Thursday, December 31, 2009

What you missed when you started drinking at noon

Sure it maybe wasn't "prudent" to ride one of the most technical routes in the fells in the middle of a snowstorm, but it sure was fun...

Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Culled, at a hair over 9bs

I went out to Otis AFB on the Cape this weekend with my good friend NHG for a belated version of our traditional X-Mas day bike ride (you know, because we're the kind of addicts that would rather ride bikes than get presents on Christmas). After getting good and wet and cold in the slush, we descended on a lobster shack for some local fare, where I laid my eyes on one of the largest lobsters I've ever seen. Staring up at me from the saltwater tank was a one-clawed (cull) lobster weighing in at 9lbs, 4oz. sans left hand. It being a slow night, and the proprietor of the shack being rather friendly, I prodded him a little about it, and lobsters in general. The conclusion: Lobsters should ride bikes.

If you were a lobster, you'd have:
  1. Built-in body armor: You'll never break a collarbone or end up with a huge scrape across you face from a crash--you've got full-body custom plate mail. Not only is it custom, it automatically replaces itself with a slightly larger size every year, so you won't be self-conscious about looking fat when you stop training, or get a real job.
  2. Regenerating limbs: Body armor is nice and all, but if you're really taking it to the edge, some day you might get hurt BAD. When your arm is broken in six places it would sure be nice to just hack the thing off and grow a fresh one. Especially when you don't have insurance.
  3. Teeth in your stomach: Yep, that's right. Never choke down a Clif Bar again. Gulp it and forget it. Your gut will take care of the rest.
  4. Eight Legs: Need I say more?
And now for something completely different:

Lobster pic credit:

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

To that guy in the median on my way home...

So, I'm riding down the main drag a couple nights after our recent big snowstorm in Boston. It's about 11pm and in the 15degree chill my alkaline "I'm a-comin'' beacon is barely a glimmer on my handlebars, but when you gotta get from A to B, you gotta get from A to B...

At about A.5, I start coming across significant pedestrian traffic from the not-quite-in-porter-square bars and cruise past one particular cluster where a guy says sarcastically in my direction, "man, that's dedication". Ok, it's cold or whatever, and a little slippery, but I'm not the one stranded in traffic for an hour trying to get home on a derailed subway. I'm also not paying $80/month for a T pass. Then there's that exercise you're not getting, and all the time I save not waiting for the bus (and summarily waste on this blog. F-you, internet and your siren song). Genius and bat-shit insanity live on opposite sides of a fine line that's often hard to pick out from behind a steamed up windshield, in traffic, at night, during a snowstorm, when it's too cold for your lights to work; but crazy got a lot of people pretty darn far. I this case I'm sitting on my couch while you are far far from home.

Wear booties. Ride happy. Old man winter Ain't got nothin'.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Big wheels, Frozen Trails and Holiday Cheer

I was more than a little disappointed this morning when a potential car-full of would-be CX racers sublimated into the ether, leaving me to either face an hour of solo driving to go race a silly bike in freezing weather or do something else, like go back to bed. I chose the latter. It was not long, however, before the riding bug got all up in my gym shorts and an acceptable alternative plan was hatched, involving the reassembly of Jack Hammer (the rigid 1x9 650b MTB) and a couple of hours of singletrack riding with Seth (who, unlike Jack, is a real person). This brings me to my point:

There are lots of reasons to like the holidays (some of those reasons have frosting, others have gravy), but more than the holidays, there's something sublimely satisfying and utterly breathtaking about experiencing the outdoors on the threshold of a long, hard winter. The cold rarefies the air and desaturates all the world's colors, leaving the senses to the crispness of the frozen path underfoot and the peaceful silence of a forest curled up to sleep--by contrast you feel that much more alive. When you're lucky you'll ride like it too. If there was anything that could have quashed my disappointment over a race-day aborted, it was a morning tour of a chilling lake by way of a ribbon of dirt.

Tomorrow anyone?

Edit: Almost forgot Seth's quote of the day...

Seth: [after his third mechanical of the ride] "Ok, I think I've finally got everything working."
Wrench: "You'd better knock on wood while you have the chance."
Seth: "I'm bound to hit a tree eventually."

Saturday, December 5, 2009

NBX G. P. (of Cross) Race Report

Came, raced, lived to ride again.

Glancing at this morning's weather report, there was definitely no expectation of "good" weather for today's skinny tire contest in Warwick, RI but that being said one rarely, if ever, shows up at a venue after a half a day of continuous rain and says, "gee, I thought it would be a lot worse." It indeed could have been worse, but it was bad enough. To speak to Chris's comment, yes you did leave some trail but you totally didn't clean up after yourselves. There was mud all over the place :).

Having not done anything that counts as strenuous physical exercise in about three months, all of the goop actually wasn't half bad. After cleverly disguising the fact that I ride mountain bikes in the snow on stuff that makes a CX course look like a freshly paved sidewalk, I managed to pass a whole lot of people from my start spot waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay at the back, and finished somewhere mid-pack in the 3's. One would think that people who embrace a whole sport centered around riding sketchy bikes in crap-ass weather could handle them a little better, but it seems they can't and I'm by no means complaining. I would have been dead last if I didn't take 20 or so people in the corners. (because OMG am I slow. it seems that "training" actually does make you faster. Who knew?) It's worth making a big deal out of this bike-handling thing because I'm really not that coordinated a guy. (find some video of me in the barriers and you'll see what I mean) Meanwhile there are real athletes in the race--you know, the people who are naturally good at just about any sport the first time they try it--picking their way through turns with one foot unclipped and their lower lips in a dental death grip. So much potential unrealized. So much potential... And more often than not, it's just people being lemmings.

Here's a quick example. It reads something like "good line... bad line."

The high line in the video was the one that most of the 4's were taking earlier in the day (to clarify, people were staying high farther around than in the video when it was less slick. This is an extreme example of why staying high was a pretty solid fail). Given that it hadn't rained much at that point it might have been the best approach and was well worn in by the time may race came around hours later when, after being pissed on for a few hours and mashed around a good bit, it was a slippery off-camber ball of terribleness. Despite this, most of the field insisted on riding the high-line for all 5 laps, while the few who explored other options blew by like everyone else was standing still. Just because everyone else is doing it, doesn't mean it's right! ...and on that note, I'm out.

Great Day For a Cross Race

The Belgians would be proud.

Friday, December 4, 2009

TTD Part I: Be late for EVERYTHING

Those of you who have been following for a while may remember the "Training for the Detail Deficient" (TDD) series of last season which, in keeping with the theme, was never really planned in any sort of serious way and not really ever finished (I contend that it shall be revived in the event I ever regain the fitness high-ground enough to justify talking about how to go fast again).

In celebration of this debacle of declarative memories, and the fact that I pretty much sit on my ass doing problem sets these days (I'm soo too old for this), I bring to you a new, considerably more ridiculous training series with the initials TTD. You may de-acronym as you like, but I'm particularly fond of "Training for the Training Deficient", or in the spirit of this episode's title, "Training for the Time Deficient". TTD is all about feeling fast, spinning tires and ultimately getting nowhere fitness-wise, all on a strict time budget. TTD works its way alternately around beer-drinking and professional life so that you can be who you want to be when you grow up--as long as you don't want to be on any sort of three-tiered podiums.

So without Further adeiu - Part I: "Be late for EVERYTHING"

(apologies if this makes no sense, I was up all night doing work and may be delerious)

TTD is all about working with your schedule. If you've gotta work, kick-it with your bros at the local watering hole, spend half-a-day shopping online for parts to make your bike lighter, TTD works with you (and your schedule is tight, like {censored! My mom reads this for Pete's sake}). TTD is so flexible that it actually creates time where there was none before! How? By always being late.

The hardest part about not training is that exerting yourself is difficult. Everybody knows how awful it feels two weeks after you stop training for real when your high-end goes to shit, but four MONTHS after you stop training, even a couple flights of stairs are enough to initiate cardiac arrest. As time goes on you find yourself wanting to "just chill" on the bike more and more often, until you're barely breaking double digits on the speedo-- and actually getting less exercise than walking.

Good thing you have somewhere to be--10 minutes ago! Similarly to how smokers are supposed to tell as many as people as possible that they're gonna quit so they're motivated not to fail and look like chumps, telling people you're going to be somewhere on a schedule that you could never reasonably keep is a perfect motivator to ride fast ALL THE TIME. The whole ride slow to go fast thing is totally overrated anyway. Not only will you be riding hard every time you get on a bike, but you also will be creating time that you never would have had if you left your house at a reasonable hour and made your way responsibly to your destination--those five minutes could be the difference between obscurity and the nobel prize!

The perfect late departure is as much science as it is art. To truly make time where there was none before, you must leave your start point later and arrive at your destination at the same time you would have normally. Having been away from racing for long enough to have the oxygen return to my brain, here's a handy magic time claculator:

T = (D / v1) - (D / v2)

where T is the time you can delay your departure and, D is the distance you need to go, v1 is your normal speed, and v2 is Mach III (subtract one Mach for every month you've been off your regular schedule). Additional time may be required for sweat mopping and regaining consciousness, depending on level of fitness, but you'll have to calculate that in on your own.

Ride Safe...