Nothingness

There is a lot of pressure when you decide to write a blog. I’ve been averaging about 3 posts a week, which seems like a manageable amount. But how do you fill that space? Even if you are not a world famous, loved blogger like the Fat Cyclist you owe a something to your 9 or 10 followers. Fat Cyclist has the advantage of racing alot, knowing pro cyclists, etc. etc. etc. Heck even my remote blogger friend, and future Leadville 100 compatriot/competitor Chris “From the Pavements Edge” commutes to work rain or shine and so has SOMETHING to say. Ashley “Aerochick” is doing something fun right now building her cross bike, crashing it, and riding in a hurricane.

Me a bunch of nothing.

Not anything remotely close to dangerous.

Nope its a pretty boring time right now. Luge starts on November 18. Bruises and stories will most likely follow that event. (Big Luge announcement yesterday was the new speed suit designs. You should read this. Its worth a chuckle. But that doesn’t really affect me.) I did polish my steel runners to get ready. But that was 2 hours of back and forth sanding. Very exciting, not. Hockey was cancelled this week. So I cannot tell you about my great glory of somehow steeling a puck from another bad player, then loosing it right back. (Or about falling on my tail and re-injuring myself). I did ride yesterday. But it was boring. 1 hour going twice around my block (its a long country block) just to get on my bike. Exciting? I saw a guy with a gun going deer hunting, I scared a deer away from said hunter by accident, and I said “hi” to my German Sheppard friend who likes to come and see me when I bike by.

Shoot, even the bicycling world has taken a break from it’s latest controversy. It would sure help if some emails directly indicting UCI came to light. (Hey guys, can you give me something there to rant about? I know those emails exist! :))

I should have something interesting to report on Friday. Monday my life will take a decided turn..real training for Leadville starts then (Friday’s announcement will relate to that).

(Enjoy the quiet Doug. You need these times too.)

(Shut up voice, you’ll have your chance to speak.)

 

Advertisements

Mulligan

Last Friday I went up to Lake Placid and brought my bike. The results were, umm, less than satisfying. In fact, It pretty much sucked. In fact it sucked so badly that my friends at the luge offices commented that they looked out the window last Friday afternoon and felt sorry for me. (Thanks Duncan).

Well once in a while you get a chance to do something over. A Karmic Mulligan. On Friday I got that.

Let’s start with the day. Last Friday, 55, pouring, windy. This Friday, 70, sunny, no wind. In fact the weather this week was one of those absolutely perfect fall days that makes fall a special time. It was nicer out than it had any business being. It was so nice out, I got to ride in my 2012 sort sleeved Fat Cyclist jersey, short bibs, and open finger gloves. The other thing that made last week bad: equipment……..Well I remembered everything. (Even my shoes.)

So (fully equipped :)) out I went on my ride. The course I chose was the same. An out and back on the first 15 miles of the Wilmington Whiteface 100k course (30 miles round trip).

I really like this ride. Apart from the fact that I am getting to know it better, it has a little bit of everything in terms of climbs. Its not the most scenic ride, or a very technical ride. Its just composed of honest hard climbing.

There are three major climbs involved. The first climb comes after a fast paved downhill from the start. This climb is about 800 ft and about 3.5 miles long. It starts out pretty mellow. but about half way up it has two pretty steep (15-20% grade) sections that let you know you are riding. I usually suffer a fair bit on this climb because I am not properly warmed up. Up to the top and then over I went. Down the backside. I took the downhills a little easy. It’s not a good place to have a crash. No cell coverage, not many people. There is little upside to riding down on the edge. Its just better to go a little easy.

On to the next climb. Styles Brook Drive. This climb starts paved. The paved section is about 3 miles long and is steep STEEP STEEP (over 25% grade) in places. Forward on the seat, keep the front wheel down, grind it out. The real heart breaker comes from a false summit. You get off the steepest section onto a relatively flat part. Then just when you think you are OK, up it goes for a final part of the climb. I finished this section and turned around to head back to my car. I took this descent easy as well. Its extremely fast since it is paved. Friday it was covered in leaves. So down (a little slow) I went.

I really really love the the climb back up over the first mountain. It sets up absolutely perfect for a hard effort. To me this climb flows. Not in a singletrack kind of flowy way, but in a mental riding kind of way. There are three roughly equal sections with clear distinctions between the sections. Once you learn this climb it is easy to pace. When I rode the Wilmington race I was pretty tired when I hit this climb. But I knew how it was set-up and I knew how much effort it took. This was actually kind of a recovery climb in the race. On Friday up I went. Loving it.

A fast descent down the backside. Then up the what was the paved downhill on the out. When I got back to my car I decided to do a little single track. It was leaf covered but mostly dry. A fun way to end the ride. My legs? Mostly OK. It was clear that I haven’t been riding hills a lot in the past month or so. It felt good to grind some uphills out. I wish this ride was close to my house.

World, thanks for the Mulligan. Thanks a bunch.

(Umm If it’s not too much to ask, I hope we get one or two more days like this in before it cools off for good. One or two more days, please?!)

Luge National Championships

I am off Friday for Lake Placid to be an official for the US National Luge Championships. It should be a fun time. Watching Olympic caliber athletes I work with race. Seeing friends from the luge world. Enjoying what is looking to be a very very non-fall like day. (Right before it looks like we are going to get hit by a hurricane, WTF is that all about anyway?)

If you are near a computer go to the USLA website between 8:30 and about 10:30. The races will be broadcast there for all to see. The racing should be good. And who knows you might catch a glimpse of me (hopefully not picking my nose ;)).

And, yes the bike is coming (yes the shoes too this time) so HOPEFULLY there is a better ride in store for me tomorrow. Just have to wait till Monday to find out.

(Re)aggravated

A couple of months ago I had a spectacular fail on a bike move in my driveway. Totally epic. It included a trip to the ER. (Now I will say in my own defence that I have since learned that I am not the only person to fail a move in a driveway. Hi Ashley :). Though I think earning a trip to the ER has me on top in this case!)

I’ve been feeling pretty good since then. In fact, body wise, I felt better than I had all summer. I was having some knee issues in my left knee and putting orthotic inserts in my mtb shoes (I got them in my road bike shoes when I had my bike fit last year) seems to have helped with that issue. I’ve been running a little bit for cross training and that made me stiff, but I am OK with that.

Then I played hockey Monday night.

I would love to say my accident Monday night was spectacular. “I was skating down the ice on a breakaway. Came in hard on the goalie, fired, scored and then crashed into the boards.” But the reality is I was horsing around during warm-ups. I use a right handed stick (because that felt “right”) but have always been told that your power arm should be on top of the stick (which means I should be using a left handed stick). I switched hands with my stick and tried a slapshot left handed.

Now, I am not a particularly good shooter even on my right side. On my left? Well I ended up on my ass, on the ice. It hurt a little bit but nothing real bad. The night progressed and I played my typical well intentioned, but not highly skilled game. Went home, showered, and went to bed.

I woke up at about 2am with an intense pain in my left leg. Pretty much perfectly matching the place and pain I had from my bike accident. Looks like I re-aggravated my thigh injury. I was a total gimp yesterday. My students laughed at me when I was teaching in class. One commented that I am really good at hurting myself. Sigh….(Its actually OK. Usually I laugh at them. A little turnabout is good for the soul.)

This bummed me out. I have another trip planned to Lake Placid on Friday. In the morning I am officiating a luge race. And then in the afternoon, well, the bike was coming up with me again. Remember how sucky my last ride in Lake Placid was? I was planning on going for a little personal redemption. This time I was going to bring my shoes. Now that was in jeopardy.

Then something remarkable happened. About 4 or so yesterday afternoon it started to feel better. Much better. Much much better. Almost good enough that I had considered riding. I had to give a talk to some students so riding was not a real possibility (Shut up stupid voice. I would not have ridden anyway.)

Today I can feel it just a little bit. Just enough to know its there. But not real bad. So a nice light ride this afternoon to see how things are. Then hopefully game on for Friday.

BTW. If you are near a computer Friday morning or Saturday morning (9- whenever we finish) the USLA National Seeding Races (they determine who gets to go to Europe this winter) will be shown live on the US Luge Association web site. Check it out. Here is the trailer. Doesn’t that look like fun!

UCI

(Authors note: I am going to try to let this go after today. But there may be more. There is a hypocrisy I see right now and I don’t feel I can end without at least saying the following)

An Open Letter to Pat McQuaid, President UCI

Dear Mr. McQuaid,

Yesterday it was announced that Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) would not contest the charges brought by USADA against Lance Armstrong. Further you said that UCI would support the recommendations that Mr. Armstrong be banned for life and stripped of all of his titles. I believe that that decision was the correct one. I believe that Mr. Armstrong should be suspended from cycling until such time as he tells the truth about his activities during the period in question. There is a mountain of evidence against him that can no longer be denied and it is time for some honesty in this regard.

I believe that more must be done to protect the integrity of the sport. You are quoted as saying that: “‘Lance Armstrong has no place in cycling, and he deserves to be forgotten in cycling”. This statement is filled with hypocrisy. It falsely simplifies the issue by blaming one individual for a culture of cheating in the sport. It fails to recognize the people and institutions (including your own) that failed cycling during that time. It fails to recognize the people and institutions (including your own) that profited from Mr. Armstrong’s apparent success while ignoring the good of the sport.

Mr. McQuaid you served as the UCI Road Commission Chairman for 8 years before becoming President of the UCI in 2006, a position that you still hold. In your positions you were and are responsible for the integrity of the sport. The years of your tenure coincide with the “Lance Armstrong Era” which has now been shown to be dicredited due to mass cheating among the professional ranks. Christian Prudhomme has decided that the Tour de France titles vacated by Mr. Armstrong should remain blank given the inability to ensure that any of the lower riders were clean at the time of their victories. This is a stunning indictment of cycling and there is plenty of responsibility to be shared for these sad events.

In your position as Road Commission Chairman and now as President of UCI you failed to properly supervise the sport. By your accounts Mr. Armstrong passed about 200 drug tests administered by UCI. Clearly the policies and testing procedures that were in place under your administration were inadequate. There is a either real of perceived conflict of interest regarding the donation Mr. Armstrong made to UCI in conjuction with a failed drug test.  In a previous post of mine I detailed the moral failings of USADA in the process they followed in pursuing a case against Mr. Armstrong. One must also question the commitment and integrity of UCI in this matter as well.

Cycling must move beyond this difficult affair. UCI must institute meaningful reforms to ensure the integrity of the sport. Because of your failure of leadership during this era I do not believe that you can provide the leadership needed to do this. I am therefore calling on you to resign immediately from UCI. Please do the right thing for the sport.

Sincerely,

Doug Bohl

(Sport Cyclist)

Yuck

As a bike rider we often encounter bike rides that could be classified as a “sufferfest”. Those are the rides when you have to bike so hard, or under adverse conditions that “normal” people would not consider riding their bikes. Most of the time we do this by choice. But occasionally a ride that we expect to be a suffefest goes one step farther and becomes what I would call a “suckfest”. There are many ways that a ride can transition from sufferfest to suckfest. The Fat Cyclist discovered that riding in the Breck Epic race the day after Leadville can do that. Friday I discovered another way.

Up here in God’s Country (AKA the Adirondack Mountains) on Friday it was raining. I was in Lake Placid for a Luge Officials Course (I am now an internationally qualified Luge Official BTW) and brought my bike with me. I needed to meet with the coaches at USLA and figured I could get a couple of hours of riding in before my class. The weather forecast was pretty consistent for the day. Rain. Rain. And more rain. In the morning before I left it was cloudy, but the clouds broke and some sun came out. As I drove to Lake Placid the clouds filled in and the rain began. Let’s just say that the rain “picked up in intensity” as the day progressed.

My friends at USLA asked why I was up so early for class. A bike ride I promptly said. Oh yeah you have goals for your riding (they know about Leadville), have fun? I reminded them that when they were sliding competitively they probably had to go to the track to train on days when they would not have ordinarily even gone outside. Yeah, OK, have good training then.

(And aside. I was talking with Duncan Kennedy about my bike ride. He rides off road motorcycles in the same place and he gave me some idea what the trails were like. We also got to talking about the Whiteface qualifier. When I mentioned a section of the course we had hit 45 mph on out bike on, he promptly called me insane. Boy this world is filled with irony. When a former world class luger calls you insane, you have to be doing something, crazy right.)

I went and grabbed a quick lunch. But while I was eating I realized something. I was going through my equipment check list one more time. Bike, helmet, rain coat, shoe covers, shoes… Oh shit, I grabbed my booties but not my bike shoes. Finishing lunch I went to my car and looked. Sure enough I forgot my shoes.

Now for those of you who do not ride. When you get to a certain level of riding you buy fancy peddles and shoes that clip together like ski boots and skis. It helps to transfer energy to the peddles more efficiently and allows you to put energy into your peddle almost all the way around. The problem with not having your bike shoes is that regular shoes are hard to peddle with when you have the special peddles. My particular peddles (Crank Brothers Candy) do allow you to peddle somewhat with regular shoes. And I figured I would give it a go and so off to the trail head I went.

My plan had been to ride about 30 miles of the Willmington course. It would have had 3 big climbs and taken about 2.5 hours to do. I was ready for the sufferfest (I knew it was going to be wet).

On the drive out it began to rain hard. My stomach began to hurt from my lunch. My little voice started to chirp. “This is a bad idea. The cost benefit ratio is low on this one dude.” I am still learning to filter my little voice. When is it just whining and when is it telling me real information that I need? OK. I will shorten my ride if I need. A quick trip into the woods to take care of my stomach and back to gearing up. Bike socks? Crap forgot those as well. I put on my sneakers and put my booties over my sneakers.  Pulled out my gloves. Crap. I forgot my middle weight full gloves at home. Little voice a little louder. Now I am already soaked.

“Lets just see what happens. You cannot always pick the conditions you are going to ride in.” Yeah it was a lame pep talk as I rolled out. (Low cost benefit ratio on this expedition dude. The voice said.)

Onto the road and towards the first climb. Boy I wish I had my sunglasses (as the water shot into my eyes making it hard to see). Onto the dirt road and into that sandy muck that just stops your tires cold . Up I went. This climb is kind of gradual at first and I suffered through. Then the second part is steep. That’s when I began to slip on the peddles. Turns out that 20% grade with sneakers on bike clips is not easy (duh) and that’s when I transitioned from sufferdom into suckdom. When I lost my foot from the peddle completely on a 20% section and came to a stop I made a command decision. Its time to be done. Its time to go back.

I did finish that section but then I turned around. Down hill in the muck is when I really missed my glasses (the water going into my eyes turns into dirt going into my eyes). Back to the car, totally soaked. Bike no longer shifting correctly.

Totals for the day: 11 miles (out of planned 30) in 1 hour. 1 climb out of 3 planned. Suckfest all the way around.

(Addendum 1: I stayed the night in Lake Placid because of my course. I went to run the next morning but could not because all of my exercise equipment, including my shoes, were completely soaked. It was, BTW, a bright sunny day. And I spent it inside learning about Luge rules. The suckfest continued.)

(Addendum 2: I did buy a new pair of mtb shoes on this trip after my ride. They are Mavic Razor shoes. I was going to get these shoes anyway. I should have thought about that before I went on my ride, but I didn’t.  I rode with the shoes yesterday. They are hands down the BEST shoes I have ever ridden with.)

(Addendum 3: Still learning how to filter the voice. I believe that will be a lifelong process.)

grandma

Do you have a taste or smell that brings a memory so clearly into your mind that you can see it, taste it, feel it, live it? I do. Every time I eat a black raspberry I literally taste my grandma’s pies. I taste the crust. I smell baking in her kitchen. I can see the details of what the kitchen looks like. And I get this overwhelming sense of home.

This has been a special week here in Potsdam. My grandma has been visiting us from Wisconsin. Its the first time she has come here to see where we live. Let me tell you a little bit about her (and me).

I was born in rural northern Wisconsin. My family are, now, 4th generation dairy farmers. We have farms in the family that have been in the family for over 100 years. I was 8 when we moved away from Wisconsin and began what was to be a larger move to CT. But those 8 years shaped me in many ways. And Grandma did too.

Dairy farming requires a special kind of commitment. The cows don’t care if it is Monday or Sunday. They don’t know December 23 from December 25. You work everyday. You work when you are sick. You work when it rains. You work when it is -20 or 110. You do what needs to be done. When we have a wedding in the family the ceremony and reception are planned around milking time.

I love the farm. And when I went back to visit after moving away I would still get up with my uncles to milk in the morning. Then some breakfast. Then “chores”. Clean the barn. Feed the cows. The reward was a ride in the tractor to spread manure. If you worked hard the uncles would give you a cheese stick (it is a dairy farm after all) and a pop (they got beer, I got that too when I was older ;)) When I was in graduate school we would go out to “the farm” every year for Thanksgiving. I would get up to help with chores even then. My uncles were mystified. Why would I get up early when I was on vacation to feed cows and clean shit out of the barn? I tried to tell them, but I don’t think they understood. It kept me grounded and reminded me that hard physical work is honorable and important. It made me feel like I was home. (They are very pragmatic. If you have a chance to sleep in, you take it. Hence the amazement.)

But this post is about Grandma.

During those trips to the farm my relationship with my grandma changed. I found myself cooking for her. Holy crap. Seriously? She was first asking me for advice on how to cook turkeys. Then I was cooking the turkeys. Then I was cooking the entire visit. Those times are very special. We spent time talking in the kitchen while cooking. We became adult friends.

Grandma is an amazing woman. It would be easy to say she is simple. She is at heart a farmer’s wife. She doesn’t travel a lot. She doesn’t own a computer (though I think I have her convinced that an e-reader would be a good idea for her.) She is a smidge conservative for my tastes. But she is a strong strong woman. About 15 years ago my Grandpa started to show signs of Alzheimer’s. Grandma took care of him. She took care of him as long as she could. I was there the day he went to the nursing home. It was the day after we buried my favorite aunt who died from cancer. It tore Grandma up. It tore us all up. Grandma felt like she failed. But she didn’t. She visited my grandfather everyday in the nursing home. When he passed she blossomed again. They would have been married 67 years this year. We still talk about the weekend that Cindy died and Grandpa went into the nursing home. Those memories now bring joy and sorrow.

Not convinced yet? Two years ago, at the young age of 88, she underwent open heart surgery to replace a valve.

This week she traveled out to visit us. She amazes me.

Grandma is getting older. She has her fair share of medical issues. She has slowed down a little bit. I am not sure when or if I will see her again, and that makes me sad.

I miss her. I wish I was closer to her so that I could visit her more often. I wish that I was closer so that I could help take care of her, and cook for her.

A lot of who I am today is because of her.

(PS. Enough deepness for one week. Today I am going to Lake Placid for a combo business/pleasure trip, luge related. I am taking my mountain bike. It is raining and muddy. I should have a wet, dirty, cold ride report Monday morning!)