Thursday, February 28, 2008

222: numb

lots of great riding going on this week.

sweet twisting single track that folks from out of state can destroy.
you know if you build a trail system that any idiot can ride, they will.

fast climbs, friends throwing in "peach" attacks. Just great stuff.

and the reality that I can't say it's January and I refuse to ride indoors.

I am losing the battle of the bulge. I don't think there is a MAC Clydesdale Class.
And so this week I ride the trainer.

I ride the trainer with MSNBC on, with MP3 player on, and I forage ahead, never really going any farther than my living room. Such a soulless activity.

To break up the sheer monotony a stealth group of us did a little urban neighborhood ride last night. It looked like this. Nothing sadder than a pack of mtbers, scarying soccer moms in mini vans, while crusing around town.

I can't tell you who was all there, because it's a secret. But someone got a new GPS.

I can tell you that one rider, who I happen to be very close with forgot her helmet, brought the wrong shoes and had her tire blow off the rim. Needless to say, it was an early night for her. Any guesses?

This morning I put on one of my secret Henry's jerseys. I thought to myself, "self, this is a little snug. Perhaps I stretched on one of Monkey's jerseys by mistake."

I checked, and a tear welled up in my eye when it was clear that it's was in fact my jersey, not the monkeys.

time to pull out the old Xl jerseys...

here's hoping your miles are more entertaining than mine.


Sunday, February 24, 2008

221: hunting for jaws

Saturday morning Jan, E-town and I headed out on the road, looking for the shark. The shark is the leader of our communities hammer ride. Not that I really felt like I was going to be able to complete the ride, but somehow I had hoped that the less than perfect conditions would keep the pace to down just a bit, and I might be able to use guile to hide in the pack.

Pretty much out the door of E-town's I can to this conclusion:

when hunting the shark, I'm gonna need a bigger boat. (i'll let you decide in the picture above who is who)

I'm gonna say luckily for me, we never found the shark this morning, although for three crossers at the end of February, I think Jan, Etown and I did a pretty solid job of working each other over. Afterwards, we met monkey, she ogled Jan's I phone, while we ate chili.

pretty mellow weekend otherwise. I needed that pretty badly.


Wednesday, February 20, 2008

220: sticky

I just finished reading Ten Points, by Bill Strickland. I have to say that I enjoyed it in a "wow" that landed on me kinda of way.

Thankfully I was blessed with great parents, and suffered none of the gut wrenching abuses that Bill faced. However, there were a couple of passages that he wrote that I felt like really hit home for me.

the first was this:

“He was some kind of engineer, built lasers or computer chips or something I couldn't understand, had a doctorate, and knew a lot. Naturally gifted athlete- he would have been one of the best if he rode as much as I did... Since I had gotten to know him there were a couple of times when I wanted to ask him that if someone like him- a normal, great guy, with an important job, and a pretty wife, a cute daughter, ever felt like I did almost everyday, as if you had to concentrate your entire being on hanging on, on staying sticky, not to win but to just avoid losing everything."

Now I know that he was talking about more than just cycling. There was definitely a time in Diane and my life where we applied the cardboard box theory of economics. Meaning, that every economic decision we made was based on the fact that failure meant we'd be living in a card board box in a matter of days.

Thankfully, that motivation, that fear of failure drove us to be in a much better place now, but I really related to that feeling that everything we did could be the ultimate unraveling of our lives.
I know that we continue to work hard and not take things for granted, because even now, 17 years in, nothing is guaranteed.

From a cycling perspective it also landed hard on me. I thought about the "normal" guys I get to ride with, how incredible they are. I am sometimes envious of those guys. I look at them and how they have so much balance in their lives, while I feel like it takes such concentration, such focus to be able to stay in the pack, or ride with my friends, to stay in this game.

I focus on how much I eat, my bike set up, how much I'm riding. I am obsessive by nature, I get that, it's who I am, but I often wonder what it would be like to be normal. Just show up for the ride, and ride, and not have to worry about calories, and how many beers I had.

What does a balanced life would look like. Maybe I'd see my family more? Look, I'm not complaining, I love my wife, I love my life- but Diane and I have often discussed whether or not we'd even be able to be happy with a more balanced, more normal life. Hell, we aren't even racing this spring, but our lives are filled with trying to squeeze rides in, watching or caloric in take, all so we can ride well in the fall.

the second passage that hit me was this one:

"there are all kinds of riders... the roleurs the tough cyclists who can turn the pedals at high speeds for miles and miles without cracking. There are the grimpeurs, the angels of the mountains, who fly up leg breaking slopes. There are the flahutes, who excel in mud and cobbles and cold. There are domestiques, whose sole job is to protect their leaders. Rarest of all are the campionissimo, the champions among champions- the immortals. I was the least glorious, the least noble, silliest named bike racer of them all. I was sticky. My only talent on a bike: I was hard to get rid of. Always there, never first. Great teammates, terrible leaders. We were tenacious failures... It means I'm not a winner- I'm not built to win, I'm built not to lose..."

That rang pretty hard with me. It reminded me of conversations I have had with
Wes about knowing how to win a race, and that I didn't know how. I thought about Charm City, where I was winning but felt like fate was going to give me a giant wedgie at any moment, and relagate me to a finishing position in line with my ablity. I thought about talking to Kurtee about having that killer instinct, about knowing when to attack, and racing to win.

Racing to win? What does that mean? I don't know that I've ever done that. Yup, over the 15 years or so of racing I have picked up a few wins, but they kinda just happened, I don't remember a point where I said, I'm going to win now.

"built not to lose" I thought about my best races ever, both where I flatted and battled from the back to get a podium spot. I have said to Diane, “I wonder how I would felt about those races if I didn't have to fight from DFL? or I didn't have to come back"

She encouraged me to build up tubulars for the simple reason, "that you gave away two maybe three races that you could have won, but you flatted instead..."

I know myself, I don't have a drive to be the best, but I want to be amongst them, I want to make their lives tough. I am a tenacious failure. Sometimes I think I like the fight more than the few wins that I have had.. Sometimes, I realize that for me, the racing isn't really about trying to win at all...

Maybe I need therapy…

Anyway, really good book. I recommend reading it. It made me very grateful for my parents, and my life, and was interesting to hear another guy who felt like he had to live it, breathe it everyday just to stay in the pack... that was cool.

These guys are cool.


Monday, February 18, 2008

219: working for the weekend.

fresh dressed like a million bucks, I spent the weekend working for the man at a shoe show.

It's probably a HUGE stretch to say I work for the man. Maybe the WOman...
I have a pretty great job...

Friday was a long day of leaving Philly at 5:00am, and getting to bed close to 11:00.

When I finally got back to the hotel I was dismayed to find these guys rooming across from me:
I heard there adolecent shrills, and shreaks as they bounced around the hotel. I just wanted to go to sleep. Luckily, some mother took enough time to come up from the bar, and to hush these young ladies.

As I lay in the bed, hoping that they stay quiet enough that I can get some sleep, I think to myself:
HIGH SCHOOL CHEERLEADERS. Arrgh: the scourge of my existence.
Oh no, this isn't some latent "hot popular chicks didn't dig skaters during the mid 80's" blast.
I could list the trouble I got into when I was on my back and they were cheering "pin him, pin him" and they were from my school. When I told them they were number one, that didn't go over so well. I guess I used the wrong finger.
Or when I got pulled into my Athletic Director's office when I was coaching because I told the cheerleading coach that I didn't think her girls belonged at my match, and no they couldn't do a dance routine on my mats between matches.
Cheerleaders so badly want to be taken seriously as a sport. I can respect that. I struggle with that in much the same way that I struggle with Golf or baseball being a sport. Somehow, I have cheerleaders on the same level as kiddie beauty pagents. I love women's athletics, but I'm not too sure cheerleading counts. It's funny the girls that were perhaps the meanest, perhaps the most petty, are the ones begging to be have their "sport" taken seriously. Ironic isn't it?
But I digress it doesn't really matter. I mean if dressing up in some weird uniform, and screaming makes you happy, then go for it. Just not across the hall from me, when I'm trying to get some sleep.
I will admit when I read this:

"any guy and hold a girls had, but it takes an elite to hold her feet" I was thinking of something more like this.
anyway, the show went well, I had a ton of fun, worked my ass off. My badge holder said "executive"- My parents must be so proud.
My lunch runs for the booth however told the truth- middle management baby...
Had some awesome dinners while I was there, at a lot of sushi, and went to a killer resturant called Blue Point. They had this:

I'll admit I'm not a creme brule expert like E-town. But this was good. Best of all, unlike most places which give you a tiny little portion, this was the real deal. No 3 spoonfuls and it's gone. This could have been a meal in of itself. Now that's what I want to see out of my desserts.
It is really good to get home, see the Monkey and the pups. It's so good to be home. Who knows I might even get to ride a bike this week, mother nature willing...

Thursday, February 14, 2008

218: rainy days and thursdays...

too much rain this week...

hate when I try to buy cold advil, that I have to sign my life away. Isn't that some kind of privacy violation or something? They register my damn licence, and because I work in PA and live in MD, it took like 20 minutes.

damn meth heads. I feel bad for them, but damn, I just want some cold meds for you know my cold.

anyway. I'm just saying...



Sunday, February 10, 2008

217: shattered.

So I walk out of the bookstore today and see this:

These nice families dressed as girl scout cookies ask me, "Sir, would you like to buy some girl scout cookies?"

the first thing that pops into my shattered brain is, "do I look like someone who needs to buy cookies when I come out of the book store? You calling me portly or something?"

But alas gratefully my filter sort of kicked in, and my bonk took over as I responded, " Giant Girl Scout Cookies, I need to eat you!!!" Diane grabbed my arm and pulled me towards the car as she smiled and said, "he's already eaten his three boxes for the year, thanks..."

everyone laughed.

Holy Crap, I am so shattered. I was totally destroyed today.

I showed up to Fairhill today to meet some of the fellas : Todd (ex-prez), Buddy the Leg Breaker, BL Rich, Blair, Peaches, Jay Jay, Kurtee, K-Man, Alan the cleaner, EPI, and LEO the King. Right out the front door, I knew my legs were suspect from riding the fixed gear and fighting the wind on this ride Saturday:

Jeb and Buddy the keg breaker lead monkey, me, L-Web, Rotten Robert, Amazin' Andrew, and Ted Logic on a rolling fixed gear ride Saturday. (3 fixies in attendance)

the Troops joined us in route on the sweet seven tandem.

Perhaps my heavy legs stemmed frmom one too many of the triple lindy belgiums from here. The MAC prom totally ruled, and unlike Anne Rock, I do drink, and lately I've been drinking a lot. Great to see so many friends from cross season. Such a good time.
it was a cozy affair...
Anne picks up her prize from Mr. Hebe.
afterwards we hit Le Bus for a nice dinner, Jan and Jay-Z are just off film..
Monkey and I both had outstanding jambalaya.

But I digress, right out the front door I knew I was in for trouble. Legs just felt heavy, I tried to just get on good wheels, take smooth lines and stay near the front going into climbs so if I imploded I'd still be in the group.

Yeah, this was a mountain bike ride.

There were a couple of attacks, a broken chain, and lots of fun. Never was I so happy for someone to break a freakin' chain, because it meant I could rest. (thank you Blair) and BLRich your flat could have been 10 minutes later, but I wasn't complaining at all.

Near the end of the ride, I peeled off the group and headed up 5 bridges. I swear I almost sat down on the side of the trail to get my shit toghether for the ride home. I was so wrecked. This is one for the bank for shizzle.

Good ride. I was in way over my head, but it hurt really good. If you know what I mean? Man, I have a lot of work to do. I'm guessing eating a 4th box of girl scout cookies isn't going to help...

And Jebbager, no matter what they say about your hair...

I think it looks great.


have I mentioned my legs hurt?

Friday, February 8, 2008

216: the death of a disco dancer

or at least a Spot Brand whore...
Last week, the long slow divorce of my former sponsor was kinda finalized. My hope in writing this is really to be cathartic and get all this off my chest. I have no ill will toward the folks at Spot, and at the end of the day can only look back on my time with a smile. My hope is to not come off ungrateful, or bitter, because I’m not, but I feel like I need to get this out. Maybe the blog wasn’t the best place for this.
Who knows?

Sponsorship to me has always been representing sponsors whose goals and idea of cycling are similar to my own. I want to be associated with folks “who play the game right”, in short who get it.

Over the years I have been fortunate to be on some great teams, and in some great situations. My philosophy of sponsorship is to work with them and building relationship versus just hitting them up for free stuff or homie hook up prices, because I'm a snazzy dresser. I always get kinda fed up with attitude that I see some racers, both road and mountain bike, display : “I deserve this” “do you know who I am?” Frankly, we are all beer league softball players, and anything we get is just damn lucky.

I have always taken it as a great responsibility if a bike shop or company thought enough of me to support my riding and racing. I mean, I am just some dude. And before I had a blog, and a pink helmet, I was just some dude know one ever heard of.
Going back to 1991, when I got on my first team, Wooden Wheels, I remember how special I felt. I was privileged and honored to represent that shop. I rode for Wooden Wheels for a good 10 years. To this day we are the only team to win both the MAC CUP (1999, 2000), and the MASS Team Championship (2002).

When I got on Spot Brand, I was so stoked. I had submitted resumes to a few companies looking to take my racing in a different direction. Believe it or not, the some dude who never won an expert race got three pretty fine offers. Talking to the owners of Spot, Jessica and Michael, I felt pretty quickly that this was going to be the team for me. Thus the Spot Brand Whore was born.

I was proud to represent them; I respected their approach to business, what they believed in. Over the next 3 and half years, I built a strong relationship with them. Although we were on opposite coasts, I felt like we got what each of us was looking for...

They were pleased with the attention spot brand was getting from my racing, blog and other activities out east ( an area that wasn’t known as a Spot hot bed.) They’d send me prototypes, and I’d get to test them, and give feedback, I’d show up at a festival and catch up with those guys. When I was racing cross in Portland, they came down to see me race and hang out.

For me it didn't get any better.

Frankly, it was the sponsorship dream of a life time, punk rock couple, building single speed bikes, with a grassroots love of the game. It was never about results, it was about having a good time, about being there, about riding a lot. After two years of a very successful relationship, I made a proposal to expand the team. Michael and Jessica loved the idea and thus the whores were in full force.

True to my philosophy of team building, I picked up a number of riders who I knew and trusted, who "got it" and who I knew would bring good chemistry to the team, and perhaps most importantly who knew how to get along with my silliness. I was stoked to have Paul, Matt, Buddy, Bob, Andrew and Fitzy as my teammates.

About a year later, I got the call.

Jessica called me to let me know that Michael and she were splitting up, and they had decided to sell Spot Brand. I was sad for them, in my mind Michael and Jessica were about the coolest couple in the world, almost mythological to me. Jessica let me know that a good guy had bought the company and he would be contacting us shortly…

I loved Spot, and the opportunity they had provided me, if Jessica said it was good, I would soldier on. I sent a couple of emails to the new owner and weeks went by before I heard anything.

I’ll admit on one hand the wind was pretty much taken out of my sails. On the other hand in the face of two folks I held is super high regard getting a divorce, my little worries didn’t seem like too much. I am after all just some dude on a grassroots team.

I decided that it was my job to try and build a rapport with the new owner. Emails were sent, race reports sent, and weeks would go by with no word. We had a few conversations about what the team was, and what each party’s responsibility was. It was cordial, very professional, but at the end, no relationship.

The new owner expressed to me how he wanted to keep the team, how he realized what a benefit to the company we were, and that when the company was in a better place, he’d get us the jerseys we had agreed upon. When I got on the Fort Cross team he expressed that he didn’t want to lose the team to Fort. I thought that was very nice of him…

At the begining of the 2007 season the new owner sent us a round of t-shirts, which we were all stoked to have. We continued to represent and do what we do: Ride hard, Race our guts out and have fun. We continued to email race reports, and pictures, only now, unlike in the past when we’d get a reply, and acknowlegement, a joke from Michael and Jessica, we'd get only silence.
That was disheartening.

As the year progressed, anytime we needed something, Spot held up their end of the deal, and gave us homie hook up prices. This was appreciated. But there was no relationship.

Then we had two friends who had pretty awful customer service experiences with Spot. I could understand both sides of one issue, even if I wasn’t 100% okay with Spot’s stance, the other issue Spot clearly did not live up to their commitment. On the message boards, the company was taking hits for their service and not standing behind the brand name. Business decisions, I get that. But also I’ll admit I was a little disillusioned.

The past few seasons cross has become more important to me, and frankly is the basket that I now lay all my eggs. With that I did not push Spot for any additional commitment for 2008. My guess is that if one of the whores or I called up Spot, they’d still give us the homie hook up, as they did for Peaches last fall.

Last week Spot Brand re-launched their website, and all reference to the Mighty Spot Brand team, was removed. Much like a marriage without communication, our relationship had withered and as I see it now- ended. On one hand I am very sad by this, my time with Spot was very important to me. I feel guilty because many of my friends followed me from strong local programs to live the Spot dream with me, and now they are kinda high and dry. I feel bad, because for a while we really had something going.

The Spot Brand Whores are no more.

As I said at the outset of this entry, this is really far more cathartic than anything else, and I harbor no ill will to the new owners. I am sad, that what we did for Spot was undervalued by the new owners and that in the end the relationship that we worked so hard to build was allowed to wither and die.

Sponsorship is not an entitlement, or free ride. I never saw it as such. Frankly, I always saw it as a responsibility, and privilege. I think we approached it professionally, and in the end this was a business. Spot Brand was a pretty amazing thing for a number of years for me. It was a great relationship with Michael and Jessica, a couple of folks I loved to represent. I’ll always look back on those times with a smile.


Tuesday, February 5, 2008

215: words to live by

When I started racing, my friend "the dude" sent me this email. "the 10 commandments of cycling". I was paging through old training logs the other night, looking to see how behind on hours I am, and how much fatter I am this year, when I stubbled upon it. I thought I'd share...

1. never stand when you can sit, never sit when you can lay down.

2. Travel days are never rest days.

(notice it's dark in two pictures as we are going to a race...)

3. eat before your are hungry, drink before you are thirsty

4. Keep a training log.
be as obsessive compulsive as you can, tracking things like:
ride time
miles you rode
what you ate
who you rode with
when you had sex last
pre morning shit weight
post morning shit weight
how you felt
how good you looked
how much you drank
your body fat %

5. sit ups and stretching everyday

(does sitting up out of bed count? how about stretching for the remote contol)

6. Wear more clothes...
it's totally hip to overdress, all the euro's do it

7. ride rollers
(just don't crash into your dog, or the wall when your roller breaks...)

8. never shave the day of the race.

9. always pack more than you need.

10. when in doubt leave it out.