Thursday, September 30, 2010


Today was beautiful. I was overcome with the desire to play hooky, but it was just not practical. I had meetings to go to, spreadsheets to fill in, cars to build. I went to meetings and filled in spreadsheets and built cars and came to terms with the reality that I would end the year with two weeks of unused vacation days.

Cindy called and said she was taking Emilie to the hospital because Em was having chest pains. My heart broke. Em removed her sticky little EKG pads and turned them into finger puppets.

The physician's assistant came in. She was younger than me. This is getting common but still makes me uneasy. She told me Emilie's X-rays were "unremarkable". Uh what? She repeated, slowly, and clearly, as if I were deaf or just dumb: "UN-RE-MARK-ABLE". No, I have a pretty good grasp of the English language, just an odd word to choose. She could have said "normal" and saved us both 10 seconds of our lives. She apparently does not have kids because if she did, she would understand that there is nothing unremarkable about our own children. It was just a virus in Emilie's rib cage, fairly common I guess. She gave Em a shot in the butt and sent us on our way.

I took Em home, snuck back into work before the next meeting, sped through my emails like Evelin Wood, and no one noticed I was ever gone. I left work on time, which is seriously frowned on ever since GM went bankrupt, and made it to the MMBA group ride tonight.

I was dropped, even worse than last week. First by the fast riders, and then by the Fred's, and then I was on my own. Seems my twice a week training plan still isn't yielding the results I was hoping for. Apparently one must start off with some type of athletic disposition for it to work. It's unfair, that's all.

I haven't been riding but that's not to say it has been a bad season. Spending a Sunday at a cider mill is hardly a harsh sentence. Watching the kids grow up is nice. I'm looking forward to Iceman. Riding can wait.

Friday, September 24, 2010

The Art of Living in Denial

Last night was the Poto MMBA group ride. I struggled and took chances and went down pretty hard. I don’t care about the road rash, the body has an amazing ability to repair itself, I care that I went through yet another pair of shorts. I am down to a mere two pair that are appropriate to wear in public. I can tell I lost a lot of skin; I had to rip the bed sheets off my thigh this morning like a band-aid. It’s best to do it quickly and with authority.

I forgot lights so I didn’t do the North loop. I rode the last part of the trail by myself. In this slow, quiet rhythm, I contemplated if my poor performance had a medical explanation. I normally blame my waning performance on weight gain but fortunately I have been under so much stress this year that I have no appetite at all, very convenient.

Maybe my arteries are restricted. It’s not my fault, it’s McDonalds’. Perhaps I need to go in for a routine angioplasty to crush fatty deposits in my blood vessels. The increase blood flow should catapult me up hills.

Maybe I have chronic pneumonia. Those poor microscopic air filled alveoli in my lungs are under water, or whatever fluid that is which fills one’s lungs. Sure, I haven’t noticed any symptoms but when it comes to overlooking ailments, few can live in denial better than me. I went to the doctors two years ago because I crashed pretty good and landed on my knee. The arthropod looks at the x-ray and points out a partially calcified fracture at the bottom of the image. He asks if I realized I fractured my tibulae the previous summer. Uh no, I did not notice. He asks: “Well, did you crash your bike last year too?” I didn’t even know how to respond.

Maybe my testosterone level is low. I was tested before and my levels were high, off the charts actually; however, I’m not in my 30’s anymore. Again, nobody can live in repudiation better than me but I see myself in pictures and shutter and realize I am not immune to ravishes of old age. I might go get tested. Maybe pick up a six pack of EPO while I’m there.

Maybe my poor performance is my fault, the result of only riding twice a week, and typically uninspired rides at that. No, that doesn’t even make sense.

Maybe it’s my bike…

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Triple Trail Challenge

Today was the annual Triple Trail Challenge, a very cool ride that uses a combination of the Poto, Waterloo (which is normally closed to bicycles), and the Lakeland trails to make a 47 mile loop. Tree Fort Bikes supplied the corn roast, chili, and beer afterwards, very nice.

Randy, Renee, and I pedaled over to meet Brad and his friends who were waiting for us at the trail. Just as we reached them it started to pour. Brad and his friends took off on the ride; Randy, Renee, and I went back to wait it out. Typically Randy and Renee seem completely unaffected by crappy weather but they spent the last two weekends racing in a cold down pour and just didn't feel like riding in the rain again today. Shew.

After an hour of waiting they decided to go home, I waited around for a bit longer because I wanted to buy a Brighton Bulldog jersey from someone who was doing the ride. I just wanted the jersey, apparently I joined a club. That's cool. The sun came out shortly after Randy and Renee left. Poto is sandy so it perks wonderfully, the trail was fine. I only did the Poto section of the ride since I was taking off about an hour after everyone else.

I like the atmosphere of this ride, it is almost like a race but without the pressure. And lots of vintage bikes with rigid forks and V-brakes and non-racey bicyclist which is a refreshing change. There are the over the top people with shinny new carbon-fiber Superflys that will crawl into a cold outdoor shower with their bikes but mostly just people who like bicycling. It's like an alternate universe where I seem almost normal.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Almost Done With Base Miles

Iceman is 8 weeks away and I seem to be still stuck in my base building phase, without the quantity of junk miles that normally go into this phase. That's fine, I got a lot out of riding this season even if fitness wasn't one of those things. I spent some quality time this week playing complicated games of hide and go seek that require the use of walkie talkies. I still don't understand all the rules.

I rode with Bill and Jeremy yesterday, first time on a bike since Traverse City. Since we ride to the trail from our neighborhood, we don't enter the trail from the trail head. We paused before we hopped on the trail to take a drink, start our HRMs, and respond to texts. A couple riders went by as we were getting situated, then two girls flew by, Bill noticed and took off. I rolled my eyes, one girl had a SSE kit and the other one had a Dark Horse kit. I don't know who they were but it doesn't matter, I'm pretty sure all the girls on those teams are faster than me. Those kits are like the chastity slashes the girls wore in the book 1984: symbolic clothing that made it clear we were not going to reach them. We never did see them again but we passed a lot of guys, guys who had their egos run over by SSE and Dark Horse girl.

Earlier in the day I went grocery shopping by myself. I had a simple task: get frozen sugar cookie dough, SOS pads, laundry detergent, and snacks, nothing that took a GED to figure out. I go grocery shopping all the time but normally my responsibility is limited to pushing the cart and paying. I am becoming more independent, today I was on my own. I was baffled. The pre-cut cookie dough didn't look very fall-like so I tried to figure out what type of frosting to buy to accessorize it; I have no idea. For some reason they don't put SOS pads by dish soap, that would make it too easy I suppose.

Laundry detergent...I never noticed there were so many to choose from. I wanted Tide, but did I want fresh scent, mountain scent, with bleach alternative or stain lifting formula?

And snacks for the kids' lunches? How have I never bothered to notice what they like. My parents would never let me have snacks made with enriched flour, niacin, thiamine mononitrate, or partially hydrogenated palm kernel. I try to be a little more lenient, it's a delicate balance at best.

But the groceries were nothing compared to me trying to help Em pick out makeup last night. I have no idea. I didn't even know what to say, or where to start. I'm not dumb, I just have a limited number of brain cells and perhaps I have been overly selective with what I put in each one. Em was understanding but I could tell she was disappointed with me. "Just wait up front dad." Ouch.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Traverse City Extravaganza Part II

My vacation in Traverse City is reaching its end. I like it here but I am glad I wasn't raised in TC because if I were, any other place I lived from that point on would seem a little, I don't know, ordinary.

As always, Tom and Tammy were the perfect hosts.

Thursday I rode with the Cherry Capital Cycling Club near the VASA trails. Don led the group on unmarked trails. He picked out an amazing route. It is encouraging to ride with an older man who isn't afraid to go down, a couple times actually. It was a leisurely pace until it got dark and we turned on our lights, then they flew, or maybe I am just slow in the dark, either way I struggled to keep up. I missed a turn off and when I got to a straight away I realized I was alone. I accepted the fact that some hunter was going to fine my lost, frozen corpse in November but Don came back and shepherded me towards our group, very kind indeed, typical of everyone I met this weekend.

Renee and Randy came up late Thursday. Friday I wanted to show them where Don had taken us the night before but I knew I would get lost. We rode the normal VASA trail and I got lost, not because I am an idiot because even an idiot couldn't get lost on perhaps the best marked trail ever but because I tend to get lost in my own thoughts. Often I end up back at the trail head and have little or no memory of the previous hour. It's a problem for sure. I made a wrong turn Friday and met back up with them at the truck.

Saturday we did the Logsplitter Challenge. I am legally required to give Diane Ursu credit for this picture; however, somehow through lighting and other tomfoolery, she manipulated this image to imply it was much more pleasant outside than it really was. The weather held out for my previous two rides; however, Saturday looked bad. Right before the race started the sun came out, so quickly and so dramatically that as I walked into the bathroom, someone walked out, looked up, and asked: "How long was I in there?" This was fortunate because the extent of my winter riding gear was a set of foot warmers apparently left in my bag from the Iceman last year. It rained towards the end of the race but by then my tolerance for pain was way up.

I didn't really want to do this race. I planned on subtly talking Renee and Randy out of it but before I could plant this seed, Randy mentioned that Bob was coming up to do the race too. With three people planning on racing I kept my mouth shut. It was a good race, well marked and a fun atmosphere. My goal was to finish in the middle of the pack. I finished 29th out of 58. Mission accomplished I guess. I met Ali and Di at the race. I was kind of star struck actually.

The best part of the weekend was riding with Emilie and her girlfriends. When Em was young we often rode single track on our tandem. She was fearless and loved it but as she got older she lost interest in riding, that's fine, she is her own person. As soon as we got on the trail Sunday, Em said her braces were cold. She must have been smiling. Sweet.

The VASA trail was a little long for three adolescent girls so I took them on a short cut, and got lost. Getting lost with three giddy girls (four if you count Renee) isn't a problem, it's an adventure. We ended up on a road that dead ended at an oil pump. Renee and the girls climbed up. Irresponsible but fun. Most fun has an element of irresponsibility.

Em followed me on the trail. I would give advice but I was careful not to sound like I was telling her what to do. I suggested she look where she wanted to go, not at the sand and roots and rocks. Em thought about this for a minute and said: "That would be a good quote for life, 'look where you want to go, not at the obstacles'." That is exactly what I would have said if I was just a little more clever than I am.

Kevin, my original riding partner from 1990-something and the person who introduced me to mountain biking, happened to be in Traverse City this weekend too. He brought his bike and google Earth maps of the Iceman course. We met Monday and did half the Iceman. For the third ride this weekend, the rain held off until after we were done riding and had the bikes loaded up. An excellent way to end an excellent holiday.