Friday, 31 December 2010

noshing north of the border



i'm on a train, with wifi AND a bike carriage - this richard branston bloke has got his stuff sorted out. Not only is he a veritable prince of pickles he also knows how to build a (tilting) train. * I was going to take this opporttunity to gush about what a crazysuperawesomeemotionaldeepmassive year i've had. BUT there are lots of blog posts about that so catch up with your reading people, if you're really bored this was a goodie and this is what happens when i get angry. Read those and step AWAY from the quality street.

instead of bringing you my musings about where the last 365 days have taken me i've decided to treat you to a breakdown of the ways my grandmother has been delighting my tastebuds recently. I want to say that my granny is one of the old school - she cooks from scratch, uses considerable amounts of animal fat. never snacks and serves tea AND dinner. it's pretty cool.

anyway the two confections with which i was particualirly taken and for which i always feel a certain sense of nostalgia are NOT to be recommended by those of us who monitor grams of things but they still score highly on the saturated fat:smiles ratio.

scotch eggs have not passed my lips for a good half decade and i'd just about forgotten how good an hard boiled egg, wrapped in sausage meat and then covered in breadcrumbs and (you guessed it) DEEP FRIED can be. Wikipedia reminds us that the scotch egg is older than the USA so don't knock it, it's got some experience. I'm pretty sure that i've actually eaten individual scotch eggs which predate the USA but this one was a fine specimen, local suasage meat, free range chicken foetus and just the right temperature. just right after a few hours 'crossin (both in the sense of cyclocrossin and in the fact that i was straddling the river esk which seperates England from Scotland). Given my recent affection for the ginger beard, riding in the mud deep fried foods, i felt more than welcome north of the border. Oh and i also play the 'pipes which helps.

my second culinary creation offers a very specific cycling benefit. black pudding is " is a type of sausage made by cooking blood or dried blood with a filler until it is thick enough to congeal when cooled" and to that i might add "a vital component of a proper English breakfast"(alongside good bacon, sausage, fried eggs, and maybe baked beans but only if the table on which the meal is served is made of formica). not only is this confection high in protein, crazy high in iron, a vessel for the delivery of whole grains and very filling indeed it also offers us a chance to experiment with the boundaries of WADA's code. If bert can get away with steak doping im wondering if i could extract my own blood, send it up to Granny and have her knock up a batch of blood pudding for me to consume in the middle of a hard block. It's the ultimate in personally tailored performance enhancing snacking. EPNO might sound like a good idea but can you really beat bloodboostingblackpudding for a pre race supplement?

Food for thought AND food for sport that. enjoy your new year and may it bring you peace, prosperity and pleasure.


PS this train is on time, the last train i took in the US was 12 hours late. From this i can conclude a couple of things 1) southern cali has a car culture 2) david cameron = mussolini

*has anyone noticed a sharp rise in the amount of british specific banter in my musings recently

Snow business

Greetings from the mother country! If you've got nothing better to do than follow my tweets you may have noticed that it's bloody cold. The use of a proper adjective there qualifies the degree of cold. If I'd used a socal adjective like "freakin" or even "damn bro" you could expect it to be about 12 centigrade in real money or in the high 50s if you insisit on those retrograde yankee degrees. But my use of a British adjective indicates a whole new level of hypothermia: it's -19 c(-2 in roman catholic) and on top of that we have about 25cm of snow! Quite the winter wonderland.

Since getting back I've ridden outside once, well nearly twice. Friday was "only" -5 and there want any snow so we rode for 4 hours, my hands burned like they were covered in molten lead! That night we got hit by about 15cm of snow and the roads were pretty much impassable by the next morning so training has been limited to the mind (and groin) numbing pleasure that is riding inside. Any top tips would be welcome. Apparently taping a note saying HTFU onto your stem only works for a few hours. I'm burning through the laundry at an unprecedented rate of knots (2-3X sweaty indorr sessions a day = lots of chamois laundry) and rapidly running out of coffee (ahem @birdrockcoffeeroasters hook me up!). in temps like these everything becomes a mission, the chickens' water tank freezes and requires daily defrosting, the horses need more food as they cant get at the grass and going outside is an exercise in the application of sheeps' hair.

After a couple of days piloting the rollers I decided I'd had enough. I cued up some chopper reid and grabbing my snow shovel and set out to create what, if I say so myself was one of the more burly cyclocross loops that the village of murcot has ever seen. It included a pretty "sick" kicker a berm best described as "gnarly" (bro) and some "hella" cool (literally) snowbarriers. Sadly the next day saw it disappear under a fresh coat of snow. I also managed a 4 hour hike the other day, apparently its hard to navigate when everything is covered in white powder so I may have gone a little further than planned. Still it made for a fun day and everyone in my village officially KNOWS I'm a nutter now.

I went to get my hair cut the other day and the hairdresser told me she thought it was funny that I was essentially am 8 year old inside. And it was indeed the case that come the morning of the 25th I was indeed awake long before my young cousins (with whom I was sharing a room) – luckily my aunt had my back and had subtly planted a stocking at the end of my bed so I could indulge myself with the delights of a chocolate orange (if Terry wants to claim it he can come and get it back), some pretty awesome trinkets (hello Spork) and a copy of new scientist which my cousin was reading to try and appear clever. Having not delved into the world of scientific literature (even in this "lite" form) since I got my place to read history at Oxford 5 years ago I can safely inform the assembled ignoramuses like myself that there is no cause for alarm NOTHING INTERESTING HAS HAPPENED, well to be more accurate nothing interesting happened lat week anyway. Or at least, nothing that was interesting to someone who isn't really interested in such matters. Funny that.

The rest of crimbo was pretty uneventful, I set insulin world records, enjoyed a quality lunch of poultry and pudding, took the dog (and my bloated stomach) for a walk and put some sweet orange HUDZ on the cx rig in prep for the Kenilworth boxing day cx the next day. But that, children, is another story….

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Test

It's bloody chilly!


-yep typed it with my thumbs: they're what makes us better than apes

Location:Cumbria

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Bend: over. Getting screwed by the man

I'm proud of that title; even if it is a little crude. My 'cross nats adventure is over, as is my 24 hour journey south. I won't bore you with the details but it wasn't fun. The race report from nationals will be on the tt1 website soon (while you're there why not equip yourself in style with the finest of lime green foppery; you too can look like the Grinch this festive season).

Bend was a pretty cool town. I very much appreciated the lack of chain stores in the downtown area and the preponderance of coffee choices. I was fortunate enough to be staying with a fantastic host family in a palacial dwelling about 8 miles out of town. This meant I could happily ride into town on my 'cross bike as a handy warm up for some 'crossing about in the mud. On the Monday after my race I got to chill out downtown which was great; I can recommend Bend Mountain coffee if you're ever in town. I love a coffee shop where the owner knows the names of his regulars, where you can rely on your coffee being ready for you without having to give the order, where you're welcome as a friend and not as a customer. The same thing applies ot the cycling industry. Some of the larger brands in our sport have been engaging in what is, in my opinion, pretty unsavoury business practice towards local shops. Carrying one brand in particular leads to almost total saturation with a product range that; while perfectly passable has many rivals of equal or greater merit which are unrepresented. At the very least some variety would be nice, you don't WANT the same bike as everyone else, especially when it's black. Your local bike shop should be somewhere to go for advice and you have every right to expect them to recommend products regardless of the brand on those products. They, in return have the right to rely on the relationship which you have with them to bring business. When your local shop starts stocking and selling a single brand, you might as well shop online. Think about the added value you receive from bantering with the mechanics, the countless hours every week that get spent tightening bolts and pumping tyres for free. Think about the first time you got 10% off without asking. So don't let your local bike shop become a starbucks get your arse (and your wallet) down there and buy your presents from real people, before we start using pretend Italian terms to describe our frame sizes!

I'm in an airport on my way back to blighty, ready for some real winter training in the proper cold weather. Judging by my parents reports it's unrideable but my parents have a rather different outlook on such matters. Just like my bike shop point above one of the things I love about being home is the comfort of fitting in absoloutley. Nobody remarks on my pronunciation, my spelling, the brakes on my bike being backwards or my refusal to call porridge "oatmeal". The cycling community around where I grew up has always been great to me and I look forward to cruising out on the "antiques roadshow" rides which stop for cider in the summer and tea in the winter. I love the conversations that pick up every 6 months and the friendships-cum-rivalries which only grow stronger with absence. I'm not a big fan of the bloody snow though, or sitting in Dallas fort worth airport! I'm scoping out the other passengers right now; there are some proper whoppers. If I land a king sized neighbour I will not be a happy camper; I've slept 8 hours in the last 48 and all I want to do is close my eyes.

Here's another list to brighten up your day ( I know how you look forward to these)

5 food combos to to try before crimbo:

Chevre get the soft one; put in on toast (walnut raisin bread if you have it) with honey, eat, ride.

Feta, watermelon, mint (salad enhancer par excellence)

Seeds in salad (seems I'm late to the party with this one)

The poor man's mocha (get a coffee, add the chocolate powder, sweetener and milk yourself. For ultimate cheapo credit, get it WITHOUT room for cream, then drink some THEN affect mocha marvelousness)

Lovely goat teas + stevia. Manorexic beverage of choice, I'll throw it in a bidon and go out to brave the cold (all kinds of good blends, stay healthy, stay warm AND reuse the tin to wrap your presents in)


 

And finally some questions: can someone please explain the following to me? They're bothering me immensely: flaxseeds, half-caf coffee, "American" cheese (apart from as a night-time visibility aid), treaded road tyres, hammer perpetum solids.

Monday, 13 December 2010

Bend – the beginning

No prizes for guessing where I'm going with the title of my next blog post….

I'm on an aeroplane again which means the netbook's out and you get to tolerate the web 2.0 version of talking to the person in the seat next to me. I just got on this particular vessel, I can safely say I've seen cars in LA which are bigger (and use more fuel) but going by the universally acknowledged formula of smaller jet = bigger deal I'm pretty excited to be on this flying minivan. Not so excited that they just moved a fat bloke to the back to balance the plane (I'm not even joking).

Anyway it's been a while since I've written anything so I thought I'd update my avid fans on a few things. First up the 'betes game. It's been silly bugger for sure recently. It seems like every time I put in 2 or 3 days over 5 hours my body responds by rolling high at first then plummeting as the glycogen stores drop (from the high volume and the being high which most likely leave me in a pretty hefty glycogen deficit). The hypo days are no fun, my navi report graphs look like the teeth of a saw. Thankfully after experimenting I've found something approaching a solution: ice cream! It'll put you up and it has a fair whack of fat, so it'll keep you up. Really I didn't work that out by myself, Bob tipped me off. Take note: my cycling team manager told me to eat some ice cream! Hopefully this'll be the first night this week when I won't be at the dextrose in the early hours of the morning.

Having got the body into something resembling harmony I can now focus on the two wheeled side of things. Thanks to the boys at bailey-bikes.com and velohangar I've got myself a 'cross bike just in time for nationals. When I say just in time I mean I picked it up last night and rode it at 6am this morning, put it in a box and onto a plane! Thankfully Gordon wields an allen key and tape measure with a rare degree of skill and the second I hopped onto the bike it felt like my own, I could give ten mechanics my measurements but it's rare I don't have to tweak a cable or toe in a brake. I guess that's why people keep going back. If you're ever in San Diego (or indeed if you're ever in need of a direction in which to point your web browser) check out velohangar.com bicycle fettling par excellence.

On my training ride (notice there has been only one) I managed to keep the rubber side down and the grinning side up. I can wholeheartedly recommend a 'cross bike. They really open up all kinds of training routes and take the battering of winter training well. They also make a really cool humming noise when you're smacking it. This is particularly awesome. I imagine myself as some kind of turbo-dementor/dalek-hovercraft whilst I'm 'crossing about scaring squirrels and tempting the local dogs into a spot of chase the skinny bloke.

This is part one of a pretty epic block of travelling, and I've already spent far too much on bad airport food and stewed coffee. I'm flying from bend back to LAX. Stopping to see some friends for dinner, then getting a train to San Diego. Where I'll spend 24 hours before getting on another plane back to blighty. So if you're reading on the other side of the pond, and you fancy yourself as a top notch heckler. Come out to the boxing day 'cross in Kenilworth and look out for the skinny bloke dressed as Buzz lightyear. (you might also want to get your arse to London and use your heckling skills on our sorry excuse for a government)…..


 

Oh and for those of you who want cluing in on what's filling the gaping chasm between my ears on those long rides:

Gayle Skidmore – make believe

Mumford and Sons – Sigh no more

Stereophonics – Word gets around

Manic Street preachers – Postcards from a young man, all the B sides from lifeblood (check out voodoo Polaroids & dying breeds)

Some weird trance track called "LOL smiley face"

BBC podcasts on Moral philosophy ( check out the trolley problem on Wikipedia)


 

Monday, 22 November 2010

of toupes, Tucson and bacon




I'm back from a surreally great trip to Arizona, the team had organised a week of athlete days, rides, bike expos and even something approaching a race. Quite the feat in the middle of November and the week before thanksgiving. Especially when many of my other teammates are in Rwanda doing fantastic work there.

Arizona is (geographically) a short hop from California which of course facilitated massive complacency with regard to my travel arrangements and led to me making a mad dash home from school 2 hours before takeoff riding flat out carrying a bike box and trying not to blow over sideways. I managed to cram my much abused training bike into it's carboard confines, pad it out with lime green lycra and make it t the airport in time to sit on my arse and wait for the delayed flight - smooth.

Whilst we were in Arizona we had various sponsor events scheduled, our main sponsors are the insulin manufacturer Sanof-Aventis. this week gave us a pretty cool chance to actually visit their research facility in Tucson, I was not so excited about getting up at 5.45 AM to be there in time, or with the petrol station coffee we got en route! expecting to discover professors of science int he grey haired, moustachioed saftey spectacled mould i was presently surprised to find a group of guys waiting outside for a brisk ride on our arrival. the ride was great, not only did we move along at a fair clip but the guys we met were genuinely great people. It always baffles me when someone is pleased to see me (unless it's my dog, she goes largely unappreciated in that regard) but these guys were excited to ride with us, even though what they do every day (inventing the compounds which keep me alive) is far more amazing than anything we do in Spandex ( with the exception of any superheroes who happen to be reading). over the course of the week we formed some great bonds with our sponsors out there, they took us out to eat in the best local spots. supported us in the race and made evrythign about our trip perfect. Sometime i wonder about the diabetes "industry" but everything about the guys at sanofi was reassuring. They were, put simply, good people and i'm proud to be able to represent them.

my non sponsor time was split between visiting hispanic diabetes groups (very rewarding, question of the day "cual es lo mejor cervesa para nosotros diabeticos" answers on the back of a postcard please) and riding around the desert outside Tucson trying not to get lost. we got to visit some doctors at a hospital and my teammates had a highly emotional but totally positive visit to the paediatric oncology ward. I actually had a rather emotional cancer related experience myself but that'll wait until part deux.

I also got to hang out at the expo a lot, this was fun, i met lots of cool bikey people including the guys from the Mavic SSC who proved to be another group i'd like to add to the "good people" directory: they were there with snacks in times of crisis and provided genuinely interesting conversation all week and fantastic support during the race. Saldy the whole expo experience was ruined by the revelation that, in our sponsor material SOMEONE HAS PHOTOSHOPPED MY HAIR! im pretty sure there are laws against that kind of nonesense, screw "don't touch my junk" how about "keep your mouse away fro my locks". Not only did they have the temerity to "comb" my hair, they've somehow switched the parting over and "pouffed" it so i like something out of "happy days".

when i wasn't being sartorially humiliated, I spent the mornings and evenings with my teammates from team type 1 and team type 2, in the mornings we rode to coffee shops, drank espresso and posed in the way that only skinny men in lycra can do without looking silly (hang on, apparently everyone else thought we DID look silly, arse). We ate some fantastic meals, and drank some great beer. Above all though i enjoyed spending time with my teammates, we all get on really well. There's never any friction and there's always someone to ride with. i love our mixture of deep conversation and ridiculous banter. Of particular interest was our debate on the acceptability of dipping fries in a chocolate shake, once again i'd love to hear your opinions, but only if they're in agreement with mine, which i wont be revealing until after you share yours.... at this point 47 scott in Tucson deserves a special mention. Our post - race dinner there was fantastic, great food, good portions AND a cocktail based on whisky and bacon - check it out 47scott.com. Honourable mention goes to el guerro canelo - once again bacon was involved, this time wrapped around a hot dog and smothered in, well everything really.

having gorged myself on enough beef to secure a positive test for clenbuterol any time int he next decade and visited Tucson's only 24 hour bike shop in order to make some last minute preparation i managed to sleep a recoverytastic 5 hours the night before the event. But if you want to know more about that you'll have to wait for the next installment.....

Friday, 5 November 2010

stripathons and such






seems like it's time to climb back on the horse; my calendar says November (actually it doesn't I've just realised that and I'm going to stop writing and change it. Right, i'm back, crisis averted). i bet you're all excited to hear about the thrill that is logging base miles, not drinking (as much beer) and lifting (girly sized) weights. Well you'll have to wait until there's nothing more exciting to write about. right now i'm about to divulge a fascinating insight into the last few weeks of my offseason, peppered, as always with amusing anecdotes, top tips, uncorrected typos and even a sly recipe.

first up; halloween has been and gone: this is a great time to stock up on minature chocolate goodies which you can tote about in your jersey pocket. it's also a good time to buy pumpkins really cheaply. if you roast the pumpkin you can put it in oatmeal with cinnamon and honey and raisins and almond milk. it's pretty much the ultimate autumnal breakfast and it's sooper cheap and healthy. then you can roast the seeds with some salt and herbs/ spices. mix them up with raisins, your little goodies (i like peanut m&ms- they have a gi of like 48) from halloween and some almonds for a pretty damn fine trail mix for all those long slow miles you're going to be logging (or all those movies you're going to be watching).

Incidentally don't fall into the trap of thinking all this domestic godliness doesn't come without risks, right now I'm nursing a smoothie related wound. Apparently hot espresso in a cold smoothie machine isn't such a good idea. The glass cracked, the blade kept running and i was trapped in a frozen fruit/ coffee/ glass tornado. Luckily I'm harder than titanium coated nails and if ought my back to the blender and unplugged the little bugger but not before it had propelled some glass into my hands and some milk into every bloody orifice in my kitchen. 45 minutes and a roll of tissue paper later and i think I've avoided the potential for fermenting smoothie in the biscuit drawer.

I'n the brief periods in between all the eating and drinking i've been doing i have managed to poke my nose into the public sphere a little bit (yep Habermas reference on a cycling blog). Last Saturday i visited the TCOYD conference in San Diego. admittedly i wasn't quite as set up as some of the exhibitors; essentially my stand consisted of me, a bike and some rollers. What it lacked in grandeur it made up for in purple spandex and enthusiasm. I got to meet lots of really cool local people, share the 'betes knowledge and try to balance on the rollers whilst people poked my omnipod, all in a day's work!

I want to highlight a particular friend of mine called Art. Art went blind at 21 due to complications from type 1, he was on medicaid and it's not always easy. Anyway art has better control now and has started riding; with the help of his dedicated friend and stoker Don and my somewhat haphazard coaching he's making progress. He's not on cgm which makes it pretty tough for him to check often (imagine getting the blood on a strip when you couldn't see either) but we're working on it (help would be appreciated). His bike's a piece but once again, we're trying to find something better. What's important isn't the bike, or the 'betes technology it's the fact that Art is the most enthusiastic athlete i've ever worked with. i told him to set his goals high and he has; he wants to be, in his own words: "the fastest blind dude in the world"...watch this space (pun intended)

Art went blind when he was 21 but in parts of the world he'd be lucky to live that long with diabetes. right now the team is preparing for a stage race in Rwanda. this'll be the first time an entirely diabetic team will be racing in a uci level event. I'm aiming to make the team for this race next year. For now, there's a more important goal. Thousands of people in Rwanda live with diabetes but without the supplies needed to thrive or even survive. YOU can help. click here
and donate your unused strips, meters, lancets and pictures of ex presidents printed on green paper. These people need your help, they suffer from the same malady that i do and but for an accident of birth our roles could have been switched. I've spent a fair chunk of time in Africa, it's a place which is very close to my heart . It's pretty hard to condemn people to an ealry grave when we CAN provide what they need to thrive especially when it's simply by sharing things that we'd normally throw away. so do it NOW.

right Bob Geldof bit over (i think his hair is even messier than mine) I have to go and retrieve some pumpkin seeds from the oven. In other news listen to postcards from a young man by the manic street preachers, they've yet to make an album which i didn't like. (and yes someone else took that picture, and they twittered it, and i stole it)

Thursday, 21 October 2010

stout's sartorial suggestions

well folks, something needed to be said and although i am normally known for my retiring nature and meek disposition i have decided to speak out. whilst i wouldn't go as far as to label myself a "king of style" i do like to think of myself as slightly innovative in the field of cycling garmentry. perhaps some kind of sartorial archduke, the Framz-Ferdinand of fashion. in cycling fashion, as in all things, you cant go far wrong if you apply Wham lyrics as guiding moral principles so: "if you're gonna do it, do it right".

i thought i would begin with some guiding principles:
1) always wear less on the bottom half of your body than the top. legwarmers and short sleeves is a no-no. Furthermore work from the periphery to the core; armwamrers come before the gilet (not vest people GILET) then come kneewarmers (at this point AND NOT BEFORE) you may wear long gloves, then come legwarmers. Jersey wise, if you think it's funny, it's not it's freldy. if the team is still racing and you aren't on the team, don't wear it. if lance was on the team (it's nothing personal) don't wear it. Stick to club kits, block colours and pro teams over a decade old. the one pro jersey which is still ubr cool is the Mapei one, it says "i was into this before you, hell i was into this before lance Armstrong was riding a tricycle and when Greg lemonds mother was the only one who had to put up with his moaning"

2) helmets - they should be white or team colours. they should be worn when you don't have control over where or with whom you're riding. Peaked lids are absolutely never acceptable on the tarmac, ever. training in an aero helmet is also verboten.

3) bikes - matchy matchy is good but a few rules apply: coloured tyres are garish and nasty, maybe a bit of sidewall style but nothing more please. saddle bags should fit neatly under the saddle, you aren't a camel don't pack like one. Bottles: bring two, they should match, large bottles are not stylish but in a pinch you can bring one, put it on your downtube cage. need more than 2 cages? drink less. bar tape; garish colours ar e not okay unless you're olympic champion stick with white, white with flair stripes or very occasionally blue/red on the right bike. big, cushiony bar tapes are like big cushiony saddles; leave them for your grandpa.

2)accessorize! this is where you take style and make it your own. you can also make riding at this time of year a lot more comfortable this way. taking it from top to toe start with a quality casquette, when training alone favour the cap (if the roads are safe blah blah blah) and in particular the walz cap www.walzcaps.com - with earflaps if it's wet or cold. If it's below 15 celsius (60 'murican degrees cos everything is bigger in America) you shouldn't let your knees or throat go uncovered so break out the buff, i don't mean get naked i mean get one of those tube scarves. they taught us the 15 degree rule in Spain; that's why Bert always sports the buff in the training pictures, giving away all the secrets now, aren't i?

armwarmers should either be white, black or matching your kit. gloves can be long or short fingered, again white, black or matching. i do like the "lobster" style gloves for when it gets below freezing. i'm also not averse to silk undergloves (and socks) for the cold weather riding.

sunglasses; here's the deal, they should either match or clash horribly with your kit/ helmet. the arms go OVER the helmet straps and if it's foggy out i'm a BIG fan of the orange lenses, they make you feel better than amphetamine, i can say that with 0.00000000005% certainty (which as we know is enough to condemn a man so it should be plenty enough to buy some shades)

and finally,socks. my hosier of choice is the sock guy www.sockguy.com, they give you a chance to express your personality without the need to wear a stupid primal jersey that fits like a parachute and breathes like an asthmatic pensioner. generally socks should be light in colour and team colours/ white. black on the road is a no. the same goes for shoes, white, light colours and NEVER black on the tarmac.

and now the final rule; you'll notice i pretty much flaunt many of the above and here's why: you can break the rules but only if you know you're breaking them. think of me like the velo Vivienne Westwood.

Thursday, 7 October 2010

The fredator, the 9 fingered man and other tales from the velodrome


Well I'm on a plane again, so im writing a blog again. I'm off to Texas for a ride and some doctor visits as well as a press conference and a school visit. Yep, they have schools in Texas, this should be an interesting visit. Right now I'm pretty much resting. Ride my bikes because its fun, not because I have to train. If we're following the lego training analogy (forgot about that didn't you) this is the cup of tea and chocolate digestive which you drink with your mum after you've built your lego castle. I haven't been overindulging in the tea and biscuits but the ale and burrito portion of my diet has increased in proportion to the oat and electrolyte drink portion.

I flew from LAX on Thursday, just two days after closing out my bicycle racing season with the last night of Tuesday night racing at the San Diego Velodrome. Our velodrome is without doubt the coolest place IN THE WORLD to be on a Tuesday night. They say you can only have so much fun with your trousers on but this place pushes the limits of the amount of enjoyment you can achieve in a skinsuit.

Tuesday seemed to be the peak of what has been a really fun track season. We raced a points race and a scratch in which I distinguished myself only by a third place in a points sprint and a particularly poor time on the front: beer primes won ratio. Then we engaged in some novelty events, I match sprinted my good friend Mike Morton. Given that my pancreas doesn't work and Mike is one digit short, we figured it was a fair match. I decided the only way to go was to make it a kilo effort, mike has easily 50lbs and about 200w at max on me so I wasn't going to leave it late. I geared up for the sprint and this was perhaps a mistake, I got the 92 inch gear moving alright but mike got on me and then came around for the win, albeit not by a large distance. Bollocks.

On the plus side Mike's wife Kirsten furnished me with a delicious bowl of butternut squash soup and two very fine cookies. Somehow mike comes back every year lighter and faster. If I got food like that every day, my motivation to ride would be quoshed by the opportunity to stay at home and eat!

My next match sprint was something of a battle of Britain. My friend (and multiple Olympian/ world champ) Sean Wallace decided to throw down the gauntlet, this surprised me slightly given that he's a fair bit better than me. Then he turned up on the rail on a beach cruiser. I figured he wouldn't start if he didn't think he could win and we cut it pretty close, I could hear him on my wheel changing gear (yep, the beach cruiser had gears) so I kept jumping to make him close the gap. Sean's known for his timing and he wins just about every race by a wheel or even less but he nearly always wins. I backed it off a bit and sean made his move out of turn 4, I picked it up just enough to edge him out on the throw, ending my season on a (somewhat childish) victory. There was also some sartorial flair on display, yep for one night only I was superfred.

What makes racing on a Tuesday night special isn't the winning or the prizes it's the people. Its not that often I get to enter a race where everyone drinks beer and eats pizza together afterwards (how many cyclists drink beer and eat pizza full stop?). it's pretty rare that I split a beer hand up with a dude who just beat me in a sprint on our warm down lap! By the end of the evening results are totally insignificant, your legs hurt and you had great fun and that is important. Racing costs 5 bucks and has precisely bugger all to do with the USCF, you can't win money, qualify for nationals or get upgrade points. Despite having had the privilege to race with Olympians and world champions this season I remain a cat 5 on the track in the eyes of the USCF and I don't think I'll be upgrading any time soon, they wouldn't let me do a monkey bike Madison at ADT

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

in the absence of my witty prose

you can listen to my little voice whispering in your ear https://docs.google.com/leaf?id=0B6Y9yMzs9ErvMjY2MjczOWMtNjBjZC00OTMxLWE5OWItNzE5MDdmZWIxYTNl&hl=en

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

little steps in the big apple

the next installment of my riveting series of random musings is once again coming from the almost impossibly glam location of a small turbo-prop (sounds like a rapid rugby player doesn't it?) plane headed from La Guardia to Dallas. I'm just coming back from some athlete days with our sponsors in the Bronx.

first up i want to say i had fun, i stayed in a pretty swish hotel, ate food which costs more than i spend in a week on groceries and i managed to use my ability to fit through small gaps to sneak into flushing meadow. There wasn't much tennis going down but i did pilfer a couple of US open balls and one of those re-entry stampers which allowed me to liberally distribute the benefits of free entry to the people of queens. which brings me to my next point, those re-entry stampers are straight up racist - think about it. right now im writing a letter to Obama but he'll probably ignore me 'cos he's a muslim, or the antichrist, or not a real American, heck i bet he doesn't even drink bud light. Oh no , hang on, thats a load of rubbish he's just a lot more intelligent and less rampantly populist than Glen Beck.

anyway was i've started to get a teeny bit political i want to continue in a slightly more serious vein. Some of the stuff i saw in the Bronx was really upsetting. I met a lot of people who have lost, limbs, eyesight and loved ones to diabetes. I think that up until now, the people i had encountered how were not managing their sugars well were doing so because they chose not to but this isn't always the case. These guys want to be better, they want to see their children grow up healthy and even still be able to see their grandchildren and have both their legs so that they can walk around and play with them. In a rich country which can afford numerous global wars, is it too much to ask that these people are given (yes given, for free by the taxpayer) the ability to check their sugars more than 3 times a day?

I met a gentleman yesterday whos truck me as one of the most badass guys i'm ever likely to encounter, he was as tall as i am, covered in tattoos and he had shoulders which would put most carthorses to shame. Let's call him carlos, not because it's his name but because it helps to have a name when telling a story. I was talking to him about diet, asking him how large a portion of rice should be, he indicated his plate, all of it, and then motioned to show about an inch of thickness. I smiled and said no, that a portion should be roughly fist sized, he looked at me and told me he was a big guy and he liked to eat, this was his portion he said.

The community outreach co-ordinator overheard this and stepped in. Let's call the community worker Henry, because that's his name so it seems sensible to use it. He asked the carlos if he had kids and carlos responded that yes, he did. Then Henry proceeded to ask Carlos if he wanted to see his Kids grow up, Henry said he's lost 4 siblings to Diabetes; his first brother to survive to 50 was currently undergoing a second progressive amputation cycle, none of the others had got that far.Some of henry's siblings had children he said; he tries to be a good uncle (and having seen how caring he is in his work, i have no doubt he is an excellent one) but nothing would bring their parents back. Pretty soon Carlos was dealing with his disease, for the first time and the enormity of it moved him to tears, it was hard not to join him.

that night i went to the sugar babies club for children, we talked for a few hours about our diabetes. One girl was hugely resistant, she claimed she wasn't taking her insulin and didn't need to. We talked for what seemed like forever, i could see she was clever and a rebel, she didn't want to be told what to do. I can sympathize with that, neither do I. it was the hardest i think i've ever worked with a young person and i'm a teacher but we talked and talked. She said she wanted to start taking exercise and i helped her with some ideas, some strategies. When she left, i still felt partially defeated. then the pediatric endo who was attending came up to ame and said "you know what, right before she left she asked me if she could go back on the pump. She saw you had yours on your arm and she thought it was cool you were proud of it" that made me pretty happy.

What made me really happy were the three little boys. 5, 7 and 10 years old; two brothers and a cousin. the youngest kid pulled on my shirt and wanted to talk, so i bent down and asked him what he wanted. He wanted to know how he could sign up for the team, and could i teach him to ride a bike. i thought that was very cool, i hope i can go back and i hope they can get bikes and i can ride with them but i know it must be tough growing up in the Bronx. you're battling poverty, a cultural inclination towards poor diet and cheap food, a lack of options for exercise and provision for education and health care. Not to mention a language barrier, i only spoke for maybe 1 hour in English during a 9 hour day.

anyway it's nice to make a difference to one, or two or three people but that isn't going to solve the problem. the community there is afflicted with type 2 diabetes in a big way and big changes need to be made to help them.There are fantastic people like Henry out there giving of their time and opening up their deeply personal stories to make sure they don't get repeated. I don't know many people who would refer to their loss of an eye as an "educable opportunity" i think that's also pretty cool. Anyway, next time you think about health care reform or you think about giving to charity think about those little kids and big men who really really need help. Our friends in the industry are working to get them meters, strips and medications but it seems like an uphill struggle.

Friday, 3 September 2010

the love from above

two blog entries in rapid succession - it's not often you get this lucky now is it. I wouldn't expect much at Christmas this year kids, with the sort of treats you're getting right now the blog-o-bank might soon become depleted.

Anyway, in the grand style of harry enfield and chums, this week i have been mainly; traveling. in fact as i write this i'm in an aeroplane. yep a freaking jumbo jet. unlike a certain mr Armstrong it's not MY plane, just A plane. but then again i'm not being spoofed by the onion either so it all balances out in the end.

the reasons for my jetsetting this week are wide and varied i drove to LA to see my friends (and of course to appreciate the free-flowing beauty of the interstate highways system). now im off to Ct to see a wedding. Then im back to san diego (because you can't miss tuesday night racing now can you) then im off to new york for an athlete day.

i thought seeing as i have been doing so much traveling i might throw out my top ten timely travel tips:
1)the bike boxes with the skewers that bolt in the side aren't great, if you use one, make sure to do up the skewers really loose, or they'll get snapped
2) sitting on your arse for ages does nasty things to your metabolism, so if you're afflicted with the 'betes check more eat less! they can hook up special meals if you ask in advance, they can hook up 2 if you bat your eyelids and flick your hair about a bit.
3) compression socks do good things to your legs - wear them int he car and on the plane
4) don't wear a really big belt buckle, or trousers that wont stay up without the belt in - it's awkward
5) don't tell them your insulin pump is a parole tag, apparently that's not funny
6) airport food is pants so is plane food but you knew that - i always stash some nakd goodies
7) you can get in flight wifi - how nuts is that?
8)earplugs and eyemasks rule for sleeping on the plane, but i still want to try one of those n shaped pillows.
9) ipod chargers/ radio transmitters in the car are cool. so are old mix tapes or cds
10) the drinks are free but they aren't going to run out, if you drink 4 cans dont expect me to get up 4 times for you to go to the toilet - you've got a perfectly good pile of receptacles in front of you.

oh pants the lights just went off and they told us to sit down - not sure i have any tips left for that.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

snorkel summer

well my trip back to the mothership is over and i've returned to San Diego where the weather, (like the majority of the population) maxes up for a lack of anything remarkable by being consistently "pleasant". I've had a fun summer pedalling around europe in what seems to have been a perpetual dirzzle but, like the weather my experiences were punctuated with some exciting thunderclaps and torrential downpours.

The last few race sin Belgium saw some interesting results, notably my foray of the front of a kermis where it was raining so hard we may as well have been racing on an ice rink. My attempts to secure the ultimate prize (or at least a crisp 10 euro bill) were foiled by a chap dressed in green who took a rapid dislike to my ability to go around corners faster than him. He informed me "you will no go up the left" i corrected him and in the next corner i illustrated that i would in fact "go up the left". Seeing his potential career as a fortune teller come crashing down around him.he decided to sprint up to me and inform me once again of my misreading of the impeding corner where i, once again, planned to move up the inside. By the way; if you're wondering why i kept moving up it's because i was moving backwards (not by my own volition) on the screaming fast crosswindy straights. Anyway our leprechaun lookalike decided enough was enough and, as i moved up on his left he hooked my bars and we both made one of the most dramatic entrances into a cafe which i can recall being involved with. Not wanting to hang around and pick up espresso mugs i tried to chase back on. finding the (not so) jolly green gimp in between myself and the bunch i decided to make use of his presence and went for the unsolicited hip sling. This didn't go down well words were exchanged in many languages and Matt stepped in with the night club classic "leave him mate, it's not worth it". Seeing matt and scott slipping off the back ahead of me and the incredible hulk look a like we decided the tactic best suited to our long term well being might be to hop in the corsa and bugger off before the hulk got angry, so that's exactly what we did. Fortunately the field had been shredded so far by this point that i still got a finish in the top half!


the next day my water bottle fell out on the cobbles and mashed my derailleur and put me in the ditch, that was really pants.

Having returned to dear old blighty (and ic an tell you it was quite the trip, but im saving that story for another day). I indulged in some good old fashioned national B chippers. Moments of amusement included the bloke who turned up in a porsche on a 12 grand bike, the porsche was absent at the end of the race, the 12 grand bike, and it's panting owner were absent the second time up the climb: you can't buy speed kids. Another notable James' moment involved my riding of the front of a race, going extra super hypoglycaemic packing in the feed thinking i was dropped, eating sandwiches and a coke only to see the bunch coming along. i joined back in and came a respectable 2nd in the sprint (albeit with a metric shitton of people up the road), nothing like a lunch stop to perk up ahilly road race with 2 inches of rainfall.

the last road race id id at home saw me achieving the unique distinction of being the first human being ever to roll a clincher and i picked a great time to do so. On the start finish climb with a lap to go i found myself 2 minutes adrift holding my ambrosio wheel up in the air (and let me tell you my arms are not optimised for holding anything apart from other people's attention). 8 miles of purgatory and 2 big piles of horse shit later ig ot back into the bunch after an epic effort from the follow car, i got in a good position for the sprint, popped in the clutch lined it up, pressed the button and engaged reverse. lame.

i hope you had as much fun as i did this summer, even if you didn't do everything you wanted to maybe you did everything you needed to. After a few weeks of "proper" racing i've got my enthusiasm back. bring on the time of year for riding bikes on mud :)

Friday, 13 August 2010

This is Kermis (part 1 of my Belgian oddesy)




Bows, Belgium and the b-twin bidon curse part 1


Well it’s been an exciting week! An intrepid band of 3 of us set off on Friday for sunny Belgium. We loaded up the corsa and rolled from my house at the disgustingly uncivilized hour of 5.45am in order to make it in time for a good 45 mins of nose to tail 4th cat driving on the M25 and the insuing rush to make the ferry on time. I’m sure you want to hear all about the excitement of our ferry journey/car trip but I’ll leave you with the plot summary: we got to Belgium.
Having arrived we decided to stock up on waffle based products and speculoos (it’s a spread which tastes like ginger biscuits, a little teaspoon of heaven). We put away some serious calories before heading over to the cafĂ© where the Kermesse began. We arrived 2 hours early, arriving early is frowned upon in Belgium so we laid low for a while but we were quickly found out by the local wandering alcoholic who insisted on escorting us to the bar, where we dutifully signed on. All apart from Matt that is who had decided no to bring his racing abroad letter, fortunately thanks to the benefits of my netbook and standing under a large oak tree we could scam free wifi from someone’s house (bdgag in Roselare – thank you very much). Thus, having arrived 2 hours early we very quickly found ourselves 20 minutes before the race, matt having just signed on scott and I pinning on his number and none of having done anything approaching a warm up. Luckily I had bought enough caffeine to compensate for any errors in preparation and arrived at the start line ready to go off the front, or piss like a racehorse depending on the length of the briefing. Luckily it was mercifully short and I spent most of it courting the local teenage female population trying to fins someone to hold my bottle. Luckily a gentleman of pensionable age stepped into the breech insisting “she can not do it, I can do it”. Realistically I didn’t expect to see my bottle again!
And with that we were away, not ten seconds into the race and there were guys flying past me on the pavement (sidewalk if you’re ‘murican). The other lads hadn’t raced in Belgium before but I had warned them about this, I looked down and noted that my wattage was alarmingly high my legs hurt and I felt like I was going to be sick. I assumed the pain face and kept it on for the next three hours.
Around 60 km into the race Matt rolled into a break and in true Belgian style I sat up and let it roll away, refusing to do a tap on the front. A chasing group went across and, seeing number 69 go up the road I realized I couldn’t leave a dude who was clearly having awesome luck that day out there on his own, so I bridged, along with one of his teammates. They were both from a lotto feeder team and didn’t have anyone up the road so I expected some stalwart work from them. I got on the front and proceeded to leather it at an entirely unsustainable pace, as I came into the finish straight the announcer was becoming audibly aroused by the situation. Having informed him about my diabetes before the race, my secret was out and he announced to the assembled crowd (and you can count on 300+ locals drinking in the bars around the course or playing on the assembled fairground rides) “Der diabetic english oop der weg” (the English, diabetic guy is up the road(or something resembling those words, my flemmish isn’t exactly fluent. Given the hearty support he was giving me I decided to stay on the front until the next corner, where I commenced flapping my arm like a one winged bird trying to take off. Apparently in Belgium this is the signal for “continue sucking my wheel like a limpet” as neither rof the boys came through. Seeing the break up the road I jumped and buried it, the others sat on and, the moment I looked over my left shoulder one of them galloped away to the right (on the pavement) pursued by his mate about 15 seconds later.
I decided to return to the bunch where much the same combination of refusing to work and the attacking like the mongol hordes (often catching unsuspecting spectators in the middle of the bunch) continued. I contributed to this, making at least one move on the wrong side of the deckchairs just to feel like one of the gang.
With about 20k to go I was hanging pretty badly and the race was severely strung out at 52kph, I was just beginning to think about whether I could finish when I witnessed my grandfather-like soigneur figure approaching the course, I remember thinking I’ll never get a bottle off him at this speed. The next lap saw us going even faster as the break returned and the top 30 riders were on the rivet around all the corners. We were riding the straightest fastest par tof the course when grandpa appeared again, only this time he was in the middle of the road screaming “bidon” in a very insistent manner. Not wanting him to have risked his life in vain I chinned it out of the line (I’d like to point out that I hit my highest wattage all race at this point) and stuck out my hand expecting the worst, but no, despite travelling in excess of urban speed limits I took the bottle (and nearly dislocate dmy other shoulder in the process) and received shouts of encouragement from my benefactor. The flat coke was just what I needed, sadly when I threw my other bidon it may have connected with the display window of a local vendor, we didn’t go back to check, I didn’t need a lynching on top of the pain my legs were feeling.
At some point 14 guys had minced away from the bunch unnoticed by most of us so the last 2 laps were spent accusing other teams of not working to bring them back. It occurred ot us that a sprint was in the offing (they pay 20 deep) and Matt and I had nothing more to give after our breakaway frivolities. I decided to compensate for my lack of sprint by pretending I was on a motorbike and lurching up the inside making barrrrrrrp noises and pressing on my navigator as if I were having engine troubles. Clearly the chap next to me was in a place of deep suffering and found this most unamusing, I know this because he spat on me. Anyway young scott, our companion for the trip who we bouth assumed had been dropped appeared and announced his intention to sprint. He made his way to the front and, following my advice from earlier took a unique route around some traffic furniture, opened a gap and held out from the main bunch for 19th and 10 euros – chapeau!

The alcoholic and grandpa came over to congratulate us in the traditional flemmish way, by anointing us with cigar smoke. Suitably knackered we limped back to the car, de kitted and took our numbers back for the 5 euro reimbursement (the race only cost 8 euros to begin with). Having dined well from one of the many barbecued wurst stands surrounding the course we departed to the house of our friend Cynthia who was hosting us.
Sadly the autoroute was 100% stationary but, given our excessive guarna consumption we weren’t going to let this bother us. Apparently they aren’t familiar with ghost riding in Belgium, or they weren’t until last weekend. I think it’s lucky we had bikes on the car, otherwise they might have just thought we were foreigners……

Monday, 2 August 2010

report


Now I’m not in the habit of writing race repots, because nobody want to hear about my merry-go-round imitating failures in southern California crits so, until this stage I have abstained from such self indulgence, but I thought you might fancy a little window into my world and how racing is back home.
This week was the national B (read pretty fast, national A races only occur a few times a year and are billed as “premier calendars”) a couple of big teams were there, including stalwart of the British chipper scene Tony Gibb (he’s won some medals in some event or other on the velodrome and is, if the truth be told, a pretty accomplished rider)and his possee of plus sized gentlemen who were avoiding the premier race that weekend, most likely on account of it’s sawtooth profile.
Anyway I got to the race 2 hours early thanks to dad (who kindly gave me a lift) I went over to the commissaire and showed him my US licence (my friend in the licence dept had taken the trouble to email him and ask him to watch out for my devious underhand ways). Having duly noted that I wasn’t in fact doing anything wrong, the comm apologized for the treatment I was getting from the tie wearing desk-jockeys in the central office and went ahead to sign me on for the race. The rapidity with which this occurred was refreshing after a year outside of the home of brusk efficiency, sadly this meant I now had 2 hours of chamois time before the race.
I invested this time wisely, knowing that the race was likely to go hard from the gun I decided I would be best riding about in the car park and talking to everyone, showing off my insulin pump, checking tyre pressures and persuading some attractive young ladies to hold water bottles for the next 3 hours. Givent hat I allowed myself 120 mins to warm up it’s quite understandable that total warm up distance was 1. 2 mile, I think you would have done the same.
Pitiful warm up over I went inside for the briefing (don’t have those in the usa!) and then outside for the start, somehow I lined up at the front and off we rolled, at this point the plastic nose bridge fell off my sunglasses. Now sunglasses are a VITAL part of the style code and I wasn’t about to race 120k with my eyes on show, it would have been indecent. So I sat up and replaced said nosepiece, at the cost of looking like a bit of a berk riding the whole neutral zone “no hands” like a 12 yr old.
Once the flag dropped the race began, with 120km to go you would expect a steady pace but a load of idiots decided to slam it into the gutter on the other side of the road, dice with head on traffic and generally make life difficult for those of us who had failed to warm up. I figured prominently amongst said idiots.
After around 15 miles of aforementioned daredevil penis measuring we decided to slow down, which was a good idea, my powertap was showing numbers to which it is not accustomed. And so, for another 15 or so miles we rolled around, averaging about 25 but nothing too hectic got away, I followed moves, marked good riders and generally sucked wheel like a famous brand of Vacum cleaner. As we approached the feed zone about 45 miles in things started to go doolally along the rollers, not unexpected. What was unexpected was that just as we caught up to an embryonic break there was an equine intervention in the bunch.
Very tour de France im sure but, quite honestly when you’re trying to race your bike a horse running alongside is not quaint, it’s bloody scary. Especially when the horse is pulling some sketchy line switches like a jr 4th cat. Anyway, long story short the break was up the road and we were stuck behind negotiating with lady Tatiana inbred or whatever the horsey posh lady was called. And I’m not just running her down because she’s a horsey lady, I’m doing so because we’d already bloody passed her once and she’d continued on the course, the second time when the horse she was leading (yep, unsatisfied with the conspicuous consumption that is leisure horse riding she was riding 2 horses simultaneously) escaped, she shouted at US and asked us why we had continued on the same route despite her intentions. Well lady we live in something approaching a democracy, there were 120 of us and one of you, so yeah we’d win that vote.
After the intervention of dobbin the bunch rode piano, riders went back to talk to the comm. And a few of us went to the front to look important and ride slowly. As we approached a junction some riders signaled for a stop, we stopped and talked with the comm. Who agreed to restart the race. At this point my navi started bleeping like a mad thing and I realized all the stopping and stressing had sent my blood sugar through the roof, arse. I begged for some water but everyone only had mix. Lots of the boys seemed pretty concerned, which is nice. Fortunatley I could drift back in the bunch and mince about in the caravan until someone handed me up some water, thanks to whomever the team who ride in green is, I appreciate it. I also took the chance to draft some cars whilst dialing in a minibolus on my pod.
As the race continued the comm stopped the break and we all had a piss, he set of the break with the gap it had had the lap before – which had dropped to virtually nothing by the time we had encountered the horses but there was nothing he could do. The inevitable teammate shuffling occurred and the break now had 30 seconds and lots more horsepower.
We spent the rest of the race chasing, I had some pretty mean cramps thanks to the high bg but I wasn’t letting it bother me. Interestingly these cramps focused around my shoulder (alongside my legs) which was a new and exciting location for pain in a bike race, I had to ride with my arm hooked into my bibs, sling style, for about a mile and it eased off. We got the break back to about 10 seconds and I proceeded to retreat to the rear, drink more water and wait for the catch before launching my killer move. Oddly the catch never came and I was so busy drinking water and explaining to the multiple people who offered me gels that my sugars were high, not low (but all the same I genuinely appreciated their concern) that I didn’t do much work to help this situation. Going up the final hill several riders engaged the reverse gear on their bikes, this made it more like some kind of inverse super-G than a spring finish but I managed to limp in somewhere in the bunch.
After the race I made a correction and finally got my sugars back into the range I wanted them and set off for the 20 odd mile ride home, I rode with a mate for a bit and then he stopped at his home. At this point my sugars decided to continue their non-cooperation and dropped like a lead stone. Luckily there was a village shop on hand and a mars bar and some fruit pastilles got me home, where I checked again to find that my blood had reverted to treacle-like status. A protein drink and a megabolus followed. There’s something disconcerting about riding over 100 miles and coming home to a nice salad!
Anyway rubber stayed down, fun was had. Thanks to the ladies who fed me and to Mr ainstie who searched out water for me in the feed zone when I didn’t need any more sugar. Belgium next week, bring on the waffles, chocolate, cobbles and beer!

Saturday, 19 June 2010

Raam bam thank you mam

Im sitting on the plane from Annapolis to San diego, a journey of 5 1/2 hours. I spent the previous 5 ½ days doing the same trip on my bike. I didn't expect to have anything like as much fun as I did along the way, it was a great experience and one I would repeat again in a heartbeat (and I will, given the chance next year). I don't think I can really give a holistic view of the whole event very successfully, I'd love to say that it's a great way to see the country but it's not. It's a great way to see the top of an RV, the front wheel of your bike, little stars appearing in your vision, your life flashing before you and occasional snippets of the epic beauty and variety that the US has to offer.

I have memories of the race which will be with me for a long time. Riding wise there were many stand out moments: My first pull of the whole race during which I, predictably, went mental and absolutely cremated myself. My light was rubbing on my thigh and I gave my self the biggest, reddest bruise and a matching saddle sore on the other side which would last the whole week. The climb up to flagstaff in Arizona where I found rhythm which Bob claimed crushed "at least 16" souls. The descent we took before the climb where I was out for 15 miles carving around hairpins, overtaking semis up the inside in the gravel and blasting through groups of disturbed tourists. The climbs up through the Ozarks where the rhythm came back again, at one point I was climbing in 54-11. Sliding my bike through a corner in Trinidad co, the sex change capital of the world, and again in the Gettysburg battlefield with our follow car about 5 inches behind so I could see with the headlights.

Predictably it wasn't just the riding I'll remember but also the people. The application of litocane in place of chamois cream provoked much hilarity amongst the team, as did much of our inane banter across the country, highlights include: the scavenger hunt (swingseats, banjos, mullets, sweet tea, confederate beach towels, an Amish person driving a Honda, an armadillo and some genuine redneckery of the highest order), the aerodynamic benefits of Viagra, the strange and slightly inappropriate toy that turned up in the bus and could be easily manipulated to resemble a waxed guinea pig in some kind of self gratifying pose. Pink socks in Kansas and ripping down the road at 30mph with Bob offering to rub coconut oil into my chest on the tannoy. Adam and I going on ice cream runs which gradually moved from after dinner to breakfast.

Eating with the firemen in Maize Kansas (and the fact that there really is a town called maize Kansas) and meeting with our fans in Ohio was a great experience to. That all these great people took hours out of their day to come and encourage us was really humbling, but they really did make a difference, especially the firemen. That shower and those brownies counted for about 100w up the climbs the next day.

We wouldn't have got halfway across the country without our crew, they were fantastic, they made it possible for us to win RAAM by making it impossible for us to go wrong. We lost minimal time to wrong turns, impressible on a 3019 mile route, when we finished riding we had food ready, massage waiting and dry,clean clothes for the next pull. Our RV was by no means the lap of luxury (it smelt like the lap of something though, quite possibly the lap of one of those beardy-homeless drunk guys who you see in the park) but they made our race a comfortable experience. Individual highlights include: Dr bill appearing concerned as various members of the team staged fantastic hypos, Chef Chris'(@diabeticchef) feeding us with great food throughout the race, and being amazed at our ability to stack huge quantities of healthy food with large amounts of frozen dairy goodness. Leigh's ridiculous guinea pig toy, her little notes on our sandwiches and all our banter. Chris' Amazing massages and his daily changing of my nationality. The guys who drove our support cars were great as well, it was great knowing that Jason and Karl in the car were pulling 100% as hard as we were and doing everything in their power to help us win Jason's on the fly rebuilding of Jeff's bike was a particular highlight. Kyle's hilarious laughter at our silly jokes and constant provision of the "cold snake thing" to help this pale foreigner acclimate to the heat and the banter with Jeff (@jrichardson30) on twitter while we edged closer to RV with our dinner order were other highlights.

Bob's follow car banter provided an entertaining, if at times confusing to those of us who had not been in the same vehicle for 5 days (yep they NEVER left that car for the whole race, bob claims that atrophy is the new diet du hour). There's something about the guy behind you mocking your socks, singing karaoke or making mooing noises with the PA system to scare off dogs which just doesn't seem appropriate out of context. Nate and Monique were pretty good too, choice inspirational lines and our ability to scare the living daylights out of each other by demanding they followed 5 inches from my rear wheel when I was descending at night, and then double wheel sliding in gravel as nate, after 4 days living in a box of a size that I'm pretty sure you couldn't transport sheep in managed to swerve past my rapidly incoming back tyre.

I'll reflect on this more later. But I had a fantastic time, made great friends and rode my bike a lot. That race doesn't get anything approaching the respect it deserves, maybe some people ride it like a tour but I used all the cycling skills I have, more than once I had to use my 'cross knowledge to save a bungled transition with a 'cross mount on my tt bike, a car in west Virginia witnessed the ferocity of my armsling off its rear view mirror when it came across the lane, occasional forays into the gravel pushed the limits of my (limited) mountainbike experience. We climbed steep hills, descended on an epic scale, crossed whole states in the time trial position and did all of this in the dark. The officials conducted their job with an air of friendliness as well as professionality, throughout the course of the whole race not once was I forced to ride around an office park and we had one crash in 3019 miles, all in all this was a refreshing change to the other racing I've done in the US and given the chance, I'll do it again.


 

Thursday, 13 May 2010

man down

well hello there, it's been a while. i've been busy having adventures dicing with death on my bicycle, these life affirming few weeks have included the following episodes:

getting a pretty impressive dose of food poisoning in sonora county that left me flat on my back for 24 hours

being stung by a bee at sea otter and finding out that i'm hyper allergic and getting an epipen shot and IV benadryl

discovering that american people run the front brake on the left midway through the collegiate A mountainbike race at sea otter - and then flipping over the bars and being stuck in my (road) pedals until i managed to cartwheel my way back upright.

more mechanicals than you can shake a pedal spanner at

and last but not least, coming around a corner to discover an absence of road and ending up choosing tarmac over cliff edge. this resulted in me loosing a lot of skin and breaking my clavicle and dislocating my ac joint

But amongst all the bad things there have been some great times, foremost amongst these have been the chances which i have got tos pend time with some fantastic people and those are the experiences i want to focus on (let's face, most of the other stuff is straight up gory/scary). firstly i want to hank the amazing people who have taken me into their homes without knowing who the hell i am, anyone who is prepared to feed, clothe and quite likely nurse me out of the goodness of their heart is bound to be nice, i knew that but i have been astounded by just how well i have got on with the people i have stayed with. although i seem to have spent more than my fair share of time in motel rooms and even some time in hotels which cost more per night than i earn in a week the best experiences i have had have been having a dinner, or a beer with my hosts. So to Jan and Cath and Chris and family, thank you very much. to anyone else who feels like hosting me in the future - you might want to speak with these guys, and take a course in first aid!

the second really cool thing i have done recently was the long beach tour de cure where i was able to connect with some great people. Bizarrely right at the start of the ride i spotted an oxofrd university kit, assuming it was a recent ebay acquisition i rode over to chat with the presumed interloper only to discover Jeff, a cycling teammate from the good old OUCC days when the club reveled in my tenure as social secretary. i met a number of diabetic individuals who had inspirational stories, i'd love to recount them all but i am limited to typing with one hand. Suffice it to say that i got more out of that day in motivation than i would gain from a week of hard training.

im pretty sure that if i go on typing for much longer then my non crippled arm will become gimpy as well so ciao for now - i'll write more soon, i haven't got much else to do

;(

Monday, 22 March 2010

just when you thought you had it all under control

well this weekend was interesting, about the only hilly(ish) road race for 200 miles and i managed to monumentally fail at being a diabetic bicyclye racer, you'd never have guessed given my previous record. the time trial is a hillclimb, judging by m y training efforts i should have rolled up it in about 14 and a half mins, as it was i got credited with a 17. i'm not sure i did a 17, i caught a LOT of people and didn't get passed (if you look at the times around em that's not possible given my time) but, being the euro cyclist that i am i was racing using only "the sensations" and so i had no time to protest it with. there was some confusion with my registration - they signed me up with the rest of the boys in the pro field and i had to wriggle my way back into the crash 3s so that i wouldnt get into shit with USAC again....

the next day was the road race, i felt pretty good but i was having some bloodsugar issues - i raced high the day before but i had put it down to being flustered. i decided to stick to drinking mix as i couldnt go without the electrolytes, (it was HOT out there) in hindisght i should have taken the manorexic option and done water and salt pills. Just when i was about to start off one of the USAC officials came over to let me know that i was "a cheat and didn't deserve to be racing at all" and that he was "watching me" - so confident was he in his assertions that he declined to give me his name, or to hang around to discuss his assertions that i had "never raced a pro1/2/ race (random evidence to the contrary www.southbc.co.uk/results/2009results/Upavon%20Summer%20170809~e12.pdf ) this guy's a nobody. i don't want to bring the sort of negative energy he exudes into my life, i'm a better bike racer than he has ever been and i'm pretty sure i have never been that impolite to anyone (or at least anyone who didn't kick me in a sensitive area first). i wanted to wint he race to prove him wrong and i was prettys ure i had it dialled but stressing out when your bloodsugar is already 250 won't help matters....

i decided my best tactic in the road race would be to attac like the mongol hordes, so i threw down, a lot. Saldy everyone else in the field decided the best tactic would be to suck wheel like 120 spandex clad hoovers, i got a few breaks mooving but one particulair individual decided his best bet was to sit on for the whole lap and then attack like fury in the feed - reckon he spotted the team type 1 skinsuit?

last lap i tooka flyer and held off the bunch for a while, i somehow managed to get stuck in my 42t so i was doing some pretty badass cadence out there and i imagine i was quite the sight to behold, i crested the big hill in the top 15 riders and it all went horribly wrong, with 2.5k to go i was about 80% that i could win the race, with 1.5k my left leg has about 80% useless. when you run your bloodsugar high your body uses bodily fluids to get rid of it, normally you pee a lot (that's how lots of people get diagnosed) when you're riding, you sweat, and loose electrolytes, then you cramp. i cramped, bigtime. i'd like to throw out a "public" (and by "public" i mean to both my mother and gran who read this) thanks to the photog who pushed me over the hills o i could descend in to make the cut (who finsihes a road race downhill anyway? 'Muricans that's who).

next day was a crit, crits suck and is till could get my bloodsugar down, i rode for 2 hours and did 0 cabs and still finshed rocking a 200. it's hard to clearl lactate that high, so i just rode around,s ucking. i did get a good place with the bell lap about to start and then i managed to use my crank as a brake coming around the corner- not clever that, stick with the levers.

anyway i had a pants weekend but that's not the point i want to convey here, my point is this - 12 months ago i would have packed the race in, 6 months ago i would have just got dropped but i decided to hang in there and i finsihed. ok it was a pretty poor quality race but that's not the point, the point is that i've got LOADS more motivation now. every time i think about giving up i tyhink about the people who inspire me, the people i have met since joining team type 1. i've been lucky enough to encounter loads of diabetic people (they're like flies, they come crawling out of the woodowrk) and so many of them have told me they follow my blog, or twitter or my results and that they thought i couldn't do what i do with me being the way i am. so every time i squeeze into my skinsuit (and yes i did the road race in a skinsuit - don't worry ladies and gents it's quite comfy and allows plenty of room for the "landing gear") i feel like im out there to show them what they can achieve if they're willing to make the effort and changes ot their lives. I've been speaking with a bloke who has type 1 and cancer to deal with, and on top of that a little kid to raise AND this guy is younger than me so whenever i think i have got it hard, i just remeber that im still playing around on my bike and life could be a lot worse.

Thanks for all your support i really appreciate everyone who has stood by me recently, the team were awesome this weekend, emily (@emilybaker so cal's greatest cycling masseuse and potential soigneur par excellence) all my friends at the races and all of you who sent me emails and twitter messages and even the lady who works in admin at UCSD who saw this article about me (http://ucsdnews.ucsd.edu/thisweek/2010/03/22_leed.asp) and said i had inspired her to go out and exercise. thanks a lot - you help me more than you realise and if i ca help you as well, that's great.

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

the structural dynamics of public space

i don't only ride my bike...
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the dynamics of public space
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I saw some graffiti today, and it got me thinking. Someone had tagged racism under a stop sign, so it read "stop racism", crafty. We live in a country, and a university where public space is institutionally controlled, it's our environment but on their terms. As many of you know i'm studying the use of street art to oppose dictatorship in Spain, there's no reason why we can't use public spaces to fight the norms here.

In recent days and weeks public space in this university has been dominated by hatred, whether hanging nooses in the library, putting hoods on statues or holding parties with hateful themes the space which we all occupy is being monopolised by a minority. Even "neutral" spaces aren't accurate reflections of our community. we have one mural and it's painted on a temporary canvas so we can take it down if it proves too political. Meanwhile we're surrounded by orders "stop" "no cycles or skateboards" "no parking" "drive inside the lines", "no fun", "think inside the lines".

So tomorrow, on a day we take action for public education, why not take action for public space as well. Make where you live beautiful and make it yours. use colours, posters, flowers, whatever you want. We're at a great turning point for our university right now and this is the best chance we'll get to really make it ours, so take it. We're students, we're good at manipulating words and images, so lets do what they did in Paris while our university was still in its infancy and make the space our own. Like i have said a million times before, if you define yourself against something, you only last as long as it does, if you stand for something, you cam make it last forever so stand up and claim your own space and identity not just against someone else claiming it.

peace

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

ups and downs

Hi everyone, sorry it has been so long since i last wrote, things have been rather topsy turvy for me in the last few weeks. I was ready to write a post 8 days ago looking forward to the coming season and all the great races it would bring, 6 days ago i was ready to give up racing my bike and i even wrote out a post explaining why. Now i'm ready to keep going but i'm far from happy, let me explain:

Apparently by holding a UK cat 1 road licence i am breaking UCI rule 1.1.009 this means i can be banned and i have had my licence (and associated category) revoked. Further it seems that even though i hold a UK passport, am legally a UK resident and cannot legally race in US national or state championships i must take out a USCF and not British Cycling licence. Even though i race more in the UK than the US, makes perfect sense, right? And of course it's not like anyone else is in violation of this rule (ahem ANY foreign pro in the US)

anyway to cut a long story short the USCF has given me a lower category licence, meaning i have to upgrade before i can do the races i had been targeting with the team. It could have been worse, i could have been banned.

This time last week i thought i was going to be banned, i thought i was loosing the whole way of life i had built for myself and i thought it was happening randomly to me and i had no idea why. I believe in Karma and i began to wonder what i had done.

After a couple of days of lying in bed wallowing in misery, alternated with riding so hard i vomited and not eating very much i decided to stop behaving like a miserable teenage girl and get on with things. I helped out at the Boulevard road race down here, and raced collegiate (the only licence i had left) to my great suprise i felt okay, until i flatted. There wasn't a follow car so i got to sit there in the freezing rain for 15 minutes and think about how shitty things had become so quickly. But once i got a wheel of one of the cat 3 riders and rode back to the HQ i realised i couldn't be so negative, not whilst i was around the UCSD team with so many people having just enjoyed thier first race.

The next day was a local crit, i raced collegiate A again, had a few digs off the front and felt good, but i couldn't get away from that sinking feeling, i wouldn't be racing the pro 12. i lined up alter to race the cat3 race, pretty convinced that i could win it, members of my old club had other ideas, i attacked a lot but they tried to neutralise all my moves and didn't chase down any other breaks. Some of their conduct was, in my opinion, dangerous to me and other riders and could have caused a bad crash.

Having realised that someone was out to get me like this i oddly began to feel better about my situation. It's much easier to cope with someone not liking you than a seemingly endless run of bad luck. I can beat these people, by being bigger and better than them.

So with that said im in an airport, and im about to fly across a continent to ride my bike, and someone else is paying for it. however hard people might try they can't take that away, i'm still part of a fantastic team who have stood by me and helped me. So yeah it might take a couple of months to get back to where i was, but at least when i get there i'll be more grateful than ever for it

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

lego training pt 2 building blocks and constructing your castle

it's been a while since i tasted blood in my mouth but my first set of intervals this year, indeed the first set this decade reminded me that it hasn't quite been long enough. Sadly, despite all the fancy gadgetry i seem to have acquired, the nice bike and the funny little yellow powermeter, the pink overshoes and the wraparound shades. Riding my bike fast still hurts, a lot. I have moved on fro the generally fun and entirely enjoyable base period to the purgatory that is the build phase


 

Remember how i told you that bike training was like lego? well, if you've been paying attention (yes you at the back) and riding diligently you should have a nice base built by now, kind of like those big green things you got to construct a pirate ship or a space castle on when you were 5. Much like lego, in cycling, once you have your base you need to get a bit more specific, the blocks you put onto this base will determine what sort of structure you end up with. SO now is the time to decide if you want to build a castle, or a stable. Or to put it another way to be a climber, or a sprinter (or even a dirty fat tester).


 

the build phase gives you speed endurance, if you're looking to be involved with the masochism that is stage racing or road racing you need this for breakaways, on the track, It helps in the endurance races and pursuit efforts, if you're looking to race tts you want your head looking at. The efforts I'm doing right now rance from 60-20 mins in length, not all out but pretty hard, I do some 2x20s with a 10 min rest, by the second one, I'm pretty tired, put it this way: I don't like to finish anywhere below my house, or i end up climbing home like an asthmatic gorilla. The 60 min efforts are a little easier, they occur at tempo – think of the speed at which you need to breathe through your mouth but not to gulp air in, so maybe you can say a few words every minute. The sort of pace your mates use to put the half wheel on you whilst trying to appear comfortable. As these efforts come into rides, rides get a little shorter, not much over 4 hours now. Every ride has a purpose be it endurance with muscle tension (i.e. big gear work), endurance with high cadence work, tempo work or some of the threshold work I outlined above. It's easy to get carried away in this phase of training, don't. There's no need for the really hard v02 max efforts yet, you have 6-8 months of pain ahead of you so chill out.

In other news the teamtype1 schedule is taking shape, details will be online as soon as its final, if you know of a supercool race then hit me up with the details, host housing with beer is always preferred. I would also like to give you the heads up that riding 4hrs30mins and arriving home 15 mins before you have to teach (and when your house is 15 mins from said classroom) and attempting to teach in a state of quite substantial fatigue is not clever. Trying to consume a liter of chocolate milkshake on the ride into school, and teaching with a milk 'tache is even less so. And with that nugget of wisdom I bid you adieu, good luck building your castles people.

Peace

james