Monday, December 15, 2008

Oh, one other ingredient: Wool

Yes, I am an enthusiastic person, willing to try lotsa things, and say "yes" to many many requests. Like, for example: "Sure, I'll bike 100 miles for Susan Nelson's fight against cancer." But I do believe in a certain level of preparedness for things, and like a well-trained mom, 90% of the preparation involves wearing wool.

Why was I so joyous on Sunday? I was wearing my three, no, four favorite garments: an incredibly soft and warm lambswool sweater (turtle-ish neck, 1/4 zip, from Brooks Brothers, believe it or not), my 1952 (manufacture date is on the label!) Australian Army wool pants (5-pocket; I often roll them into knickers for bike riding), and Smartwool knee socks.

Also knicker tights under the pants, an Under Armor undershirt under the sweater, my team jersey over it, glove liners and fleece mittens, and, what the smart people do: plastic bags twixt my socks and shoes, adding warmth without cutting off circulation. All the people who snickered beforehand were the ones seeking out a warm engine block to put their toes on afterwards.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Snow + Lunch + Overexuberance = Racing Joy

Apropos of the Illinois State Cyclocross Championship race, I'd like to share a cartoon with you:
Married To The Sea

What a slip-slidey blast! The course was a whole lot of oxygen-sucking fun. The terrain was a a lovely mix of frozen mud, deep and rutted snow, hard-packed sand, some short steep hills with right angle turns into and out of them, and one long hill (composed of aforementioned frozen mud). Oh, and did I mention it was like 17 degrees?

Here's what I remember (this may seem like a long list, but when you consider that it's absolutely exhaustive, and that most of the observations come from the first lap), you'll come to the conclusion that a great portion of the limited athletic success that I've had has been due to the fact that my body is able to shut off oxygen to my brain, enabling better muscle performance):

Eating lunch (ahh, yes, don't say I've learned nothing this 'cross season).

Forgetting to bring a check for registration, so a nice warmup ride to an ATM and back (OK, so I haven't learned everything. But it was a great warmup).

A lousy start-line position, third row back (More not-learning things: I realized before the start that I still had my phone in my pocket and dithered about looking for someone near the line to give it to before I found teammates--thanks, guys!--watching the start).

Thankfully, most people are really slow off the line so I was able to position myself somewhere around 20th by the time of the first crash--50 yards in. Everybody in places, oh, 5-18 went down, and so I squeezed up a bit solidly into the first group of slow people.

'Round some more turns, careening downhill and left into a tunnel, and hearing as I came out, "there's a big crash on the hill! a big crash!"--whoa! no kidding. You could easily get halfway up, lose momentum, start cranking hard and spinning your rear wheel, and ploop! out goes your bike from under you. Thankfully, I stuck to the snowy unpacked side and passed another couple of folks.

Then a long slog up the sled hill--and upwind--and down, then, what's this? a fast place? on a sand path? that isn't slippery? what a joy! And, even better, a pair of barriers on flat ground? Oh, I don't mind the right turn to the barriers and the left turn out, flatland barriers are my forte, my bread and butter, my opportunity to blow by, well, a couple of people. Not enough.

My next thought was, "Why the heck is everyone going so slow? don't they know this is a race?" It turns out six-inch deep rutted snow slows some people down. Go figure. I charged a new path around them on the right, and established myself in more or less the position I'd hold for most of the race.

At this point, my memories start getting blurrier and blurrier.

I remember passing one guy only to endo fifteen seconds later coming from a concrete flat (along the lake) onto grass. Whoops, got to lift the front wheel more to get up that lip at speed.

I remember looking back and seeing a string of 2 or 3 Tatitos and thinking, "Isn't that nice? all us neighborhood guys sticking together."

I remember (fatefully) coming into the start/finish line and seeing a "2" on the laps to go sign.

I remember thinking, "do I have one or two laps to go?"

I remember getting passed by somebody in an orange jersey and thinking, "Shoot, that guy's got a broken wrist! can't let him beat me!"

And, "can I stick with him for this last lap so I can sprint with him?"

And, "poor guy, his wrist must be killing him, why's he pulling out of the race?"

And, "no, I won't take a doughnut handup thanks I'm racing! If it was beer..." and then crashing.
(are you getting the picture? I wasn't)

And, "dang, the field is really spread out; I can't see any of my competition ahead of me."

And, "oh, the crowd must have all gone to see the finish."

And, "god, what will the lap count say now? do I have one more to do or is this it?"

And a very firm voice outside of my head saying as I crossed the line, "You're done."

And then a cool-down ride, and a couple of people asking, "Why'd you do an extra lap?"

Now I just need to equip my fans with a big "STOP, FORREST, STOP!" sign. Or better, "Sprint, Forrest, sprint!" Clearly my IQ drops to about 23 over the course of a race.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Nice fenders...

Here's a little project for y'all. Get your hands on some SKS fenders (the P45s are good if you're running wider tires, up to about 35 mm; the P35s if you're going a little smaller). They come in boring black or a pretty spiffy silver, with black and clear stripes.

The SKSs have nice mounting hardware: double struts and a pop-out mounting so that if road detritus gets stuck between your fender and tire you don't come to a screeching, ass-over-teakettle halt.

But you want your fenders to be a little different; you want to add some color to a black and silver bike. So you get your hands on a can of Krylon plastic spray paint and some masking tape, et voila. Oh, note that we masked the inside of the fenders when we sprayed so that the clear stayed clear. Come to think of it, it's possible that if you didn't mask the inside you'd get a very subtle stripe of color through the clear stripes, and if you wanted to be really really subtle you could leave the outside silver and just paint the inside

They're going on my Dad's black Raleigh and I think they'll look sharp.

Monday, December 8, 2008

I'm just sayin' has a "Universal Wish List Button" you can add to your browser; it will allow you to add items from non-Amazon sites to your wish list.

Pretty cool.

Concessive-impulsive disorder

n. phrase: The habit, nay, reflex, of always saying "yes," even when you really shouldn't. May result in unexpected delights.

Or extreme exhaustion.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Team Fat Cyclist: Win Susan!

Does the full-zip jersey make me look fat? I hope so.

I've mentioned Elden Nelson, the Fat Cyclist before, but now's the time to talk a little more about what he's done for me and the rest of the world, and what I'm trying to give back to him, by giving back to the rest of the world. And what you can do to help.

The Fat Cyclist is one of the best blogs on the internet, hands down. Yes, it's a little more personal if you like bicycling, or if you have some sort of capacity for human emotion, but even if not, you'll laugh your coffee out your nose at "An Open Letter to Assos" and its follow-up, "The Wit and Wisdom of Dr. Michael Lämmler". If the screamingly funny posts don't get you, then he gives away some really cool bike stuff in contests and drawings every now and then and you're hooked. And if you follow the posts, you'll cry as I did when you read that Susan, Elden's wife, has had a relapse of her breast cancer, and it has metastasized to her brain, with thousands of tiny tumors like dandelion seeds in her brain.

I've commented occasionally that TV shows are for people who don't have interesting, or attractive, or funny friends, but the thing about the internet is that you can actually get to be friends with interesting, funny, smart, attractive, hard working, wonderful people. And I consider Elden to be my friend (it says we are, right there on Facebook!). He's the sort of friend you want to be more like; not perfect (we all have our moments. And jeez, he serves brats with no beer.) but when I read his writing, he makes me want to be a better person, a better dad, a better husband. Like another big brother. Because, after all, it doesn't really matter what kind of a cyclist you are.

So we (the internet) try to 'be there' for Susan and Elden and the kids, and those of us who are in Utah can come over with dinner, and help clean the house and the like. But when Elden says, "This is helpful," and it's something we can do--we jump. Seriously, he could say, "I really need you all to send me your toenail clippings," and he'd be able to open a glue factory in a week. And so he's put together a fundraising team for the Lance Armstrong Foundation (did I mention Elden's a bicyclist?), and he asked for team members to create the largest, most successful fundraising team in the history of the event. I jumped. And jumped in for the Seattle ride, on June 21--it seemed only appropriate, in that the other person I look up to like him is my brother, that I go ride in his town. (By the way, brother Wombat, can I sleep on your sofa?)

In our family we know something about cancer from a couple of different sides: Dr. Fledermaus's family tree has a terrifying streak running through it (thankfully, late-arriving, slow-moving, and excisable), and Dr. Fledermaus herself has a Ph.D. studying the disease. One thing I'm learning too well is that I'm now at the age when my cohort of friends is starting to develop cancer. Three good friends, all with kids, have been diagnosed in the past two years, with varying prognoses. But one thing I didn't know was the range of things that the Armstrong Foundation does. Yes, they support research (amen!) and treatment, but they also provide a huge range of services to cancer patients and their families. They provide personal guidance, counseling, really, in a way that all the books and brochures and even doctors can't.

All of which is to say, I'm asking now, and I'll probably ask again sometime before June, for you to chip in a few bucks by clicking here. In return, I'll ride a hundred miles with your names on my back, and if any of you can come to Seattle, too, I'll grill brats for you according to Elden's recipe (ok, I use the same recipe). We'll have a send-off grill in Chicago, too (where we know a thing or two about bratwurst).

And if I win anything, I'll share like Bat Jr., and try to gloat humorously.