Monday, March 31, 2008

Fox in the Snow

Holy Toledo. I am pooped.

This was the last weekend of a 4 week training block, and I was resolved to make it count. Never mind the heavy sensations in my legs, never mind the lethargy... this was going to be a killer weekend to close out a killer month.

And so it was.

On Saturday morning, I set out Northwards with CaptainChaz, whose routes are invariably the stuff of legend. Faux pas though it may be, I'll quote myself:
"I suppose you could think of him as the mutant offspring of a mountain bike and a GPS system. Or of a Sherpa and a pickup truck. It is as easy to picture Charlie living as Magellan in a past life as it is to picture him as the Marquis de Sade."

Saturday's ride to Bernardsville wasn't particularly long, nor was it particularly steep. It wasn't leg-breaking, like some routes that leave you gasping halfway up each climb and hoping for some merciful trucker to put you out of your misery. Instead, it was sapping, sucking the life out of you slowly so that the exhaustion sneaks up on you.

It didn't help that Charlie is a strong rider. Oof. Also, we climbed through a ditch 6' deep to bypass a road closure. Wish I'd pulled out the camera. Oh well! Bygones!

The nice thing about riding in the hills is the reward that follows each climb. You look out to the horizon and see a lake, or a small town, or the next ridge, hazy in the distance. It's absolutely beautiful, especially this time of year and on a clear day like Saturday. And then you get to descend, which is especially fun when you go "WHEEEE!" or make motorcycle noises.

As long as I'm quoting things somewhat unnecessarily, I'll refer to Need For The Bike (tip of the hat to Will for the loan). M Fournel writes,

Contrary to what happens when I'm in a car and the landscape allows itself to be seen and not 'be', on a bike I'm sitting in it.

With the bike there's an animal relation with the world: the mountains you see are there to be scaled, the valleys are for cruising down into, shadows are for hiding in and stretching out. To be in the landscape, in its heat, its rain, its wind, is to see it with different eyes; it's to impregnate oneself with it in an instinctive and profound way. The mountain rising before me isn't a mountain, it's first a grade to climb, a test, a doubt, sometimes anxiety. At the summit, it's a conquest, lightness. I've taken it and it's in me.



Yeah. He gets it.

On Sunday, the plan was to fight through the accumulated fatigue for a few hours. A bunch of hours. After a long warm up behind the perennially fast Todd, I rode - hard - to Princeton, then returned via Dogjump. It's one of my favorite rides, scenic and fast and suitable to any season.

Even with a quick espresso/cookie stop at Small World in Princeton, I ran myself ragged. Doing laundry this evening - the laundry room is 200m away, so I take 4 loads at once - my legs gave out before my back, which never happens. Stick a fork in me, I'm done.

Which brings me back to the title of this post. The recovering hipsters among you may recognize it as a Belle and Sebastian song (I say recovering, because true hipsters would have expunged all memories of Belle and Sebastian or any other band once they were no longer "in"). One verse strikes me as particularly poignant:

Boy on the bike
What are you like
As you cycle 'round the town?
You're going up,
You're going down,
You're going nowhere.
It's not as if they're paying you,
It's not as if it's fun,
At least not anymore.
When your legs are black and blue
It's time to take a break
When your legs are black and blue
It's time to take a holiday.


I disagree with one line: it is absolutely still fun. Other than that, though, it's spot-on. It is time to take a holiday.

Hooray for recovery weeks!

Friday, March 28, 2008

The Legendary Rivalry of Jay and Don - Karaoke Limbo

Karaoke waits for no man. If Karaoke was a vehicle, it would have a bumper sticker that reads "We Brake for Nobody".

If you miss your turn to sing, if you even miss the "going once, going twice..." that DJ Milky Manchester so benevolently affords you, then you're just out of luck. Nothing stops the momentum of Karaoke.

Except for limbo.

On Thursday, after a spontaneous suggestion from one of the quasi-regulars, Karaoke came to a screeching halt. The microphones turned off, the monitors went blank, and a limbo contest ensued. Milky provided the generic Carribean calypso-ish soundtrack from his Ipod. A limbo stick was improvised.

If only there were pictures, but alas there are none.

I'll spare you the narrative, because imagine how it would sound: "As the height of the limbo stick got progressively lower and lower, I found it harder and harder to successfully limbo under it. Eventually, my capacity for limboing under the limbo stick was exceeded by the level to which the limbo stick had been lowered".

The point is, I beat Jay. He fell just one round before I did, but hey, chalk one up in the W column for your hero. Yes, he is a good 3 inches taller than me... but I'm pretty sure our shins are the same length, so we were probably on a level playing field. I win, one to nothing.

Mountain Biking season is going to be so much fun.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Mount Dishware

Highest of all the mountains in my apartment, more fabled than Kilimanjaro (which rises like Olympus above the Serengeti), more dangerous than Everest and K2 combined, is Mount Dishware.

Mt. Dishware, as seen from orbit

Many have tried to scale her rugged peaks. Most succumbed to the lack of oxygen, but an unlucky few suffered horrible fates in forkvalanches. Her terrain is lifeless and desolate. No Sherpa dares ascend her.


They say from the top of Mount Dishware, you can see the four corners of the Earth. Is no man among you up to her challenge?

Wednesday Night with the Kids

New team members, all full of piss and vinegar, are fun. They have new bikes, a basic understanding of drafting, and the irrational competitive drive that leads us to bike racing in the first place. The skills, though... they don't so much have the skills. So we teach them.

There were 8 or 9 or so of us Rutgers racers on last night's "recovery" ride. I think I was the only one intent on riding easy, the rest were just looking to have some playtime on the bike. That's fine by me, I just let them attack each other, rode with the stragglers, and caught up at the next traffic light.

After about 45 minutes, Diane, Asphalt Eric, and Fixie Christian (now on a geared bike) joined me in an parking lot in Johnson Park for some cornering practice. Not that I'm the cornering guru; in fact, it's quite the opposite. Nobody taught me the proper technique back when I started riding, and I developed some bad habits. That's exactly why it was important to spend time with the newbies, teaching them what Angry Mark and Captain Chaz have spent the past 3 years teaching me.

At one point, we were standing around, discussing the finer points of entry speed, when a car entered the parking lot. It drove straight at us. Being in Johnson Park, where the rules of the road are more like Cannonball Run than Driving Miss Daisy, I got a little nervous... until the driver of the car was revealed to be that Master of Corners, His Royal Highness King Hermes, who was stopping by to say hello.

I hereby resolve to lengthen King Hermes' title every time I write about him.

Once everyone was comfortable cornering at speed and in a pack, we were ready for dinner. Farmer Andy (aka Trent Steele) was kind enough to swipe me into the dining hall, and Charlie and FroJoe did the same for Eric and Diane. Walking - sliding, really - around the busy dining hall in our clicky cycling shoes, wearing bright red spandex that leaves little to the imagination, we didn't exactly blend in. Also we were loud.

Like a fistful of sore thumbs...
...one of which has a trucker-stache

The food was good (and all-you-can-eat), and the company was great (and ate-all-they-could). Wednesday evening ride, you get an A+.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Yarrrr

Tonight was Beers and Noble night. Every Tuesday, we go to the Barnes and Noble at the Menlo Park Mall for an hour or two, then finish off the night with a beer at the Fox and the Hound. Beers and Noble. It's clever.

It was just me and the Bearded one tonight. When she got eye-molested by an older gentlemen, we left our usual coffee-area hangout to wander the stacks. This led us to the music department.

Did you know that Barnes and Nobles music departments have the techmology to let you listen to clips of tracks from CDs? Just scan the CD in one of their little doohickey devices, and just like that, you're listening to Hall and Oates... or whomever.

Unfortunately, each CD was at least $12. We spent 15 minutes perusing their wares, and given a blank check, I could easily have spent a few hundred dollars. I do not have a blank check.

Therefore, I hereby resolve to pirate as much music as possible in the next few months. I'm not sure how... perhaps some kind soul will enlighten me? A gold doubloon to the first scurvy dog to bring me musical bounty.

And that's enough pirate jokes.

First order of song-stealing business: Polyphonic Spree.

Monday, March 24, 2008

The Bell Curve

Dopers suck. Cheating is bad. "Heroic" performances, later revealed to have been enabled by the juice, lose all of their luster. Dopers are ruining the sport.

It is scary, though, that we might be condemning some innocent athletes. I'm not talking about the judicial system - the tangled web of legislation and the utter insanity that is the WADA are beyond the scope of this post. Instead, let's consider the court of public opinion.

Richard Groenendaal has a big head. Not just in terms of ego, but also anatomically. Phrenologists would have a field day with Herr Grooondaal. Did doping make his head bigger?

Marion Jones had braces as an adult. She took steroids as an adult. Did the doping make her maxilla and mandible bend like origami?

Tammy Thomas. Oh, Tammy Thomas. Tammy Tammy Tam Tam Tammy. Oof
'nuff said

So yes, we judge athletes based on looks, or at least on the change in looks. Certainly this isn't enough evidence for a court of law, but come on, this is us, the people! The people who keep the tabloids in business, the people who closely followed the Michael Jackson trial, or even the people who debate Floyd's case in coffee shops. It's all the same practice, just some versions are higher-brow.

But enough about us. Let's talk science. Or, rather, pseudo-science...

For a drug like testosterone, we can't just draw blood to look for exogenous testosterone. We have to measure the amount of testosterone, measure the amount of episterone (a precursor to testosterone), and infer the guilt or innocence of the subject based on that ratio.

That's where my understanding ends. I don't understand the measurement process well enough to speak to its validity (although I'm sure Floyd's legal team might have a thing or two to say about it). My question is about the physiology that underlies the inference in the testosterone test.

It seems (and by seems, I mean I've never heard anything to the contrary but am assuming anyway) that the "normal" values and their ranges come from studies of average joes. Normal people have such and such concentrations of these chemicals, so surely if someone deviates significantly from normal, then they're doping.

But the best athletes are abnormal. Their hearts are too big, and they have too many capillaries in their lungs, and their muscles are too damn glycolytic (or oxidative, depending on the sport). They are from the furthest reaches of the Bell Curve, and they stress their bodies torturously on top of that.

What happens when a genetic freak subjects themselves to hours and hours of exertion? Might the set points for homeostasis, the hormone ratios and the hematocrits and the biochemistries, shift? Might we be condemning people whose only offense is being really really predisposed to athletics?

Gauging Fitness

Some cyclists have power meters and scour over the data every week to make sure that their peak wattage is progressing as desired. Some cyclists track their morning heart rates every day to make sure they aren't overtaxing themselves cardiovascularly.

Some cyclists go to downtown New Brunswick and dance.

That's how I knew today's ride with the increasingly fit Jay #1 was going to be tough. Last night, I had the Urkel Dance going pretty well, by which I mean I shuffled back and forth and tried not to bend my knees at all. Classic white boy stuff.

When Lil' John insisted that we get low, the problems started. I was creaking like an old man. My poor knees! This has been a tough week of training, and the legs weren't shy about letting me know.

The lesson has been learned. Next time, I'm going to stretch before dancing. Also, I will warm up properly (20 minutes of light dancing, with 30-60 seconds of intense popping and locking interspersed). Maybe I'll have an Accelgel mid-dance.

They should make beer-flavored Accelerade.

Megan and I caught a cab home, because neither of us was even close being sober enough to drive. And by "a cab", I mean "the cab", because that was the only cab we saw all night, even at the taxi headquarters by the train station. There was already a passenger when we got in, that's how dire the cab situation was. We entertained him by making plans to break into Will's room to watch Francis the Talking Mule and then explaining what Francis the Talking Mule is.

I had a hangover this morning. Mountain biking cures hangovers. True story.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Well if you're bored then you're boring

Oh, Harvey Danger. Your ode to self-pleasure is as enjoyable as the more popular "Dancing With Myself" and "I Touch Myself", but also subtler. Well done, Harvey Danger.

No racing this weekend. Instead, lots of training. Today I rode to Princeton and back, about 65 miles, 2 hours of which was done with some gusto, technically speaking. So I'm a little sore. Tomorrow Jay #1 and I hit the trails at Chimney Rock, to see if I still remember how to ride the fat-tired beast I call Rhinoceros.


Tonight I hit the town with BeardedMegan. I have no idea what we're going to do, but it will likely involve drinking. Don't wait up... but leave the light on, because I might have trouble navigating the front porch.

My New Spegialized


Dammit.

Nutricious and Delicious



Cookie Dough Ice Cream, Wheat Germ, and Bananas. No - no words. No words to describe it. Poetry! They should've sent a poet. So beautiful. So beautiful... I had no idea.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Hi Mom

My parents came to watch me at the Princeton race.
This was the least I could do...

photo by SandbaggerTom

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Reflections on an Open Mic Night

There are a few regulars at West End's Open Mic night, but every week there are some new performers. Some are actually quite gifted, a real treat to listen to... which, by process of elimination, leaves those other ones. It is musical Russian Roulette for the audience, but that's the nature of the beast in the fast-paced world of Open Mic.

There were two performers who stood out. Not that either was particularly good, nor particularly bad; instead, they inspired some contemplation, because let's face it, sometimes acoustic emo-guitar is better as a soundtrack than as a main-event.

Tone-Deaf Guy was tone-deaf, or at least close to it. His singing varied from out-of-key to atonal. He took longer to tune his guitar than anyone else that night, and it was still cringe-inducing when he gave up.

But here's the thing... Tone-Deaf Guy knows music. His technique was pretty good, and his repertoire was eclectic enough that his taste was surely honed, rather than dictated by the Billboard Top 40. When he forgot how a Belle and Sebastian song ended, he said "oh no, I forget how this ends", then improvised a conclusion that belied his knowledge of music theory. Tone-Deaf Guy knows music.

I feel so sorry for Tone-Deaf Guy. To love something that much, but to be genetically predisposed to sucking at it... that's got to be tough. Immensely tough.

Also, there was a guy I like to call The Twitcher. He was twitchy - not Tourette's twitchy, but nervous. Watching him interact with people before he performed was like watching Cosmo Kramer. That wasn't a simile, but an allusion. Okay.

When The Twitcher played guitar, though, the twitchiness went away. His arms were controlled, his facial expressions varied less frequently, his whole demeanor was just smoother. I could speculate as to the neurological basis of this change, but that would just be guesswork. Instead, let me just say: watching this twitchy guy get serene for 10 solid minutes was a real pleasure. Music is a wonderful thing.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Defense Mechanism

I talk during races. If I'm not grinding away above threshold, with my lungs bursting and my vision blurring, there's a good chance I'm talking. I crack jokes, I say hi to my friends, I strategize with my teammates... but generally, I don't shut up. Not even during the short, hard races like yesterday.

Someone was recently explaining their philosophy on winning races. "You have to tap into the rage". This is from a guy who's been pretty successful in sprints, so maybe I should just accept it. However, it has been my (admittedly limited) experience that every good result has followed from suppressing the rage.

Now, don't get me wrong, rage definitely has its place in cycling. There is no better therapy for me than training by intervals. When the watch says "go", I unleash the proverbial beast, at least as long as the watch allows me to. It's not too hard to imagine someone a few yards ahead of me... who that someone is, or what that someone represents, varies with time, but the gap just never shrinks.

Racing, on the other hand, demands patience. Calmness leads to fewer bad decisions and less wasted energy. The adrenaline surges are fewer when I am calm, and the results are better. Ommmm.

One habit I've developed is to comment about near-misses. When a rider nearly causes a crash (I'll give you one guess as to which military academy he attends), I make light of it. I also do this in training, which inspired Will to name me "Reactionary Don".

"Reactionary Don" doesn't roll as well off the tongue as does "Ninja Don", but it is enough to give me pause, being a gentle (if obnoxious) critique from a good friend. And it's not unfounded. Whenever something happens to set me off mid-ride, I am guaranteed to talk about it. Sometimes it's just a "hello, car", and sometimes it's a joke of some sort ("A priest, a rabbi, and a dumbass who can't corner walk into a bar..."). There is, however, always a reaction.

I think I'm trying to calm myself down. Adrenaline surges are the result of dangerous situations, and my threshold for "dangerous" is just a lot more sensitive than most people's. To minimize the unwanted freakout that follows an adrenaline surge, I talk.

Talking - read: calming myself the eff down - means I have more juice left at the finish, or even that I just enjoy the ride more. So I'm going to keep doing it.

Oh, by the way, yesterday was by far my best race this year. I felt comfortable in the pack, went off the front a few times, and finally finished in the top 20... and this course had no Don-friendly climbs! Rich, Chris, Alex, and I worked as a team for the first time, too, which is nice. Perhaps most importantly of all, not a single Rutgers Racer crashed, an unprecedented event this season.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Imaginary Bar

The Tiger's Tale does not exist.

Erik told us he'd be DJing a Karaoke night at the Tiger's Tale in Montgomery. He also told us there would be prizes. He further suggested that his regulars from the Harvest Moon might be given a head-start, if you know what I mean. A little shortcut to the prizes. A little testosterone patch on the undercarriage.

I honestly didn't care about the prizes... I wanted a story for the blog! Maybe there would be South Jersey hillbillies? Perhaps some delightfully exotic beers, or really talented Karaokeists? Would there be a brawl a la Road House?

At the very least, I'd get out of the apartment. Saturday evening TV is about as stimulating as ... well, actually, it's about as low on the totem pole as you can get. Sunday morning's wakeup would be early for the Princeton race, but since when do I sacrifice one good time for another? Balance, as they say.

Getting to Montgomery was easy. Finding the bar was impossible. I drove from Princeton to Hillsborough and back; no dice. For 45 minutes, I circled Montgomery, never finding the damn Tiger's Tale.

Therefore I conclude that the Tiger's Tale does not exist.

I didn't want to go to your stupid non-Thursday Karaoke anyway, Erik. You big jerk.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Retirement

Last night, I bid a fond adieu to Toto's "Africa". It has served me well over the past few months, facilitating some enjoyable Thursday evenings at the Harvest Moon. Who ever knew that smooth music could rock so hard? Michael McDonald, that's who.

Like all good things that must come to an end, "Africa" was retired last night. I tried to do it justice in its final performance, as it deserved a heartfelt send-off. People seemed to enjoy it.

"Africa" now joins an elite list of retired songs, the members of which have brought immeasurable joy to the lives of millions (give or take). While reading the list, please think of some melancholy piano music... like the theme from "Casper, the Friendly Ghost".

  • Like a Prayer - Madonna
  • I'm a Believer - Monkees
  • Total Eclipse of the Heart - Bonnie Tyler
  • Hard to Handle - Black Crowes
  • Twist and Shout - Beatles
  • Mr. Roboto - Styx
The nice thing about retiring a song is that on a whim, the song can be un-retired! For "nostalgia's sake", of course.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Please Smash My Guitar

My ability to play guitar has not reached its potential, nor will it ever. There is room for improvement. There is a giant cavernous abyss for improvement.

They say you're supposed to train your weaknesses, so I'm working on "finger-picking", which may sound dirty to the uninformed and immature - shame on you and your filthy mind. The song I have chosen for practicing this technique is Such Great Heights by Iron and Wine (actually by Postal Service, but I'm using the Iron and Wine cover, so there). You may recognize it from the soundtrack to Garden State.

Yes, I know. Believe me, I too want to punch myself now. Garden State soundtrack? Iron and Wine? I might as well just grow my hair out, buy a $30 Che Guevara t-shirt, and feign outrage over social injustices in third world countries over my Venti Iced Mochacchino. Goddammit, why'd I have to choose "Such Great Heights"? Well it's a pretty little number, and my skill level is actually improving a bit, so it'll be okay.

I'm actually thinking of playing at the Open Mic night that Will and I have been attending every week. It seems to be pretty low-key, with the talented ringers getting as much applause as the hacks. Being a hack, I wouldn't mind cutting my teeth in such a setting. In fact, I've even started writing a song for the occasion, because I don't think they really want to hear me cover Journey.

Writing about this musical endeavor has brought an image to mind that refuses to be shaken: the scene from Animal House where John Belushi finds a ballad-singing guitarist and responds appropriately. It is an odd duality to face; I am simultaneously excited to flex my creative muscle and compelled to mock myself as an emo hipster also-ran.

Dizzy, Revisited

The following is the phase plane for three activations of a certain biological system (have to be careful here, don't want to be scooped). It's isn't immediately obvious why this phase plane behavior is so patterned, especially not over three trials. In fact, it was totally unreasonable to expect anything like this structure... and yet, here it is.

video

I knew I was onto something back in January, but I had no idea it would be so... so pretty? Have I reached the point where I look at variability, see underlying structure, and think "beautiful"? Cool.

edit: For my lay audience...
Notice how the 3 dots are sort of chasing each other, like dogs in a park. There is no reason to expect them to chase each other; in fact, we would expect them to mind their own business, or run around willy-nilly, or maybe even twitch a little. We definitely don't expect them to chase each other.

edit #2: For my engineery audience...
Sal asks, "so what's the take home message?" to which I respond "my thesis just got a whole lot more fun"

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Blasphemy!

My classmates and I are taking out a prospective grad student tomorrow for dinner. On the department's dime. Life is good.

So we're sending emails back and forth, coordinating the time and place for this outing. Here is an excerpt from the latest...


"We have reservations at Delta's... for 6:30pm under 'Nicole'.
They have karaoke at 9:30 so if people want to stay and show off their singing abilities that would be great (feel free to invite others to meet you for a night of singing fun)."


Ahem. Thursday night. Karaoke. At not Harvest Moon?

Infidels! Blasphemers! Heathens and heretics!

It's fun to exaggerate. But no, I will not be attending karaoke at Delta's. In fact, hell no.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Weekend Update

Throughout the weekend, I kept thinking to myself "this event alone is worth a blog post". Well, it's Monday now, and as I sit down to write a little something for you, it is just too much.

Conceding defeat, I will update you on my weekend in the form of listed blurbs. Sorry. But hey, there are some pictures! So, that'll be swell!

+++My friend Jamie directed a play, The Pillowman. It was a low-budget college production, and there were only seven actors. I attended on Friday night, and I was very, very impressed. Jamie warned me beforehand, "this is a dark comedy... very dark", and she was right. The play's drama swept me up, it was riveting and moving and profoundly disturbing. I found myself laughing, but feeling guilty for laughing... that's probably what they were going for, so kudos to them. Also kudos for their endurance; the scenes were each about 45 minutes long!

+++Jamie had also invited me to the cast party, held at her house. I know her housemates from the Karaoke, so I was looking forward to it... until they told me that the theme was "No Clothing". Nudity was also banned, but the clothes had to be made of material that is not clothing, so skin was an inevitability. I've been to toga parties, blacklight parties, and Hungry Hungry Hippos Parties, but I'd never been to a party like this. Fortunately, I am quite comfortable with near-nudity, and my evening in a cardboard loincloth was an absolute blast.
Note the cardboard sixpack

+++I had to leave early, because I was racing in Philadelphia on Sunday. And by "early", I mean really f'in late. They say that what matters is how much sleep you get two nights before the race, and I woke up on time, so no harm done. The race was exactly what I expect from a collegiate race, and my fitness is exactly where I expect it to be at this time of the year. My performance on the penultimate climb has me optimistic, knock on wood. Also, I proved that a faux-hawk can survive an hour in the team's new Rudy Project helmets, thus making them the best helmets ever.

+++Still gross from the race - the young'uns asked me repeatedly to clean the snot off my face, and these are guys whose tolerance for grossness is unprecedented - I drove to Bensalem to meet up with Shoshi, my "little sister" from Case Western Reserve. We went to Neshaminy Mall (is it weird that I was excited to be near Neshaminy? No, it is not) for smoothies and coffee. I groaned and creaked like an old man, but it's been 15 months since I got to see Shosh, so I was beside myself.
+++Then I had to say goodbye, because there were things to do back in Jersey.
This photo breaks my heart every time I see it. I hate saying goodbye to my little sister.

+++After a much-needed shower, I was ready for my weekly man-date with Jay #1. It was business as usual, by which I mean we ate, drank, and were merry. It is a fantastic tradition we have going, if only because exotic beers are half-off on Sundays at Old Bay. Also, Jay's not so bad to hang out with. Also there was a band.


------------------------

In an email tonight, Jamie said "I hope your lack of sleep... didn't affect your performance at your race!" It was a sweet sentiment, but there is only one possible reply:

Oh please! This weekend was an adventure, and a rare one at that. I can't imagine sacrificing any one part of it, even for the benefit of another.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Don't Fear The Blogger

Thesis: There is a stigma to blogging, and that stigma is stupid.

More to follow when I have time.

Lucky

Folding a never-ending pile of laundry affords a nice opportunity for thinking, assuming I don't totally zone out. Late Wednesday night, the small mountain of Downy-fresh clothing in my basket, coupled with the soul-crushing dearth of televised entertainment, gave me ample time to let my mind wander.

I started thinking of a list of material goods I could/should buy, a list of my Wants and Needs. It wasn't intended for publication on the blog, and so it will remain. However, taking a step back, one feature of the list jumps right out:

My list of Wants and Needs is incredibly short.

I am a lucky man.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Granogue is Nigh: An Open Letter to Jay #1

Dear Jay,

Registration for Granogue (the MTB race, not the cyclocross race) opens on Monday. The race is May 3. The suffering will start at 9am.

It is on, Jay. It is so on.

There are other races going on that day, I guess. We'll cheer/feed Charlie, of course, and any other Rutgers racers who aren't riding the sport class. But oh, Jay, the Sport Singlespeed race... this will be our Waterloo, our Gettysburg... nay, our Armageddon. Let this be the ultimate battle between Good and also-Good.

May 3, Jay. May 3. Yes.

Love,
Don

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Poor Will

Poor Will couldn't race this weekend because of back surgery.
Poor Will was sick with a cold on his birthday.
Poor Will just had his blog post stolen... by me.

It's okay, though, because his alternate post is rather excellent, a well-written essay on the arrogance that is seemingly ubiquitous among the fast guys in our sport. The topic may be low-hanging fruit, but Will still climbed to the top of the tree with this post.

Posts this good are rare. They are especially noteworthy when they come from a blog that is most famous for being the first result from a Google image search for "fat guy".

Seriously. Search Google Images for "fat guy". As of this writing, the first link is from wcuk.wordpress.com

Poor Will is fat, too.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

In The Pack

"To extend yesterday's metaphor:
Yesterday, I didn't drown. Today, I actually managed to doggy paddle. I rode in the pack the whole time, and while it wasn't comfortable, I think I've proven to myself that the challenge of racing B's can be overcome.

I am happy with how I raced today."

I put the above in quotes, because I wrote it all in my head while still racing.

Fitness..........Check
Handling........Check
Focus............FAIL

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Off The Back

From 2005-6, every collegiate race I did had unpleasant results. I'd start with everybody, try my hardest, and inevitably lose contact with the pack. I'd chase for a while, and then I'd get pulled out of the race. I didn't know what was going wrong, only that I was suffering a most disgraceful defeat every time I toed the line.

You may recall that last March, I was overwhelmed by a newfound ability to race. Will had "never seen someone so happy to finish dead last in the pack". By the end of the month, still racing in the C division, I was reporting my races with dismissive nonchalance. I was comfortable in the C's, and this comfort continued through the summer as I raced the corresponding non-collegiate 5 and 4/5 races.

This year, I've moved up to the B's. I'm not intimidated, though. There is only one way to improve, and that's to venture beyond your comfort zone (gah, am I getting repetitive?).

So. I lost contact with the pack. Shades of 2006. And yet, a silver lining:

I didn't get dropped, per se - that is, I didn't run out of energy and find myself unable to keep up with the pack. Instead, I raced a tactically stupid race, tailgunning (riding at the back of the pack) for 3 laps. The onus was on me to move up, and I didn't (and to no small degree, couldn't). When someone 5 spots in front of me let a gap open, I was, like everyone around me, suddenly dropped.

Rather than panic or give up or do any of the counterproductive nonsense I used to do, I formed a chase. A rider trying to catch the pack alone is screwed, but a group stands a chance.

We never caught the pack, my little band of chasers. Skidmore, UVM, Drexel, Bard(?) and I took turns in the wind, minimizing our losses over the ensuing 30 minutes. We eventually finished (no small feat on a 0.6 mile course), although this would not have been the case had the race been but one lap longer.

It truly does suck to ride off the back. I want to be the protagonist at the front of the pack, perhaps even the (dare I say it?) winner... not the gasping, grimacing, doomed chaser earning pity-applause from the spectators. This was not how I wanted today to go.

Then again, I will allow myself to take a little bit of pride. Just a little. A dash, perhaps, or even a pinch. I threw myself in the deep end today, and while I wasn't quite swimming, I definitely didn't drown.