Sunday, April 30, 2006

K-k-k-en W-w-w-woods

(with apologies to Harper’s Index)

Temperature at start of race, in Fahrenheit: about 45
Wind speed, in miles per hour: about 20
Precipitation, on a scale of 1 to 10, with one being a light mist and ten being a torrential downpour: 5-6
Misery index, on my own personal scale of 1-10, with ten being the most miserable and one being only slightly miserable: 36
Bib number: 686
Minutes before start of race that my quads and shoulders began shaking from the cold: about 45
Items of cycling apparel worn during race: 22 (2 socks (wool), 2 shoes, 2 oversocks, 2 leg warmers, bib shorts, 2 undershirts (one gore-tex paneled), one jersey, 2 arm warmers, rain slicker, 4 gloves, one hat, helmet, glasses.
Items removed during race: 1 (glasses—I couldn’t see!)
Number of riders, including me, who separated themselves from the pack on the first time up the hill: 7
Number of riders who separated themselves from me in a driving crosswind: 4
Number of times I repeated to myself bland reassurances like, “It’s only one race” and “It’s early in the season”: Hundreds
Number of thoughts like “Look around, fool—why did you even come out here today?” and “Maybe that car will pick you up now if you ask real nice”: Thousands
Hours after race that I was still shivering: 2
Number of people I saw after race attempting to drink coffee but unable to control their hand enough to prevent it sloshing around (including me): 4
Number of times I overheard people talking about the stories they would tell about this race: 17
Number of times they used the word “epic”: 34
Since the end of the race, the number of times I’ve smiled inside and thought to myself, “yeah, I’d do it again”: just once, but that’s all it takes when you love to race the bike…

Friday, April 28, 2006

oh, so *that's* where the soul is...

claiming that the national anthem should be sung in English, shrub said today that ''one of the important things here is that we not lose our national soul,'' the president exclaimed.


ensuring that no one sings "o'er the ramparts we watched" en espanol is the best way to maintain our american soul...

Thursday, April 27, 2006

i can see the sunhine from here...

...but i can't touch it.

and it's not like i can appease myself by saying i'll get plenty on the weekend, since the forecast is for rain.

this may be the worst part of being grown up...

(at least i'm not in school right now.)

Sunday, April 23, 2006

shifting gears...

lotta bike stuff lately on this blog--looking back over my meager archive, i realize that i spent a lot of space earlier talking about the impending baby, and more accurately, my heightened anxiety over it, and my fears that we were headed for a repeat loss. i suppose you can read the absence of those types of posts lately as a good thing, unless of course those posts were your reasons for meandering by this "baby and bike blog."

lately i've even been enjoying the pregnancy, the planning, even the name discussions (that's gotta be a separate post, since p and i have diametrically opposite approaches to the process--for now, suffice it to say that given my druthers, i might not begin the naming process until the little bugger gets here). People usually peg me for an optimist--a friend of mine calls me a "glass-half-full kinda guy," and i guess i can agree with that for the most part. but i am a worrier, and i do have this inclination toward superstition and omens that i have to fight regularly. and those of you who've seen some of the earlier posts here know that i've spent a lot of time worrying during this pregnancy.

and it's not like i've stopped worrying--p has started getting nasty foot and calf cramps (kept her awake all night once this past week), and when she gets them she makes this horrible panting-groaning noise that just sends me into early panic stages: "what happened? Is everything okay? do we need to call the doctor? oh, it's a charley-horse? whatever..." but i'm starting to worry about other things, like child care, fitting a child into my hearty bike-racing schedule, and the challenges of raising a daughter in this demoralizingly objectifying and image-obsessed american culture. in other words, now that we're more than half the way to the due date, now that p has an ever-growing belly that people, complete strangers, smile at, now that we can lie in bed and watch the little lumpy jumps in her belly as the little 'un squirms, i'm starting to believe that we'll have a good outcome to this part of our narrative--that we'll look back on these years and tell this kind of story to our daughter: we tried, and we lost, and we hurt, and we tried again, and eventually we learned to stop trying so hard, and then you came along...

Saturday, April 22, 2006


fun race today at durand. short version: cool, light winds, 3/4 field dominated by the fastenal (?) team--the other guys with christmas colors.

longer version: i went in thinking that since this was my first road race with 3s, i'd hang in, conserve energy, and see what it was like--you know, race smart--especially after racing stupid on tuesday. gp lined up with 8 starters , making us i think the largest team represented. given that, i was a little disappointed that we weren't able to control the race more. we probably should have decided who would work and how, and who would be ready for a winning attack--but i (as a 4 among 3s) wasn't ready to make that call--i didn't even know if i'd be there when any kind of selection was made. either way, the fastenal guys had a plan, and at least one guy strong enough to make it work, and other guys to mark every attack--at one point on the 3rd lap tim s. and i alternated attacks for almost the whole lap--every time we turned around, one or two of those guys were on our wheels.

d-lo had bad luck, and he had good luck--he flatted on the 2nd lap, hitched a ride back to the start/finish zone, got a new wheel, a free lap, chased back onto the pack, and made a last-lap break that rounded out the top 5 positions. ed a. worked like a horse on the final lap, tim s. took 3rd in the field sprint, and yours truly, after cramping up during his sprint, managed to pass a bunch of guys near the line and finish somewhere respectably in the middle--maybe top 20. i can live with that, especially given that i was comfortable with the pace, the race, and the pack--hell, i may be getting the hang of this whole racing thing before we know it!

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Linear Phenomenon

Okay, I’m not a native Minnesotan, and I have a habit of noticing things that I think distinguish Minnesotans from some of the other regions where I have lived or spent time—some of the easier ones have to do with speech patterns, from the very round Minnesota “O” (in stark contrast to the tight-lipped “O” of my Ohio-valley homeland), to the tight-lipped “in-ter-es-ting,” which means, if you don’t already know, “I hate it.”

But this one, I’m not so sure about, and I may need a little help figuring out whether it’s Minnesotan or something entirely different. I work in the downtown of the wicked city to the west, and every day when I leave work, I see people lined up for the bus. In a line. A straight line. One that stretches from the bus-stop corner sometimes halfway down the block. Nobody’s doubled up next to another member of the line, everyone’s facing straight ahead, and there are no variations. The line never wavers, wobbles, or fishtails. Last week, on a rainy day, I looked out from the skyway onto a line of umbrellas standing next to an empty bus shelter. Yesterday I saw two of these lines right next to each other, one lined up for one bus, and one for the next.

I think this is strange. And I think the absolute uniformity of the way they form their queue likely says something about the people lined up for the buses. In my experience—now officially 40 years on this earth—I’ve never seen this linear relationship to public transportation. Every time I’ve waited for a bus, people mill about, I mill about, everyone has a general sense of who’s been waiting there the longest, and who’s just arrived, people chat about the weather, or how long since the last bus, or where exactly this one stops. Then the bus comes, and there’s this lovely slightly chaotic convergence that almost always results in people getting on the bus in order of how long they’ve waited. Sure, some people “cheat,” but not many, and it’s not that big a deal. I’ve seen this in Cincinnati, where I grew up, I’ve seen this in San Francisco—both BART and MUNI—I’ve seen it in the NYC subway and on NYC buses, and I’ve seen it in the Twin Cities in other bus circumstances. People don’t line up for public transportation, especially not while they wait.

Except on the corner of 6th St. and 2nd Ave.
Now, I happen to know that this bus stop is a bus stop for regional suburban buses, not for the more familiar (to me) city buses. So I’m tempted to write this off as a suburban phenomenon, with all those connotations of disconnection and obsession with orderliness (“did you notice that the Johansens haven’t cut their grass in a whole week?!? I’ve contacted the neighborhood association—they may not be our kind of people.”). But then I think about Minnesota’s longtime reputation as a bit buttoned-up, a bit distrustful of difference (which is, after all, “in-ter-es-ting.”), the kernel of truth in Keillor’s “above-average” dig, and I wonder: am I watching a truly Minnesotan phenomenon on the street between 4:30 and 5 every weekday, something that couldn’t be replicated anywhere else in 49 other states? Or is it something else entirely?

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

I raced like an idiot tonight

and i mean that in the kindest possible way. yo-yo: off the front, pulling guys around the course at a pace i couldn't keep, easing up and ending up at the back, lather, rinse, repeat. for a while i dangled off the front, and in a bit of symmetry, i ended up dangling about 100 yards off the back of the pack, working just hard enough to keep them close but not able to bring them back.

of course, i had help: like driving across town--two towns, really, if you count minneapolis--at 5 pm; oh, and the train--moving about 3-4 mph--stopping traffic just before 55; and the mile-long line for registration, all of which meant no warmup. and i count on that warmup--it takes the edge off, so that i'm not so twitchy at the race start. it also means that my body is not so affronted by the sudden intensity of a race start. so i was twitchy, unfocused, and cold to start--and then my legs and lungs were affronted.

but still.

i raced like an idiot.

oh well.

see you next week...

Monday, April 17, 2006

Oxbow Pix


d-lo snags the win--now if he'd just wear the right shorts!

diamond sets the blistering early pace

a day's work done

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Hill? What hill?

“How’s the hill?”
“You been up it yet?”
"Yeah, it’s something.”
"D'you see the way it ...?"
"Yeah, and then it..."
“That’s gonna hurt—each time.”
“Damn, man.”

From the talk before yesterday’s Oxbow race, you’d think that the course consisted only of several repetitions of the short (although I would swear it got longer between laps) brutal Oxenberg hill, and that those 16.5 miles of dusty, rolling, uneven, hardpacked gravel and dirt roads that we had to ride between climbs of the beast weren’t even in the picture. It was all about the hill.

And the hill was key—of course—how could it not be? Our field of 87 (!) was down to about 20 on the front after the first time up and 12 after the second. Since the finish was at the top of the 3rd climb, the course clearly favored a nimble goat.

But because of all the focus on “the hill,” the rest of the course was a surprise—a rather abusive one—with sun and dry air, we were inhaling dirt the entire way; every time I thought I had found a good line on a high track of hardpack it would end in energy-sucking, wheel-wobbling sand; and the Oxenberg is merely the most extreme of a series of hills on the course.

I was fortunate enough to make both selections on the hill—apparently one rider simply stopped and toppled over behind me, causing a split in the field that put diamond in the second group. By halfway through the second lap, my legs were telling me to stop, go home, give us a beer, take up stamp-collecting, do anything but try to catch that guy’s wheel. My lungs were in complete agreement with my legs, and I was so busy arguing with them that I took one of the last turns a bit hot and shallow, almost went into the ditch, and lost contact with the leaders. I almost made contact again just before the hill (they had slowed significantly), passed a couple guys on the way up (one walking his bike, the other in his granny-gear, spinning about 140rpm at 3 mph), got passed by a guy who really had gone into the ditch and chased back (nice work!), crossed the line, at which point I threw my bike down and collapsed.

Now it’s time to put that cross bike away for the season and break out the speed machine—the few miles yesterday on paved roads simply whetted my appetite for the upcoming road race season.

Finally, big ups to our latest GPer and resident mountain goat, d-lo: third the first time up the hill, second the next, and—you got it—first when it counted. This after wiping out in a corner and working hard to get back on, bloodied but unbowed. Nice!

Thursday, April 13, 2006


hard to believe that fewer than four weeks ago we were digging out from the biggest snowfall of the year. now i see we hit 81 today, buds are budding, grass is greening, i deforested my legs just last weekend, and ...

... racing starts for me this saturday.

i'm excited, even though this race is very low in my priorities for the season. i've been working hard this winter and early spring, and i just want to stretch my legs against somebody besides the usual suspects (who regularly beat me like a drum, but who are all more experienced and in a higher category). plus, it's just good fun to think about racing, and have it be imminent--it forces me to start thinking about making sure i pack my bag correctly, and leave enough time to warm up, and the fact that i'll be in a 3/4 field, which means if i do anything, it'll probably be to work for one of the gp 3s, and how will i be most useful? and from there i start thinking about hanging on during the first lap, and hoping to be there when moves get made, and how not to miss a move, and, and, and...

...i love this.

the race is a little idiosyncratic--it's relatively short (35 mi.), mostly on dirt roads, and features a super-steep finishing hill that apparently reaches a 22% grade for a stretch. So: painful, intense, cross bike, give it what i got, and who knows? maybe i'll be around to help one of my guys, even just a little.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

where have you gone?

not very far, although i was surprised that my last entry (such as it was) was only a little over a week ago. since then, i've gone on one epic barnburner of a ride, complete with head-bursting efforts on flats and some hills where my legs just sat up and went "NO!" (saturday), crossed the bridge to 40 (a bridge that, as with every other year, burns as soon as you're over it) on sunday, gone to Chicago for 36 hours for a conference (monday and tuesday), and spent an hour visiting with my baby via a very detailed ultrasound (wednesday), during which we learned that everything they can see continues to look good (by the way, "everything they can see" at week 19 is a long list, and ranges from bone length, stomach and kidney health, and number of digits,to the four chambers of the heart, the valves of the heart (and their function), the lens of the eye (!), and, apparently...



yep--this one knocked us off our feet, in a couple ways. first of all, we thought we might learn the sex of the baby wednesday if it was a boy, but i figured if it were a girl, we'd probably only learn nothing definitive. but no, both the tech and the doc were pretty sure that, yes, those little lines right there were in fact positive evidence that we're having a daughter (plus, as the tech put it, "there's nothin' wingin' out"). second of all, p thought for sure that when we lost e last year that she'd lost her chance at mothering a daughter. and with this 'un, it wasn't that she thought it would be a boy, it was that she thought it wouldn't be a girl (technically hair-splitting, i know, but psychologically...). So when we learned this little bit of news, she was overwhelmed, teared up a little, and repeated that she couldn't believe it (in face, she's still repeating it, with a smile on her face).

of course, in the one day since the ultrasound, we've talked to two mothers whose (3) predicted girls turned out to be most definitely not. so who knows? maybe i'll be surprised after all...