Tuesday, June 27, 2006

additional State RR pix

We finally went about getting a flikr account to post more pictures than you'll find just on the blog. These feature mostly teammates from the Master's 4/5 and 3 races last Saturday. Enjoy!


Sunday, June 25, 2006

State Road Pix

just rollin' along...

jim r: face time, baby!

state champ! by inches!

I know one superhero who's gonna have to change his name if he keeps finishing top five...

day's work done...

the pleasures of a sunday buzz

went to Brit's Pub this morning to watch (spoiler alert) England beat Ecuador 1-0; I may regret it later, but there's a real subversive pleasure in having a couple of (good) beers late morning on a Sunday.

Through the prism of a few Fuller's ESB, then, here's my recap of the State Road Race, then:

4 laps, 53 miles, five trips up "the hill." See Dan-O's blog for a lap-by-lap description--me, I was fighting an increasingly tight back for 3 laps, at which point the tightness stopped (leading me to worry that everything had gone numb and that I might be doing serious damage to my back--not the case: I feel good today). On the final lap, we had a solo flyer about a minute ahead, and we began thinking about 1) bringing him back, and 2) working the finale. GP had three riders in the lead group of about 15, and we began to talk about the end a little with each other. With my back, I was trying to put Tim (tjl) in a good position--so I started doing little pulls on the front, figuring that we could keep the frontrunner in our sights (that fella had to be hurting) and reel him in before the end. At one point on the back side, I gave a good pull and got within a stone's throw of the leader, looked back, saw Tim on my wheel (saying "go! go!"), and immediately cramped up. I tried to sit up and hold the pursuit a bit to let Tim go, but no go. So we get to the last few miles (after the downhill that brought out the ambulances at least twice), and the leader is still off the front, and folks are getting a little frustrated (esp. the dude from Birchwood--really, I understand), and I figure with about 1K to go, cramping, tired, sore: okay, I can hang here and go for, say, fourth. Or I can nail myself and see if Tim's got it. And right then, like a voice from the ether, I hear Tim right behind me, saying "just get me to 500m, and I'll take it." So I did, I stood up, shifted, heard a few guys (I think some folks were watching my wheel--go figure) say "here we go," and went hard. I buried my ass, digging with all I had left, digging for 1/2 K at what felt like full sprint but was more like (with the hill and the cramps) tricycle pedaling, saw the 500m to go sign, gasped, cramped, sat up, and let it play out. And you know what--he took it, by about an inch. It worked, and damn, that feels good.

Look, I could write about the gratification of playing a part in getting a teammate to the line first in a state championship race all day, but you know what--the Netherlands just kicked off with Portugal, and I gotta catch that. Happy Sunday, y'all!


Friday, June 23, 2006

the dangerous day

first things first--thanks for the good words about my back.

it's feeling way better, and i'm planning on racing the state road race tomorrow, although with exactly zero miles on the bike since last saturday, well, let's just say my expectations are a bit lower than they were, say, last friday--live to ride another day and all...

...but today's the dangerous day.

you know how when you're sick with a bad cold, or even the flu, and then you start to get better, and it's slow? and you know you're getting better, but it's kinda like you feel just a little less miserable each successive day--so you never really feel good, you just make the transition from feeling like dogshit, say, to feeling like reheated pea soup. and it feels like you'll never ever feel good again.

until that one day--whoo-ee! you wake up and your head is clear, and you catch yourself humming a favorite song, and smiling at little things, and bounding downstairs for breakfast because--because you're hungry! your appetite is back! and you start planning all the things you couldn't even think about while you were incapacitated, and you even do one or two of them.

and then you hit the late afternoon and you nosedive.

your body was recovered, but weak, and you overdid it, and you risk a relapse, and maybe another week of feeling even worse.

you know how that is?

well, the same thing is true with my back pain--i'm king of all the world today--no pain, no tension in my bones from holding myself tight against the pain, a good, pain-free night's sleep--and i'm just old enough--i hope--to know that feeling this good is a dangerous thing just yet.

so today i damp my enthusiasm, stifle my joy, and gather myself to make it through this, the dangerous day.

otherwise i'll be flat on my back tomorrow.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

a little bit of back pain...

...goes a long way. A long way toward making me a melancholy, cranky, off-the-bike bore, that is. Lifted something just a little bit wrong on Sunday, felt a twinge, and it's been downhill since then--had to leave work early yesterday because I couldn't sit at the desk, and I'm home today, largely lying on the floor with an ice pack, doing pathetic stretches to try and loosen up the spasmodic nerve/muscle in my lower back. The worst part (at least right now) is that the pain makes me tense up the rest of my body, so I have aches throughout the rest of my body as well. I just hope it clears up soon.

Of course, part of me is convinced that I've suppressed all my panic impulses about impending fatherhood, and responsibility for another person, and that my body is having a psychosomatic response. I wonder if it's not related to our little excitement in the wee hours of Sunday...Ahh, yes, I remember it as if it were only two days ago...


[Sunday, 4:03 am]

[sound of breaking glass outside]

"Hon--did you hear that?"


"Someone's breaking glass out there."

"Whaa..?" (maybe if we go back to sleep, it'll stop.)

[sound of breaking glass]

"I'm going downstairs to check it out"

"Whaa...?" (damn. I can't let my pregnant partner confront danger... can I? I can't, right? Right?) "I'm coming."

So we go down and sit on the front porch and peer into the front porch of the (currently unoccupied) house next door. I can't see anything, but P swears "he's right there, standing on the porch." So I get the flashlight, shine it across the way, and sure enough, there, standing still on the porch, is someone. White, hair brown, no visbile tattoos, jeans and dark shirt. And definitely there. Where he definitely shouldn't be. Within twenty feet of our house, and us, and and and--okay, I'm a little teensy bit scared now.

"I'm going to call the police." (my firmest, most authoritative don't-mess-with-me-i'm-a-law-abiding-homeowner voice)

"Do it." (immediate, firm, i-don't-give-a-shit-if-you-own-that-house-AND-this-one voice)

Now, of all the responses I expected from a potential intruder, this was way way down the list, far below 1) running away (wishful thinking on my part), 2) "F--- off!," 3) trying to BS his way with an explanation about how he had a right to be there, and so on. But "Do it"? I ushered P back into the house, on the logic that guys who weren't afraid of me calling the police might not be afraid to come across to our house and threaten us, and I didn't want her--and the little 'un--in harm's way. She obediently came inside, and as soon as I grabbed the phone and called 911, she was, of course, back on the porch (much to my dismay), offering a running commentary.

I stayed on the phone with the dispatcher until two squad cars arrived--by this time the visitor had wandered around the neighboring house, back to the front sidewalk, where he had opened his cell phone and used the blue keypad lights to wave us a flippant goodnight. By this time, his uncertain steps had revealed him to be, as the policeman who bundled him into the back of his squad car said, "utterly obliterated."

An anticlimactic ending to a little weekend excitement--just fine by me. I'm all about nice, boring, uneventful endings these days.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go ice my back.

Friday, June 16, 2006

friday randoms

Random notes on a Friday:

Hey--the second-best sport in the world is having its quadrennial celebration of national pride, national insecurity, and general all-around fun. It's World Cup season, folks, and for those of you not following, there's still time! Group play is a little under halfway done, and the ball really gets rolling once we move to the round of 16 (elimination matches). Already we've seen some great matches (Germany vs. Poland was supposedly one, although I missed it); some horrific mismatches (anyone see the scoreline from Argentina vs. the defunct nation formerly known as Serbia and Montenegro? Oy.); some underachievers (France came out flat, and despite 2 victories fans of the English are wringing their hands in anxiety); and some surprising dismantlings, most notably the USA's big fat egg laid against a super Czech team--I agree with the pundits that the US was flat, but the Czechs were also really good--watch out for them. My fave: the Dutch-you gotta love all that orange, and those fun fans, and the technically sound and occasionally flashy brand of football they play. They're playing right now--I'm taping the game, and if they stink up the field, I reserve the right to change horses.


So four years ago--right after the last World Cup, in fact--I lived near the intersection of Unversity and Raymond in St. Paul, an area that can best be described as indeterminate--some warehouses, some industry, some retail, some bad bad smells. One of the locations, a former warehouse, housed Paul Wellstone's campaign headquarters, and when he was killed, the place was jammed with mourners first, and flowers later. Now I live a little further east, but still drive past there regularly--recently I've seen some serious teardown and construction as those old warehouses are either razed or gutted and refurbished into apartments/condos. I know life goes on, but this seems not quite right. I'll always think of that building (which was not razed, and is being converted) as the Wellstone building--somehow I think they should put a green plaque up or stick a green bus up on blocks in front of the building or something, so that its past isn't entirely erased. Somehow I don't think they will.


Finally, I would be a negligent bike racer if I didn't mention that the pro ranks have invaded the Twin Cities this weekend in force for the Nature Valley Gran Prix (NVGP). It's a weekend off racing for yours truly, but I'm a giddy spectator tonight in Minneapolis and Sunday in Stillwater, as I watch those who really know how to and can, and root on those I know from our local ranks. If you're local and have the slightest interest, I recommend catching one of these races.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

home sweet home

Saw a few minutes of an old film noir last night, Desperate. I started it with high hopes—I love discovering old noir flicks, and can handle multiple viewings of The Maltese Falcon, Touch of Evil, and many others. But this one was pretty bad, and pretty soon I switched the TV off entirely—sleep was too important to get stuck watching an unsatisfying flick with bad gangster dialogue.

Two things made it stick in my mind, though, one about the film specifically, and the other more of a generalization drawn from the movie. The movie begins with a young married couple—he’s just back from WWII and trying to get started as an independent trucker; she’s newly pregnant and figuring out how to tell her hubby of 4 months the good news. They’re blissed out, and (rather unconvincingly in terms of their acting) in love. He—Steve—gets a call for a good-paying trucking job (too good to be true, obviously), and finds himself mixed up in a robbery. The movie goes on from there with our protagonist getting framed, and going on the lam until he can find a safe place for his wife and decide what to do. Ultimately (as I know from reading the plot summary here) he takes care of the bad guy and heads off with his wife and child into the proverbial sunset.

Okay, the two things: first, the criminal gang mastermind is played by Raymond Burr. I can’t tell you how hilarious it is—for someone like me who watched countless after-school reruns of Perry Mason right before Gilligan’s Island—to watch the fastidious and precise Perry Mason speak with a cheap gangster’s drawl and say things like, “Yeah—yeah, that’s what we’ll do alright—we’ll give him up to the cops and they’ll hafta set Al free.” Clearly it wasn’t enough to keep me awake the whole movie, but it was worth the 30 minutes I gave to it.

Second—So much of what we watch, and supposedly enjoy, is about the things we’re afraid of, and how impossible it is to find a place where we’re safe from them. The hero of this movie has just returned from WWII, after all, and although we’re not given much detail about his experiences there (at least in the section I saw), the fact is mentioned enough that we can assume that he has come through a difficult ordeal, and just wants to set up a safe and good home now with his new wife—and yet he can’t do it. In fact, one of the first things Raymond “Badass” Burr does when Steve resists his efforts to frame him is to threaten his wife—he breaks a bottle, and holds the jagged edge up toward Steve, and says menacingly, something to the effect of “Your wife is very pretty, Steve.” Creepy.

And things in entertainment are similar now: look at a recent movie like The History of Violence, for instance—different twist on the same theme: domestic refuge threatened by bad behavior, crime, violence, evil. This more recent film maps up well to Desperate, but other movies and TV shows exploit our willingness to believe that these fears are always lurking in slightly different ways—look, for instance, at the popularity of 24, a show predicated on the premise that one brave man must always sacrifice sleep (not to mention his family, friends, and identity) to keep the terrorist wolves from our very porch doors. We (many of us, anyway) are drawn to entertainment that pokes at our fears and heightens our already half-formed sense that the bogey-man is just around the corner, waiting to exploit our weaknesses when we let our guard down. Usually our entertainment gives us the relief of resolution, or a happy ending—I’m not giving much away if I tell you that Burr gets his in the end—but even that doesn’t tell me why I enjoy entertainment that highlights fear.

I don’t have any profound conclusion, or special insights about this phenomenon—I certainly don’t think fear is entirely unwarranted as a response to the world. But I do think living in a constant state of distrustful fear is living in a pernicious atmosphere, one that feeds itself and becomes self-fulfilling, and that it’s worth fighting the impulse, and working not to be afraid of whatever’s “out there.” (Don’t get me started on the political manipulation and exploitation of fear, at least not in today's entry.) So I prefer to remember Raymond Burr as the nice effective lawyer who’ll help old ladies out of a jam than as the rubber-faced goon luring me into his criminal ways and threatening my domestic haven.

Now you've got me daydreaming about Della Street...Ahh, the lovely Della.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

sunday school

Woke up (at 4:30 am)...

Got out of bed (at 4:32)...

Dragged a comb--naah, I skipped the freaking comb.

But I did drive out to Hutchinson, MN for what I've come to think of as the "Early Risers Crit" this morning. You see, the 30+ 4/5 race was going off at 7:30 this morning, and Hutchinson is about 90 minutes away. As it was a ROY (rider of the year) race, I thought it was a good place to show up and see about a few points in that competition.

I came fully awake sometime on the 3rd lap, where I realized that our field had been combined with the 50+ field--holy cow! no wonder the race felt so fast! We had Charlie T and Bob M on the front of our race, drilling it and shedding a bunch of riders.

These guys had a plan, and they were strong enough to make it happen, and they (well, we) had support behind to help us out by blocking. So they did. They quickly whittled the lead group down to 8-10 riders, and then 6--and it just so happened that 4 of those 6 were on our team. This is generally a good thing, and it gave Charlie a chance to do some educatin' of me and tjl, the other cat 4 in our lead pack. First, Bob jumped--he was gone, once Charlie convinced tjl and me that we shouldn't jump to go after him (eager beavers that we were). Then (right in front of the overmatched GW rider bravely hanging on in his denim shorts--the other had flatted out), Charlie proceeded to tell us how to lose this guy. And we did, by each launching off and making the guy chase us down, until he could chase no more. First, I got off, then tjl, and then Charlie rode up to us, smiled and said (not the least out of breath), "see, that's how it's done--I'm going up to Bob." We gasped out our thanks, and whoosh! he was off to second place.

That left tjl and me for the top 2 slots in 30+ 4/5 race with 2 1/2 laps to go--since I had asked tjl to wait at one point when I was gassed, I told him to tow me around to the end and I'd let him have it. He was having none of it: instead, he let me recover a bit, we took turns pulling the last lap, and we bumped fists before going into the last turn for a head-up, no-draft, teammate sprint. Good times:

Then I waited three hours (eating, watching MK score a beauty second place in the 35+) and raced with the 3/4s--it was uneventful, except for the rain, the high speed, the fact that my legs were sloggy, the guy who crashed inside me on the first turn (apparently breaking his collarbone) and bumped me enough to make me think for a second that my day was over, the two strong young men who took a flyer in the last few laps, went a bit too hard and crashed, sending d into cyclocross mode, the other guy who took the first turn too fast a bit later, hit the curb, and executed a beautiful side-flop over into the grass, and the ambulance that pulled in front of the field on the one lap I had decided to lead in an effort to let our designated guy sit in a bit--except for those little diversions, it was uneventful. I hung on to finish, which more than half the field can't say, so I guess that's a pretty successful day of racing.

and d wants me to upgrade to 3s 'cuz it's safer racing... (sly grin)

Thursday, June 08, 2006

for tjl...

...whose son Wally was one of the reasons for racing last weekend's bike race for autism awareness (aka the capitol crit).

Sunday, June 04, 2006

summer in the city

I went and raced the capitol criterium today--there were limited categories for racing, so I had the choice of racing in the 35+ Open (with many of the local legends and very few Master's 4s) or the Open 4/5 (or both, but I wasn't really feeling up for that). Given that the race course features a 180 hairpin turn, I decided to ride with the silky-smooth old guys and see if i could hang on. The race itself was a good time--fast from the start, even smoother than expected, and under beautiful blue skies. My goal was to hang on, and for a few laps that's all I did, sitting near the back of the pack, passing riders who looked like they might be getting shelled by the slowdowns and accelerations. Somewhere in the middle of the race, I moved up toward the middle of the pack, and hung out there for a bit. Pretty much the same. Fast, smooth. Apparently my club was animating the race by sending riders off the front in various combinations, but I wasn't really getting all that--I was focused on getting a feel for the ride, the pace, and the pack in my first criterium of the season. Suddenly I looked up and we were down to a handful of laps, and I knew I was going to be just fine. So I slid up to the front (of the main pack--by this time the winning break was off), looked around, and almost panicked--I don't belong here! I thought--what if I take the wrong line in a turn and cause a pileup? So I gently slid back a few places, and hung out there until the finale, when I gave it a little gas and finished 15th--and I'm pretty sure I was likely the first cat 4 across the line, which should net me a few bucks, although the organizers' computer collapsed under the pressure and screwed up official results, so I may never see the loot. I can live with that--both the finish and the lack of loot.

Because today I showed myself I could hang with some of the bigger boys--see? Here I am with the reigning Cat 3 State Time Trial Champion:

Oh, and one other thing: guys at this level strategize before the race. No, really. Here's proof--well, actually Dan C is just pointing at the brats 'n' beer tent for us to meet at after the race, but I swear they were talking strategy before this:

Friday, June 02, 2006

"the sky was blue beyond compare..."

I have a good friend, M, who, after a messy breakup one spring, ended up living with me and P for pretty much an entire summer. We had good times in our endeavors to distract him from his misery—played a lot of basketball, tormented our nervous dog, worked a little, had more than our share of gins and tonic, and played this music game that we came to call “Hey, Mr. DJ.” The game involves (it still exists, every time we meet up) one of us throwing a disc into the CD player, firing up a particular song, and giving a look to the other that says: “I dare you to follow that up.” Following the song up means a couple of things: first, you have to try to put in a better song. Of course, the game would be highly abbreviated if you just jumped to the “great” songs, so there’s another, more important element to it: the second song must flow from the first song.
P doesn’t get it—well, she does, but (perhaps wisely) she wants no part of it. In fact, she got very good at identifying the preliminaries to the game (glancing at the CD collection, pouring another round of drinks, arguing over the merits of this band, or that artist) and hustling off to sleep. But M and I would play for hours and hours, until the wee hours of the morning or until the only unopened CD cases were the ones slated for trade-in the next trip to the used record store.

Anyway, the key to the game was flow, keeping the game going, and the fun was finding different ways to flow from one song to the next, and trying to surprise the competition with your choice while simultaneously making him realize that you had chosen the very best follow-up song. Perhaps that’s because flow can occur on so many different levels: lyrical themes, musical lineage, tone, mood, one bassline reminiscent of another, the use of silly instruments—the list goes on and on. One thing M and I would try to do is understand the logic of the other’s choices—some are easy, such as following up an Uncle Tupelo song with a Wilco song. But even then, the questions remain: which Wilco song, from which album, and why? And where do you go from there? I mean, throwing a Son Volt song on would simply be acknowledging that you don’t have any new direction to take the game, that you’re stuck in Tweedy-Farrar-world—an implicit, if temporary, surrender. But throwing Dinosaur Jr.’s “In a Jar” after Wilco’s “She’s a Jar,” while not necessarily a brilliant connection (this is a game best played on the other side of sober, after all), opens up new sonic avenues for the next choice. Where to go from Dinosaur, Jr., following Wilco? Context is everything, and if you’re going to select, say, Murmur/Reckoning-era REM, you’re taking the game a whole different direction than if you pick Neutral Milk Hotel.

Which is really why I love this game—it has the elements of a contest, of beating the other guy. It is limited by the host’s CD collection (notice the preponderance of white-boy-indie-type-rock-over-the-last-twenty-five-years references above? That’s me!) But with every choice you make, ideally you’re opening up more opportunities for the next choice, not shutting them down by totally stumping the other player(s). Your choice should challenge the next choice, but enable it at the same time.

Winner is the last one awake.