Friday, November 27, 2009

Sibling Rivalry

My Aunt Margret is a very kind and graceful lady. She sits down next to me, looks me in the eyes and starts a conversation:

Aunt Margret: “So…you’re still riding your bicycle?” The tone of her voice wasn’t mild curiosity but restrained concern. Apparently she has been talking to mom and I imagine the last childhood memory my aunt has of me was during my obsessive BMX stage, no less mediocre or obsessive than my current mountain bike stage.

Me: “Yes; in fact, I just did a race with Denny in Traverse City.” Dragging Denny into the conversations did two things. First, I just wanted to make it clear I am not the only grown man still riding a bicycle. Second, Aunt Margret knows Denny since we all lived in the same neighborhood growing up, maybe this will change the conversation.

Aunt Margret: “How is Denny?” (I am brilliant.)

My brother Dave is highly motivated and has this ability to make girls swoon. He retired early from the Ford Motor Company and now has a very successful business restoring vintage AC Cobra sports cars. My brother Glen is charming and an amazing storyteller; he can even make his account of a trip to the Home Depot riveting. Glen is currently building an experimental airplane in his garage. I ride bicycles.

I imagine my parents try to frame me in a favorable light when talking to friends and family, like you would do with any child whom you are quietly embarrassed with, as in: “oh, my son [so and so] is doing fine, he moved to New York and is dancing in an off Broadway musical [awkward pause] and is a successful hair dresser [another awkward pause]. He always was the artistic one [insert slightly embarrassed, forced, reminiscent sigh]".

Mike emailed me earlier this week and said he read my blog. I pointed out to him that every childhood picture of me in the blog was from Espanola, a small town in Northern Ontario where Mike still lives. My older sister lived in Espanola and I would often visit when I was younger. That, of course, is how I met Mike. I thought about how most of my childhood pictures were from Espanola. I pulled out my old photo albums to verify this.

What I found interesting is that almost every picture I have of me that wasn’t taken in Espanola somehow involves a bicycle.

Kids ride bicycles, that’s a fact, but the pictures reveal more than a passing fancy, they reveal some type of obsession with bikes I hadn't really noticed before.

I suppose, as a child, my bicycle expanded my universe from just my block to the Levagood Park a mile north of my house to the woods along the Rouge River, a mile south. Maybe bicycling still expands my universe. Maybe I should grow up.

Maybe the fact that I still ride a bicycle could give my graceful aunt reason to be concerned. Maybe that shouldn't concern me.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Bathrooms and Bicycles

I enjoy working on my bicycles. I don't mind working on my truck. Remodeling the bathroom sucked. I would lay awake in bed at night worrying that the pipes I soldered together would leak and ruin the dry wall or that I didn’t center the wax ring on the toilet correctly and raw sewage would fall like rain into the basement. The bathroom is complete and everything is fine.

Allison drew a picture thanking me for working on the bathroom. It was untypically sweet of her. I had to look at the picture for a minute before I realized it was a picture of our tandem I sold exactly a year ago. Allie hasn’t forgiven me yet. I told her I would buy a new tandem but there always seems to be a better use of money. I thought about how the money I got for our tandem was about what the bathroom cost to remodel, and how buying a new tandem may have been a better use of that money. I lay awake at night thinking about all my stupid decisions; much more worrisome than sewage falling like rain.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Let's Go Girls

Cindy is out of town so I took some time off work to play the part of mom. I spend a lot of time with the girls but I never had to get them off to school by myself before. Cindy and I have different parenting styles. This morning I tried to convince Em of the merits of whole grain bread over refined white bread, a well thought out argument about starch and simple carbohydrates. She was unmoved. We left for school early so we could go out for breakfast. Apparently IHOP doesn't open until sometime after 6:30 AM. When the heck do people eat breakfast? We ended up at Tim Horton's. I came home to get Allison ready. Alllie didn't want to eat. I launched into my neurotic speech about the importance of breakfast. She agreed to have Raisin Bran but didn't want the raisins. I tried to explain how raisins were a good source of iron. She was no more moved than Emilie. I picked them out for her.

Wednesday morning I took the kids to the dentist. The hygienist accused me of doing a lousy job helping the kids floss. Thursday was parent teacher conferences. Allie's teacher was disgusted I didn't know the name of Allie's book for independent reading. Both kids were disappointed I don't warm up the car before school like mom does. Sally the dog was mad I didn't take her to school to drop off the kids. It occurred to me that maybe I am not the stellar mom I thought I was.

I thought as a mother I would have time to ride outside. Apparently not. I did go to a spinning class at the fitness center last night, with the other moms, while I was waiting for the paint to dry in the bathroom. The first song that played was that "Let's Go Girls" song, I think by Shania Twain but that is a genre I know little about. The spinning area is surrounded by mirrors just like the work out area. I noticed how my Pearl Izumi shorts made my butt look big.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Mirror in the Bathroom

I am still following the training plan I laid out for myself 2 weeks ago. November is a wind-down month. The reduced riding this month allows time to button up things around the house. Cin and I are planning on selling our house and the bathrooms are one thing that would send a potential buyer running. I would much rather ride than solder copper pipes together. I would rather have my wisdom teeth extracted without nitrous oxide than solder copper pipes together.

I think I have a very good sense of smell. I can often smell people (especially the perfumy smell of girls) before I see or hear them on the trail. I like the smells of riding. Autumn has that crushed leaf smell. Winter has the crisp, dry smell. Spring smells earthy and summer is floral. The main change to my training plan is adding weight training. The fitness center has the horrible smell of sweaty men.

And the wet goat stench isn’t the worse part of lifting. Lifting is boring and the vanity is crazy in the workout area. There are mirrors covering the walls and pillars because everyone there seems to enjoy looking at themselves. Hell, maybe the problem is just me. I weight 145 lbs, and only about 45 of those pounds are above my waist. I don’t question the importance of weight training. Research has found that weight training can enhance cycle endurance performance independently of increases in VO2max. And presumably independent of decreases in VO2max. I’ll see.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Hunting Season

This is opening day for deer season. Renee and I rode Maybury this afternoon since it is one of the few trails around here that doesn't allow hunting. I hunted as a kid but I never considered myself a hunter; I liked to go into the woods with my friends, and hunting provided me that opportunity. You can't just hang out in the woods without a purpose, that's just awkward. Now mountain biking gives me that purpose. And with mountain biking, I have no obligation to eat gamy meat loaded with bone fragments and led shot, which is no fun for someone who doesn't really eat meat in the first place. I suppose this is just another example of getting older and changing tastes.

Emilie changed her room around this weekend. I see she threw out her Hannah Montana poster. Kind of sad, but kind of inevitable.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Lattes and Lactate Thresholds

Emilie, in an unusually exuberant manner, asked to go get a Pumpkin Latte last night. I was tired and not exactly in the latte mood but when your 11 year old daughter asks to spend any time with you, you grab that opportunity with both hands. I would suffer through a Carrie Underwood concert if she asked. I am optimistic that we will have lattes together every week for the rest of my life but, sometimes, I try to be realistic.

The Iceman is always the official end of my racing season. I just re-read my second blog entry from back in January:

Maybe my problem last season was just motivation. What if I am a little more careful this year to push myself when I need to and find clever new ways to fit cycling into my schedule? Is it possible to have your breakthrough season at 43?

I am so optimistic sometimes that I just crack myself up. I try to be optimistic even if it flies in the face of reality. Okay, this wasn’t my breakthrough season; however, I was faster than I was last season so I will count it as a win. I joined a fitness center by my house yesterday. I have really neglected core strength training these last couple years. And I chucked my way too complicated training schedule based on Joe Friel’s brilliant but too complicated book The Cyclist Training Bible. I have a solid plan now where I will dedicate specific time to active recovery, easy distance, endurance, intervals, and max sprinting efforts. I am going to make a real effort to separate bicycling from any other disappointments that I can’t seem to get over. I think 2010 will be my breakthrough season.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

One Of Many Iceman Posts...

Okay, the cliff notes version is I finished 82nd out of 149 in Expert 40 - 44 at 2:04:04. I didn't hit my goal of 2 hours but they changed the course from 27 miles to just over 28 miles. I figured I hit the 27 mile mark very close to 2 hrs. I'm satisfied.

Cin and Laura were the only two in our group who didn't race. They were our enthusiastic cheer section and shuttle drivers.

Denny and Barb did the Sport Tandem race while recovering from the flu. A mechanical 3 miles from the finish line took them out but, as usual, they seemed to have the most fun.

Brad and Kevin finished 71st and 72nd out of 113 in Sport 47 - 49, 6 seconds apart. They had no idea they were so close until the results were posted.

Paul did his first race. He actually registered for the Iceman before he even owned a mountain bike, or rode a trail. He borrowed my bike a few times this summer before he got his own. He did a very respectable 2:29. He is just one of those naturally athletic people.

This was Renee's fourth bicycle race ever and she finished 3rd in Beginner woman, and got the nicest medal I ever saw. This morning I was so sore I could hardly make a pot of coffee. Renee went out and ran 7 miles. What ever. Mike started riding a lot more this summer and took about 20 minutes off his time from last year. I am having trouble rapping my little mind around such an improvement.

To try and put Mike's improvement in perspective I went back and looked at the results from my first Iceman in '97. I did the course in 2:11. So, after changing my life style, dropping 20 lbs, going to bike camp, and riding before work, taking my bicycle on family vacations and business trips for the last 12 years, I shaved 7 minutes off my time. But that is fine because David Wagoner only beat me by 11 minutes yesterday. Who is David you wonder? I don't really know but apparently I have raced him several times. I know this because when they post times at a race, I always see his name at the top of my class and, because he has a similar last name to mine, I think it's me for a second. Then I feel stupid for thinking this. And feel stupid for falling for this every race. When I went back to look at my results for '97, I noticed he raced Elite back then. He finished just 12 spots below Tinker Juarze (the winner) in the 1997 Iceman. David beat me by 24 minutes that race. What I have really accomplished is to hold back the ravishes of old age, at least as it relates to bicycle racing. That ain't bad.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Traverse City

I like Traverse City...seriously thinking about quiting GM and moving here...maybe get a job rebuilding 2-stroke snowmobile engines, the only thing I am qualified to do this far North.

What started as just replacing my cables morphed into a derailleur hanger, rear derailleur, cassette, chain, chain-rings, rear wheel, and bottom bracket. That's OK, the ghetto bike was working as good as new. And the sleet stopped and the sun came out, nothing but blue skies ahead. 15 miles into the pre-ride with Kevin and Brad yesterday, a stick got caught in my rear derailleur and bent everything like a pretzel, again.

It's one thing to sort out this kind of problem at home with a week to spare, it is entirely different when you are in a cabin in Traverse City and racing in 2 days.

I bent everything back as best I can. It sort of shifts. I am still optimistic, sort of.

On the way to get my race packet this morning I considered getting a new bike from one of the vendors that I knew would be there. I drove past the town of Acme. I considered getting one of those ACME rocket packs that Wile E. Coyote uses to catch the roadrunner. Both choices seem reasonable.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Ghetto Bike

So Cin pulls into the drive way and opens the garage door. There I am trying to breath a little more life into my bike. I replaced the rear derailleur hanger but then discovered the derailleur was bent like a pretzel. Bending back a derailleur is more difficult than one would think. I'm cold and greasy and quietly frustrated. Cindy says, with an air of disgust, "your bike is ghetto, just get a Superfly..."

Hum, interesting. Her argument can be broken down into two parts. "Your bike is ghetto." Yes it is old but not exactly vintage, and it has fresh bearings and weighs less than 21 lbs; hardly the reason for my lack luster season. And I'm not sure a bike can be ghetto anyway. Putting my bike down only strengthens my resolve to fix it.

But..."just buy a Superfly" does sound nice. I really like those bikes and there is something warmly satisfying with owning a bicycle that has a higher residual value than the truck that halls it around. And shops with '09 Gary Fisher Superflys left have been selling them for under $3,000. I transferred $3000 into my checking account and went to look at new bicycles. I couldn't do it. I really am ghetto. And Emilie needs braces.

In the process of sorting out the issues with my bike and shopping for a new one, I was thinking about the difference between good bike shops and bad ones. South Lyon Cycle is a bad one. I went there to check out my new local bike shop when I moved out here to Brighton 13 years ago. I was in the market for a new Yeti frame and I knew they carried them. Instead of just blurting out "I WANT TO SINK $1000 INTO A BIKE FRAME!", I tried to strike up a conversation, I asked about which barrel adjuster goes on which shifter on a road bike I was building. The guy at South Lyon Cycle didn't answer me but asked where I bought the shifters. I bought them from BikeSport, the LBS from my old neighborhood, if somehow this matters. I haven't gone back to South Lyon Cycle since.

Yesterday I called Wheels in Motion to see if the had a low-normal M770 Shimano rear derailleur. The problem with finding this derailleur is it is a rapid rise design for the integrated brake/shifter set up. I think it is a brilliant design but apparently no one agrees with me so it's a hard derailleur to find. I wanted the derailleur before Iceman so ordering one is out of the question. They had one, and gave it to me for 20% off, some type of Iceman special. This is exactly what a customer wants to hear. While I was at the shop picking up my derailleur I asked Matt about building up a rear wheel with my Chris King hub. He asked what rim I wanted. I sighed and said a NOS 32 hole Valiant ASYM rim. The problem with that is they haven't made this rim since around 2003. He said he thinks the Trek warehouse still has some laying around. I thought he was being sarcastic since I knew my choice would be a long shot; I couldn't even find them on ebay. He was serious, and he then explained they were clearancing them out. I won't have the rim before the Iceman but I will have a nice wheelset for next season. This is a good bike shop. And they carry Superflys.

Today is my last day of work this week. I am driving up to Traverse City with Kevin to pre-ride the course for a few days. Cindy will drive up Friday with Renee and Mike who are renting one of the cottages with us. Denny and Barb and Paul and Laura will rent cottages too. This will be a good week.