Monday, September 29, 2008

Another night another town another gig...

Those are lyrics to an old punk song about driving around the country in a shitty van and playing gigs and just generally being a bum. Sounds good to me.

Cyclocross is here, and it looks like at least one race every weekend until Mid December.

This past weekend was the Ed Sanders memorial cross race. This was my second time doing it, and the formality at the beginning was the similar to last year. The "elite" men took our helmets off and had a moment of silence for a man who was apparently killed while riding 6ish years ago. The race benefits his son who is now a barley a teenager, and is put on by his old club. Heavy.

So they call us up and the announcer says similar things to what he said last year. Until that moment, I forgot how emotional I got last year. I fidgeted with my brakes and glasses and skewers, in an effort to not get too choked up. I couldnt imagine if I were on the line and I had known him. It was one of those sad/happy moments where you take the good from the bad and think of cliches about how his memory lives on, but it really does.

Monday meant cleaning all of the mudgrasscrap off of my bike. I downloaded an old album (that I have on purple vinyl 1st pressing) to listen to while cleaning. The song I wanted to hear ends: "there's no "Shangri-La" and it don't get any better than right where you are"

Speaking of living life. Matt is doing a 508 mile race solo this weekend. Chew claims that when you do things like that, you experience MORE life due to no work/sleep/downtime. Each day you do an event like that and you are doing it for 24 hours, so its really like 1.5 or 1.75 days of real life.

Its like time travel man.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Apparently you have to know english to work the system.

9 am knock on the door. It is a Somali neighbor. She has a letter stating that her Access (food stamps) benefits are going to be terminated if she does not renew them. It is a 10 page document that after reading, I had a bit of trouble understanding all of.

She looks inside the house.
"Ladder." She says, proud of her vocabulary.

Great, now if only she could tell me the "the cause of denial for the most recent application for unemployment compensation benefits."

I invite her in to look at all of the paperwork. I call her caseworker. I can picture the woman on the other side of the phone. She is not an native English speaker, and I imagine that she has a reputation for being hard nosed.

"She has been here for three years, she should be able to call for herself." This woman says. She then lists the mountains of paperwork needed to refile. She needs a letter from her previous employer stating why and when she was laid off. "She should have this, and should have it filed." She needs all bills, all bank accounts, a copy of her lease, etc etc.

We got to her house to look at the paperwork she has kept. She hands me a pile of things that look important. Some junk mail has slipped in as well as some routine letters from her kids'school. There are some personal items and pin numbers that nobody should know but her scribbled on the papers. These are the things she has kept, thinking that she may need them later. She shows me her bank statement and her unemployment numbers and tells me the balance in her bank account to the penny.

No Unemployment letter. No layoff notice.

I call the PA unemployment center. It is ironic that the unemployment office is understaffed, I bet they can find some out of work people no? I wait 20 minutes and talk to a really awesome guy.
"Hi, I am calling for my neighbor blah blah"
"I need to speak directly to her."
"OK" and hand her the phone.
"Yes I do" and gives her social security number, proudly having remembered it.
"78. Yes. Yes, 19. Yes. 19 ... .. 78."
Long pause.
"I do not know..." I know exactly what is being asked, her date of birth. She doesnt have one. Much like immigration botching all of our ancestors' last names, they just gave all these people 1/1/year birthdays.
"January 1."

I get all of her paperwork together and tell her the final thing that she needs, the letter of termination from her last employer. She has 3 kids all at school right now, all less than 10 year old. It is unbelievable to me that had she not come over, she might have not had any money for food in October. What happens then? Her kids get taken away?

The "case worker" at welfare was so uncaring and callous it was pretty crazy. She gave me the wrong answers as to whom should be helping this woman. Her attitude was "its not my job..." She acted like her job was to fill in blanks on a computer screen rather than help people, which is supposed to be her freaking job.


Thursday, September 25, 2008

Guess who has a freaking blog?

Not Miniturn. Its gone.
Not Stubna.He was worried that the man might find it.
Not LIFSON, despite wishing he had one to brag about his big finish in DC on Sunday.

But rather Amy. She has taken the spare bedroom hostage and decided to dedicate more time to crafting. She makes stuff and sells it pretty cheaply. Not sure if it is one of those things like old men with metal detectors that comb the beach and average like a dollar a day, or if it is going to be my retirement fund.

Check it out and keep it on the RSS. Christmas is coming and everybody needs to buy stuff then, even Chew. There are some neat things, like the picture of the praying mantis we all saw before Jake and I had killer races.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Bagels, Squagels, and Schmagelz. And Cyclocross

Bagels - you know them and love them
Squagels (watch it) - dont be oppressed by the tyranny of round.
Schmagel- what sheets calls a bagel for some reason. They have machines that you order from, so you dont have to actually say the word out loud. This is good, because adults shouldnt have to say words like "schmagel."

We did all three this weekend.

Leave at 7ish with Soupie and Brody for philly. We are to meet up with Miniturn and stay at his house. Unfortunately when we get there, we realized that Manyunk is the crappiest place ever, and there is LITERALLY not a usable parking spot within a 20 minute walk of his house. I call him (he was at a party until 3 am)

"Dude just park in front of a hydrant and move it at 5 am."
That was seriously the solution.

So when he comes home at 3 or whatever and I am sleeping in his bed, he wakes me up and we move the car. Miniturn's apartment was at max cap. 5 dudes in a 2 room place. Up at 7, coffee, coffee, coffee, squagel drive. Holy shit the race is 20 feet from where I busted my face on that chain!

Brett and soupie race and finshed mid pack. I raced and finished mid pack. I got dropped out of the group that was "my group." The group that if I had not raced, but instead only looked at the results I would be like "oh that is where I would have been." I got dropped from that group. UCI races pay like 40 people deep. Awesome.

Get in car. Drive to Bmore (the land of the wire). We took the stupid tunnel under the water twice because google maps was wrong. 2 bucks each way. Google - you owe me 4 dollars. Actually 1/3 of 4 dollars, and you owe Brett and Soupie the other money. I just want my money.

We eat and meet up with Jim, Pittsburgh punk guy who is also a bike racer / high energy full time spanish teacher part time bike shop guy who is just stoked all the time and now lives in Baltimore. He was once at a triathlon and randomly chatted up another dude there with lots of tattoos (if he were a Chinese teacher he could have been like "yo that Chinese character for TOFU that takes up your whole leg is pretty awesome,") and that is how he met Matt! Small world.

Asleep. Awake. Bagel. 10 minute drive to the course. The drive was long due to the fact that THEY CLOSED THE HIGHWAY FOR PEOPLE TO RIDE BIKES ON IT. I83 was closed for half of the day so pepole could ride/roller blade/jog or whatever on it. That is awesome.

Hey it is 100 degrees out, lets race cross. I remember last year hanging out with Fergie and talking about how our boogers were going to be black for a week from the dust. Same thing this year. Oh hey, they have FREE WATER, FREE VITAMIN WATER AND FREE REDBULL. I was freaking hydrated. Seriously though, the organizers of the race really have it together and put on one of the best races I have ever done.

I pitted the B race and the Elite masters race. Pitting is basically sitting in the grass and yelling. Other people seem to be better at it, and they "hold the bikes" or whatever, but I was just kind of sitting in the grass.

My race was awesome, small field, good finish, lots of people yelling. At one point I look up and see that somebody is standing there with a cardboard sign with name on it. Apparently TJ sent his protege with a sign telling me that I should be trying a lot harder (in different words).

After being dropped and catching back on, then losing the Circle a dude (after sitting on him cause I was blown a few laps before) the battle of the sub 135 lb dudes ensued as Bad Andy and I duked it for a few laps for the final podium spot. Andy was riding really really well, it was impressive. We kept trying to shake each other. I guess this is me describing a bike race, which is like... watching a bike race. Anyway, at one point I sprinted up a hill as hard as I could to try and shake him, and HE CAME AROUND ME! Gnarly. I won the sprint and stopped C3 from Domo'ing the race.

Sheetz in Breezwood = schmagel.

I never have pictures of bike races, but this is sweet. I cant believe Ben was there and just happened to take it! I am the most non aggressive dude in the race I think. I back off easily and am intimidated. Its just not worth being a jerk, or crashing. However yesterday I was coming up on this dude and he was moving over. I think it was all chance, but I let him know I was there for sure. Minturn would be proud.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

My coach is telling people my numbers...

People kill me sometimes. I had to slog my way back to the cars after (kind of barely) finishing the Giro de Coppi road race. I found my way to the water cooler and plunked myself down on a chair next to the free water. There are two guys talking. Guy #1 is the future of cycling... he knows how many watts/kilo he is putting out even while standing and talking. Guy #2 is everybody else, he just didnt seem to get it.

Guy #1 is certain of his future as a cyclist.. based on his numbers and what his coach is telling him. He is asking about teams for the next year, and all but bragging about "his numbers." If you are a DS of an elite team, his coach may be calling you right now telling YOU his numbers.

We have all heard this before, but numbers are not a determining factor of success. Think about intelligence, think about the smartest person that you went to high school with. Is that person now also the RICHEST person that you went to high school with? I am guessing 9/10 times he or she is not. One is not an indicator of the other. This also brings up the point of entitlement. A person is not entitled to results based on power numbers, if this were the case we could save money on gas and race computrainers. (Except maybe time trials? that dude that flatted seemed to be able to calculate his "would have" time.)

Have you seen zoolander? Is a cyclist standing around talking about his power numbers the same as models standing around talking about how handsome they are? When I played chess, I dont remember people sitting around talking about their IQ's or their GRE scores or anything. Why do people think it is socially acceptable to underhandedly brag about their power numbers? By the way, the dudes who rode away from us and crushed the race, I didnt hear any of them talking about their numbers afterward.

Maybe I am harshing on this guy, I dont know him and I am judging him based on 5 minutes of conversation he had. I am just kind of tired people looking at that chart and deciding they should all be domestic pro's based on their 20 minute time trial numbers.

My advice to this guy was going to be "talking about your power numbers is only going to make people notice that you are a braggart, getting race results will get you noticed as a cyclist." I have raced with dudes who were CRAZY strong, but not smart, and visa versa. Try to get your race smarts as high as your power numbers and see where you end up.

Speaking of racing smart, I did not do this yesterday at Coppi. A good rule of thumb is "know the course before you attack." Halfway through the first lap, I was redlined trying to get up to the initial break. The course was relentless and it took me like 2 more laps after being caught to recover from that. Ouch.

Last lap our "field" split into two and I tried too hard to bring it back. There were teams with more than one guy, and I was doing too much work. I got gapped on a climb and they sure as hell didnt wait up. I had to do a last slow lap to show up on the results (possibly as last place).

THE LAST LAP WAS LIKE A BATTLEFIELD. Ramon and I passed 2 freaking guys on the side of the road that looked dead. They both cramped and had to just lie down. That is crazy. It is fitting that the last road race of the year was also one of the hardest.

Next weekend = 2 uci cross races.
Oh man.

Monday, September 08, 2008

So if you have any guilt about your multiple 10,000 dollar bicycles.

If you are at all like me, you sometimes look at your bikes and wonder how you could spend so much money on "stuff." The Somali parents laughed when I told them that my bike cost a few HUNDRED dollars. They thought it was hilarious. They lived off of pennies worth of food per family per day for years on end. It is also hypocritical of me to criticize people for having air conditioned couches or whatever when I have carbon fiber wheels with disposable tires.

Well I have let the guilt go. There are people doing stupider things than bike racing and WASTING MORE MONEY DOING SO!

I present:
Altitude tents for dogs.

This isnt a joke.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Miniturn (aka john of john forgot to turn off his own Ipod) got a PRO contract.

After years of toiling on the verge, miniturn finally stepped up his game and got a pro contract. PRO teacher that is. He will be teaching Math to like 8th graders or something. You have made Rudy and your parents proud.

Little did he know, he was about to jump into my "fab 5." The five people that I can call for free during normal hours. With his new life, he will be "working," and unable to take my calls.

First Stubna, now Miniturn. Who is next ... .. CHEW?!?!

BUSTED FACE (teeth always like that)

Fixed with super glue (the bottom cut I could shoot peroxide through)

Monday, September 01, 2008

Shenandoah 100. Long Long Day. Trip Stats

Matt and I got to the venue at 4ish Saturday. We took a 45 minute cruise, checked out the first hill, then ate some free dinner.

Asleep at 945pm.
Awake at 1030pm. Pouring rain. Buckets. Lots of rain.
Awake again at 445am.
Bucket of coffee. Peanut butter, bagel, air pressure etc.
The line up at 615.
No gun, no announcements. Just "Go"
Insanity ensues as 500 people fly down double track.
First climb goes ok. I make the group of "mortals" and watch the fast dudes ride away. They are so fast it is insane.

Second climb is singletrack and like 99 miles long. I realize that I am as wet as I would be if I had gone swimming. Humid to say the least. I push. No literally push, like off of my bike. People around me push too. Crazy descent. Get passed.

Third climb is a dirt road. It is so crazy long. I cant explain how steep and long it was. Like 8% for an hour or something.

Spk Speedgoat guys specialize in flatting then beating me, so Gorski comes up on me after changing his flat and rides through me.

We crest the climb strung out, but all in sight. I flat on the descent.

My arms were too tired to change the flat. It literally takes me 20 minutes to change it. 20 f'ing minutes to get the tire back on. My fingers wouldnt work, and my arms cramped when I pushed on the bead. Yes I had levers too.

It was really neat to see the difference between the group I was in and the group 20 minutes back. I suck at descending. With the new hole in my lip, I was especially cautious. I was riding through guys. Weird.

5 miles of pavement. Just picking guys off.

4th climb was long singletrack. I was taking it easy, being chatty and just riding my own ride.

An hour later we start the 16 mile climb. "The LAST FIVE MILES are steep" was what everybody would say. That is a ridiculous statement. I just went at my own pace and caught a good 15 people or so, including the race promoter who got to participate, which is awesome for him.

The 16 mile climb was the easiest. It was awesome. The aid station at the top had coke. I was stoked.

I rode with some of the WV guys, of whom at least 1 flatted, we cruising along and picked people off.

More GNARLY descending. Not stoked. Pushed it a bit too much.

Caught a few more guys at the last aid station. 1 climb to go. I ride my own pace and come in for 42nd or something.
Ride time 8:40
Clock time 9:10
That sucks.

Cannonball run home to get Matt to the airport. 5 hours, 1 stop.


1300 miles driven.
56.3 mpg average for them all.
93 dollars in gas for 1300 miles. That would be like 225 dollars cross country.
PA, NJ, MD, WV, VA, all touched.
Right around 26 hours of good riding in 8 days.

Places hit in order:
Roaring run, Bavington State Game lands, Frick Park, Tussey Mountain ridge, Rothrock State forest, Salisbury State park, Jacobsburg state park, Shennendoah.

Apparently Krall has a redline conquest scandium cross bike for me in his apartment to race around in circles in the fall. Awesome.

Iron Cross Long: yes

Pics coming when matt uploads them.