Friday, 25 October 2013

train less, ride more

It's the time of year for adventures, for trying something new and finding new ways to do what you've already done. Children start new school years, Trees get rid of their outdated wardrobe and go minimalist,Farmers pull up crops,  Russia has revolutions (or it had one once), girls in Southern California consider leaving the house with more than 10% of their flesh covered, shops sell off their shorts and fill up on sweaters, Germans drink beer and eat sausage (actually they always do that). There's a change of season in the air and it's a time for reflection on the summer gone by, planning for the winter to come, making the most of the last of the good weather and preparing for the first real cold.   It's also the time of year to eat pie.

Realistically the first paragraph of this post was mostly specious bull**it apart from the pie, that's REALLY why i've been doing all these long east county cyclocross adventures, well the pie and the views and the being outside and the unique opportunity to be totally alone in the wilderness with my facial hair. I'm embracing my inner mountain man and, in the absence of a mountain bike i've been using my CX rig for some fantastic adventures.
Boy, bike and beard alone together

I've raced cyclocross before but this is the first time i can remeber fully taking advantage of the CX bike to really have some great adventures. The cross bike covers ground more quickly than a mountainbike and is more familiar than it's flat barred, hydraulic brethren to my dyed in wool roadie constitution. Unlike a road bike i don't have to go where other people want to be (i.e. where there's tarmac) and i'm free to explore. 

Dirt ride #1 went off largely without incident, not only did it occur without flat, fall or failed navigation it also included an exemplary slice of pie. So exemplary in fact that my friends at crank cycling have decided to convene an event over the same course with mandatory pie next month, i may have found my ideal sporting challenge. Having completed a 4 hour dirt adventure Shaun was kind enough to drive the cross bike home while i logged a couple more hours on the road bike. Any potential Manorexic benefits of the above were then offset by the attempt i made at a California burrito speed consumption record. as the photo below shows, i didn't even take off my helmet, you can never be too safe. 

Before, during and after 

With exploring in mind we recently took a trip to Julian where we set about getting entirely lost. We didn't think we were lost, we maintained an incredibly macho stance about our exact location, we looked at maps and nodded at each other, we orientated things and at least once we looked at the sun to determine North. We felt extremely satisfied with finally having used all the useless knowledge we gained with the scouts years ago ( i can still do the stupid three  finger thing as well). We remained entirely sure we knew exactly where we were, and, as it turns out we did have a pretty good handle on where we were (thanks akela, you taught me well). What we didn't know was that where we were was NOT somewhere we wanted to be. 

We lazily breezed along fireroads past rusted illegible signs and old broken down fences of the type you see in national parks. We stopped and i tried to sneak up on a deer (i'm not quite sure what i planned to do, ride it?). We cruised some more and bombed a fire road descent, coming to what looked like the end of the trail we looked around for a sign, i rode about 50 yards ahead and looked at the painted side (facing away from us) of a small post, what i saw is below: 

Right about that time was when the bloke in the Orange jumpsuit appeared, took a  look at us and began gesticulating and making noises. I'm normally a chatter and not one to judge people for wearing brightly coloured clothes but this time i made an excption, i shouted something along the lines of "we're in a ducking prison and there's a ducker in an orange suit running towards us" (in the interest of SEO i have switched two letters in the previous sentence, guess which ones and you can go duck yourself). My buddy looked confused but he managed to absorb and comprehend the situation pretty rapidly, either that or he was overcome by a desire to ride really hard across some rocks, onto a singletrack trail, down a gravel slope and onto a road without turning around, braking or consulting a map. 

Having escaped the incarcerated we briefly intruded on a school summer camp in a way that only two sweaty men in spandex can. having stolen water from kids in the desert we headed off towards the car.

It's been a pleasure to be getting outside again ad rediscovering the pure joy that it is to go fast and be slightly out of control, to skid around a corner with your foot out and to bunny hop onto a dead log jsut to watch it shatter on the bloke behind you. I've done far too many road races without the chance to stop and climb trees and this is the time of year to do that, and eat pie too. Get out, play bikes, turn off your powermeter and eat some pie! Failing that just do the pie bit.  

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

relying on Providence

Divine providence
Quite the weekend since I last wrote, some pretty lackluster racing, some pretty spectacular people and of course, beer and baked goods in ample proportions. Add a free pawpaw into the mix and you can’t go wrong.
I arrived in providence very early on Friday morning, on the last train. I was tired, hangry and three people had already asked me if my bike was a fixie. I sat on the train and endured a quizzing from a somewhat intoxicated young lady who seemed to be infatuated with my messenger bag, my acent and the syllable “aaah” (as it turned out this would be a common theme). In search of someone who wasn’t going to respond to everything I said with “oh. My. GAAAHHHWWD” I turned to the two men in the seat opposite who turned out to be from LA, good fortune struck and they offered me a ride from the station, I’d only been in town 5 minutes and already it was looking like I could rely on providence (in Providence).
The next morning I woke up, played with my allen keys and covered myself in oil and, cobbled together  a bike  with begged and borrowed parts from the shop. I had 105 shifters from the pre cables under the tape era, a demo saddle and cantilever brakes that did a great job squealing but not such a good one stopping.  I had the interesting conundrum of riding through some of the less desirable parts of providence on tubulars and risking an unfixable flat and a potentially long and humiliating walk back to where I was staying or rolling on clinchers which were UCI illegal (too wide). I opted for the tubs and rolled over to the course on Friday to pick up my race numbers, see my friends, get my “getting lost en route to the course” routine out of the way and get clued in on the best places to drink coffee and beer in the immediate locality.
About halfway to the course the East coast decided to remind me I wasn’t in  California anymore, it rained on me, hard. Due to some logistical issues relating to China being a long way away and customs being pedantic my kit allotment was  skinsuits, short sleeved. Once I’d shivered my way to the venue I must have presented a pretty bedraggled figure. Before I’d even had a chance to start whining people started helping. Jim at the Shimano tent spotted my geeky joystick shifters and purple monstrosity of a saddle. He offered the use of his carbon Raleigh, I graciously accepted. Bo from NBX ( online at – and now your favourite Rhode Island bike shop mini chain ) equipped me with warm clothes, vocal support, a new nickname “Guinness”, a great group of people to hang out with and a set of teammates to teach me some of the important nuances of cyclocross (like how not to fall off).
Feeling suitably warm and fuzzy inside and generally lucky to be alive I rolled off home, but not before bumping into the good people from Stoudt’s brewery. I’d love to say “I’m so proud of it, I put my name on it” but realistically they already put a variation on my name on it. However they do make a fine Belgian Tripel, and the introduced me to Kandy Kakes (how had I not come across those before?), you should definitely check both of those things out, ideally simultaneously.
booze sends you low, sugar sends you high THIS is a balanced diet 

Friday night ended with a prolonged wander around Federal hill in search of shutdown budgeted, gluten and cheese based deliciousness. All the while trying not to snigger at the incredible accents, phrases and wolf whistles that emanated from the bars and well just the bars really.
Saturday morning started with a fantastic ginger scone, and a spin to the race. En route I came across a fairly raucous parade for a Nigerian-American group which had more or less completely shut down the road. Skirting around through South Providence someone shouted at me “hey you, you with the bike” feeling a bit panicky I looked around “hey you come over here” reluctantly I rolled over, two guys about my age pulled out a brown paper bag, I was just getting ready to turn down some pre race nerve calming herb when the guy who’d been shouting uttered the last phrase I’d been expecting to hear amongst the liquor stores and glass covered streets “you wanna pawpaw? You look like you appreciate fruit man, pick one, they’re ripe. But hey, be careful, don’t eat the skin” and so again random people did unnecessarily kind things to make my day better.
The fruit of human kindness 

At the race the tendency continued, I warmed up on a borrowed bike on a borrowed trainer, drank someone else’s water and chatted with a guy I’d never met as a mechanic who wasn’t being paid by anyone associated with me set up someone else’s Dura Ace wheels for my weight. I felt pretty lucky as I sat there and some cycling media types took pictures of my beardy, skinny tanlined self. I imagine they’ll save them for easter or perhaps sell them to someone wishing to depict Jesus after 40 days of fasting.

By the time I’d embrocated and caffeinated and rolled to the start line in time to step through the SMOKE MACHINE they were using for call ups and assume my rightful place DFL on the grid the sun was shining and the cowbells were ringing. Sadly unlike the peer gynt scene that this resembled I didn’t manage much frolicking in the meadows in the following hour. A buzzer sounded, we all went mental, I hopped a curb, shot up the inside on corner one, skidded through a turn sprinted some more and braked a bit less. I spotted some guys I know are good cross riders and made a determined effort to get to their wheels. Soon enough one of their wheels was moving towards my head and we were all lying on top of each other in the dirt as riders behind constrained by the barriers rolled over my feet and one kindly individual modified my helmet with his chainring.
coffee and cookies vs concussion 

I got up, got on and pretty quickly felt like I had been popping ambien like jelly beans. I was riding around with thousands of people screaming at me in a little cloudly world of concussion. After two laps I wasn’t going to  make it much further, I tried to melt into the crowd but within 5 minutes I was augmenting my concussion with a Guinness and trying to downplay my frustration. I felt ok but as soon as I got on the bike to ride home I felt sleepy again. At dinner with friends that night I felt a little slow but I was pretty low.  A shower beer, some froyo and kimchee stew simultaneously warmed me up, cooled me down, satisfied my constant desire for dessert, elevated my bloodsugar and emboldened me,I felt sure I’d be fine in the morning.
 I chundered my coffee in the morning. I  got down a chocolate chip cookie ( Hey it’s October) and headed over to the course, it rained and on the way there I decided to just watch. I got there and spoke to the first aid guys, they agreed, no racing. A few hours later in a borrowed Bern helmet (very cool AND very protective) I found myself lining up. I felt fine off the bike and sleepy as soon as I went above 300w, I’d been trying to ignore this on the warm up but the fact that I kept wiping out on my course recon wasn’t a good sign. The first half lap was, predictably a total zoo and it became pretty clear I was wasting my time. I ended up in the pits trying not to be sick.

I get pretty down on myself when I don’t do well at bike racing and this weekend I did far from well. The NBX and Shimano guys did a great job of getting me back into a bit of a better mental shape, they invited me back in December, hooked me up with their phone numbers and addresses, places to stay and warm dry gear to ride home in. I’m not going to pretend I wasn’t a bit of a sad figure finishing my last stoudt’s beer in the shower that night but, in the fuzzy sleepy philosophical frame of mind that comes from taking a 48tooth ring to the skull and drinking a 9% beer I smiled to myself. The journey is as important as the destination and this was a great journey. I met great people, I enjoyed great food and I had a great time. Next time I hope to come back and have a great race as well. I’m sure this won’t be my last time relying on providence or visiting praawwwvidence. 

Friday, 4 October 2013

Dirty weekends

Well I managed to spend nearly an entire month without being on a plane, my legs thank me for it and so does my stomach. The combination of less time in a flying tube, getting back into teaching (but apparently not getting paid) and working hard on the reservation hasn’t left much time for discharging my brain onto the internet. I’ve still got a lot to share, just not the time to share it. I always have transcendentally wonderful blog ideas when I’m riding and then I forget them as quickly as they arrive (or perhaps both of those things are results of the combination of hypoxia and hypoglycaemia which I tend to spend half my day in).
I love this time at the end of the road season. I’m still fit enough to go out and play bikes but I don’t have to go out and “train”. It’s nice to plan rides around a really good café you’ve heard about or a lake that sounds like it’s far enough away from anywhere that it offers secluded swimming possibilities. It’s nice to take in my nutrition in the form of gelato stops and not gels and to spend a few enjoyable weeks without the unique gastrointestinal sensations that come from thousands of calories a day of whey protein, semisolid glucose and meals sipped from bidons. It’s fun to ride still but to forget about training for a while.

Despite not training quite so much I do have 2 uci races this weekend, rather shorter, muddier and rowdier than my usual terrain. The last couple of years have seen spinal/ pelvic injuries keep me away from road cycling’s dirty side and I’m still by no means in tip top cross form but I’m healthy enough to dabble and happy to travel. Cross is everything I suck at, explosive efforts, bike handling in tight, low speed situations and worst of all getting off your bike to walk uphill. I spend a LOT of time practicing bikes, I really thought I was past that. On the plus side, I’ve received beer in every cross race I’ve done so far, often BEFORE the finish. I’d like to apologize for my offensive “counter heckles” last weekend and blame the beer in advance for any this week.  

I’m off to Rhode Island to add another state to my pin board, race some bikes, see some people and talk some ‘betes.  I’m sure to make a fool of myself in the 2 UCI cross races, but if you’re going to be watching I’d appreciate a few cheers, wolf whistles and perhaps an inventive hand up . I’ll be the guy who weighs as much as Sven Nys’ left glute with the “aero tight” skinsuit and the “windsock” beard. Or as one witty individual at cross Vegas put it “the dude who looks like Jesus on a cross bike”.
the jesus look, the disciples, the cross bike

After Providence I’m flying back to San Diego, touching base and turning around to head South to Mexicali for one of my favourite stage races the Vuelta a Mexicali, with the awesome forces of team Valle Congelado behind me I hope I can improve on my 2nd on team GC (achieved without a team) last year.

The weekend after that I’ll be making my coture modeling debut in the Dominicana moda show of my friend Jose Jhan. Not only will his show feature yours truly  but entries and sales will benefit AYUDA’s partners  in the DR. I can’t wait to catch up with the young people I worked with this summer. Prancing about on a catwalk isn’t really my world but (as you may have noticed) I’ll do just about anything to help people who need it.

If you’re reading all this and wishing you could escape on a getaway of your own, why not join us at the El Tour de Tucson in November (yes that’s right [and yet simultaneously grammatically it’s wrong] the el tour gets a double definite article). It’s a chance to talk about nonprofit, about diabetes education, about bike racing and then take part in all of these things. If you sign up through us we’ll get you discounted hotel rooms, powerbar goodies (as modeled by me), AYUDA schwag, bike building and mechanical help, a warm fuzzy feeling deep down inside and important karma credits so you don’t get reincarnated as a Turkey on Thanksgiving. Talking of Thanksgiving the ride is the Saturday before so it’s a great chance to pre-burn some poultry and pie and if you come from the East coast or just about anywhere which doesn’t have a ridiculously pleasant climate then it’s going to be your only ride in shorts for a while. If you stay around until the next day I can promise a mission up Mt Lemmon and a trip to Le Buzz café to sample some of the finest baked goods in the west.

Once The El Tour is over I intend to return to San Diego and extract revenge on the wild turkeys who thought it was really funny to chase me through the wilderness in my clippy cloppy road shoes when I was mid “natural break” the other day. Before I know it this time of year will have got away from me and the time for looking at a power meter and not looking at a pint of ice cream will be upon me. For now I’m enjoying being a bike rider and all the benefits that it brings. Sharing this with other people only serves to heighten my perception of just how lucky I am to spend my Wednesdays in flight from a marauding gang of poultry.