Monday, June 28, 2010

Big M

I had a very mediocre result at the Big M race yesterday. It was a good race, just my effort was more mediocre than usual.

My heart just wasn’t into racing this weekend. The Big M course happens to be on the way to Traverse City where we were dropping off the kids for the week. I vaguely remember doing this race before and liking the layout. It is a hilly cross country ski trail and I think hilly cross country ski trails make the best race courses. I casually mentioned something to Renee about doing this race and she immediately preregistered for it. It doesn’t take much to talk her into racing.

It took 45 minutes longer than I planned to get the kids herded up and into the car Sunday morning. Add a few unscheduled pit stops and I didn’t think I was going to make the race, which would have been fine. We accidentally made good time so I had Cindy call Renee to see if she was serious about racing in the rain. She was.

Just after I picked up my race packet, Renee called and said she was running behind and didn’t think she was going to make it. While I was on the line ready to take off, it started to pour, the kind of rain where you can only see a few yards in front of you. I thought: “Oh man, this sucks”.

I raced hard for the first lap, almost clocked a tree at the bottom of a long muddy downhill, and decided to stop racing and just ride for fun. And it was fun. The sun came out halfway through the race and the trail was great, maybe a little slick. There was no pressure to place. This season is a wash but I’m OK with that. Next year I will come out swinging. Or I will ride just for fun. I’m good either way.

The value of racing for me is just knowing I have a race coming up; it's in the back of my mind on those days I am on the fence about riding, or when I am choosing what I want for lunch. The race itself is just a means to an end.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

How to Buy Farm Equipment (and other things you know nothing about)

There is nothing I am an expert in, a few things I understand a little (actually just bicycles, motorcycles, and cars), and an infinite number of things I know nothing about.

My friend Mike lives on a farm in Northern Ontario. He called me up last weekend and asked if I would look at a three point implement for sale near my house. I told him I would take a look, and I would buy it if it looked like a good piece of equipment. And, since I was doing a race in Northern Michigan this weekend, I would bring it with me and save him a few hundred miles. A solid plan except farming equipment is part of that infinite number of things I know nothing about. I didn’t point this out to Mike since I didn’t want to seem any less competent or manly than I already am. Plus, Mike has known me since we were 13; he should have no delusion about my farm equipment prowess.

I went to Howell Monday to look at this tractor thingy. I examined it as if I knew what I was looking at. I thought I better say something so the owner didn’t think I was some clueless city folk.

Me: “Uh yes, John Deere…they make fine, you know, tractor thingies."

Dar: “Your buddy is going to drive all the way from Ontario to pick it up?”

Me: “Well, I’m doing a bike race near Manistee this weekend so I might bring it up with me.”

Dar: “What kind of bike do you have?”

Me: “It is a small company no one ever heard of, it’s a Tomac.”

Dar: “Johnny Tomac’s company, he’s cool. I just finished riding at Highland Req.”

We spent 15 minutes talking about mountain biking and discovering common riding friends. I have no idea what I bought but I am confident I got a good deal because now I trust Dar.

I thought about my one and only job interview. It was for a position at GM when I was fresh out of U of M. A Director started off the interview by asking me what the advantages of dual over-head cams were. I explained about intake and exhaust valves and surface area and rotating mass. If I were smart I would have used the GM Quad-4 engine as an example because I think it was the only GM engine back in 1989 that used this application. I’m not so I used a Yamaha FZR motorcycle engine as an example of this brilliant and cutting edge technology. GM Directors like when you use a Japanese company's engine as an example of brilliant and cutting edge technology in the same way Sunday school teachers like when you openly question freewill in light of god’s sovereignty. I’ve done both. The interview stopped right there and this Director pulled out pictures of his motorcycle collection. We spent the rest of our time together talking about motorcycles. I got the job.

I am constantly amazed how I’ve managed to muddle my way through life knowing so little about so few things.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

The Art and Science of Breaking and Entering

I have locked keys in a car twice in my life. The first time was when I was 12 and at a BMX race. Not only did I have the normal stress of getting ready to race but my girlfriend came to watch. Having your girlfriend sitting with your mom is a lot of pressure, at any age. Stupidly I shut the deck lid with the keys in the trunk. My mom went to one of the shady looking characters lurking around the track and he broke into our car in no time flat.

The second time was at a Boyne race, 150-plus miles from home. I was 30 years older and wiser. I unscrewed the truck's antenna, fished it between the side glass and the window frame, and hit the unlock button. Problem solved.

Just as we are taking off for Thursday's group ride, a girl comes over and asks for help breaking into her (?) car. A damsel in distress will halt a group ride for sure. I unscrewed her (?) antenna, hit the unlock button, and wha-la, problem solved.

I treat Thursday night group rides like a race but, when I struggle, I feel more self-conscious on group rides because I lose some anonymity. I struggled and got dropped Thursday. Getting dropped is nothing new but what did happen for the first time ever is they stopped and waited for me. I don’t feel respected as a rider but I think I impressed them with my aptitude for B and E. And that’s something. I guess.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Polar S-725X Haiku

Left on my door step

was a new, vintage, Polar.

Found it on eBay.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Junk Miles

Cindy took the kids to a special dance practice last night so I found myself with the rare occasion of having a Monday night all to myself. It was a perfect evening, cool, low humidity, sunny. I didn’t call anyone to ride. And I didn’t plan on a hard ride. I rode just for fun. I don’t have enough opportunity in my week to waste time on rides without purpose but since this was unscheduled, I didn’t feel guilty.

It was a great ride. My mind was someplace else. I past a rider and didn’t look twice since I didn’t recognize the bicycle. I hear: “Hey Neil”. It was a friend who was on his spare bike. He is a fast rider so apparently he was riding without purpose too. I slowed down and we talked until we got to the trail head. He went back to his truck, I kept riding. I rode just fast enough so the mosquitoes couldn’t catch me.

My phone rang. It is always a judgment call whether or not to stop riding and answer. It was Cindy.

Me: “Hey.” (Mosquitoes start to congregate around me.)

Cin: “You didn’t answer your phone earlier.”

Me: “Sorry, didn’t hear it ring.” (Mosquitoes find my veins.)

Cin: “I called several times.”

Me: “I’m riding with my Ipod.” (I start swatting at mosquitoes.)

Cin: “I called at 5:00, you weren’t riding yet.”

Me: “I must have been working on my bike.” (Swat, swat, swat.)


Me: “Or in the bathroom, I had Thai and…” (Swat, swat, swat, swat.)

Cin: “Didn’t you see I called?”

Me: “Yes but you didn’t leave a message.” (Swat, swat, swat, swat, swat.)

Me: “So, what’s up?” (Swat, swat, swat, swat, swat, swat.)

Cin: “Just calling to see why you didn’t answer.”

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Nothing to Report

It has been a rainy week but I managed to get some decent riding in. I can't prove it because my heart rate monitor died, again, and I lost the two months of data I carelessly left in it.

I like riding in between rain showers. The air was so thick and warm that I could feel it colliding with my body. And the smells are strong...damp Earth, crisp vegetation, musty swamps, and yes, dead and bloated deer. I will take the good with the bad. Plus, there is something satisfying with feeling like you pulled a fast one over on mother nature (think you're going to up and ruin all my training plans hu? Not this time [insert evil laugh]).

I get this real disconcerted feeling when I glance down and don't see my pulse, like when Bruce Willis discovers he is dead in the movie Sixth Sense. On the positive side, I find it's easier to convince myself I am going really fast when I have no hard data to suggest otherwise.

I miss my HRM. It's not just the data (speed, lap times, altitude, temperature, heart rate) but the notes I add to the files I download from my HRM: where I rode, with whom, how I felt, what I changed on my bike and whether or not it helped. I usually include a note that would mean very little to anyone else but me like, I duno, "rode with Bill and his new 29er today; now everyone drank the Kool-Aid but me."

There will always be a two month gap in my records. But I'm OK with that. The last two months were really messed up. Now it's like they didn't even happen.