied terrain as a training tool.

But, That's something to be saved for later, _after_ you develop your base miles.

It's winter. When the roads are clear, I love riding a fixed gear. Last year was tough since it snowed so early and we had snow on the ground from the day after thanksgiving through the end of march. This year does'nt look much better for winter miles so far, but you know what they say about new england weather, all this snow could be gone next week (though I find it highly unlikely)

So, let's talk about riding one gear, no coasting, trying to keep a cadence of about 100 rpm on flat ground, while keeping your HR in the low aerobic range, about 80%, for two to three hours.

This teaches you several things:
1) Spinning a cadence on a fixed gear makes you pedal a circle. If you have a bad pedal stroke, keeping the bike smooth and steady as you zip along at a higher cadence - say 120 - will bounce you all over the road.
2) It prevents you from taking it too easy. If you want to get home, you have to push the gear. No coasting, no shifting up/down on the hills,
3) It teaches you to be attentive - while I personally would _never_ go out on the open road without two working brakes, it's a good learning experience for keeping your pace steady, especially when riding with a group.

Of course, the right gear for your area is essential. in flat areas, like where Solo lives, you can get away with a heavier gear, possible something pushing a 3.0 ratio. Where I live, we have a lot more rolling hills with some short steep climbs. I've been using a 42/16 for almost 20 years (2.625:1). I can ride most of the local hills and still keep my cadence over 70, and they aren't long enough to horribly stress my knees.

This brings us to another aspect of fixed-gear training. Depending on the route, I can pick out hilly route to work on power, or longer flat routes to just work on base miles. Of course, the hilly routes are much shorter in duration, and the beauty of the smaller gear is that I can get an effective warm-up/cool-down by spinning to and from the hills I want to work out on.

Conversely, on some of the _downhills_, in isn't uncommon to spin up to 160 rpm. This brings me to a question I'd like to ask from anyone who may skim past this blog that has any knowledge on the issue. The question is 'spinning vs. being spun'.

A coach that I hooked up with a few years ago was not a fan of fixed gear training. He felt that it didn't really teach you to spin a high cadence smoothly, since usually the high cadences one experiences on a fixed gear occur on the down hills. He said, there is a big difference between spinning and being spun. I think I see his point, but I think it's relative minor. I think the benefits of fixed gear training vastly outweigh any detriment from 'being spun' on a downhill, and I also think there is a benefit to letting the bike push your leg speed up past the 160 rpm range. I think that pushing your legs in a circle at that speed is something that _must_ be done consciously, and therefore it _does_ teach you how to spin your legs smoothly.

Did you notice how many times I wrote "I think" in that last paragraph? Hell, I'm not a coach, and I'm quite mediocre as a bike racer, so it doesn't really matter what I _think_.

Tell me what _you_ think. Any professional coaches that may wander this way are especially welcome.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Mill City Relay

(warning - long read)

The Mill City Relay is a point-to-point relay race from Nashua NH to Lawrence MA. 27.1 miles broken up into five legs. This year had 140 5-person teams enter. This is the skinny:

I'm normally not one to get up before dark on a weekend without a damn good reason. Years ago, when I had just been bitten by the bike racing bug, getting up at 4 am sunday to make a 9 am start in the wilds of vermont or maine wasn't a problem. But I was younger then, less jaded, and less tired......_way_ less tired. So, when my alarm went off at 5:30 AM , sunday, December 7th, 2008, it was to my resignation and my wifes' chagrin. I half-way expected her to accuse me of some twisted 67th commemoration of the Pearl Harbor attack.

"what the hell are you doing?"
"going to that relay race, I _said_ I had to get up early"
"You said it was in lawrence"
"it starts in nashua"
"in the dark?"
"just go back to sleep"
"oh my gawd..." and she rolled the pillow over her head.

I normally don't have to worry about waking her up. She gets up at about 4 am every day, usually. She doesn't want to, she doesn't set the alarm, she just wakes up on a circadian rhythm...except for today. I had most of my stuff together, so I threw what else I thought I'd need in my bag and headed out.

It was cold. Cold enough to show, though it wasn't yet. I stopped off at the local Dunkin Donuts and bought my usual prerace meal - large medium regular coffee, a Chug of OJ, a Chug of milk, and a bagel.

I was surprised by the turnout in the claddagh parking lot. I got one of the few available parking spaces. I had never met any of my teammates before, so I wandered the parking lot looking for Frank. I asked several people if they had seen Frank.

"Frank who?"

Ummm....hmmm...drawing a blank here. I remember the email from Frank.....something. I hadn't anticipated that there would be pretty close to 100 people milling about in the claddagh parking lot at 6 AM.

"Frank, the captain of the masters team"

Finally someone pointed him out. We got the rest of the team together, hopped in Franks minivan, and headed out.

Frank Row
Brian Reeves
Todd Lagimonier
Janos Mako

Now, I had been scheduled to run with the Masters Co-ed A team, headed up by Tina Dowling. A week before the event I was asked to run with the Master Men A team. Before I responded, I looked up the other names on the team in cool running results. One of the first listings was for Janos, at the 2006 masters indoor track championships, 5:15 in the mile.....I stopped looking, I didn't want to get depressed. But, "OK, I'll bite, if you can't find anyone else I'll do it, but just be aware that I'm generally speaking about a minute per mile slower than any one of you.....just so ya know....."

By the time we hit new hampshire in the min-van it had started to snow quite heavily. The ground was completely covered, the snow was getting packed, and it was slick. No one had thought to bring anything other than road running shoes, so traction was dicey at best. Brian was to run the first leg, so as soon as we got him set up with the baton, we hit the road. Dodge mini vans aren't known for their adverse weather handling, so we needed time. Fortunately, both Todd and I had worked in the nashua area for some time, and advised against following the race route. Single lane roads, runners looking for traction.......let's not get hung up. We went through downtown nashua, over to the DW highway, across the new 3/3a bridge, and made it with time to spare, although Frank bringing the van sideways approaching an intersection on the DW highway gave us pause that we might not make it.

During the ride there we had been talking about races and results. Brian, I was told, had been running a 5:30 pace for the past two months. At that point Janos looked at me and asked, "you want to switch legs?"

"YES!!!! I've been thinking all along that it's probably a good idea to have your slowest guy run the shortest leg"

So Brian pulled into the transition area in about 33 minutes.

Exceptional considering the conditions. The MVS Open Mens runner came in first had a good minute over second place overall. Brain was about 10th or so. The transition in the parking lot was treacherous. The driveway itself had turned to ice forcing the runners to stay on the grass. I saw a few runners down in the parking lot slip out and hit the ground. Janos took the baton and hit the road. Uh, bad euphemism. He took off, he didn’t actually ‘hit the road’, though we found out later that he _did_ take a spill out on the course. We caught up to him and frank got a few pictures, then proceeded to the tech school for my transition.

MVS still had a big lead - over a minute - in the overall at the 2nd transition. The Kid strolled through relaxed and smooth, taking long strides, almost smiling. He's one of those guys that makes it look easy. Down in Lowell the snow was very slight, and the roads were wet, so the run downhill into the tunnel was no problem. I took the baton from Janos, and headed off. There was a runner in a yellow shirt in front of me, maybe 15 seconds, that I looked to be gaining on slightly. I felt smooth, I had a good stride, I was running within my limits. Once we got out of the school though, the runner in front of me at first held his distance, then pulled away slightly, and kept going.

I'm new to this running thing. When there is someone right with me, it's easy for me to hold a pace and keep my form. But, when I'm completely alone, my stride drops off. My steps get very shallow. This happened repeatedly sunday; I would 'wake up', then drift back to the bad habits. I'm hoping, with time, this will change. Eventually, another runner came up on me, and I managed to use him to pace. The runner in yellow had pulled to about 30 seconds ahead by the time we reached the roarke bridge, and I was still only a few steps behind this new runner.

We came into the 3rd transition, and it was a mob scene. People standing all over the course. I had planned to run through it, handing off the baton to Todd, but I had to dodge other non-runners, as did the guy in front of me. Todd had to weave around someone in front of him after the hand off.

I'm not sure of my time, I forgot to start my hrm. Afterwards I was thinking I'll just get everyone elses' time and do the math. Well, it turns out Janos did the same thing, so with two variables in the formula and no corresponding simultaneous equation, there would be no reliable answer. At the 3rd transition, I ran into two of my cycling friends. One is one of the better masters riders in New England, and wins about half a dozen races a year. Turns out his wife is Cathy Pearce, who runs for Whirlaway and has this annoying habit of running a sub-six pace at the age of 44 - not bad for a girl (oops, sorry, gender stereotyping, bad blogger) . The other is more of a mutli-sport guy, but a good training partner. He has one speed - fast.

The temperature was now well into the 40's and good for running. We caught up to Todd at about the 5 mile point and he looked smooth and comfortable. He had passed one runner (at least), probably from that team that passed me at the end of my leg, and looked to be distancing another runner behind him. He said he felt good, so we left him and waited at transition 4. He had definitely put a gap on the runner that was behind him at that point. That change went off without a hitch, and Frank went on his way, taking on the only real hill in the entire course.

We went to the top of the hill and waited for him. Two runners came by, one was from whirlaway, followed by gate city. By the time Frank made it to the top over 1:40 had passed. Since this was about the two mile mark of a 4.75 mile leg, it didn't look too good for frank to catch them. There was a young kid behind Frank that had paced him up the hill, about 10 seconds behind him. As we headed toward the finish, we passed the gate city runner, but the whirlaway guy was gone. They had crossed the hill about 15 seconds apart, and the whirlaway guy looked like he was dying, but he must have hit the downhill like Bode Miller. He had a good minute on the gate city guy at that point, finishing 1:10 ahead of him. Frank came in 2:30 later. and managed to put 30 seconds on the kid behind him.

We finished in a time of 2:43:17. That was 7th over all and the 4th place masters team. I'll probably do this race next year, if they'll have me. The next thing I have planned is the millennium mile, and I'll be attending the indoor track works to prepare for that. But that was it for a while, I took the past week off. I mean, _really_ off. I haven't had my heart rate over 100, and I've been eating _lots_ of food. No, not all the Gu that was given away at the relay. It turns out, Frank had worked some race recently, and the gave him like a dozen cases of Gu. 48 packs in each one. He handed me two, that's 96 packs of Gu. Well over $100 worth. I'll be sucking orange gu for awhile. If you see me, ask for some.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Another reason to love Liz Hatch

From an interview on "Triple Crankset"

"Racing on my own gave me a lot of freedom to make my own moves. I would always think "WWLD", What Would Ludo Do? Haha, maybe that's odd but I totally dig Ludo Dierckxsens style of racing. Or Jacky Durand."

A drop-dead Gorgeous professional female cyclist who considers Ludo Dierckxsens and Jacky Durand to be role models......What's not to love?

Thursday, December 4, 2008

My Previous Life - My Friend Roko

In 1994 I took a job at a start-up telecommunications company, that had just been courted for acquisition by Hewlett-Packard. I was looking for an engineering position, but the job market was tight, the job I had at the time as a hardware engineer at the Massachusetts Eye and Eay Infirmary's Audiology REsearch lab was driving me insane (actually, it was my boss, the only person I ever _really_ wished would die a horrible death). So I took a job in manufacturing as a senior technician, one of three.

Another one of the three was a character named Roland. Roland was quite odd, and under the influence of several medications from several different doctors. My first exposure to his quirks was when he used to eat his late breakfast at his workbench, a bowl of shredded wheat, and he used to sing a little ditty he made up:

"when you eat your colon blow, everything will floooooowwwwww!"

Since he was on meds for his mental stability as well as a heart condition (brought on by years of partying with many different drugs, though he was under 50 at the time), he would often have extreme emotional reactions to his environment. One afternoon I came back from a meeting, and he was sitting at his bench in nothing but his underwear, socks and shoes, his clothes neatly folded on his workbench besides him (he was always very clean, manicured, neatly dressed, and his work area was spotless). His excuse was that he was very hot.

But I liked Roko, a lot. I knew we were to become friends after the following exchange: I had only been there a few weeks. The manufacturing engineer (who had hired me) was giving a functional description of a new feature in the product, and it wasn't working right.

Eng: I think I should call someone
Roko: Who, any vegetable?
me:Well, who are gonna you call, Billy?
Roko: (with a look of joy) Billy was a mountain!
me: ethel was a tree growing off of his shoulder!
Eng: (at me) DON'T GET HIM STARTED!!!
me and roko : biiillllyyy the mooooouuunntaaaiiiiiinn!!!
Eng: dear god, what have I done?.......

Yes, Roko was a fan of Zappa.

He also had a complete video collection of everything John Waters made with Divine. He could quote from Pink Flamingos as well as the rest of us could recite the ABCs, and knew trivia about the two of them that the rest of us neither knew nor had any reason to seek out.

Roko was also a fan of Yoko Ono. Really. I'm not kidding. He genuinely liked her music...er...performances...er....what ever you might wish to call them. He had seen her live several times, and had pretty much every recording he could get his hands on, including a laser disc from japan of some concert she did there.

He had seen her video creations, including one called 'erection' which was a 30 minute slow motion video of Johns penis getting hard, and one called 'fly', which follows a fly around a room which was empty, except for a nude woman lying on a table. She dubbed in 'fly' sound effects with her own voice, as an interpretation of the sounds a fly would make if you could hear it.

The real kicker was the Ono Box. Ono Box was a small road case with a lock, and a handblown glass key, designed to hold her new CD box set of 'greatest hits' and 'rarities' (this was all yoko - no john, no beatles). The key had a tag that was numbered and signed by Yoko. In 1996 he paid (I think) 125$ for it - this was _without_ the CDs.

This is what earned him the nick name 'Roko'.

Other fabulous Roko-isms:

* he would listen to CDs at work with headphones and sing loudly. He had an exceptional voice, so we really didn't mind, though it was startling sometimes ( he was the front man for a local band in the late 60's/early 70's ). However, it was annoying when he would sing to Ono music, which sucked. Often he would simply jump up and start dancing, usally some pop dance from the '50s like the Mashed Potato.

* One day, when the doctors had been tweaking his medication. He came up to me at work, more glassy eyed than anyone I had ever seen, smiled, and said "I am soooo stoned" then fell asleep on the table in the break room.

*Since he had the longest tenure of the technicians, he was given field returns. One day, one of the sales people (whom none of us liked) went up to him when he was wearing his headphones to ask him the status of a repair. Roko never took his headphones off or turned down his music. He looked the salesguy right in the eye and said loudly "I CAN'T HEAR YOU, I HAVE MY HEADPHONES ON", then turned away and went back to work.

* One late afternoon, he was drumming wildly on his bench. I asked him what he was listening to, and he replied, in key, with a maniacle laugh, then "WIPEOUT". Taking the bait, as he drummed madly on his bench, I jumped up on a swivel stool and pretended to surf. Without missing a beat, he looked past me and said loudly "isn't he good?". I turned around and the General Manager was shaking his head and rolling his eyes.

Roko Often used to say it was a good thing he stopped his substance abuse before he met me. I would have to agree, for both our sakes. Roko and I had great times in and outside of work. I can only imagine what would have transpired if drugs were involved.

I don't hear from Roko anymore. I can't say as I miss him, though I do longingly wax about that time in my life, and about friends like him. That 'silliness' is sadly missing from my life. Roko would be unable to fulfill that void, due in some part to his age, and some part to the fact that he no longer needs medication. Still, I have an unmeasurable appreciation for him and the piece of my life that he helped create.

Till we meet again, my friend....

Monday, December 1, 2008

An Extreme Amount of Suckage

I'm not sure if it was the lay off after the minor ankle sprain a few weeks ago, or that I just had a _really_ good day at the Lawrence TIP 5K, but my time at the Feaster 5 Miler on thanksgiving was was lousy. I never quite recovered from the hill up to Andover Center, and the lack of miles in addition to favoring the left foot the past few weeks lead to my left gastrocnemius cramping at ~ 2 1/2 miles.

I wasn't sure what to expect in general, never having run in a race with more than a couple of hundred people. I knew this event was going to attract a significant amount of regional talent, so I had no illusions of placing in any position that would get my name printed anywhere other than the overall results sheet. One thing I wanted to make sure of, was that I didn't have to run through alot of traffic at the start. With that in mind, I got the the start line 20 minutes before the scheduled start, then just jumped around and stretched, while the road filled in around me.

I was surprised how many people were dressed in bare legs and one or two thin layers on top. There's an old rule of thumb in bike racing 'geared' at keeping your knees healthy, which is to wear knee covering below 60 degrees Fahrenheit. It's quite rare that I do not follow this advice, and since I'm really only starting out in competitive running, I'm not about to start experimenting with what's worked well for me for the past 20 years. So I wore two medium weight layers on top, gloves, doo-rag (I don't have a real 'doo' to keep my head warm) and medium weight tights. This is still significantly less than I would have worn if I were riding on the road that day, but about the same as I would wear mtn biking.

As the start time approached, the pomp and circumstance one would expect with an event of this magnitude began. Tom Licciardello made the most of his MC duties. He was comfortable, yet energetic. Also gracing us were Bill Rodgers, Dick & Rick Hoyt, and Barry Burbank. We were also treated to not only the American National Anthem by MVS member Tracie Gardner, but God Bless America by Joey Griggs, the same confident tyke who sang our National Anthem at the Lawrence Veteran 4 Miler.

I was reminded of the scene in the movie 'Mystery, Alaska', where a local town hockey team managed to get the New York Rangers to come to their town and play. The residents of Mystery were used to playing in single digit weather, so in order to chill the Rangers who were used to playing in climate controlled arenas they contracted Little Richard to sing long, slow, soulful, bluesy versions of both the American and Canadian National anthems. Fortunately, it was pushing 40 degrees by that time in andover, and I was in a swarm of warm bodies.


mile 1 - 6:29 - I started out running well, comfortable, and smooth. According to Cool Running, I had a 5 second differential between the gun and my start, so I probably had a couple of hundred runners in front of me. I was passing people and getting passed. At one point, about 1/2 mile in, I got passed by a a kid, probably high school, wearing nothing but running shorts and shoes. brrrrrrrrrrrr. He must have lost a bet. We hit the hill to Andover center, and I dialed it back a bit, following my breathing. The first mile ends pretty close to the top of the hill, and it showed 6:29. I was cool with that, considering the hill.

mile 2 6:32/13:01 - This is what I get for not previewing the course. I'm very familiar with all these roads, by bike or car. Running them is a different story. From the top of the hill in andover center to the left turn on Morton Street is flat by car or bike. Not on foot. Neither is Morton Street. I attempted to pick it up after hitting the center of town, but that started pushing me into an anaerobic zone. Too much, too soon. Finally the downhill section on Bartlet allowed me to stretch out. Going past the park, a Dixieland band struck up a tune. Whenever I hear a banjo, I think of "Last Child" by Aerosmith. Allegedly, there is a banjo somewhere in that song. It's listed in the album credits. As a teenager, I listened to Last Child hundreds of times (loud, soft, with headphones, but never backwards, that would be just wrong), trying to hear the banjo, I never could make it out.

The water station came up, I reached out to grab a cup, and muffed it. No biggie, I didn't really need it. Then as the mile marker came up, I noted 13:01. Damn. I could feel I didn't have the lungs to pick it up. This was going to be a disappointing day.

Mile 3 - 7:26/20:27 - At the two mile mark the road starts a small incline again, and zig zags through some side streets in Andover. I passed a large throng of residents and a home made sign that said 'Give Us A gobble'. No thanks, I feel enough like a turkey at this point, lets not make it worse....but worse it got. Coming around that corner my left calf cramped. I slowed to a walk/limp. One Samaritan running by asked if i was OK. I'm not sure what he would have done about it if I said no, but I waved him on anyways. I walked half the length of Washington ave, which explains the 7:26 time for mile 3. Alright, let's just turn this into a fitness run, screw the racing. Take it slow on the hills, Stretch out on the downhills, and pace the flats. Once I started running again, I was in the group of runners with the strange breathing and odd gaits. The was a 'stomper' coming up behind me before we started the downhill, One foot would land with a loud STOMP.

Mile 4 6:53/27:20 - There was a decent amount of downhill and I usually do well at stretching out. It's quite rare that I've been passed running downhill. I managed to use this to catch a few runners that had just passed me. The next water station was successful. However, coming back onto high street is where the 5K and 5M course come together, and also where the walkers are on the course. I tried to keep a pace through, but the slow pace of the walkers, many of them spread across the road, made that difficult. Not because they were in the way, there were only about three times in the last mile and a half where I had to alter my course (one woman walker actually took a sharp right directly in my path. I managed to avoid her but had to hold her as I went by to void knocking her down). It was more of a case where it's hard to judge your own speed when there are literally several hundred people moving in the same direction as you but slower. I also had a number of people pass me at good clips. I'm thinking they started late, maybe were running the 5K, but there's no way I could have hitched onto their pace.

Mile 5 - 6:30/33:50 More downhill, more stretching out. As I got to the intersection of rte133 I knew it was downhill, flat and less than a mile, so I started digging in again. Three young men came by me very fast....Geeze, where the hell did they come from? Coming to the railroad bridge a dixieland band was playing, with a group of walkers that had stopped to sing "when the saints go marching in". Just under the bridge is where the woman I mentioned above walked in front of me. Earlier, when I was walking to the start line, I took a glance up the finish hill. There was a banner a bit more than halfway up, and unfortunately, I took this for the finish line. I hadn't bothered to look at the course map on the Feaster Five website which _clearly_ shows the finish about 50 yards past the _top_ of the hill in the Brickstone square parking lot. I was cooking it down the little slope and into the corner, intent on keeping some momentum for a strong finish.

Now, my eyes aren't as good as they used to be. So I wasn't too concerned when I came around the corner for the last 100 yards to the banner and didn't see a timer or sensors across the road. No, I didn't freak out until I heard the guy with the megaphone on the step ladder under the banner yelling "200 yards to go!"


Ugh, I faded like an old Polaroid. A little kid sprinted by me. I'm lucky I wasn't walking when I crossed the line.

128th overall, 20th out 393 in my age group. Mill City Relay coming up, unless I get kicked off the 'team'.

Monday, November 24, 2008

The New Guard

Well, it seems that the American Political scene isn't the only venue of change lately. The MCRA is under new management.

Yes, in a political coup, complete with insinuations of financial impropriety, the MCRA BOD has undergone an almost complete transformation. We now have arguably the best race promoter in New England as the president. This is good. Regardless of how you feel about Mr. Norton personally or his on-the-bike behaviour, his organizational skills are beyond reproach, as is his work ethic and dedication to the sport. Yes, I am a Fan of Mike.

Almost laughably, the impetus for the take-over is still on the BOD. Sandy Martin, the former and current secretary is still in place. It was apparent that Ms. Martin was in fact running the show. But if there's one thing we know about Mike, it's that he will not allow anyone to take ownership away from him without a fight.

It remains to be seen exactly how Mr. Norton will restructure the MCRA. The mission will no doubt remain the same, but the vehicle by which masters racing in new england is actively promoted will undoubtedly become more streamlined and efficient. Because, that's what Mike does.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

There are very, very few people I hate. One of them is DICK cheney.

You have to go here.

Best lines: "Every decision he has ever made has been wrong" and "In 1959, he matriculated to Yale University, where it was thought to be impossible to flunk out. After flunking out, Cheney returned to Wyoming in 1960."

If there was ever an example of Evil Incarnate, it would be DICK cheney.

Friday, November 21, 2008

That Light At The End Of The Tunnel Is An Oncoming Train.

There isn't much to be optimistic about these days. True to the title of this blog I've been getting in as much riding as I can in order to stave off a complete descension into paranoid depression. I was running alot, but a couple of weeks ago I stepped in a hole while running in the woods. My Physical Therapist thinks I may have a 'compression fracture' on my tarsus and suggested an MRI - I have an appointment at lahey clinic on monday.

So, I ride. I have a pretty sweet loop here at work - 9 miles; more than half of it single track and some of that quite technical; three climbs of over 100' each and one of those a solid 15% grade on packed gravel with rubber water barriers; three mud sections, one of which never dries; and a host of short technical rocky/rooty sections. I've been hitting it hard. I rode it 4 days this week. In the past month I've severely banged up my knee, snapped a derailleur, broken two chains, flatted three times, and I fear my rear wheel is on a truing downward spiral - I've retrued it three times in the past month and it keeps drifting out (did I mention the jagged rocky sections and 11 stone wall crossings?). These are the problems I _want_ to have.

Still, everytime I read or listen to the news, the sense of impending doom is almost overwhelming. On things that matter, there are really no bright spots. Oh sure, I could point to the facts that:
* I _am_ still employed ( though an extremely reliable source here has warned of cutbacks in january),
* My daughter still seems to appreciate my existence ( though she is still only just entering her teen years),
* My apartment building is fully rented by people who have been making their rent payments since may (though that could change at _any_ time).

Yes, I'm looking at the glass as half-empty, with a leak that I can't find. Can you blame me, or anyone, for that matter? Of course I'm quite fortunate. I know that. I don't need anyone to remind me of it. But when you see the world around you on the verge of imminent collapse, it's extremely hard to remain optimistic and maintain a sense of well-being and satisfaction unless you have resources beyond what are generally available to the working-class schmucks like me. So, I will leave you off from this depressing anti-zen message with a reason to live:

Liz Hatch makes me want to live.


Tuesday, November 11, 2008

"A Right Nice Brew"

Such were the words uttered by an english friend of mine, after tasting a Scotch Ale I made at the Incredibrew Brewkitchen in Nashua. It was a nicely balanced 9 % ale, that I named 'Asshole Ale' and made this label for.

Well, while perusing a new-to-me grocery store in salem, I was surprised by the breadth and depth of their beer selection. There were no fewer than 30 domestic micro-brew brands, with several offerings from each brewery. This was in addition to an equally impressive collection of euro-beers, as well as the obligatory domestic mass produced crap.

Of course, the main thing that caught my eye was the collection of Flying Dog brews - my favorite micro brew - and in particualr, a new (to me) Horn Dog Barley Wine Ale. Now, I'm a sucker for a dark malt. I went nuts over the Gonzo Imperial Porter. So, of course, the Horn Dog sucked me right in.

I found the molasseses in the Horn Dog a bit heavy. Unfortunately, for me anyways, I found it to be distracting from the from the overall character of the beer. It was still very good, of course, and a welcome change from the Hops Race I've been noticing in the microbrew industry lately ( who can stuff the most hops in a bottle) . Since it was very cold, I decided to let it sit for a few and come up to room temperature. I was hoping that would bring out some of the more subtle flavors and balance it out. It did, but this revealed another issue. Since a beer of this type has a 'sweet spot' temperature where the beer really comes alive, one is tempted to drink it in that short period of time. I had no sooner poured a second one into my glass, when I started to feel the buzz.....then I looked closer at the label.....10% abv.....oooooookaaaaaaaaay. Now, Horn Dog isn't as good as my Asshole, but it comes close, and it has that same nuclear detonation kick.

So, if you like a big, beefy, chewy, sweet 300+ calorie beer with the promise to make you take a cab home, try the Horn Dog. You won't be disappointed.

Monday, November 3, 2008

A Drastic Improvement

The TIP 5K in Lawrence
Waking up to temperatures below freezing in the early fall and maintaining motivation to head out for an athletic endeavor can be a daunting task. But, buoyed by the promise of temps warming to the 50's and my last personally surprising performance, I held fast. Since I had done some prep work the night before, I had my equipment ready to pack, all the that needed doing was to pick the appropriate dressing for a bike ride in the cold, now hovering in the high 30's. Unlike my last day out, I had plenty of time to make the Claddagh without pushing into the high aerobic zone.
As I rolled into the parking lot of the bar, I was at first taken aback at the fact that there were only three cars in the lot, and one was a pickup with a bunch of orange cones in the back. What the fuck?
Daylight Savings Time.....
Well, not only did I arrive in plenty of time to register and not have to hammer to the event, I now had an extra hour to kill. At least it was warming up nicely. The front of the Claddagh faces southeast, the wind was from the north, and the sky was a striking intense blue, similar to someone's eyes whom I met recently. I sat on a bench in the front of the bar, basking in the intensity of the sun, allowing my black tights to absorb the infrared and warm me in an almost reptilian splendor. As the participants began to arrive, I lay there with my eyes closed, taking in the conversation of the passers by. Of note:
her: so you're wearing shorts today?
him: yes, but not these, I have a pair of compression shorts I'll be running in.
her: oh, that'll be cute, all you'll need is a potato to stuff them with.
him: actually I have a tube sock I'm going to use
her: no, I meant for the back
(yes, I really heard that).
The other conversation I heard was between a couple of volunteers, as to whether or not the police had rousted the homeless people from under the bridge into the park were the race was to be run. Hmmm.....
There was no pomp or circumstance leading to the start of this race. Nope, just an 'ok people, line up here behind this pole, runners ready....BANG'.
I really had no clue where we were going. I just followed the leaders. We dove off the main road to an access road, were the police car turned abruptly off and we suddenly were being led by a bicycle - into a paved path which twisted, rose, sunk, then looped back upon itself, back out onto the road where we fell into the park, and behind the police car again. Now, I prefer running on hiking trails - a.k.a. 'single-track' in mountain biking vernacular - rocks, roots, mud, berms, the more technical the better, so when we started winding our way through the park, I felt very comfortable. I could tell most of the other runners weren't comfortable with the constantly changing path, and I soon found myself in 4th spot, behind a very, very short person. If he was more than 12, I would be surprised. Just before we exited the park, I was passed by a guy whom I was sure was in my age group. Just after he passed, he stopped abruptly to retie his shoelace. He would repeat this at least six more times, and every time he would be just a little bit more in front of me. The last time I would see him crouched by the road (about mile 2) I just reach him, then he took off and I didn't see him again. He ended up winning the overall.
mile 1 - I started my HRM at the gun - or so I thought. I went to check my time as I approached the one mile marker, and realized the damn thing was still waiting, so I have no idea as to my one mile time. No matter, I started it at the one mile point, I can do the math later. But, later, it was the general consensus that the one mile marker was short. People behind me were commenting that they marked 5:35. No, I _may_ have turned a sub 6 first mile, but I'm not convinced, and I certainly didn’t run under 5:30.
I was gaining on the little person in front of me, and just as I passed him was when I was caught and passed (for the last time) by Mr Wardrobe Malfunction. Behind him was another guy, and as we neared the two mile mark, I was in 5th.
mile 2 - 6:40 This was not an unexpected pace, though I felt I was running faster. I was closing on the 4th place, obviously a teenager, and just as I caught him the runner behind me caught us both. He was smaller than me, and not as easy to find a draft on, and was running faster than I could maintain anyways. He moved into 3rd, and I waited until it looked like he was pulling away, then went around the teen to try and pace him. That wasn't going to happen. I checked back, and the teen was only about ten feet back, with a sizable gap to the next runner. Since I knew the teen was not in my age group (though my wife tells me to grow up frequently) I decided to drop back and use him to avoid the wind cramps I suffered the last time I tried to pick up the pace significantly in the last 1/2 mile. As we got down to the last 1/4 mile and less, I tried to come around the teen a couple times, every time I did, he would pick up the pace. Whatever...don't say I didn't try and take a pull. Hey, If you can push the guy in front of you to run faster, that's less work _you_ have to do (drafting 101). Even though we were running faster, I had managed to recover slightly since I wasn't pushing any wind. As we took the 2nd to last left onto the short stretch of essex street, I kicked hard and stretched, leaving the teen in my wake. Looking back as I took the last left into the finishing stretch, the kid was more than a few seconds behind me with no one else visible, so I coasted into the finish.
Finish - 18:48 (6:08), 5th overall, 6:04 pace....wait....6 fucking 04? Two weeks ago I ran a 6:34...I took 30 seconds off in two weeks? that isn't right...Then I started to hear about the marking discrepancies. Most people thought the 1 mile marker was short, and that the 2 mile marker was long, then came the rumor that the course was short overall. Even if the course was a tenth short, that would make my pace 6:16, which is 18 sec/mile faster than two weeks ago.
As usual for the Claddagh, they put on a good feed after the race. In that time, I managed to 'network' with a couple other MVS members, Rebecca Connelly and Dave Dargie. Rebecca won the women overall, and Dave won the 50+ group. Still, I had to figure out the course length. I'm funny that way, comes from riding time trials on bikes. So today, I took my GPS and measure the course. It comes in at 3.05 miles. Also, I noted the 2 mile mark read 2.11. There was no mark on the road for the 1 mile mark, so that's still a question mark.
What this means, is that my pace was a hair under 6:10, I'm not going to rest on this as an indication of increasing speed, it could simply be a 'good day'. I'll have to do a couple more runs this year before I make an assessment.

Friday, October 31, 2008

What's Wrong With This Picture?

OK, _these_ pictures

Yup, This was todays "lunchtime" ride. This is one of the hazards of riding this time of year: Things are constantly falling out of the trees. Branches up to two inches in diameter can easily be concealed by a deep covering of freshly dropped deciduous leaves. It's on of these that I found today. Some of the trails that I ride in the weir hill/half-mile hill/osgood hill conservation areas in north andover don't get alot of use, and so are sometimes heavily covered. This damage was the result of a one-inch twig that twisted up inside the chain circle, caught one of the spokes, then spun the derailleur up and around the seat stay. The reason I didn't rip off the dropout is that it's Titanium. To quote an advertisement from Merlin several years ago, (talking about their dropouts) "No one hes ever broken one of our dropouts. Not one. Ever." I know, I'm not riding a Merlin, I'm riding an Independent Fabrication, but IF is what Merlin was before they were spirited away by Litespeed, and anyone who has any knowledge of the bicycle industry in Boston will tell you that any IF is as good as - if not better than - any Merlin in the same category.

I'm not too disappointed though. This setup has served me quite well for 6 years now (Sram 9.0 ESP). Trust me, that isn't because I don't' ride this thing like a ten dollar prostitute. My philosophy is, if you didn't crash, you aren't riding hard enough. For example, check out the dent in the chainstay. Remember, this is titanium, not the most delicate material on the planet. Also look here.

I may actually have a spare crappy derailleur I can use that I bought for parts and never used. I seem to remember buying a lightly used one at a bike swap that I snagged the jokey wheels off of. If I'm lucky, it will be the 1:1 actuation ratio typ that I need.

In any case, I already ordered a new ('07, actually) Sram X.9. It will be here monday.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

More Stuff About Me That You Really Don't Care About

I was born in Ethiopia. Specifically, on a US Military reservation by the name of Kagnew Station. My father was a 'lifer', who retired from the US army after 21 years of faithful and unquestioning service to our country. He does not regret his service, but sometimes unfondly remembers certain incidents of his service. I may write more in this in the future, but for now, we can move on with the platitude 'life is what it is'.

What prompted me to write this post was a conversation with my parents at my fathers birthday dinner a few days ago (he turned 68). We were talking about current and historical events, in the context of Joe Bidens recent comments that 'the next president will be tested in office, sooner rather than later'. As this conversation winded around the Cuban Missle Crisis and the us domestic social impact of the building of the Berlin Wall, my mother piped in with the following story:

"you know, the berlin wall is the reason you're here"

My father had been stationed in africa in the summer of 1961. My Mother stayed home in upstate new york living with her parents, and raising my sister, about 18 months old then. Kagnew Station wasn't known as a "permanent chnage of station" destination, so service men were not compensated for their families to move there, though housing was provided if they provided their own transportation. As my father was a corporal, they didn't have the financial ability to pay for my mother and sister to fly over.

When the wall went up, My mother became very worried about the likelyhood of the cold war escalating.

"So I sold our car, scraped money together from family and friends, and got enough to move over to ethiopia with your sister and as much clothing as I could afford to bring."

I was conceived very shortly after that.

I quipped, in response "So, we all have nikita khrushchev to thank for my existence?"

I guess......

Sunday, October 19, 2008

I am such a fucking stud

Really, I'm not kidding. The two of you who have been paying attention over the summer know that I've been hobbled by 'micro tears' in my achilles tendon. Being stuck in a cast for six weeks through april, and may, then on restricted activity until july, and not able to run until september.

So I've been running about ten miles a week since the beginning of october, and toying with the idea of a race. I decided this morning to take advantage of one of the many races in my area.

ok, it's chilly, it's windy, it's 9:30 am. I had a choice of a 5k in georgetown, and 5k in newburyport, a 5k in andover, and a 4 miler in lawrence. Lawrence was closest and had the most amenable start time.

I have this penchant for riding to running races instead of driving. Sort of an ethical thing, if you will. In the midst of getting my running clothes packed into the backpack, then getting dressed for a ride to lawrence in the high 30's, I ended up leaving about 15 minutes later than I had planned. Fortunately, the ride is due south, and there was a pretty steady 20 mph north wind. I got there just as there were ready to shut down registration, but still got in. FWIW - they were _super_ nice.

I ended up getting a nice recovery from the ride before the run started, and manged to stay warm by stretching.

We lined up. It turned out they had the mayors of both lawrence and lynn in the race. Harrumph. Then they had some 6 year old sing the national anthem. Now, you have to give kudos to a six year old for getting in front of a microphone and singing the national anthem, but....ouch. The national anthem is a tough song to sing, which is why we hear so many 'professionals' massacre it. You need to have a very good vocal range in order to pull it off right. In fact, many intramural musical competitions use the national anthem as an audition piece. Well, lets just say you don't hear too many six year olds with good range, and this young lad was no exception.

Anyways, I was in about the third row for the start. When the gun went off, I jumped, and just about ran over the person in front of me. These people weren't moving...what the fuck? IT appeared that a bout ten guys had made the move off the front, so I did some 'open field' scatting to get into the open. I was in the top ten at 1/4 mile, and looked to be pacing the leaders.

mile 1 - 6:20. I haven't run a race since february, and have done no workouts other than just 'base miles'. Ahhh, the tailwind...A 140 pounder like me gets pushed along pretty easily.

mile 2 - 13:04. This is more like it. We had gone over small hill then turned into the wind. At this point i noticed, no one had passed me. I'm running in 6th spot and I can see two guys ahead of me fading.

mile 3 - 19:20. I attributed this to a downhill, I have a pretty good stretch and can let my legs find their own rhythm. I moved into 5th and was gaining on 4th. I caught 4th on the next little rise, and he stayed with me as i reeled in 3rd on the next downhill. 3rd and I started pulling away from the other guy, and it was us two, with 1st and second about 50 yards ahead. 3rd was a much bigger guy than me, and I foolishly let him pull ahead, into the wind, without drafting him.

Gettig closer to the finish, I was pacing third about 50 feet back, and thought, with about 1/4 mile left, I had plenty left for a good fast kick. I started to ramp it up and saw 3rd coming back to me, but.....SHIT...wind cramp in the solar plexus. All I could do was pace him, now about 20 feet behind.

finish - 26:16. 4th over all. Shit! 4th in my first back!! I ran 6:34 pace which is only 4 second per mile slower than the last race I ran in february. The 3rd place guy unfortunately was in my age group, I was 8 seconds behind him..damn...should have hopped in his draft when we were coming back in the headwind....but...I got 2nd in my age group!! Shit!!! Am I a fucking stud...or what?!?!

OK, back to reality. 6:34s is nothing to crow about, but it's waaaayyyyy better than what I had even hoped for. I feel good, no pains anywhere. But those wind cramps...Clearly, a lack of intervals, and a lack of anaerobic (sprint) work. It's a bit late in the year, but there are a few good races to come, and now that I know I can sustain 30 minutes running just below AT, I'll work in some intervals.

See you on the road.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


I like mountain biking. I'm not the sort that will find a bucolic rail trail, peacefully gliding along an hope for an extended stretch where I'm not bothered by other people. I like finding mud, picking my way through rocky rooty technical single track, cruising in the big chainring along a nicely worn in peaty double track...You know the type. I bought a titanium mountain bike because I knew I would be crashing....often. My philosophy is, if you didn't crash, you didn't ride hard enough. So, I push it. The only stuff I'm not comfortable in is technical stuff with big drop-offs, for two reasons: A) I really don't have a great sense of balance and 2) therefore when I crash, I don't need to be falling down a ten foot rocky precipice, that would _really_ hurt.

I rode my MTB at work yesterday. There are two sections of conservation land close by that are connected by a 1/2 mile section of double track that is _sort_ of private, but has obviously moderate use. All told, it's 8 miles of decent riding, about 50% single track with a couple hard but short climbs/descents, reasonable amounts of mud (really sloppy in the spring). Much of the single track is reasonable rocky/rooty/twisty....fun at speed.

Also there are about a dozen stone wall crossings. Though most have been 'opened' to make them more ridable, a few still require some significant maneuvering of the bike to pick up the front end, avoid digging in the chainring, then balance the drop with picking up the rear wheel.

Yesterday, I took one of them a bit too fast. This wall only has a slight 'notch' where the trail crosses, and is on a slope. I was crossing in the downhill direction. The front wheel dropped into a slight depression, I was too far forward, the shock bottomed out and I was launched. As I pitched forward head first, my right foot unclipped and my full weight slammed the stem with my right knee, hitting the steerer tube with the connective tissue just above the patellae. I actually saw stars and went light headed (easy there, solo). This picture shows what I looked like after the ride, before getting cleaned up:

This picture is a close up, and you can see the swelling in my right knee, with a small area of broken skin.

Now, I know how to handle this. Unless there's an obvious break, get right back on ASAP....ride out the pain. This worked...except that I noticed I was still in real pain after a few minutes of riding, usually not the case.

My right knee has significant swelling, I'm walking with a limp. Putting lateral strain with weight on the knee sends shooting pains. This picture is from this morning, after a nights sleep:

Notice how my right leg appears to be turned outward...it isn't, that's the mass of swollen tissue on the outside of my right knee. This picture is a right side view of the right knee:

I normally have a very prominent patellae, compare that to this left side view of my left knee:

You can see how the swelling has come over the top of the right knee.

I've been hurt worse, and recovered. I'll recover from this as well. But the _important_ part is that the bike was unscathed.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Another strange dream

I'm playing a cheap quarter (25 cent) slot machine. Very cheap, looks more like something you'd get mail order, in the 50's. I'm in an equally cheesy casino, playing this machine. It has "Million Dollar Slot" written across the top of it. The bars align, then the machine starts to blink "You've Won A Million Dollars" and starts to spit change out, not just quarters. As it's spitting out the change, there's a counter that shows how much money has been dispensed. The machine stops giving change, and the counter notes $567.27. I asked the pit boss about it, and he said, "I guess the machine did'nt have a million dollars", then shrugged and walked away.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Better Late Than Never - Monster Dash Duatlon Race Report

I had intended to be much more active running this year, as an attempt to transition from 20 years of road and mtn bike racing (cat.3/master, vet/expert) to running and multi sport events. But an achilles tear in february kept me from running until july, and I'm still only running less than ten miles a week.

This report is about the 2007 edition of the Lowell Monster Dash. Now, this race happened a year ago. Why am I writing about it now? Here's why:
* I'm a lazy sack of shit
* My performance in the event was, shall we say, less than spectacular - certain caveats notwithstanding
* I only recently found 'evidence' of the caveats (just today, in fact, I found pictures on the web, after searching for many months)

The lowell monster dash duathlon is sponsored by the lowell elks lodge. It's advertised as a two 3.1 mile runs and a 15 mile bike. These distances are not correct, at least the bike leg isn't. In fact, you'll find three different distances advertised for the bike leg depending on where you look: 13.5 miles, 14.5 miles, and 15 miles. I didn't have a computer on my bike, so I can't tell you what I clocked. To make matters worse, the official website for the event doesn't even _list_ the distances. This is the first of 'problems' I ran into in this race.


Anyways, It's advertised as a 'Monster Dash'. Now, what's the first thing that comes to mind when you read 'Monster Dash' in the context of a race?


I thought - 'Gee this sounds like fun, I'll make a costume'. Most of these events have a 'best costume' category, which is what I was _really_ entering, but I had this bizarre idea of a Viking Warrior flying past amazed crowds on a TT bike. That was it, I was going as a 'berserker'. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Berserker

I bought a viking outfit at wal mart, a 4' long sword at target, made a backpack sheath for the sword, and disassembled the horned helmet from the viking costume, attaching the horns and the plastic 'skull' motif to an old bike helmet. I spent probably six hours putting the whole thing together between modifications and shopping, slightly less time than I spent that week actually training.

So I go to the event, get there early enough to drive the bike course (always a good idea for TT events), and of course, get my costume together. As I'm preparing things - setting up the transition area - checking out the bike - I noticed something peculiar.....there were _no_ other costumed competitors....hmmmmmmm...."Monster Dash"? indeed....This would be the second problem I had with this race.

I had only brought the one helmet to the event - the one with the horns and skull decoration. I had brought clothing that was appropriate for the cooler conditions and that included the costume. But hey, no one ever accused me of being shy, and I spent too much time preparing and was too psyched up to bail out. So I said "screw all you buzzkillers". I dressed in full costume, and went to the start line, lined up toward the back of the ~110 competitors. I received many compliments, especially from one of the organizers, the _only_ other person there in costume. He was dressed as a friar.

As a bike racer for the past 20 years only recently transitioning to running, I held no illusions about running well. The week before I had run the Pinnacle Challenge, a double duathlon. In the 5 mile road run there I paced about 6:45. This day, in full costume, including the bike helmet and sword, I paced a 6:44, for a 39th place overall....Not bad!!!! However, people cheered me as I went by, one of them yelling "Go Thor"!.....more on that later.

I knew my best result would be on the bike, but dressed in a horned helmet, flowing faux fur tunic, and with a 4 foot sword attached to my back, I knew the aerodynamics would be, shall we say, be 'compromised'. I passed _alot_ of people. The coolest part was with the sun at my back, seeing the horns from the helmet, the handle of the sword, and the flowing tresses casting shadows before me. I was a Valkyrie!!! (well, ok, the valkyries were women....you know what I
mean). Since the distance wasn't clear, my pace was as well as could be expected considering the costume and the fact that I was keeping my heart rate below AT because of the impending run. I finished the ride in 42:31, which was the 15th fastest bike split. At the pinnacle challenge the week before, I completed the 13.75 mile road bike leg in 39:37, which was good for 7th fastest bike split (out of 71). That was also after a 5 mile run and a 6 mile MTB leg. This day there was an appreciable headwind along the river which constituted a good six miles of the course. So, I wasn't disappointed, but had hoped for better. This moved me up to 21st overall.

The second run....well...that's where it fell apart. I did a 7:42 pace. ick.

But, coming into the finish, buoyed by the cheers from spectators showing appreciation for the only costumed competitor, I withdrew my sword, sprinted for the line, waving it wildly over my head and screaming a battle cry!!!!! YYYEEEEEAAAAHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!

Check out the cool shadow....

As I noted, I had no illusions about doing well, I was there to have fun, which I did. Some young college kid from U Lowell came up to me afterwards with his buddy, asking for a picture. He wanted me to pull his head backward while I held my sword to his throat.....sure, why
not, I beat the kid by five minutes anyways.

I placed 28th over all. I went through the results posting, and found out that I got 2nd in my age group!! (45-49). This is also where I found that there was actually a guy named Thor in the race!! So maybe the people yelling 'go Thor' weren't actually yelling for me, but considering that he ran the first leg at a 5:57 pace, he was a more than a minute ahead of me at the halfway point in the run where I heard the yells....maybe, maybe not....

Problem #3:

So I waited around for the awards ceremony, but...hold on, they announced the winners in the 40 to 45 group and 46-50 group......Uh, hold on kids...You advertised 45-49. In fact, they even announced winners in the 30-34 and 35-39 age groups. I complained. You can't give awards in age groups that are different than what you advertised. Not only that, but why did they change the gradient and include _6_ years in the 40 to 45 group, while all the others are consistent in 5
year groups? I was told "it's too late to change it now". I felt even worse for the guy that actually _won_ the 45 to 49, this little mistake pushed him to 5th.

Here's where it got even more stupid: The results were posted on cool running a few days later.



Note the second column....'place in division, 2nd'. But, on the 'age group winners page:



1 2 Jim St Pierre 36 DRACUT MA 1:14:20
2 3 Kyle Welch 39 CHELMSFORD MA 1:14:46
3 4 Jeff Cadobianco 35 WALTHAM MA 1:15:13


1 5 Fabio Piergentili 44 ANDOVER MA 1:17:02
2 6 Ray Johnson 43 WOBURN MA 1:17:32
3 12 Kyle Bowers 41 BOXBORO MA 1:20:30


1 39 Scott Graham 48 WESTFORD MA 1:30:58
2 51 Dave Tyler 48 LOWELL MA 1:34:10
3 84 Myles Collins 46 WESTWOOD MA 1:48:39

I emailed the promoter about this, and was told it was the fault of the timing service company. Um, no, it's clear they had the right breakdowns, some one changed it somewhere else, after the timer handed in the results.

I _could_ take it personally, Maybe they don't actually _want_ costumed competitors, maybe the guy who got 3rd in my age group is a friend of the promoter, and would have been too embarrassed to have it publicized that he got beat by a guy in viking costume. Whatever the case may be, I'm not taking it personally, Harboring that sort of emotion can be destructive. I had a good time and my efforts were appreciated by a lot of people. I'll give everyone the benefit of the doubt and acquiesce to a 'mistake'.

That said, I'm not going to run it this year. Not because of the three issues I listed ( though I wouldn't blame someone if they were to make that decision), but because I tore my Achilles tendon in february, and don't have the base miles built up to run 6 miles at tempo without
damage yet. It is good incentive, however. Had I not been injured, I would have done the race again. This time, with a full season of running events, being coached by Fernando Braz this past winter (andover track workouts), and incentive, I would have gone for it, training and
resting properly before the event. Oh well, there's always next year.

Thursday, October 2, 2008


I know, 'bad blogger', going for more than two weeks with no post...shame on me.

I've been distracted, I really don't care to go into it, but hey, "i am what i am and that's all that i am".

More relevant to the purpose of this blog, I just bought a slightly used Scott CR1 frame and fork. I plan on building it up with the campy chorus and associated parts from my tsunami, and maybe slowly replace parts with newer, lighter components over time.

The bike is sharp looking, and very light....stupid light.

I've also been tracking my power vs HR on my commutes. Now, the absolute power may be incorrect, but it's repeatable, so I can use it as a number relative to my personal performance. Besides that, I _did_ to a calculated measurement using an on-line calculator, and it came up about 1.3% difference. Anyways, I've been averaging about 225 watts and 160 BPM during my ten mile commutes since I installed the power meter. It will be interesting to see what sort of difference I get after I come out o the basement and start commuting next year (assuming I or anyone else has a job or course).

On a side note, I've been running more lately. Maybe start training for racing soon. There are a few local off road 5 ks, I can try, just to see how things go. Next year I should be stylin'.

That's all for now. I know, very lame blog entry. give me a few days to get back into it....rid myself of these distractions.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

On lance and other idiots

This is a snip of an exchange between me and an idiot on one of the discussion groups I belong to. It was in a thread discussing the tactics of the hard-right christian fundamentalists in this election cycle. The other participant - 'chris' - is one of those fundies.

On Sep 15, 8:34 pm, zencycle wrote:

> On Sep 13, 4:10 pm, Chris wrote:
> Zen, w/all due respect you're a brain washed Boston liberal

followed with:

> And I'll complete the statement that I would never, EVER vote for a
> Muslim of any sort.

Right, and _i'm_ the brainwashed one.....


The delusion is complete. Or is it? We were treated last week to another display of ego maniacal bravado, lance coming out of retirement.

Now, I have to say I'm a lance fan, and always have been.
I was quite disappointed when he retired. I thought, 'ok, so now take your shots at the giro and vuelta for a few years, or at least concentrate on the spring classics and maybe the world championships'. But, he decided it was time, and I accepted it. but now, he wants to come back and race the tour. Why? what is there to prove? I still think it would be in the better interest of cycling to concentrate on a more diverse palmares portfolio.

There's some sort of psychosis going on here. I don't understand it, it could be a simple case of egomania, though it seems more complicated than that. Maybe he just needs to get laid, though it's pretty obvious he doesn't handle intimate relationships too well.

The character 'chris' from the discussion group has made some pretty audacious comments. He has stated unapologeticly that if we allow gay marriage in this country, it will lead to our nation becoming a muslim caliphate - his exact words were 'will lead to sharia law'. He's convinced that his version of christianity is the only true version, and that makes him uniquely qualified to determine who else is a true christian, or not.

I'm not sure what lance is convinced of, but I know he's not convinced the world has had enough of him. I think we have, and I think, unless he comes back on the same form he went out on, it will be merely a side show to the already damaged image of cycling around the world. Contador has shown - between the giro and vuelta this year - that he's ready to be the new boss of the peloton. Lance coming back is merely an arrogant slap to his success.

It's a weird vague link in my twisted mind between the two, and it comes down to arrogance and ego. Unchecked, it's never a good thing. Lance, I feel, will not help the image and direction of cycling, and could even damage it. Chris, I _know_ will not help the image and direction of this country, and will end up damaging it. The only real difference is that there are alot of chris' out there, and only one lance. Lance may actually damage the sport (worst case), but he won't destroy it. Ten million christian zealots, convinced that this country should be ruled under the laws of the their bible, could certainly destroy us.

On a different note, I signed up for the Bob Beal Stage race a couple of weeks ago. since I was injured in february, I hadn't even bothered to buy my license to that point. so I bought my license specifically for that race. It was summarily canceled because the promoter was wary of the turn out and didn't want to incur a loss.

So instead of racing, I fucked around a bit, and drank more than I should have.

There are other races coming up, the protsmouth crit....jamestown...I'd love to try cyclocross but I'm just not confident of the achilles tear handling the dismounts and running.

I'll be running some...lightly....per doctors orders.

Long weekend MTB excursions seem to be in my future.

As the road racing season closes, and the election season goes super nova, here's what I hope:

I hope Lance realizes he cannot compete at the level he was hoping, and quietly goes away.

I hope America realizes that christian fundamentalism is just as bad as muslim fundamentalism and sends 'god-n-guns palin' packing.

I hope I can actually run a 5 mile race by the end of the year.

Hmmm....it _is_ all about me.......

Thursday, September 11, 2008

My New Sig

While ignorance is nothing to be proud of, it's also nothing you should be ashamed to admit.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Lipstick On A Pitbull

This is the self-analogy Governer Palin made last week. The entire analogy went: "what's the difference between a hockey mom and a pitbull? Lipstick" Effectively, she compared herself to an animal that is bred to fight other animals of the same breed in a pit, sometimes to the death. In addition, if the animal does not perform the the owners satisfaction, the owner will kill the dog.

Pitbull owners will defend the animals as being quite pleasant natured, and lay the blame on the owners. Truth be told, however, a 'pleasant natured' pit bull will not be bred, and will usually be killed, unless it's lucky enough to be adopted. Make no mistake about it, however, Pitbulls are bred for their temperament. An aggressive and tenacious dog can defeat a less aggressive dog, even if the less aggressive dog is bigger and stronger.

This leads me to question why she would pick such an analogy. The image of a mother, devoid of compassion, singularly devoted to the goal of killing her opponent, is not one that I particularly feel is appropriate for the second in command to this great nation of ours.

Analogies aside, her behavior so far in this campaign has confirmed that temperament.

we know that, as mayor of Wasilla, she faced a recall only months after her election, in the wake of her dismissal of town employees who had backed her opponent. The dismissals were made without reason, and it was only after she offered them their jobs back that the recall was canceled.

We know that she demanded the firing of her ex-brother in-law from the state police force. Her supporters claim it was due to conduct issues, but doesn't it seem a bit odd that a governer would take such a heavy interest in the case of one lowly state trooper, never mind the appearance of conflict of interest?

Then we have the infamous 'I turned down the bridge to nowhere' claim, Which we now know to at the very least to be a gross distortion of the truth. At the very least, as someone who allegedly was taking an interest in waste full government spending, She had no qualms in keeping the money.

Mccain followed this up with blatantly stealing the democratic agenda of change.

Now we have the latest example of hypocrisy from the palin people, the accusation of a sexist remark from obama, for calling the mccain 'change' plan 'lipstick on a pig'.

She already compared herself to a fighting dog with lipstick, as well as making public statements denigrating women in politics who hide behind sexism as defense against political attacks.



Yet, Now, she pulls the sexist card herself, even in the wake of mccain himself using EXACTLY the same rhetoric in referring to hillary clintons health care plan.

What we see is a man who claims to be independent and yet has become just another cog in the GOP attack machine, complete with the abject hypocrisy and lies they used on him in the 2000 primary season.

I think this response from the obama campaign says it well:

"The McCain campaign's attack tonight is a pathetic attempt to play the gender card about the use of a common analogy - the same analogy that Senator McCain himself used about Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton's health care plan just last year," she continued. "This phony lecture on gender sensitivity is the height of cynicism and lays bare the increasingly dishonorable campaign John McCain has chosen to run."

I'm an optimist. I see the wheels flying off the 'straight talk express' as the bus heads down a north slope oil field into a heard of caribou, then blaming the democrats for not allowing them to pave the route and exercise mass aerial culling of the caribou heard. (yes, I know the aerial hunting program is supposed to cull predators and not caribou, but the way these motherfuckers lie, I'm sure they twist it around somehow). Then I see the american public seeing the mccain/palin ticket for what it is: A former independent and respected conservative brainwashed by the neoconservative military industrial complex and his pet pitbull, bred by the neocons for only one purpose.

The question is, if she fails, will they politically euthanize her?

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Pleasant surprises

I'd like to say 'I really need to take up track cycling', but the closest track to me is in londonderry, New Hampshire, and I find it highly doubtful I'd ever walk into the 'drome and be able catch a glimpse of anyone remotely resembling Victoria Pendleton:

In fact, I'm thinking I could walk into 99% of the 'dromes in the US, and not see anyone remotely resembling Victoria Pendleton.

I followed the link from Burt Friggin Hoovis' blog:

She _does_ have her own web site (google it) but I can't to to it from work.


Wednesday, September 3, 2008

No Rest for The Wicked

Since I've decided to take a late season plunge and participate in the Bob Beal Stage Race, I'm putting some heavy mileage in this week.

Starting on sunday, I went on a 4 hour tour of the bucolic vistas of southeastern new hampshire.

The group ride was actually closer to 3:30, but I rode to and from the event for another 6 or so miles. I wasn't quite sure what to expect for the ride, so I figured it wouldn't hurt to pre-eat and drink heartily, which turned out to be a wise decision. The ride was somewhat tame for the first 50-ish miles. I was content for that part just to stay with the lead group, even thought the plan was for the group to stay together. We ended up coming through Exeter and linking up on the return leg of the Tuesday night BOB ride, aka The Tuesday Night Fights. One of the more prolific members of BOB started to laydown these 27 MPH pulls on the flats, to which there were no complaints. The group quickly broke in half, with about 7 of us turning it into a more spirited training ride, while the other ten or so took the 'Sunday Ride' moniker to heart. I complimented Big Johns 27 mph pulls with 26 mph pulls of my own, making sure that no more than two riders went away from the group at a time. Coming into what is usually the big finish on tuesdays, our own Solobreak made a hard effort that easily gaped the group, but as soon as I saw Big John making the bridge I hopped on his wheel. I assumed that Solo didn't know here the sprint line was, but I also assumed that Big John did. as we hit the finishing stretch, I went for the sprint expecting several people to come around me - no one did. It turns out that no one went after the three of us, so I was sprinting against two guys that didn't know where the finish was - sorry, but claiming a win when you're the only one playing doesn't count regardless of what the bush administration tells us. For the day, I got 75 miles in just under 4 hours, not bad considering the social nature of the first 2/3rds of the ride.

Yesterday, I went to the Tuesday Night Fights. This ride is essentially from plaistow to exeter and back. I typically take the first half easy, then start working on the way back. Last night we had a smaller turnout, so I did way more work in the first half than I'm used to including a solo effort over a hill with a townline sprint at the top and well past it. I didn't get caught until the bottom of the next downhill. On the way back BOBs own Indomitable Dr. "downtown" Shea kept pushing the pace as usual. Since the group was smaller, I didn't have the recovery between pulls I usually do, and the relentless chasing of The Good Doctor started to wear on me. At one point, I said "I'm done" and went to the back of the group. Dr. Shea and Duano put a small gap on the group, but others took up the chase. On the last stiff climb on the ride, I took my own pace, not intense, not even riding at AT. I assumed I had the group on my wheel since I took the climb much easier than usual and had two riders next to me at the top. At the bottom of the subsequent downhill, it leads into a longish rise. I set a comfortable pace, again thinking I had the group with me. At the top of the rise I pulled off and the only person with me was the Incubus, Aka The Bad Doctor Blondin. He took the pull through the downhill, and I simply maintained the pace up over the next rise. There was no one in sight but him at the top. I really didn't want to ride with him (no one does) and I knew he hasn't been training or racing this year, so on the next rise I pushed the pace again. I dropped him like a hot rock. Not that it's anything to brag about, but it felt good. The group caught me on the next series of downhills, and at the end I did my usual Tuesday night effort at the end of pulling hard through the last couple corners and letting the guys behind sprint. Last Night stats - including the ride from work to the ride, then home - 58 miles in just under 3 hours.

Tonight, I'm planning a recovery ride of ~ 30 miles
Thursday, some hill intervals, again ~ 30 miles.
Friday, a simple commute.

With any luck I'll have hit 250 miles by the time I get home friday.

Since I have to bee a fucking landlord at my money pit in manch-vegas for the better part of this weekend, I'm not sure I'll get too much riding in, but next week will be an easy low-mileage week to rest up for Bob Beal.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

The 'perfect' week.

I written about this before, but it deserves repeating. A former racing aquaintance of mine once quipped 'the perfect week is one in whic you don't have to start your car'. He was referring to us working stiffs, who use commuting as training. Not the bike bums who live in their parents basement and wrench for a 'living'.

This week was a 'perfect week'. From monday thru friday I logged 160 miles, with a good portion of it at higher intensities. 90 miles were actually commuting with the extra 70 tacked on in two after work rides. I never started my car, and went to work every day.

Yes, it was a 'perfect' week.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

The Bitch Is Back

Last week was the record breaker behind the boxtruck.

Yesterday morning I caught two drafts, one was behind an SUV ~ 35 mph for about a minute, and the other was behind a large box truck for about two minutes, but it took me up a hill at 30 mph that I would have had to downshift for. It wasn't especially noteworthy except that it was a Ketel One truck. That was pretty cool.

Tonight, on the way home, I hopped in behind a line of two SUVs and a conservation commission pick-up truck, and rode them for about two miles at 30 mph until they all turned off, one by one.

This past tuesday I went to the Tuesday Night Fights. I wasn't sure how it was going to pan out, so I just sort of sat in for most of it. As we got closer to the end I was feeling good enough to go with an attack on a hill by three other riders. As we crested the hill and started to descend, I decided it was time to do a little work. One of the riders dropped off right away, so the three of us traded good solid pulls, keeping up a steady 25 mph in the flats, putting a good minute on the rest of the riders by the end. Since I hadn't done any real efforts before going with that attack, I pulled the other two up the last hill and through the last two corners, then pulled off to let them fight it out.

So, I registered for the Bob Beal stage race today.