Wednesday, May 31, 2006

stayed home from work today...

...listening to loud music and doing some late-spring/early summer cleaning: yo la tengo, weed-pullin', superchunk, porch-clearin', and chasin' dust bunnies with my air guitar, yeah! life is good--and i still have a fun ride ahead of me this evening...

(i should do this more often...)

and for kicks, here's a shot of my very pregnant partner's very pregnant belly (covered, naturally--this is a family blog, after all--hi mom & dad!):

Sunday, May 28, 2006

it does taste sweet...

****Update (5/30): the piece about the race on Duluth news is available online (thanks to Tone C for pointing this out via Sickboy): http://www.kbjr.com/story.aspx?type=ln&NStoryID=2928 ****


had a good day at the South Range Classic (up nort' dere, just south of Duluth/Superior); 53 swift miles in ideal weather--which is pretty amazing, given that the weather in Duluth this morning (and again this afternoon when we drove back through) was 50, damp, and foggy--I timed the sprint well, saved enough for the finale, and won. Nice.

Here's a few shots, courtesy of P:

Just gettin' rollin':


The finale:


D'you think I was a little excited?


Mr. DeMille, I'm ready for my close-up (my first post-race interview)

Friday, May 26, 2006

what is this world coming to?

i'm quite aware that we're going to hell in a handbasket, but i never cease to be surprised:

driving the car down for a quick trip to the grocery store this evening, and we end up behind a little ford splattered with bumper stickers: three W stickers (3! we get the fucking picture already!) , one for Mark Kennedy (seemed a bit superfluous to me), and one that read "Save A Cow: Eat a Vegetarian." My face gets fixed in a perma sneer, and I start muttering not-so-quiet epithets out the window. I imagine the smug 40+ guy up there in his p.o.s. car, dreaming of getting home to his Tivo'd Hannity and Colmes, hating anyone different from him, dreading this little trip to the city from his "safe" Anoka Cty stomping grounds...and then I pull up next to a young woman in those fashionable bug-eyed sunglasses, and for some reason...it never fails...I don't know why i don't know better by now...

...I'm dumbfounded by this...

...when did young people not only stop questioning authority, but swallowing the bullshit, hook, line, and sinker? Isn't youth when you're angry, when you're idealistic, when you question authority, when you believe that humankind really can do better, behave honorably, move forward? Or is that just me?

****

I'm going up north for an overnight in Duluth and a race near Superior--gotta blow off the steam that's coming out of my ears...

Monday, May 22, 2006

reasons # 234 and 765 i do not love time trials


#234: when I ate my breakfast this morning, my jaw muscles were sore from holding my mouth as wide as possible during the time trial to get as much oxygen into my increasingly oxygen-free body.

#765: during my shower this morning, I discovered as I lathered my shampoo that my temples were tender to the touch for the same reasons as #234.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

It's a Bloggy-blog World

I like bike blogs in general—commuters, humorists, advocates, and racers. As I’ve gotten further and further into my first full season racing the bike, I’ve found myself hungrier and hungrier for the last category: racers who write about bike racing. And while it might seem obvious why a guy racing his bike would like to read what other bike racers have to say, a lot of people I know would find them insufferably boring, and maybe dismiss my single-minded obsession. I don't solely write about bike racing, and I don't want to. But there really are a number of different reasons that I surf an ever-expanding circle of bike-racing bloggers. (this entry doubles as a blogroll of sorts, a shout-out to a lot of people whose sites I visit regularly, even if I don’t participate when I visit):

Connection: Some I know and even train with, and hearing stories of their success, or even just how their week has gone, helps me keep in touch. Bike racing isn’t as lonely as it’s sometimes made out to be, but training can largely individual, and a lot of the camaraderie happens in ten-minute blocks before and after races. It’s not like rec-league softball, where league rules mandate that players spend twice as much time in bars after the game than the game itself took, where each and every pitch, hit, bobble, and strained muscle is recounted in vivid detail. Blogs let me catch up with speedy folks in a more leisurely setting.

Identification: Some are like me—relatively new to the sport, telling their own tales of frustration, success, bewilderment, and passion.

Education: Some are really good at racing, and their reports—no matter how direct, dry, or matter-of-fact—give me insight into bike racing at a level higher than I’ll ever reach, but that I can still aspire to.

Thought-Provocation: Some are full of opinions.

Recreation: Some are funny. Some are a little over the top for my taste. Some are a little silly. Some may not race any more, but they have, and they know how to write, and they still love the bike.

Competition: Some I race against—and these may be the most interesting for me on one level, since reading their race reports of the very same race I was in can sometimes make me shake my head and question whether I was really there. Like at Oxbow this year—I suffered like a dog to hang on in the gravel and sand and dust and heat and up the Oxenberg hill 3 times, and then lost contact with one mile to go; this kid (and I’m twice your age, so I can get away with saying that) seems to have had a relatively easier race on his way to a higher finish than me. On the other hand, I read an account by the winner of my field at Ken Woods, and his description of making the break corresponded exactly to my experiences in almost making the break. Except, of course, he made the break, and won the race. On top of all this, the internet allows little friendly rivalries to develop beyond pre-race smack talk and eyeballing.

It is true that I’m most compelled by the more local commentators—once I get outside the region, I find myself—no matter how entertaining the blog is—losing track of references, skimming stuff, searching for the nugget that gets beyond the local scene, finding other reasons to come back.

It's a good time, this bloggy-blog thing. As long as it doesn't eat into my riding time...

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

aero bars?

well, it's TT season here for a little bit, unless you wanna be mountain biking or traveling. it kicked off 2 weekends ago at lilydale, and continued (without me) at withrow last weekend, and then this weekend there's the charity TT at black dog. that's a roy (rider of the year) race, and yours truly happens to be sitting second place in his (very) humble category, and despite the humbleness of his category (and his awareness of his unworthiness vis-a-vis the big boys), he'd like to defend that second place, and since only three points separate him from first, he'd really like to do his darnedest to dislodge the fella in the catbird seat.

but that would mean that i'd have to get a little faster at the time trial (i keep hearing paul sherwen when i think about time trials: "it really is a race of truth--there's no place for a man to hide out there, and you've really got to dig deep into your suitcase of pain to find the fortitude to even continuing turning the pedal in anger..."). and that would mean improving aerodynamics (since i'm not going to suddenly get all strong or anything, like gilby, who went out and rocked her very first TT). and that would mean getting either one of these (which i think costs as much as the gnp of luxembourg), or a pair of these (which i did).

now, you must know something about me--i hate aero bars. i mean, don't get me wrong--i rode them tonight for the first time, and i believe in them: they work, since i could feel the air just giving up in front of me. it was as if the air saw my narrow, aggressive profile and said to itself, "air, there's no way we can compete with such an aerodynamic advantage as that cyclist has provided himself with his aero bars--let's just slide by and let him through." and lo, i slid through the air with the greatest of ease. so , i will use them in upcoming TTs, and take full advantage of the merciless beatdown they give the air.

but damn, are they ugly!

i think a bike is a beautiful thing, and i think a good-looking race bike is a work of art. but take any good-looking road bike and slap some aero bars (or, as i used to scoff in my less tolerant days, "tri-bars") on it, and it becomes an aesthetic abomination! ick! ptooey!

and yet, here i was, self-consciously slicing my way down the river road this evening, fighting the urge to scream out: "no, really, it's a beautiful race bike! this is only temporary!" as if the aero bars were an unfortunate moustache or something. i've got to get over this, or i've got to stop doing this to my bike.

well, there's really only one solution to this conundrum--buy a TT bike.

yeah, that's the ticket...

Sunday, May 14, 2006

happy mothers' day

I've had a lot of looking forward and backward this mothers' day weekend, and with the weather sucking as royally as it has, i've had plenty of time to sit right there inside my own head. so, in the vein of the good stuff first (and with the very realy possibility that i'll run out of writing steam before i get all maudlin about last year): this weekend i made a permanent bike place, thus freeing up not only the dining room--where two of my bikes have lived for some time, along with helmets, shoes, glasses, and other sundries ranging from chain lube to my floor pump--but also the back bedroom--soon to be the nursery, or since i think of plants when i say nursery, the baby's bedroom. i figured my trainer, old trainer bike, and the ratty old clothes i wear on the trainer, would just ruin the crib 'n' cradle aesthetic we're looking for.

So with the help of a mop, a few 4x6 indoor/outdoor rubber-backed rugs, several large hooks screwed into the rafters, and a couple oversized rubbermaid containers i made a little basement bike area for training, maintenance, and storage. In the process, i think we discovered about 250 square feet of living area that we'd forgotten we had--well, that i'd forgotten we had: P was quite aware that we had a "dining room" somewhere under all that celeste metal and black rubber. and we have a place to put the baby. whew.

In the process of clearing stuff out, i came across my old bike log, where i sporadically kept track of my riding years for about 3-4 seasons. i took a look at last year's efforts, which were significantly lighter than this year's (as I knew), but not as much as i had feared. I had, for instance, kept working out through the winter, and even though it wasn't anywhere near the volume i've put in this year, it was pretty regular. and then i came across this gap of 8 days, and looked at the dates, and felt the little stab of loss i know i'll feel every time i think about our first daughter for the rest of my life--but littler, smaller, less sharp now that we have some time, and some joy. i had the habit of pre-populating the dates in the log book, to give me a sense of gaps in training, or conversely, of intense periods of work. this gap looks like this:

Su 21 : ski 47:12 avg: 141 max 162
M21
T22
W23
R24
F25
Sa26
Su27
M28
T 1 Mar: trainer 55 min.

just a swath of white on the page, about 1/3 of the page, and it speaks so loudly to me: ski happy, lose baby, lose mind for a bit, lose the will to live well for a few minutes, drag self back to activity, if only to escape into a sweat, an effort, something besides a drink.

don't get me wrong--i'm as freaking happy as an expectant father could possibly be. i picked out the crib last week, and i'm giddy with the idea of looking at my little girl wiggle around in it. but it's mothers' day, and that's always going to be time to remember that p's the mother (and i'm the father) of another, who just can't be with us, physically at least.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Mwaa!

Went to see pictures of the little 'un today. Got this image of her making smoochie-face (that's her little upturned nose with the dark shadows on either side, and her lips are right below. her leg (gymnast!) is on the right side):

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

when i grow up...

Last week I wrapped up a big project at work—in fact, the project was my work for pretty much the past four months. Those of you who work as independent contractors may be totally comfortable with the whole “one job wraps up—hmmm, I wonder what I’ll do next?” scenario, but I must admit I’m finding it a little unnerving. I mean, I have this position, and technically there’s still work to do, but many people wonder what I’ll be doing next. No one, however, wonders as much as me. I could continue in this position, I think—make an argument for an expansion of its responsibilities, begin to establish a professional network, etc.; I could take a good look around this growing institution and try to make an argument that I belong elsewhere within the company, doing this, for instance, or perhaps that; I could also do the temptingly terrifying, and “think outside the box”: unhitch myself from the company feedbag, for instance, and try my hand at something more, er, independent (foolish rash immature unhinged!) or contingent (poorhouse poorhouse poorhouse!!) and also more personally rewarding (selfish! You’re not fit to be a father! Go to work!).

You may have noticed that I have a problem thinking clearly about this issue. It’s the same problem that occasionally makes me sit back and question the wisdom—no, not even the wisdom: the sanity—of a 40-year-old man taking such pleasure in pedaling his bicycle as fast as he can. One of the reasons I love the bike racing thing so much is that it feels like such a breakthrough for me—I stared the voice down (that may sound like a mixed metaphor, but believe me when I tell you that my voice has yellow eyes, and big teeth, and, and…) and told it that yes, I might fail, and I might struggle, and people might laugh, but dammit, I want to do this, and I will. And I did.

But with a job? A living? Diapers for my imminent daughter? A regular paycheck? The wellspring for my cycling jones? Ay-yi-yi…

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Miscellany

Just when people start reading this, I go and have a busy week at work--great! If it helps at all, I not only had no blogging time last week, I barely touched the bike until Saturday's race.

Avon yesterday: fun stuff—good crosswinds, some rollers, and one hill that had folks talking but really didn’t do much to sort out the race on either lap. Instead, it was the crosswinds on the back half that did the job on the second lap (well, that and when some folks missed a right-hand turn), so we went from 30 down to about 15 and finally down to 10 or so. Finished on a slight rise into a stiff right-to-left crosswind, thought I had the correct wheel (but didn’t), and knew I didn’t have much left in the legs (and was right). Didn’t finish tenth, and didn’t finish first—in all, a good day in the saddle. And man, it was great to ride in the sun for once!

(Lilydale today: OW!)

Off the bike, the latest entertainment in our house is twofold—watching the suddenly very visible activity going on in P’s belly, and wagering when her belly button will pop completely out. I say in about two weeks; P seems to think “any day,” but she’s been saying that for about three weeks. It is already partially popped, so she may be onto something.

And with the sudden burst of warmth and having turned the corner into May, I’m starting to get that feeling that I imagine many expectant fathers get when they realize that the number of days until the little bundle of joy arrives is a lot smaller than it was back in the cold wet dark days of winter. It can be a little nerve-wracking, but so far I like it, since it takes the shape of thoughts like this: “Hmmm, it’s May 7th—I’ll bet we’re done with snow for the season. Hey! Next time I see snow it’ll be the first time my daughter sees snow, ever!” Okay, I’ll admit that from there it sometimes spirals out of control and I start thinking about the astounding responsibility of introducing her to everything in the world: from snow, and the pleasure of stepping on the little crunchy edges of ice that develop on sidewalks, to why people do bad things to each other, to the lifelong search for meaning, to the implications of mortality, and then I try and stop and figure we’ll cross those many many bridges when we get a little closer—right now I’ll just try to focus on the next time it snows.