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.