Monday, March 31, 2008

Toughest guy at the race.

As some internerd blog said about Kirkwood "a VERY long day for some and a VERY short day for others." Im going to say one of the toughest guys in the Pro 1/2/3 race this weekend didnt get any accolades. He didnt go across the finish line pounding his chest or with his hands in the air. Hell, probably the only people who noticed him were the five people that knew him who had dropped out of their races and were now watching.

When the field lapped him, I was probably sitting on Fred Billet or Rich Straub (both GIANT dudes) to get out of the wind. I said "Good job Rob!" He was riding solo, fighting the gnarly wind on Saturday.

It was just a few days ago while out riding where I was thinking about how dangerous constantly being on the road is. I was thinking about how scary it is to constantly interact with cars. Each day there are a few waves: crazy commuters trying to get to work, then the old people with nothing to do who are half blind, then the 17 year old kids FLYING home from school in giant SUV's, then pissed off people going home from work... etc etc. I was thinking about how it could be unfair to the people around me to put myself at risk constantly. I reasoned that if nothing is risked, nothing is gained and the rewards of doing it are worth any repercussions that could result from being on the road.

I haven't been RUN OVER by a dump truck though. Rob has. I dont really know the full story, but I do know that he was literally run over by a dump truck and had his hip/pelvis crushed. It has taken years for him to go through the therapy and surgery, and after that he finally decided to bite the bullet and have the hip totally replaced. A dump truck. I cant imagine the courage it takes to get back on the bike after something like that. He has it though, because we rode together a bunch this winter. Rob toughed out some of the 25 degree 5 hour days with the rest of us.

Well he is back to racing this spring. He did the 8 hour round trip from Pittsburgh to Lancaster Saturday and did Mingo Sunday. When I saw him on Sunday, my heart warmed. The human spirit is strong.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

1 block from my house.

If I posted, or even paid attention to every altercation that happens with an over aggressive car driver, this blog would be worse than reading weenie cyclists' power files. However, today was really really special.

Pittsburghers might be familiar with the area. 40th and Liberty. I am headed inbound, down the hill. There is no bike lane here, the bike lane starts on the other side of 40th st. I do this just about everyday and have a routine that I use. I ride just to the right of the white line that divides the straight and right turning lanes. This way, cars can pass me going straight, but the ones slowing to turn right just sit behind me. Usually about 10 feet before the right turn, I move over a position and go straight. If I were to ride the white line, I am sure that cars would pass me on both sides, which is deadly. If I rode to the left, I would slow down the faster moving traffic, and probably be seen as an jerk, because the lanes leading into this intersection are like a 1/4 mile long and it would really be seen as a nuisance. I have never had trouble until today.

Guy passes me really closely just on the other side of 40th street and mouths off to me. I raised my left hand like "whats your deal." A visible shoulder shrug if you will.

He pulls over and jumps out of his car. Amazing. I dont remember all that was said, but I was holding a bag in my right hand, wearing spandex and look cleats, so I didnt exactly look ready to brawl. He ran at me and I put my bike between us. A few choice words were..
"You almost ran into my car" (apparently this was the action that prompted his rage)
"Ill bitch slap you skip"
"I will beat your fucking ass"
"Do you want my driver's license number too? Ill give it to you and still bitch slap you" (this was in response to me just stating his license plate number)

He went on and on and got in my face. We stood belly to belly and I didnt back down at all to him. Usually I wouldnt have been aggressive at all, and I would have avoided any confrontation, but the dude seriously jumped out of his car and ran at me. If I had turned around and started riding the other way, I think that he could have caught me and maybe would have knocked me down.

We stood belly to belly and he was spat on me, told me that he would beat my ass and break my glasses and persistently called me skip. I did get smart with him and say "skip?... really? skip?"

The whole time I was just happy to have the bag in my hand. I had just stopped by the bike shop on my way home from my ride. In my right hand, I had a Sram Force crankset with chainrings. It wasnt in a box or anything, just a bag. I was holding the right crankarm. I dont think that they could have found a better weapon on the set of The Warriors. I was wondering at what point, or if at all I had it in me to ruin this guy's life? I didnt call the guy on, or tell him that I wanted to fight him. I just said "you are really going to fight me right here for swerving in front of you on a bicycle?" To which he said "yes."

I feel bad for the guy. The rage he had was so intense. I have no idea what is going on in his life, but it only would have gotten worse if he had hit me. I maybe should have shown him what was in the bag before he parted ways. Then again, maybe he had a gun.

Who would you vote for based on pizza eating?



Sunday, March 23, 2008

Its a good day when a crit doesnt suck.

I was going to head out to the visit-pa dot com mountain bike extravaganza this weekend, however things fell through. I didnt have a mountain bike and one could not be delivered for me to ride. It is coming though shortly. I was honored to be invited though.

That left no reason not to do the Steel City Showdown criterium on Easter Sunday. Amazing venue for a crit. It is unexplainable to those who are not from Pittsburgh, but it took two of the most beautiful bridges and used them as a course. It took one of the nicest baseball fields and used it as a backdrop.
You can see the whole course in this picture. Go across first bridge, make a right, cross second bridge, make right, come back across first bridge.

Having a race that you can ride to, and knowing the local roads to warm up on is awesome. Jared, Mayhew and I cruised out California ave for a few hours before the race. Of course when we saw a few cyclists, we realized that it was Danny Chew and Co.

Danny was heading for Redgate Rd in Sewickley. He was VERY adamant that I go and do a few time trials up this hill. He has his and MATT EATON'S personal best times up this hill during the 80's. I always tell him that I dont want to do it because my bike is probably 6 - 7 lbs lighter than theirs were, which is like 2 - 3 % of total rider/bike weight and is an unfair advantage. Also because it tortures him not to know my best time.

The race was good. The break established itself. I "blocked." People chased. I "sprinted" and got a top 10.

Last year at a crit I had the unfortunate path crossing with a guy who was mean. My team at the time missed the breakaway. We were trying to do our job of chasing it down. I was putting it down when a fellow whose team was IN the break was aggressively trying to disrupt the chase. Fine that is bike racing. He was a bit too physical for my liking and I backed off the chase. It was kind of like a dog with an electric collar on. Each time I tried chasing, he punished me with the threat of taking me out of the race. Good sportsmanship there bud.

Anyway, yesterday was THE EXACT OPPOSITE situation. I had a guy in the break. He did not. He was chasing and I was trying to disrupt the chase. I was very UNagressive about it, just sitting on wheels and chasing attacks down. In his rage, he again got agrressive with me!!! It was awesome, I was sitting on his wheel, a bit to the right of him due to the cross winds. He pulled off and hooked me slightly and forced us both to the back of the pack. No words were said. My new nickname for him is Blaster as in master blaster, as in BEYOND THUNDERDOME!

A lot better than my first race of last year where I got dropped 20 miles into an 80 mile race and then double flatted the next day.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Dont wait for the podium for the champagne.

Here is the list of sports where IN COMPETITION alcohol is banned.
I am glad that "boules" made the list, which seems to be french boccie ball.

Alcohol (ethanol) is prohibited In-Competition only, in the following sports.
Detection will be conducted by analysis of breath and/or blood. The doping
violation threshold (haematological values) for each Federation is reported in parenthesis.

• Aeronautic (FAI)
(0.20 g/L)
• Archery (FITA, IPC)
(0.10 g/L)
• Automobile (FIA)
(0.10 g/L)
• Boules (IPC bowls)
(0.10 g/L)
• Karate (WKF)
(0.10 g/L)
• Modern Pentathlon (UIPM) (0.10 g/L)
for disciplines involving shooting
• Motorcycling (FIM)
(0.10 g/L)
• Powerboating (UIM)
(0.30 g/L)

wada website

Monday, March 17, 2008

Local road history.

Noblestown Road. Pittsburgh cyclists know this road. It runs from the city, essentially to West Virginny. It is a weird road, it winds and rolls and gives the illusion of being in the country despite skirting some heavily populated areas. Each time I ride past the "walkers mill" hill with Chew, he declares it "STUBNA COUNTRY" due to the heavy Stubna population at the top of the hill.

As you head out, you go through two major switchbacks that seem to just cling to the hillside, you arent climbing, just rolling, but there are two giant curves. You pass settlers cabin park, and cruise into Oakdale, of "sills bakery ride" fame (3 hours out and back, nice pleasant cruise). Paralleling the road out of Walkers mill is the Panhandle trail, which runs all the way to West Virgininny alongside Noblestown.

Out of Oakdale, you climb over a bump in the road (when they could have easily built the road flat along the creek), and there is an old church on top with a cemetery and all that jazz. You cruise down into "Noblestown," which barley exists as far as I can tell, but apparently used to thrive.

Here is what I found, from the city paper, which referenced "the 1889 History of Allegheny County, Pennsylvania."
Noblestown Rd was an Indian thoroughfare named "Mingo trail" which followed the creek. Noblestown was named after Col. Henry Noble, whose family bought the land in the 1770s. They operated a flour mill that shipped stuff down to the Ohio and all points south.
The first person to take such a shipment was a guy named "Fink." Yes you well versed cyclists know Finks Run Rd as the connector between Kelso Road and Noblestown, so you can avoid the Orange belt coming into Oakdale from the West. It is a nice climb, and it is named after the stream near it, "Finks Run"

So the next time you thrash Lifson at the sprint for the town sign of Noblestown, and wonder where the town went, it is more of a place mark than a real town.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

St. Pats day. Hour by hour... in the yellow cab

0000: Had already been in cab for 17 of previous 24 hours.
0100: Bar crowds. Tired.
0200: eGot tipped with 2 cans of keystone Ice
0300: Gnoshing hard in my kitchen followed by passing out
0730: Awake
0800: Driving Korean woman to Airport. I drop an ANYONG! on her. She hugged me when she left. Cute. First emotional airport goodbye. haha
0900: Watching the new meter rates take effect. 50 cents per 1/7 of mile after 20 miles at 75mph adds up quickly. Its like a buck every 25 seconds.
1000: Slowly drive by bus stops and pick up people going to town who are already drunk for like 4 hours straight
1500: Get out of cab for first time of the day to buy gas/coffee
1600: Awkward fighting/crying couple in my cab. Should have recorded it
1700: Person hit by car at station square. Blood on the road. Traffic is MORE CRAZY
1710: I turn into the person that is more worried about the traffic than somebody maybe dying
1800: Feels like 3 am. Pick up 1st sober people since 8am. Indian family going to greentree. It was quiet in th cab for the first time in like 8 hours, culture shock.
1900: Literally cant go into a Panera bread without somebody inside needing a ride
2000: Slowing down. Darkness setting in. Thinking that street signs and mail boxes are waving me down
2030: Power trip sets in. Kicking people out of cab. Price gouging. Only taking fares that are 20 dollars or more. Pointing at the most sober looking people in the crowds that are waving at me and unlocking the doors for only them
2100: Nearly fall asleep while waiting for a fare in a dark parkinglot
2200: Normal "saturday night" crowd starts leaving to go to bars. Realize how early it is.
2300: It starts getting really ugly. Peole kicking the cab as I drive past or punching the windows. Yeah let me pick you up... you are punching a car
2359: Eat chocolate biscotti and drink more coffee.... only 4 more hours to go.

Assholes of the year: I drop a couple off at the Strip club at in Mckees rocks at 3am. She is paying with a card, which takes 3 or 4 minutes after we stop to run/sign/print etc. This guy is beating on my window yelling at me to take him home while all this happens. The security guard has to move him away to let the woman out. People surround the taxi and are fighting over it and who I am going to take home.

The origional plan was that: This woman was going to pay me a ridiculous hourly fee to wait for her and her husband and then to drive them home. While waiting for them, she was going to buy me lap dances, which would have just been hilarious. It would have been a memorable ending to a long day. This was an awesome plan until MONGO wouldnt let me out of the cab without trying to fight me. I literally couldnt get out of my cab. I was seriously worried for my safety and the car, they were kicking it and stuff. I tell the woman that I cant stay, which sucks for her, because she isnt going to have a ride home.

After that, I gassed it up (I bought like 200 dollars worth of gas in 2 days) and turned it in, despite probably being able to make a ton more cash.

Caught a ride home from a driver who was doing 90mph on 28 by the 31st bridge where it is 35mph.

Totals: 2 x 24 hour leases with 3 additional stolen hours =
51 hours of lease time
10- 12 hours of sleep/home time
3 hours spent eating a sweet dinner at a fancy hotel with spin class people
= 36 hours sitting in the yellow cab. That is like a full time job or something.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Imagine this at a cross race!!!

Only in Europe.

Craigslist "gigs"

Craigslist, if you dont know what it is... welcome to the internet.

The gigs section is a weird mix of envelope stuffing scams, pyramid schemes, nude modeling for women, and weird cash jobs. I shoot out a couple emails a month when something pays well enough. Last night was a decent gig that is worth talking about.

1:30pm I leave my house to ride the 30 miles or so to the airport hotel at which the gig will take place.

3:20 Arrive and discretely change out of my spandex and snack a bit.
3:30 Meet up with fellow crew members. It was a mix of people. Eight of us in all, and 1 person from the national branch to manage us. 1 suburban housewife. 1 yinzer big truck driving type guy. 2 college "chicks" . 2 college "dudes". Me and an "artist".
My position was "chief bicycle mechanic." Pay was 1/2 of my mortgage for the month, or 1/2 of a decent coach's charge for a month, your call.

We set everything up and go over the plan for the evening.

5:05 The company that paid for the whole gig shows up. 120 people, mostly white men, maybe 8 minorities (all but 2 asian), and maybe 10 women. It was an engineering company that was in Pittsburgh for their annual conference. They have no idea what is about to happen. They hire a company which sends one manager and hires eight people on craigslist. The purpose of the thing is to build team work and to get to know one another.

The deal is that they are assigned into groups of 8. Each group has to answer trivia questions in order to earn chips to buy 2 bikes, 2 helmets, 1 lock. They then build the bikes from the boxes, ride them through an obstacle course, write and perform a fake commercial for the bikes and their company, and dink beer and wine while doing so. All things are scored on time and creativity and there is eventually a winner.

Middle aged white guys in suits riding kids bmx bikes around is awesome. Telling old white guys that the forks are on backwards is awesome. Drinking tons of free diet pop is awesome. Seeing old white dudes SKID across doubletree hotel carpet is awesome.

Then after a winner is declared, the leader tells them that the bikes are going to be given to a charity, the doors swing open and 30 kids from the local boys and girls club come running in. After an exponential minority increase, everybody takes pictures and feels really good about what they did. If I were Forest Gump, I would have done it for free, because it was a pretty darn cute thing. I am not Gump, so I grumble about the 1 week turnaround until I get my check, and how it isnt cash.

Then there is 20 minutes of kids FLYING around the doubletree doing wheelies and skids, which again was awesome. All the guys who put the bikes together get the tools back out and adjust the bars, stems and seats for the kids. Everybody has a good time. I drink more free pop and try to get off my feet.

7:55 I am left alone in the room waiting for my ride home, trying to drink as much free bottled water/pop/tea/starbucks as I can before Amy arrives to pick me up.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

the long ride.

0:00 - chew arrives
1:00 - rolling through oakdale as usual
2:15 - Florence PA
2:42 - Enter West VirbygodgGinia
3:00 - start of 55 miles of NEW ROADS
3:20 - Ride past "second amendment road" for real.. state sign and all
4:07 - first and only meal stop, prepare for 3 hours of riding in the WV panhandle mountains
4:15 - figure that have paid 30 cents/hour for my bike. Cheapest entertainment ever.
5:10 - chew has explosive diarrhea in Tomlinson run state park on the side of the road
5:12 - ride past outhouse
6:00 - start getting really crabby
6:20 - End new roads
6:30 - start getting really pissed that I rode my fixed gear
7:30 - eat tons of chew's cookies and feel really good for a long time
8:30 - might as well take the jail trail home, get a few bonus miles
8:55 - arrive home

Monday, March 10, 2008

2008 oval predictions

2008 Oval predictions:
-Friedman finally just (solo) laps the field. (duh)
-Up to and including first two points races are canceled due to snow.
-Oscar bans aero equipment in time trials. (skin suits included)
-Nobody will go get the "track closed" sign for the 9th straight year
-I ordered 2x the safety pins as last year, so everybody will take twice as many, leaving them to run out on the same day as last year, with like 3 races to go putting me in an investment bind.
-Ruggs uses his "new dad strength" to fight off escaped tiger while fu zoo crew warms up
-Chew completes 24 hour 500 mile day at oval on a 5 dollar bet (seriously might happen)
-City buys Marty a Zamboni machine for the oval with savings from not cleaning the mens room
-More than 10 people (myself included) actually buy their membership more than 24 hours before the first points race!!!!
-Ruggs realizes that "new dad strength" is what he used to call "old man strength"
-Chulack uses new law degree to lobby for golf course where the oval is and is then put in a headlock by Lifson after he eats 3 lunches (rivers club, duquesne club and the common plea)
-Danny seriously might ride 1000 laps at the oval for 5 dollars

Friday, March 07, 2008

Dances with wolves.

Remember the scene where Kevin Costner sits and watches the Natives as they go about their rituals, speaking their own language and he is left to observe? Most people would think that you have to travel to some remote island or third world country to experience this. Not for me and Amy, we just cross the street into "little Somalia."

Last night we found ourselves in our neighbors' living room. It isnt a new thing, they often invite us up and we talk as best we can and be as polite as we can. Last night was fun. There were 18 people in the living room at one point. The room itself is like a Doctor's waiting room, but with colorful tapestries on the walls. Apparently it is customary for a woman not to leave her house after having a baby until there is a party in her honor. Last night was such the occasion. Amy got to hold this new little guy who was only a few weeks old. He slept the entire time we were there.

The Somalis are the best neighbors. The matriarch, Makufu Bana, loves that Amy and I know a few phrases in their language. Only 15 - 20 thousand people speak their language, so it is funny to hear us return a hello. Anytime I see her with a new friend sitting on the stoop, she drops "mmmm veee heee," to which I respond "Fiiia" and whomever she is with will laugh out loud. The laughing is not at me so much as because they have never heard a white person speak their language. I am pretty sure it is really really amusing to them hearing us try and speak it.

So we sat for more than half of an hour, listening. Sometimes you know they are talkinga bout you because of the common words "dakdakadakdakda OHIO dakdakdakda dka BICYILEEE dakdadkaka KALIFORINAAA"

When we leave their house, we are always so happy. We have great neighbors.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Can I get a long and fast?

Saturday night I ended up at the freaking waterfront. I lived the lifestyle of the middle class in debters by shopping on the weekend. I guess I can justify it by the fact that dinner was paid for by a gift card that Amy won on a radio station sweep stake. The shopping was done with credit from the "dead guy's house"....
So the "shopping" was all free. ORGANIC COTTON TOWELS!!!

Anyway, shopping is Amy dropping me off at the bookstore and her getting the stuff. I was reading "ultra endurance cycle training" or something, and sure enough on the 2nd page, there is a whole paragraph about the Chew man. I called him from the bookstore and read it to him. He thought I was making it up. Hilarious. Then there was an amazing photo of him midway though RAAM where he looks like a zombie. Sweet.


Jared DOUBLE FLATTED after hitting the gnarliest pothole ever Saturday. The road was a pond, and he just happened to hit the bad spot. Right when we are standing there admiring the mess, BURT FREAKIN HOOVIS drives by in what I can only guess is his wife's caravan and calls us a foul name. It takes a very confident or insecure man to insult cyclists while driving a caravan. I mean a caravan.. come on.

My options for Sunday were:
-Short and fast 50 minute 10,000 dollar crit that went well for Pittsburghers.
-Long and slow road ride with some great guys, lead by Chew.

I took the long route. The books I read say that you should do a long ride or two the time of your longest event. I was about 20 minutes shy of the 8 hour mark. 115 miles into Greene County and back. Fixed Gear. No power data available, sorry Tard-ina.