Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Re-Elect Ray LaHood

I don't normally get political, but when the next elections come around I am going to volunteer to help re-elect Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood. Further, I am going to ask all of my loyal readers (or should I say "both of my loyal readers" ... or maybe just "both of my readers") to vote for Ray. Assuming that Princess can vote.

"Do Some Good - Vote for LaHood. Arf."

Why am I so fired up about Ray? Well, because of the latest United States Department of Transportation Policy Statement on Bicycle and Pedestrian Accommodation Regulations and Recommendations (or USDTPSBPARR -- pronounced "WOW" -- for short).

Now, like most of you, I don't usually get excited reading anything that has the words "Policy Statement" in the title. (Louis L'Amour's classic "Gunfight at the Policy Statement Ranch" is about the only exception that comes to mind.) But this thing rocks!

For one, it's short. That's very good, because it has a lot of big words, no action, and no pictures. (Here's a free tip to the DOT: Next time you do one of these, consider how you could do it as a manga cartoon.)

But the best thing about this document is that it states that the Department of Transportation will no longer follow its policy of only pretending to give a rat's a$$ about cyclists, but will "proactively provide convenient, safe, and context-sensitive facilities that foster increased use by bicyclists and pedestrians."

Yeah, when I first read this I thought the same thing that you did: I shouldn't have gotten jalapenos on that burger at lunch. But then I read the next sentence, and it knocked my socks off:

"Transportation programs and facilities should accommodate people of all ages and abilities, including people too young to drive, people who cannot drive, and people who choose not to drive."

By the way, Ray did not (for some reason) put that last part in big bold letters. I did that. I'm sure that Ray, in retrospect, meant to put them in big bold letters. Ray and I are simpatico like that.

In case you didn't notice, I am a person who chooses not to drive. If "not driving" is ever an option -- and this probably includes times when most sane people think that driving is the only option -- then I am choosing that option. The not driving option, I mean.

Of course, policy statements are usually just so much blather. "It is our policy to do good." "The company's policy is to maximize revenues and foster responsible growth." "Blah diddy blah de blah de blah de blah."

But Ray went further. He added "Recommended Actions." Of course, these are just recommendations, but some of them really spoke to me ... and not just in that creepy little girl's voice that I sometimes hear from the back of the bedroom closet.

Here are some of the Recommended Actions, and what each means (at least to me ... and, let's be honest, that's what really counts):
"Considering walking and bicycling as equals with other transportation modes ... transportation agencies should give the same priority to walking and bicycling as is given to other transportation modes. Walking and bicycling should not be an afterthought in roadway design."
RandoBoy Translation: Every time the DOT builds a road, they have to consider how I can safely bike on it.
"Going beyond minimum design standards ... For example, shared-use paths that have been designed to minimum width requirements will need retrofits as more people use them ... Planning projects for the long-term should anticipate likely future demand for bicycling and walking facilities and not preclude the provision of future improvements."
RandoBoy Translation:  DOT will build more and better bike paths.
"Improving nonmotorized facilities during maintenance projects: Many transportation agencies spend most of their transportation funding on maintenance rather than on constructing new facilities. Transportation agencies should find ways to make facility improvements for pedestrians and bicyclists during resurfacing and other maintenance projects."
RandoBoy Translation: When DOT paves a road, they should consider widening it as well to add a bike lane ... or at least a decent shoulder.

I'm excited about all of these, but Ray really got me with that last one. TDOT is about to re-pave Holt Road, which is just a couple of miles from the RandoCave. If they were to put a bike lane on that, or at least a decent shoulder, I would ride that road to work -- thus cutting an extra two miles off of my daily commute.

I'll vote for anybody that can get that done.

Monday, March 29, 2010

March Goes Out Like a ...

Some say that March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb. John Belushi claimed that in Honduras "March comes in like a lamb and goes out like a salt marsh harvest mouse." I've never been there, so it could be true.

In Kentucky this Saturday, we finished March with a 300K. March went out like a lamb. This kind of lamb:


Alright, maybe it wasn't that bad. We actually had temperatures in the upper 60's, and it didn't rain on us ... much. And the wind was actually at our backs for a few miles ... sort of. I'm probably just tired from the last five months of crappy weather.

Anyway ...

Jeff Bauer and I drove up that morning, leaving Brentwood at 4:30 am. This means that I had to get up at 3:30 am.

Here's something that nobody should really have to say, out loud: I do not like getting up at 3:30 am. It's kind of like saying, "I don't like hitting my big toe with a ball peen hammer."

Leaving Brentwood at 4:30 paid off, however, in that we made it to the start in time. Actually, we got there before 6 am, so that the only other vehicle at the brevet's starting location was George Hiscox's Volkswagon Vanagon, a wonderful contraption that George drives to most of these brevets. He sleeps in the built-in pop-top camper, and is thus daisy-fresh when starting time rolls around. Jeff and I, on the other hand, could only let the seats back in the RAAMinator and try to catch some extra Zs.

Here's George getting ready to ride, after the sun had finally come up.


Eventually, Jeff and I climbed out of the RAAMinator, unloaded bikes, figured out what we would need for the day, put on more warm clothing, and got ready to ride. Kevin Warren, who designed this route, gave us some last-minute instructions.


Kevin was not riding, of course. He would instead man the Lake Malone control on the return leg. He and Jersey Mike would save my life there.


Although it was only 40 F, the sunshine felt great as we rolled out. At first, I hung with some of the fast guys, including George and Tom Gee. Tom's calves are huge -- think Popeye's forearms. Riding behind him, you can't help but think "I'm not worthy!"

Since I'm not worthy, and because I wanted to ride with Jeff Bauer and Bill Glass, I eased off the pace. Soon, Tennessee RBA Jeff Sammons came up, and we rode together to the first control.


By then, the wind had clarified its intent: It was going to blow pretty steadily at 15 mph out of the SSE. As we were primarily heading ENE, you would think that this would make for a cross-wind all day. Unfortunately, unlike sailing a boat (sigh), when bicycling you have to follow the road or trail (or avoid the trees, if you're mountain-biking). And Kentucky roads meander all over the place.

They also tended to roll up and down a lot, which left us shifting, stomping, cresting, spinning, shifting, cruising, and coasting. Repeat. Forever.

I left the first control with Jeff Bauer and Bill Glass, who was still suffering with a cold. Bill made it about another 25 miles, coughing almost constantly, before he succumbed to the inevitable and turned around. Fortunately, we still have another 300K in Tennessee in July, so Bill should be able to complete his series to get into the Paris-Brest-Paris 2011 pool.


At the second control, Jeff Bauer and I ran into Barry Meade and Jeff Sammons. They were pretty tired of working their way through the wind, too, so we all headed out together to ease the burden in a paceline.


Yeah, so randonneurs aren't always good at riding in a paceline.

Just after the Dunbar control my first leg cramp hit, going up a pretty steep climb. I was able to get the rest of the way up, and then massage it out on the subsequent mini-descent, but the cramps persisted for the next 60 miles. They never forced me to the side of the road, but they were not pleasant (see above big toe + ball peen hammer analogy).

About 10 miles from the turnaround control in Morgantown we saw Jim Finger from Georgia heading back on his recumbent. You really have to admire someone who can do a route with between 13,000 - 14,000 feet of climbing -- much of it horribly steep -- on a 'bent.

Just behind Jim was Chris Quirey, and then George who told us to peace out.


A couple of miles further, Tom told us that we were about to enjoy a one-mile descent (meaning that he had just done a one-mile climb). In the fierce cross-wind, it was still not that much fun.



At the Morgantown control we saw Jon Pasch starting back, followed by Phil Randall. We quickly refilled bottles at the store, grabbed some food, and began the ride back. We were in time to chase a bunch of pheasants off the road.


At the Lake Malone control, Kevin had gotten a room in which he had water, Jersey Mike subs, and other snacks. I lay down on the floor to elevate my legs, and was soon seized by more cramps. I got some Tums from Jeff Bauer, and also drank a bunch of pickle juice. One of these, or the fact that we eased off as evening came, cured me, since the leg cramps never returned.

Right after 6 pm, we were all running low of fluids and stopped at a convenience store in Clifty. They had just closed, but we were able to coax some drinks from the Pepsi machine (the Coke machine just ate Jeff Sammons's money). This served to once again validate one of my maxims of bicycling: Never go more than five miles from home without at least three one-dollar bills.


Since dusk was approaching, we went ahead and put on reflective gear and our lights. Here's Shaun White showing how bright his helmet light is.


Not only was night falling, but the skies were looking ominous. We had hoped that evening would bring lighter winds, but such was not the case, so we continued to work hard in an attempt to beat the rain.


At the Crofton control, we caught up with Phil Randall. By then, it was very dark, so we all rolled out together for the last 24 miles. The rain finally hit us near the Pennyrile Forest State Park, but the evening was not too cold and we only rode in that for about 15 minutes.

The last five miles of the route were flat and, surprisingly, blessed with a tailwind. Smelling the barn, we all put the hammer down and managed to get to the finish before 11 pm.


Of course, Jim Finger had finished almost three hours before us. But randonneuring is not a race (ha-ha), and we were just glad to have finished the ride in time, uninjured, and reasonably dry.

Now I just need to find room in my bag for a jar of pickles.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Going Nowhere Really Fast

A few of you have asked how Max Watzz has been doing getting ready for the race season. Basically, he's going nowhere ... but he's going there really fast.

I guess this is one of the things that confuses me about racing. I've got racer friends that I'll invite on 200Ks, and they'll tell me that they can't until the season is over. I'll ask if they're coming to the Tuesday night club ride, and they'll tell me that they can't because they're "in a rest week." We talk about biking to work, and they say that their coach won't let them since it would "mess them up for the Wednesday night crits."

But, if you want to get better at riding a bike, shouldn't you, maybe, just ... ride your bike?

RandoGirl gave Max Watzz a Garmin Edge cycling computer for Christmas. (I'm thinking that I should be worried about this -- if my wife has a crush on my alter-ego, is that cheating?) It's got a GPS, although he doesn't really use it to plot brevet routes and go exploring. He's more interested in the fact that it works with his PowerTap wheel and heart rate monitor to give him virtually every statistic that a racing cyclist needs. (As opposed to the statistic that other cyclists need, which is "Are we there yet?")

Here's some of Max's most recent rides, logged using the GPS:


This is from Tuesday night at the Nashville Fairgrounds race track. Note the legend in the lower right corner, showing that Max never moved more than 1,000 feet from where he started.


This is from a couple of weeks ago in my neighborhood. Most of this was just round and round and round the top loop. He was doing something called "jumps." Oddly enough, this isn't like the jumps they do in X-Games or anything, since there's no ramp and you're not supposed to airborne.

This is my personal favorite, and Max has a bunch that look just like this. Again, the legend gives it away: He was travelling less than 80 feet in any direction. Apparently, this is what you get when you put a bike with a GPS on a trainer.

Let's contrast this with the ride that I am going to do Saturday:


This is a 300-kilometer (188 miles) brevet that starts in Cerulean, KY. We'll go out to Morgantown, KY, and then ride back. With any luck, it should only take 12-14 hours.

Hoo-boy!

Now, Max is really pissed off that I am doing this. He was angry to begin with that I went off sailing for a week -- during which I did absolutely no training -- and then he was ticked that I ate like a pig all that week. Key lime pie is apparently not good for the power-to-weight ratio.

But Saturday I'm going to Cerulean, KY, and riding way too long for him, on the same day that there's a time trial in Rutledge, TN.

At this rate, Max will not get to actually race until May. By then I will have finished the 300K and 400K that I need to do so I can have a good shot at getting in to Paris-Brest-Paris (probably the most famous of all 1200Ks) in 2011. Once that's done, I just have the 600K in late May, so Max can race in May if he wants. After the 600K I'll ease back and he can tune his training.

Meanwhile, he keeps whining that I'm not doing enough for his five-second power numbers. Now, what freakin' good is five seconds of power? Why does he want 1400 watts for five seconds, anyway? Is he going to turn on a light bulb for just long enough to memorize the furniture in the room so he won't crash into it -- not that he would crash into it anyway because his bike is on a trainer and won't even go over near that lamp!

I just don't understand racing.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

11 Days, No Riding

I cannot remember the last time that I went 11 days without getting on a bicycle. It was probably after I crashed in Florida and separated my shoulder, but even then I doubt that it was 11 days. Even after they had to sew the shoulder back into place, it was probably less than 11 days before I was back riding (albeit slowly and carefully).

Oddly enough, however, I didn't miss the bike this past 11 days. A week in paradise will do that to you.

Sunday
We flew out at 6 AM Sunday. It felt like 5 AM, since we had just "sprung forward" about three hours ago.


Lynn and Vida Greer were with RandoGirl and me. We used lots of coffee this day.

After two relatively painless flights, a slightly more painful ferry ride, and an expensive taxi ride, we arrived at Nanny Cay Marina nine hours later. We quickly checked in and had lunch.


Unfortunately, by the time we finished going over the boat, stowing everything, getting ice, and signing a lot of papers, it was almost dark. We stayed at the marina on Scallywag (our home for the week) with a light dinner, and turned in very early.

Monday
The Nanny Cay Marina showers are about the nicest marina showers that I've ever used. Since the winds were very light that morning, we all partook of these fabled marina showers, enjoyed a leisurely breakfast on board, and finally motored out into Sir Francis Drake Channel.


The channel runs down the middle of the British Virgin Islands, so is a great place for sailing. All navigation is line-of-sight, which means that you pick the island you want to go to, and head towards it. And, yes, the water is really that blue.

Since it was so calm, we just went across the channel to Norman Island on this day. We snorkeled around the bay, and motored over and snorkeled some caves there. Then we got cleaned up and motored over to the beach, where we spent the afternoon hanging out, drinking, and generally goofing off.


See? We're smiling, and there are no empty painkiller cups on the table.


For dinner that night we went over to the Willy T's, which is usually a wild spot. The dinner was decent, the drinks were strong, and the floor show was meretricious. We were all still pretty tired from a busy day, and turned in early again.

Tuesday
We were all up early to head for The Baths today, but it was still after 9 AM by the time we got there and all of the moorings were taken. Rather than join the boats already trolling around waiting for an opening, we headed east below the bottom of Virgin Gorda and sailed up on the outside.


The winds were still pretty light, so it was slow going. Vida decided that she could swim faster than we were sailing, and jumped in with a cushion. She soon discovered that the boat was moving faster than she had thought, so I had to go get her with our dinghy (which we had named "Scooter" by this time). This gave us a chance to get some "action" shots of Scallywag under sail.

Once everyone was back aboard, Lynn and Vida went up on the foredeck. This gave them the proper vantage point to see a small pod of whales that swam past us.


Okay, so this is not exactly the best whale picture you've ever seen. That small white spot on the horizon is where one came up. Honest, they were broaching and splashing and all of that stuff that whales do -- I'm just not a good enough photographer to get their picture.

Eventually, we got bored, dropped the sails, and fired up the engine. It seemed as if the wind came up just as we got to the top of Virgin Gorda, but that's always the way wind seems to be.

Although it was just after 3 PM, there were not many moorings left in the North Sound. We picked one up off Prickly Pear Island, enjoyed a short swim, got cleaned up, and went over to the Bitter End Yacht Club for dinner.


Wednesday
We started the day exploring Saba Rock and the Bitter End, and then decided to explore it in greater detail. We booked a couple of rooms at Bitter End, then motored over to the fuel dock.


The water tanks on Scallywag were somewhat undersized for the four of us, so we topped off our water tanks while we packed for the night. Then Lynn and Vida went ashore and RandoGirl and I picked up another mooring. We had to hang around and let the motor run for another hour to charge the batteries before we finally took Scooter to shore.

Lynn and Vida had already gone off exploring the inner island, so we just hung out in the very neat room that we had.


It felt pretty good to stand somewhere that wasn't moving, and to use a real toilet.

Dinner that night was not as good as the room, but Bitter End made up for it by taking it off our bill and giving us a couple of bottles of champagne.

Thursday
Breakfast the next morning was much better.


RandoGirl went back to finish her book in the hammock, and Lynn, Vida, and I climbed some of the trails around the island.


That's Prickly Pear Island behind Lynn.


That's Saba Rock next to me.


We climbed way up there, which gave us a long view across the entire harbor.

The winds were still light, so we decided to check out Levereck Bay, which is just on the south side of the harbor. When we got there, it looked so nice that we decided to just hang around there for the night.


After a short swim and some lunch, we went ashore and caught a taxi to The Baths. You may recall that we had tried to moor off there on Tuesday, but the area was full of yachts with the same plan. As it turned out, taking a taxi there was better.


Here's the view from the top of the island, looking back towards Bitter End.


We sailed past this Tuesday on the way up, but it looks even cooler from here.


Norwell (on the left) was our cab driver. He had lived on the island all of his life, and knew everything.

We got to The Baths about 4:30 PM, which is when the signs say they close. There were only a couple of boats left on the moorings, so we got to explore in relative peace.


At the baths, the waves come rolling in over these huge rocks. It makes for some interesting climbing, and some neat warm pools.


You could easily spend a full day swimming and crawling around here, which probably explains why the boats grab the moorings and never leave!




Unfortunately, we had a taxi to catch, so we went to the bar at the top of The Baths and watched the sun set.


The drive back was not quite as scenic, but dinner that night was superb.

Friday
We slept a little later on very full stomachs this day, then motored over to the fuel dock to get more water and ice. We then headed out to the top of the channel, where the winds were blowing nicely.


After a few hours of raucous sailing, we started down towards Cooper Island. The heavy seas and heeling boat apparently stirred up the fuel tank, however, so that when we fired up the engine it kept trying to stall. We called the charter company, shortened sail a bit, and started towards Nanny Cay. When we tried the engine again as we approached Road Town, it seemed better, and so we fell off and put in as planned at Cooper Island.

After a couple of hours of sailing and waiting for the repairman to look at the engine, we drank a bottle of our Bitter End champagne before going ashore for another excellent dinner.


Saturday
The winds were pretty light again this morning, so we swam and played on the beach for a while. Then, since our time was growing short, we dropped the mooring again and headed across the channel one last time.


Our engine troubles persisted, however, as it tried to stall again. Fortunately, the light wind was off the port quarter, so we unfurled the jib and ghosted across on an easy rolling sea. Just off the marina, Henry from the charter company came out to take us in. The engine behaved fine for him, of course.


Soon, we were packed, cleared, and in a taxi. We got to the ferry in Road Town just in time, and were on St. Thomas by mid-afternoon. We found a hotel (actually, the same one that RandoGirl, the RandoDaughter, and I had stayed at two years before when doing this same trip) and all enjoyed another night in an air-conditioned bed, complete with floors that don't move and toilets that flush.

We also, of course, had one last big dinner.


Sunday
We were on a 2:45 PM flight, so we had a quiet morning to eat breakfast and wander around a bit. Little did we know that we actually weren't leaving on a 2:45 PM flight, or we would have been even more leisurely. But, our flight eventually left .. just not early enough to catch our connecting flight out of Charlotte, NC ... and we got home. Of course, by then it was Monday.

It snowed in parts of Nashville on Monday, anyway, so I probably would not have ridden my bike. But Tuesday night I was finally able get back on my bike.

Which is what this blog is all about, right?

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The State of Cycling in the Virgin Islands

First, because I know that you are all forlorn due to the dearth of pearls of wisdom falling from my mouth ... okay, so maybe now you're not. Let's look back at that first sentence, scratch our respective heads, and wonder at its tortuous construction. All I can say in my defense is that a week in manana-land can turn your brain to mush. I don't know how Hemingway managed.

Anyhow, I'll give you the full rundown on our sailing fun later this week. Today, I just wanted to show you some cycling pictures from the Virgin Islands.




These were parked at the Bitter End Yacht Club on Virgin Gorda. We had just finished a really hard walk in the hills, so the yellow one probably doesn't go far. The blue one won't go far, either, if somebody doesn't fix that chain.


This is on St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands. This guy was really working hard on this hybrid, apparently out training in the wiind. He would have been working less hard on a bike that actually fit him, of course, but I admired his moxie. You can see a lot of moxie in the Virgin Islands if you know where to look, and most of it you wish was a little less visible. There's a reason that "thong" rhymes with "wrong."


More later ...

Monday, March 15, 2010

My Second-Most Favorite Form of Transportation (Maybe My First)

This may come as a surprise to you, but I like travelling by bicycle. The pace is right, so you get to see, hear, smell, feel, and even sometimes taste this beautiful world in which we live. There's a sense of accomplishment, because you're getting there under your own power. With loaded touring or randonneuring, you can tote as many creature comforts as will fit in your bags ... and that you're willing to drag up a long hill.

It is freedom. It is refuge. It is an escape pod from the hustle of daily life.

Given that, you should not be surprised that my second most-favorite form of transportation is a sailboat.

As with the bicycle, it is an intimate form of travel. When you are sailing along with the engine off and the wind abeam in a light sea, you are one with the world. The boat rolls along on the waves, the breeze fills the sails, and you rock along in the rhythm. You breath in the clean smell of the ocean solitude, adjust your course to pass downwind of a rocky point, and are at once both completely responsible for what happens to you out five miles from land while simultaneously submitting to the whims of nature.

We like to say that randonneuring is "self-supported." Sailing takes it to a new level.

As with touring or randonneuring, you can work harder for a little extra speed, or ease off and get there when you get there. Usually, if you see something cool, you can stop and check it out. When you get tired and need a little break, instead of stopping a little longer at the next control or finding a hotel or campground, on a boat you head for a good anchorage.

That's one thing that sailing has over touring. When you're touring, you don't always have a lot of options for overnight stops. On a sailboat, you're travelling with your whole house, so it's pretty easy to just keep sailing to the next island group, going through the night if you have to. You've got your bed, kitchen, bathroom, and so forth with you, and most boats have automatic steering (either electronic, wind-vane, or an old-fashioned piece of rope) so you can set the sails and let the boat do its thing. I've biked through the night, and it can be very peaceful. But sailing through the night is zen-like and -- as long as you set your course right and regularly look around for big boats -- you can take a nap.

Depending upon where you're sailing, however, you may also have lots of beautiful coves in which you can stop for the night. These coves may have gorgeous beaches, and nice little restaurants with tiki lamps and fresh fish and drinks with rum and coconut juice and those cute little umbrellas.


My point here is that I am off sailing this week in just such a place with RandoGirl and Lynn and Vida Greer, so you won't get a lot of cycling blather from me. We're in the British Virgin Islands on a 33-foot sloop, sailing and snorkeling and living at island speed. It is extremely doubtful that my butt will even come close to a bicycle seat for at least eight days.

I'll probably post some pictures and tell you about it when I get back. Mostly, I expect this to be one of these trips where there really won't be much to talk about -- kind of a "you had to be there" thing. We sailed, we swam, we ate, we drank, we laughed. We saw some stuff that a picture could never do justice to, we had a rollicking sail on a windward tack that even Hemingway couldn't write about in a way to make you feel half-way close to what it felt like to really be there ... and so he wouldn't ... and we watched the sun set behind a lush island as a calm evening draped over a world that breathed a collective sigh, blinked slowly, and became night.

MaƱana.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Eat Good Stuff and Do Good Things

It is part of the perverse nature of man to fixate upon that which he cannot have. During winter, we yearn for warm summer days. During blistering heat waves, we fantasize about cool winter rides. As children, we counted down the days until our birthdays, where we could open presents, eat cake, and wonder why the clown's breath smelled "funny." As adults, we pine for those birthdays of yore and compare them sadly to the ones we now suffer through, full of blazing black candles and numbers that are almost never prime.

This is why, in Spring most cyclists minds turn to thoughts of ... food.

However, as most basic statistics are, the power-to-weight ratio is a harsh value ... and one that cyclists value very, very much. It is what determines how fast we can climb a hill, and to a lesser degree how fast we can accelerate on the flats. And while this doesn't matter as much to RandoBoy as it might to, say, a racer like Max Watzz, it still matters every time the road my group is on turns skyward, or we see a county line to sprint over.

Just because randonneuring ain't a race doesn't mean that randonneurs ain't egotistical bastards.

Now, power-to-weight is determined by how much power you can produce and how much you weigh. As a human, I am ordinarily "X" strong. I can do things to make myself stronger, but it is very hard work and gains eventually come in only the most meager of increments. As someone who has been cycling an amount that almost anybody would quantify as "a sh-t-load" over the past few years, for me to gain strength I have to put in a lot of training.

Since the power that I have is pretty much the power that I am stuck with, I am forced to attack the other side of the equation: weight. If I weighed as little as either of the Schleck brothers, for example, I would have a very good power-to-weight ratio. Instead, I weigh more like one of the Mario Brothers. Maybe both.

(Nice-ah bibs, eh?)

Alright, I'm exaggerating. I've actually been dieting for the past couple of months and have finally gotten back down to a decent level. And this is why I've been thinking more and more about food, and how you've got to make every calorie and gram of fat count -- both in terms of what it can do for your tastebuds, what it can do to your posterior, and what it means to the world.

So, I'm gonna talk about peanut butter.


No, that ain't no Skippy's label. It's the logo of Team 2012 -- as in the 2012 Olympics. It's a professional women's cycling team whose main sponsor is Peanut Butter & Company. And Nashville's very own Katharine Carroll is on this team.

In February, Shelley Evans of Peanut Butter & Co. TWENTY12 won four stages en route to taking the General Classification victory in the Tour of New Zealand. Along with Kat, Mara Abbott is on the team. This is, basically, one of the hottest teams in women's professional cycling today.

And the peanut butter is really, really good. It's got all of these cool funky flavors, like Cinnamon Raisin Swirl, White Chocolate Wonderful, and The Heat is On -- which has peppers and chilli powder.

If it's spicy, it's mine. I mean, can you imagine how a big dollop of The Heat is On would taste on an Everything Bagel from Bruegger's ... maybe with a sliced up banana in there, too? We're talking a nearly perfect breakfast before a slightly cool morning ride. Mmmm ... nom, nom, nom ...

So, now that I've got your mouth watering, here's what I want you to do: Go to the Peanut Butter & Co. TWENTY12 site and buy one of their special packages of peanut butter and a t-shirt. I'm sorry that you can't just walk over to the RandoCave and have me fix you a sandwich, but what kind of superhero lair would that be? I mean, imagine Girl Scouts delivering cookies to the Fortress of Solitude. Get real!

And, sure, you could buy some flavors of this peanut butter at local stores, but most of them don't stock the really cool flavors, and they don't come with the neat shirt, and 100% of the proceeds don't go to support this team! If you order one of the special packages from the above site, however, your money will go to help out some American 2012 Olympians, and you'll get great peanut butter and a t-shirt.

That almost sounds like it should be a sandwich. "I'd like a peanut butter and t-shirt on rye."

Or, maybe not.

Anyway, if you're still not sure, come to the 400K in April in Manchester, TN. I'm going to help support the ride, and I'll bring a few jars from my order. You can fix yourself a sandwich with a little Mighty Maple or Dark Chocolate Dreams before you roll out at 6 am. I wouldn't count on there being much left when you get back, unless you ride really fast.

And don't even think about touching my jar of The Heat is On.