Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Five Digits

I rode 10,000 miles this year -- a new personal high.

It's been looming out there for a while. The first week of November I noticed that I should be able to pass 2008's total of 9,000 miles, and that I could maybe hit the big 10,000. Five digits. Scary.

All it would take would be 200-mile weeks for the rest of the year.

Early November, that didn't seem too hard. We had great weather then -- sunny, with highs in the 70s or low 80s -- and I felt pretty strong. I even managed to bank some extra miles at first.

Then it got colder and wetter, and I was grabbing every mile I could get. A drizzly morning, with temperatures just above freezing, but a chance that it might clear up later that day -- and off I rode, taking the long way to work so that my daily total would be 30 instead of just 24. Then, on the Saturday after a Snow Day Friday (a classic Southern holiday for the kids), the roads are mostly clear of snow and ice by noon, so I grab a fast 50 miles before jumping into the shower late for the office holiday party.

These were miles for miles sake. If I had a choice between the slow recovery ride that I needed or another fast workout, I choose the latter because it would take me further. If the choice was between a climbing route that would make me strong or a flat 200K, I chose the brevet.

Instead of helping the Randowife and Randodaughter put up the Christmas tree, I was out getting in some miles. The lights did not go up at all outside, because if the weather was good enough to hang lights, it was good enough to ride.

Thank goodness for online shopping, or there would not have been many presents under the tree this year.

In the last couple of weeks, I wouldn't even talk about it for fear that I would jinx it. The Randodaughter told a friend about it, and that scared me. Now, if I failed, I would let her down, too.

But now it's over. I hit the big 10K Sunday, riding on the Trace with Jeff Bauer, Jeff Sammons (no relation), and Kent Kersten. It was the last long ride of the year, and we had planned to do another 200K. But I knew that all I needed was 80 miles to hit my mark, so we cut things short and only rode 104.

Yeah, when you're a randonneur you say things like "... only rode 104."

It was a pretty nice day, with temperatures in the mid-50s and winds fairly light. We stopped at Garrison Creek, and I took a picture to commemorate the milestone.

Monday was nice, too, so I went out at lunch and did a 20-mile recovery ride. And Tuesday was going to be warm in the afternoon, so I biked to work.

I took the long way in, even though I forgot my wool wrap and my ears were freezing. I would like to say that I took the long way just because it felt good to be on a bike. Part of that would be true. But down deep, I was still counting miles. I was running the numbers in my head, thinking, "I'm at 10,046 miles. I could easily hit 10,100. It's a nice round number."

It's a sickness. I hope I get better soon.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

We Wish You a Hairy Christmas

Did you ever see that commercial that had this actor who used to be on one of those hospital shows? It was from some pharmaceutical company, and the actor would start by saying, “I’m not a doctor, but I play one on TV.” Then he would go ahead and tell you why you should take this pill that cured male pattern baldness, or excess stomach acid, or fear of iguanas (also known as “reptile dysfunction”). Just because this guy didn't even take inorganic chemistry is no reason that we should not listen to his advice regarding the alleviation of our persistent dyspepsia.

This is the long answer for why I usually shave my legs. I’m not a bicycle racer, and I don’t play one on TV, but I like to at least look fast when I'm standing around in bike shorts.

Sure, I’ve used the other reasons. “When you crash, it’s easier to clean the wound if you don’t have to work around the leg hair.” I haven’t had a crash that resulted in any kind of road rash (knock wood) for the past three years, and the worst of that was on my right hip – which I don’t shave.

(I do shave the left hip, but that’s for theological reasons that I don’t think are appropriate in this venue. If you’ll carefully read the lost Psalms of Bob, which were cut from the King Bruce version in order to make the NFL player limits, you’ll know what I’m talking about.)

Anyway, if I was a racer that crashed a lot, then I would change my name to Stuart O’Grady (just kidding, dude … “Harden the F--- Up” right?). No, if I was Stuart I would shave everything. Actually, I would have my soigneur shave everything. I would also have him (the randowife tore up the resume of Ilsa, the retired Victoria’s Secret model turned soigneur) pluck the little hairs from my ears, although I doubt that Stuart has that problem since he’s still young. Although, if anyone could crash in such a way as to get road rash in his ears, it would be Stuart.

Speaking of soigneurs (Ilsa: Call me), another reason given for shaving your legs is that it makes for a better massage. Everyone knows that a good, post-ride massage is critical to break up the lactic acid pooling in your legs. You should also elevate the legs for at least half an hour after a ride, and wear special socks that facilitate better blood flow. And the massage should use special oils for aromatherapy rejuvenation. And don’t forget the embrocations that you must apply during the pre-ride massage.


Can you imagine having to do all of this crap with a bunch of stinking hair all over your legs? It would soak up those expensive oils, and your soigneur would have to have very delicate hands to avoid ripping hairs out daily. A hairy leg massage from Ilsa's callused hands would have been a de facto waxing. Come to think of it, Ilsa's hands were kind of big … and she had an Adam’s apple, too. Doesn’t Victoria’s Secret just sell women’s underwear?


Here’s a better reason to shave your legs: “It keeps the leg/knee warmers up.”

Okay, stick with me now because there’s some science here, and some of you may have only studied acting with Ivana Chubbuck instead of Physics with Dr. Landt. Basically, you know the little bit of exposed rubber band stuff at the top of leg- and knee-warmers? Well, that stuff is designed to grab onto your skin to keep the warmers up. Smooth skin has more surface tension than hair, which is round and tends to roll. If you shave your legs, the rubbery stuff has a smoother, more-sure surface to grab, and your leg- and knee-warmers stay up better.

And this was the reason that I used to shave my legs throughout the winter, because you could usually count on one or two days a month when the temperature would hit 70 and you would need to expose at least some of your legs. But we haven’t had any of those days in six weeks now in Tennessee, so my legs are unshorn and, as a result, hideous. And I now live in fear of a warm spell, for it means that I will either need to ride with my tights on and overheat, or pop a new head on my Schick Intuition and start scraping. And razor cuts hurt … especially when the soapy water hits them.

Still, I hope it warms soon. And when it does I will go ahead and shave, and take the pain like a man. Pretend that I’m a tough guy like Stuart O’Grady. Or Ilsa.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

When I Am The Hero ...

I've long been a fan of Peter's Evil Overlord List. Next time you have an hour or two to kill on the web go over and read these 200+ hints and tips for how to become -- and remain -- ruler of the universe. It includes such gems as, "If I were an evil overlord, one of my advisors will be an average five-year-old child. Any flaws in my plan that he is able to spot will be corrected before implementation."

Some day, someone is going to follow these rules -- thereafter, we will all be in thrall to an evil master. The jury is still out as to whether this would be a better world. Some of us think it has already come to pass.

Be that as it may, the Randowife and the Randodaughter and I were watching TV the other night and decided that there needs to be a set of rules for intelligent heroes, because most of the doofuses (doofi?) that save the world in books, movies, and TV today are total morons. Such a hero would have no chance against an evil overlord armed with Peter's List.

So, this is the start of our list of tips for successful heroes. Feel free to post more rules as you think of them -- good guys need all the help they can get.

(Parenthetical Remark (hence the parentheses): Yes, this has nothing to do with cycling, much less long-distance cycling. As Lance tells us, It is not always about the bike.)

When I Am The Hero ...
  1. After I have defeated the inordinately tough chief henchman and he sits dazed before me, I will take a couple of extra seconds and kill him before moving on to confront the evil overlord. If I am a "good" hero, I may only shoot him in the knee.

  2. As soon as I defeat the evil overlord in the Temple, thwarting him in his effort to procure the Artifact that will enable him to control the Universe, I will grab the girl and head for the door. This is necessary because the Temple always explodes at this point. If possible, I will also grab some gold and jewels on the way out, since this hero gig does not pay well.

  3. I will not drink a toast with my enemy. I don't care if it hurts his/her feelings.

  4. If I am a cop acting on a tip that the bad guy is hiding out somewhere, I will not go there by myself to "check it out." That's what SWAT teams are for.

  5. If I fail to abide by the above rule, I will tell everyone where I am going and when to expect me back.

  6. When someone that I suspect is a bad guy hands me a gun, I will consider that it may not have any bullets. Rather than try to shoot the bad guy with the unloaded gun, I will immediately hit him/her over the head with it. If the gun goes off at this time, I will apologize later.

  7. When I find my best friend near death after being caught sneaking into the enemy headquarters to learn the enemy's secrets, I will not tell him, "Don't try to talk. An ambulance/medic/Gandalf is coming." If he's going to die, then it ought to count, so he better talk. If he wants to talk about how he's sorry for this or that or how much he really loves my girlfriend, I will slap him to keep him on topic.

  8. I will not sleep after sex.

  9. I will not have any romantic moments at inappropriate times. Actually, just cut out all of the romantic crap -- that's better left to chick flicks.

  10. When bad guys are better armed than I am, I will upgrade as soon as possible. There is no reason that I cannot take the submachine gun from them after I kill them with a stick.

  11. When I burst into the evil overlord's stronghold with my newly acquired submachine gun, if the evil overlord launches into a long windy speech as he moves towards the control panel, I will shoot him. He should only be allowed to make long windy speeches while I am tied up on the laser table, thus giving me time to slip my bonds and save the day.

  12. I will not put the evidence that will prove my innocence on a videotape or floppy disk or thumb drive, but will put it on YouTube and label it "Naked Women."

I'm sure that I've missed some, but it's not my job to save the universe. Think of some yourself and post them, or be prepared to greet your new evil masters.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

A Plan for Failure

As most of you in the southeastern United States know, it's been a really cold Fall. Normally, the average high in Tennessee in November is 60 -- this past November, we started in the 70s, and then only hit 60 five times after November 7.

This past weekend was the first weekend in December, and I'm going for another R-12. If you don't know what that is, it's an award that Randonneurs USA offers to members who ride 12 consecutive months of brevets. I did an R-12 in 2007, and will win another if I can ride at least one brevet a month thru April of 2009.

The key to the R-12 is to try and get your monthly brevet in as soon as possible. Basically, if it ain't snowing really hard and/or the roads are covered in black ice, do it the first weekend of the month, because it will probably be worse weather every remaining weekend.

So, Sunday we did Alan Gosart's Natchez Trace Northern Terminus 200K Permanent. It is one of the simplest permanents around, since you basically just take the Trace down to Hohenwald and back. It's also pretty and has fairly little traffic, since that part of the Trace is way out in the country.

The "we" above is the Tennessee randonneurs with whom I typically ride: Jeff Sammons (the middle Tennessee Regional Brevet Administrator), Jeff Bauer (no relation), and Peter Lee (no relation). Alan (the permanent owner mentioned above -- also no relation) was going to ride with us, but a family obligation (relation) cropped up. He still drove all the way over to Belle Meade from his home in Murfreesboro at 6:30 am to give us cards, which is more than anyone should expect from a permanent owner.

It was 21 degrees and breezy when we started. The wind was out of the north, so it was pushing us south once we got on the Trace, but I couldn't stop thinking about how we would be fighting that headwind for 65 miles on the way back. I also couldn't stop thinking about how cold I was, and how dreadful the clouds skudding across the sky looked, and how there wasn't any green left on the trees.

I was not a cheerful guy.

This is usually the time that I start thinking bad things. The "D" word starts bouncing around my head. No, not that D word -- I mean "DNF."

The problem with the D word was this: How could I bail out and still maintain any semblance of dignity?

This is not easy, particularly riding with the crowd that I was in. Jeff Sammons (no relation) has done a 200K every weekend for the past nine weeks! Remember I mentioned above what a crappy Fall it had been? Well, Jeff has nontheless come out and ridden at least 125 miles on either Saturday or Sunday on each of those weekends.

Jeff Bauer (no relation) and Peter Lee (no relation) are just behind him. Each of them has done 200Ks eight out of those nine weekends. Jeff Bauer (no relation) was still coughing from the cold that kept him from doing the Turkey Trot the Saturday after Thanksgiving, and Peter (no relation) only missed a ride because he was in California.

Thus, nothing short of disembowelment would have been sufficient cause for DNFing Sunday. And I couldn't think of a way of disemboweling myself that would have 1) not hurt, 2) not ruined my Assos winter riding gear, and 3) still made it possible for me to go to the party that night with the Randowife. Because the Randowife would have made the pain of disembowelment seem trivial had a I tried to bail on a holiday party with her.

So, I'm pedaling along trying to consider non-invasive and easily repairable methods of disembowelment. The skies start to clear, and I finally start to warm up, and then I get into a fascinating conversation about Cascading Style Sheets and AJAX with Jeff Bauer (no relation), and next thing I know we're making the turn for Hohenwald.

And I'm realizing that if I disembowel myself now, I'll have to get the Randowife or the Randodaughter to drive all the way down to Hohenwald and get me, my bike, and my entrails. Neither of them is going to want to mess up her car toting my greasy bike and greasier entrails, so all disembowelment plans are discarded. Which is too bad, since I just about had the details worked out.

In Hohenwald we stop at the control and grab a quick lunch. Speaking of which, the McRibb sandwich is back. Alert the media.

We are then quickly back on the bikes and heading for the Trace, and I'm bracing for that nasty headwind. But when we start north, there is no headwind. Somehow, the Powers That Be (as opposed to the Powers That Booth ... no relation) have seen fit to quell the malignant mistral. We cruise north as easily as we had come south, and the sun remains bright, the birds are singing, and a copse of cedars near Highway 50 brings a swath of emerald to the otherwise bleak landscape. We finish in just under nine hours, with minimal pain, rolling into Starbuck's for a hot chocolate long before sunset.

It was a really nice ride, and as I sipped my exorbitantly priced reward, I was really glad that I stuck it out.

We've all had rides that we started with grave misgivings. Almost always, at the finish, you're glad that you went ahead and did the ride. Sunday, a full 40 miles from the end, I was glad that I didn't wimp out. I was happy to be riding with a great bunch of guys (even if they aren't related), on a day that turned out to be better than expected, on my favorite bicycle on a really nice road.

And my internal organs were still internal. Does it get any better than that?

Thursday, December 4, 2008

No Revenge for the Nerds

I always liked Team CSC, mostly because it was putatively run ... or maybe rolled is the right word ... by computer nerds, or at least it was back when it was still Team CSC. For those that don't know, CSC was Computer Sciences Corporation, who do consulting, systems integration, and stuff like that. While probably very few of the riders on Team CSC were software jockeys themselves, or would even know how to declare a public variable, they at least got some money from programmers, even if they were just system integrators who mostly configure things and write middleware.

But, I digress.

My point is that CSC had appeal to nerds. Discovery had appeal to nerds, too, of course, since it's a cable channel about science, but CSC was a team named after a whole company of computer nerds.

In case you haven't noticed, cycling gets more computer nerds than most sports. Maybe because it's not usually dangerous (except crits or riding with idiots), or because it's fairly clean (except mountain biking and cyclocross and Paris-Roubaix). Probably, though, because it's a direct application of basic physics to human physiology. You apply power to the lever and you get movement. As inertia is overcome resistance changes, so you change the gear ratio and resistance returns, and now the application of power at the original level yields even more movement.

It is beautiful in its complex simplicity.

Don't get me started on wind tunnels and ultra-light materials and crank arm length and rolling resistance. Golf may have carbon shafts and very complex dimple patterns on the ball, so it comes pretty close, but cycling is the sport of nerds.

And randonneuring, since it is populated by the outermost fringe of the cycling universe, is a sport for uber-nerds. Almost every member of my regular riding group here in Tennessee is in the computer business. One recently sold his business selling computer stuff, three others are programmers, and the last is an accountant -- and if you can't do a pivot table in Excel nowadays, you cannot be an accountant.

IT Factory to the Rescue

Anyway, when CSC became Saxo Bank, we nerds were kind of adrift. And then, when we heard that IT Factory -- a Danish reseller for IBM -- was taking over sponsorship, there was a light at the end of the tunnel. Maybe even a Schmidt E6 ... or better yet a Edelux, powered with a SON20R hub. OK, probably not that bright of a light, but you get my drift. Or you would if you were a randonneuring nerd like I am.

But Monday, that light went out faster than it would with an old Schmidt SON going up a 17% hill at 3 mph in a rainstorm. Okay, again, you had to be there.

Apparently, Stein Bagger, the director of IT Factory, has disappeared in Dubai under the classic "mysterious circumstances," and the folks at IT Factory say that they are now missing about 85 million bucks. This not only puts their support of the team in jeopardy, but has resulted in the company applying for bankruptcy.

It gets weirder. The police are investigating an attack on a reported business partner of Herr Bagger's just before the director departed for Dubai. Disturbing? Definitely.

This from the Channel Register, in the UK (obviously, as you can tell from their mis-spelling of "hospitalized"):

"... on Monday last week, a man who claimed to own 50 per cent of Agios United SA, a Bagger company registered in Polynesia, was assaulted outside his home. 'He was beaten with a blunt instrument, but we do not know what it exactly was,' Nordsjællands police spokesman Henning Svendsen told the local newspaper.

Danish news sources are not reporting the identity of the victim, who was hospitalised and received 25 stitches. Bagger flew to Dubai the day following the assault."

A Schmidt SON could be a blunt instrument, but would be hard to wield. I'm going to go out on a limb here and bet that this was not the assault weapon.

News Flash! Here's a fun little game that I found researching this. Minutes of fun for the whole family!

Killer Instinct

As if this weren't enough weirdness from the former Team CSC and now former Team IT Factory (damn, but I wish I had an IT Factory kit -- that would be so cool to wear at a Tuesday night ride this summer), the riders recently completed survival camp. And it's not the kind of cycling camp that you might think. Instead of, say, I don't know ... riding bikes? ... the racers were doing night maneuvers, shooting guns, and swimming out to rubber rafts like they were Demi Moore trying to become a Navy Seal. Better yet, they were doing this in Denmark! In November!

If you want to see if Andy Schleck does that scarey smile thing when he's popping a cap in some target's chamois, go see the photos on Cycling News.com. There are no pictures of Demi Moore there, however. You'll have to settle for Liz Hatch.

Hello, glad you could rejoin us.

Apparently, they brought in a former paratrooper to run this thing, and it's all to build character and team camaraderie yadda-yadda. It's the kind of thing that they usually do with executive teams at some software company, so they can bond and better synergize the company and deep-dive the root causes. And the executives never really get the message, so that most of them just end up with a weekend out of the office, plus the knowledge of how to use a gun, evade an enemy, and disable an opponent with a blunt object.

Oh ...