Saturday, October 31, 2009


Today was my second cyclocross race. Those guys are just nuts. I got the hole-shot and was by myself for about 100 yards and, even though I was in the 40+ C class, started to gain an ever so slight level of self confidence. Then, one by one, people started passing me, and they seemed to do it so effortlessly, like they were just taking a warm up lap. I drifted back to my normal position in the middle of the field. Towards the end of the last lap my chain somehow got stuck between the derailleur pulley and the cage and I snapped off my derailleur hanger, which then got tangled in my wheel and took out some spokes. I carried my bike along the course to my truck. Most of the racers who hadn't already passed me, passed me. It was frustrating. I really made an effort, not just today but ever since I started racing. My improvements come in small, microscopic really, waves, unnoticeable to the untrained eye. Each person who passed me felt like another year of training I was losing, one by one, until I walked past the finish line, very close to last place.

But I am optimistic. I found a bike shop that had a rear derailleur hanger for my bike. My old hanger was bent anyway, the derailleur would ping against the spokes when I tried to use the big cog, like a card hitting spokes on a kid's bike. The broken spokes were a little more problematic. The only 260 spokes I could find were used 14 straight gage spokes and, even if I could find good spokes, I have trued my rear wheel so many times that most of the nipples were worn smooth to the point that any further truing is impossible. The wheels are 10 years old and I really needed to have the hub laced to a new rim. The broken spokes where the final nudge I needed. If I can't get a new wheel built before the Iceman, I have other wheels. And I am healthy; in fact, I'm the only person at GM who doesn't have the flu. The sick, brave souls that came to work talk and cough all over their cell phones then hand their cell phone/virus ridden petri dish over to me to answer some question the person on the other end of the line has. Thank you. For some reason that isn't entirely clear to me, I just don't get sick so I should be OK for the Iceman.

Emilie is at a friend's tonight. Allie didn't want to go trick or treating; she wanted to hang out with mom at work, a take your daughter to work day of sorts. Allison gets nervous around spooky things and I suppose that is where she felt safest. But Allie got board at the bar and called to ask if I would take her trick or treating. We went to my old neighborhood.

All in all, pretty much a perfect day.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Getting Over Barriers

This was a quiet week. The kids were not feeling well so we skipped some dance practices. I didn't feel right leaving them home alone sick while I went off to ride so I set up barriers and practiced my cyclocross techniques in the backyard. I have been eyeing cross bikes, with a hint of lust; even have my bike picked out, hypothetically. Damn, pretty soon I will be shaving my legs and manicuring some hip facial hair. Actually I don't think I will take cross too seriously but I do want to race respectably. I embarrassed myself Sunday and won't let that happen again. I finished 15th out of 25 in the "C" class. I know a lot of things affect heart rate but I only averaged 164 BPM in that race, about 10 BPM less than during a 2 hr mountain bike race. Not making excuses, I just think I was more concerned about not crashing and getting over the barriers with a little dignity than worrying about racing. I am doing two cyclocross races this weekend. Hopefully I will place a little better.

Other random things during the week:

I replaced brake and shift cables last night because I was board. I am normally a little superstitious about working on my bike the week before a race. I was reallllly board.

I couldn't find my BlackBerry holster. 'Thought it might be in Cin's truck. I opened the liftgate and realized it would be quicker to just go to the Sprint store and buy a new one.

I don't go in Em's room very often. I am big on the idea of Emilie having her own space. I took a peek in her room this week and saw a copy of her heart rate file from our ride together at Island Lake. Sweet.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Losing A Child to Adolescents

Emilie wanted to go to a haunted house yesterday. I snuck in a quick mountain bike ride then we took off on an hour drive to Westland, the only place anywhere near our house that I could find a haunted house open on a Monday. In the car ride I noticed how Em is changing. I thought about how the music we listen to in the car had evolved from The Wiggles and Kids Bop CDs, to 910 AM Disney Radio, to 96.3 FM pop rock, and now we were listening to the band Cake on 89X, an alternative rock station. I couldn’t tell if she liked it or just tolerated it, either way it showed a lever of maturity I hadn’t seen before. Our conversation has evolved too, from games we played to keep ourselves occupied, to hearing about her day, in great detail, to now where we were talking about why some people are the way they are. She told me about her plans for the weekend, none of which included me. We were suppose to go trick-or-treating together in West Dearborn, the neighborhood I grew up in, since now we live in a white trash neighborhood with houses far apart on a dirt road. I was looking forward to trick-or-treating in the neighborhood I trick or treated in as a kid. I would peek into the door of the house I grew up in, a huge brick house, complete with a huge garage and a library, a house much nicer than I will ever live in again. I would see if there were still ghosts there. It is a humbling thing not to reach the same level of fame and fortune as your parents. Anyway, since Emilie and Allie would be at parties and sleepovers all weekend, I am free to do a two day cyclocross race in Ann Arbor this weekend.

We got to the haunted house and Emilie was on the fence whether or not to go in. She really wanted to experience it but she was scared. She decided to go in but put her hoody on backwards so she could cover her face with the hood. It made me happy to see there was still a kid in there. She looked cute, face buried in her hood, her hair recently cut by her girlfriend during a sleepover last weekend. It is only a matter of time until she pierces her own ears. When I was her age I gave myself a prison tattoo with a sewing needle and ink from a broken BIC pen; the name of a girl I met earlier in the day, just because.

It was late when we drove home. Em asked if she could sleep in the back of my Chevy Tracker. I made a bed out of coats and she fell asleep. When we got home I carried her, like a baby, into the house. She weighs 80 lbs. I may never be able to do that again.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

First Cyclocross Race

I signed up for a 5 K run last year, I don't know why. The only running shoes I own are the ones I cut the grass in. I showed up at the starting line in my camo cargo shorts, sweatshirt, and grass stained shoes. I had never felt so out of place in my life.

I felt just as out of place at the Maybury cyclocross race this morning. I did install a rigid fork and 1.5 Continental Cross Country tires on my mountain bike just so it would look like I made an effort to fit in. I got a 10 minute lesson on how to race cross right before we lined up. I was the last person to get a FaceBook account, I wasn't going to be the last one to jump on the cyclocross band wagon. Actually I was just board. And Denny has been trying to talk me into giving it a try.

I didn't take this race serious. I didn't expect to be struggling in the middle of the C class; I might be in trouble for the Iceman in a few weeks. I didn't stay for the results.

There is a cyclocross race in Ann Arbor next weekend. We'll see...

Saturday, October 24, 2009

NC Photo Essay

My trip to the Pisgah National Forest was a great vacation. I know it was selfish of me to leave all my responsibilities back in Michigan while I rode 5 hrs a day and ate Thai food and drank lots of Starbucks in North Carolina. I got calls from friends while I was there, just to say "hi"; when I told them where I was and what I was up to, they seemed puzzled and concerned. Nothing to be puzzled or concerned over, I just wanted to ride. Maybe I got something from this trip that will help me make up for everything I neglected while I was gone. Anyway, here are my pictures:

North Carolina looks a lot like Northern Michigan, just a little more scenic.

Well, Like Michigan but with the odd cemetery here and there.

And rapids all over the place, actually not like Michigan at all.

There is the constant sound of rushing water.

The National Parks and Req. does a good job of protecting themselves from any liability by constantly reminding you that by riding the trails, you may very well die.

Photo Op.

Here is an abandoned air strip that is only accessible by trails. I am sure there is a story there.

The descents are crazy technical. I needed to take breaks on the down hills. The bikes of choice in North Carolina seem to be Foes full suspension bikes with through axles; perfect for descending but I have no idea how they lug a 40 pound bike up the trails. My 21 pound Felt felt about 21 pounds too heavy.

Some of the trails were smooth, solid rock.

Small lakes all over the place.

The vegetation was so thick the trails look like tunnels.

Small streams constantly crossed the trails. Some of the trails were small streams.

The trails all sparkle. It doesn't show up in pictures. You will have to take my word.

There are 100's of miles of trails but they are made up of 100 individual trails. This means every 4 or 5 minutes you need to decide which way to turn. I tried following maps locals drew on the back of bar napkins for me at first but it really got complicated so I started just making decisions on the fly. The trails are so well marked that it is difficult to get completely lost.

It is difficult to see the mountains because the trees were so thick. This is the best I could do.

The trails were...I duno, different, like they were fabricated by Disney.

My home away from home. It was foggy every morning.


Someone did a clever job of building bridges over the bigger streams with existing logs. The MMBA might learn something from this.

Lots of waterfalls. Very un-Michiganish.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

North Carolina Rocks

So...I figured out what that little chain-ring they put on cranks is for. Funny, I thought it was just there to catch the chain if it falls off the big chain-ring. I realize the Blue Ridge Mountains don't compare to the Rockies but still, when you are from a flat State, the mountains here are really something. Some climbs were so steep that I wouldn't have attempted them if not for signs, put up by the National Parks, stating they were, in fact, mountain bike trails. The Department of National Parks and Recreation wouldn't lie, I guess. The mountains are majestic but I expected that, what surprised me is all the other amazing scenery. In some sections the vegetation was so thick that the trails seem like they are going through tunnels of trees and bushes. Rapids constantly crossed under the trail. The rocks in the Pisgah National Forest actually sparkle; I tried to capture this on my BlackBerry but I'm not exactly Amzel Adams. This trip has turned out to be one of my better ideas. My only significant accident was at the drive through at Mc Donalds: first time in 15 years I forgot my bike was up there. Titanium bars are stronger than the sign that says "Warning 6 feet", go figure.
After a few days sleeping on a pile of rocks, teetering on the verge of hypothermia, and trying to brush my teeth with frozen tooth paste, I caved in and went to a Holiday Inn. I feel bad that I am getting soft in my old age but really, a comfortable bed, hot shower, continental breakfast, catching a first run of South do you put a price on that? Well, it is $99 a night but I meant that in a more introspective way.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Hills Like White Elephants

I am typing this on my BlackBerry, from inside my tent someplace in the Pisagh National Forest, with my gloves on. How can I drive halfway to Florida and it be so cold? And I don't have the advantage of spell-check so hopefully you can read foneticly. Denny just called and said I could borrow his wife's cross bike for a race at Maybury on Sunday; I miss my friends and family.

North Carolina is amazing. I did a 5 hour ride today but it is so pretty I rode easy and just took in the sights. Everyone I met down here is nice. Since I don't talk with an accent, they know I'm not from around here. When I tell them I'm just here to ride, they often make a map on a napkin of places I should go. I was expecting to be in some little hick town but it is a nice college town with good music stations and Thai food and a Starbucks. I will probably die of exposure, and I'm not crazy about all my alone time, but other than that, I am pretty damn happy. I wish I was clever enough with my BlackBerry to attach pictures to this post.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Pisgah National Forest

I spent the better part of the first day of my week long vacation in Urgent Care. Emilie has a sore throat. Strep is going around so I thought I better have her checked out. The good news is it isn't strep throat, the bad news is I spent four hours in a waiting room with sick people coughing and sneezing on me; I probably caught the Ebola Hemorrhagic Virus.

This vacation was unplanned. Back in the Spring I had all these grand plans for my vacation days. They turned out to be poorly conceived, half bake schemes. Then work got a little crazy and taking vacation days just didn't cross my mind. Thursday it occurred to me I have four weeks of vacation I need to take before December. I asked my manager if I could take next week off, he didn't seem to care. My original plan was to choose 12 trails here in Michigan to ride; I would ride two or three every day next week. But if I drove 500 miles south, I could ride new trails, in the Appalachian Mountains, in slightly warmer weather than here in Michigan.

The problem with my second plan is, since I did no planning at all, I would have to go on vacation alone. That is a tough one. I can't even force myself to go out and eat alone when I am on a business trip and have an expense account.

Another problem is I took a motorcycle trip on the Blue Ridge Parkway through North Carolina before...I think they filmed Deliverance there.

I figure the only thing more pathetic than taking a vacation alone in an area where I don't belong is looking back when I am older and regretting not taking this opportunity to ride over a mountain range and on trails someplace other than my back yard. I am leaving for the Pisgah National Forest Monday morning. Nothing is more pathetic than regret.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


My life is very predictable; it is based on the kids' dance schedule. Likewise, my riding revolves around dance. I normally ride at the Brighton Req Area since it is only a mile from my house.

I knew this week was going to be cold and rainy so I rode a lot over the weekend. Sunday I tried something different, I combined a road and a mountain bike ride; I put semi slicks on my mountain bike and rode to the Poto, did that trail, then rode home. I completely miscalculated how long the ride was going to take and how early the sun sets. I stopped at a party store in Hell to get something to eat. I sill had a good 20 miles to go to get home, I was cold and spent and it was getting dark. All in all a great ride.

I noticed a deer scrape during my ride. Apparently the deer are starting to rut, which is way early. I assume the cooler weather this year, and specifically the cold dark weather this Fall, tricked the deer’s biological clock into rutting now. Silly deer, don’t they realize we are experiencing what book smart academics are calling “global warming”? Global warming sounds like a real bite in the ass…if you live south of the 45th parallel, or on an iceberg. I try to carefully choose what I worry about.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

American Girl...And Her Nurotic Daddy

Cin just sent me this picture of Allie getting ready to model in an American Girl Doll fashion show later this morning. It looks like she will be in an upcoming issue of the American Girl Doll catalog. I am not sure how I feel about this. I was very luke-warm towards the whole idea, something seems wrong about letting young girls model and the kids are in so many activities already that I have turned my truck into a mobile home away from home, complete with school supplies, snacks, PJs, and tooth brushes. Allie really wanted to do the fashion show, she had her heart set on going up and down the catwalk.

Allie does have an impressive collection of American Girl Dolls but mainly she plays "business woman" with all my old lap tops and her toy cell phones. When Allie's friends come over to play, she makes them work for her in a make believe business. It was cute at first but I am the poster child of overly protective neurotic fathers and I try to read way too much into things. I really just want to be a good dad and send my kids off more well adjusted than me. Allie is very aware of material things. She doesn't ask for much; Allie is happy just going to the Dollar Store with a buck to spend. I'm not a huge fan of that store but I did find a copy of Chris Carmichael's book Food for Fitness for $1 there last night. Where Allie's focus on material things is noticeable is with food and houses and salaries.

The only thing she will eat at McDonalds is the yogurt parfait. She likes to go to Amer's (a nice delicatessen) or Thai Express (the best restaurant in the world). She enjoys driving through this very nice neighborhood near her school just to look at the houses and pick out the one she wants to live in; I mean a few times a week we do this. And she asks me what everyone we come in contact with makes (the cashier at Borders, doctors, etc.). It has gotten to a point where she guesses people's yearly salary with alarming accuracy. This was a cute game at first but I am getting a little concerned. I have really tired to down play material things in front of the kids and have gone out of my way to disassociate money with self-worth.

Supreme court justices make about $200,000 a year. I heard earlier this week that Judge Judy makes $25 million a year for her silly daytime TV program. I used this as an example with Allie so she never ever ties self-worth to money, that just wouldn't make sense. I try very hard to make my kids see their self-worth is so much higher than something as silly as a house, or money, or their career.

I didn't go watch Allie model today because I wanted to get in a long road ride. Iceman is just a few weeks away. My self-worth is very closely tied to how quickly I can go between Kalkaska and Travers City.

Thursday, October 8, 2009


(Trouble maker in 1980)

I mentioned before that I very rarely get hurt mountain biking. I seldom crash and when I do I seem to jettison from the bike and manage a gentle landing. I never really got hurt as a kid. This is absolutely amazing considering the dumb things I did. These things could be a blog onto itself but let me just grab a good example…BB gun fights.

Friends and I would have these BB gun fights in the woods. BB guns just didn’t have enough oomph so Mike and I decided to use .22 caliber rifles. It would be irresponsible to shoot each other with normal rounds, we realized this even as adolescents, so we removed some gunpowder from the shells and replaced the lead bullets with wax. What could go wrong with this plan? Mike took a shot at me in his parent’s basement. He missed. The wax bullet went through the wall behind me and dented the refrigerator in the other room. Mike and I, stunned by the damage we just witnessed, looked at each other and thought the same thing: let’s add as much gunpowder as we can cram in a standard .22 shell and see what happens. It blew the bolt apart in my Stephenson bolt action .22 and was so loud that my brother in law heard the noise from his doctor’s office across the street and thought we were shooting his 7MM magnum. So it went during my tumultuous youth, suffering nothing more than minor powder burns on my forearms and singeing my eyebrows (that’s another story).

My department just issued a new requirement where we must ware side shields on our safety glasses at all times. I do not work in an industrial setting, and no one has ever suffered an eye injury in my building, but I imagine management is trying to protect us, maybe against a paper cut to the eyeball which sounds painful, if not highly unlikely. The side shields prevent the safety glasses’ arms from opening all the way. I was putting on my safety glasses yesterday and the partially closed arm poked my eye. It really hurt. This morning my eye lid was so swollen and crusty that I had to run it under warm water before I could open it. I should probably have it checked out but I refuse to allow poking myself in the eye with my safety glasses send me to the hospital. The techs I work with would have lots of amusing things to say about that.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Going Nowhere Fast

It has been a quiet week. I normally don't transition to a stationary trainer until after the daylight saving time ends (apparently on November 1st this year); however, between getting the kids back and forth to dance, their school activities, and lots of rain, I have been riding indoors this week.

With a pang of guilt, I made Em and Allie do their home work in the car on our way home from dance last night so I could get them down and ride as soon as I got home. It was late and I was tired and not in the mood to ride but I have this nagging voice in my head that says when I plan to ride 60 minutes and don't, there is some other racerwanabe out there who planned on riding 90 minutes but rode 2 hours instead. That other racerwanabe is only in my head but he got me on the stationary yesterday. I thanked him afterwards.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Boyne State Championship

Saturday I finished stripping the good parts off my single speed so I could build back my Felt geared bike for the Boyne State Championships today. It is only the "State Championships" because the race organizer called it that, they could very well have called it the National Championships, or the International Championships, or Intergalaxy Championships. Just saying something is doesn't necessarily make it so, still, it is my favorite course, and I was in a nasty car accident on my way to this race 11 years ago so it has become a bit of a yearly pilgrimage for me.

But it has rained all weekend with no end in sight. And I couldn't find anyone to make the 240 mile trip up to Boyne with me; they all had family stuff or cross races (Pthfff). Boyne is a good, well organized race but usually has a low turn out for some reason. And there was the question of what class to race in. Boyne is way too steep for a single speed, and I won there (by almost 15 minutes) in Sport a few years ago so it would be socially irresponsible for me to drop down to the Sport geared class. I got up after 3 hours of sleep and wondered: should I make a 480 mile round trip alone only to have my ass handed to me in Expert? In the rain? Maybe.

I went back to bed. The kids are at dance practice so I will go to church alone and ride the stationary when I get home. I think I just hit rock bottom.