Monday, March 19, 2012

On Like Donkey Kong?

"It is on like Donkey Kong." I'm not sure what that means, but Marek said it and I believe it and it sounded cool. I can't remember what year that was when I read that, but right at that moment, I decided that I would race in The Hell of the North circuit race one day and that one day is coming up in a couple of weeks. I have got my Maxxis Re-Fuse 700X25s and I am waiting on my puncture resistant tubes with the 48mm presta valves to get delivered to me soon. I have been pedaling my bike around in circles, mostly by myself, in the RMR Crit Series and even though I am still slow, I am in the best cycling shape of my life. Basically I am ready.

Every time I come back from a race my wife asks me "how did you do?" The answer is always the same. I hang in there for a lap or two or three and then I slowly peel off the back and the elastic snaps and I end up pushing the wind all by myself as I ride as fast as I can to the finish alone. Then I usually get more words of wisdom from my wife: "Did you have fun? Did you do your best? It is what it is." Perspective I guess. And I'll be bringing that perspective into The Hell of the North with me and my new(er) bike. I am ready to have fun and do my best. It is what it is. The Hell of the North - it is on like Donkey Kong.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Relative Safety

I was coming up on a red light. It's a red light that I have grown to despise. There's never much traffic there because it's just a seldom used little shopping center feeder street that crosses the busy main road into a little residential feeder street on the other side. In my opinion I don't think they should have put a traffic signal there. There's just not enough cross traffic to warrant it. Plus anytime the stupid thing turns red on the busy main road it seems like it stays red forever. I hate stopping and waiting and having to restart. It wastes my time and it costs me momentum and it  wastes my energy.

So today I was on the busy main road and approaching the red light and I could see a little tiny bit of traffic coming off the shopping center feeder street and turning left onto the busy main road but I knew that it was safe for me to go ahead and roll through that red light anyway. I didn't want to lose my momentum and I didn't feel like stopping. I didn't feel like I should have to stop. I didn't deserve to stop. I felt like I was special and different and that the rules of the road didn't apply to me because I was smart enough to see that even though the light was red and there was traffic both clearing and approaching the intersection I knew that I could safely make it through.

click to enlarge
So I slowed slightly and went ahead and rolled right through the red light and the cross traffic. Everyone around or in or near the intersection basically panicked. The traffic flow was disrupted with cars stopping and drivers not really being sure what to do as I decided that I would live by my own rules of safety on the road. I saw the panicky look of fear on every face clearly as I rolled on through. Others almost had accidents with those that suddenly stopped not knowing what to do. I almost felt bad but I couldn't be bothered to slow down too much. Much less stop.

I figured something out as I was rolling through that red light when I didn't have the right of way today: there is no relative safety. In other words traffic safety is NOT relative. It actually is absolute. The rules are there for very good reasons and predictability is one of the most important. The rules are there to maintain orderly traffic flow and keep all road users safe. The rules bring order out of potential chaos. The rules make sense and when someone violates those rules it destroys the ability to use the road safely and predictably and with minimum risk. Breaking the rules creates panic and fear and danger and I guess that would be OK if I was an anarchist but I'm not.

So I figured out that I'm actually not special and different. No road users are. I learned that I probably shouldn't just pretend that traffic rules are relative because they are not. I learned that I shouldn't make up my own rules as I went along in traffic to suit whatever mood or whim or safety bias that I had. That attitude is rather stupid and the reasons given to justify it are pathetic. It's both immature and irresponsible. It's best to obey the rules.

If I don't obey the traffic rules then how can I expect anybody else to? If I can't stop and wait at a red light how can I expect Ricky Rednecky to give me three feet when passing me as I'm riding my bike? I can't and he won't. I learned that there is no relative safety. Safety is absolute. When I got home after rolling right through that red light I parked my big green van in the garage and went inside the house and I was sure glad that I wasn't doing something stupid like that on my bike.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Friday, March 9, 2012

Memo To "Real" Cyclists

Every time I see a "real" cyclist I feel like I need to encourage them to do some upper body work. Lift weights for crying out loud. Eat something. I can hear their collar bones snapping now and they haven't even crashed yet. I must not be a "real" cyclist because I don't even think I CAN break my collar bone. I've tried. Multiple times. There's just too much protective fat enveloping it. Plus I try to work my upper body some. Nobody has ever been guilty of telling me I need to eat more.

I've smacked the pavement a number of times over the years and each time it's my palm, wrist, forearm, elbow and shoulder that takes the brunt of the impact. I have the scars to prove it. Usually it's on my left side from trying to protect the drive side of my bike as I'm hurtling toward the ground.

Bradley Wiggins
Nothing ever too serious but one time a couple years ago hard enough to crack open my helmet. Between being tired and trying to move my bidon to the rear cage, it seems I smacked into a dollop of left over cement blob that had been left to harden in the shoulder of the road. 

I wasn't looking. I didn't see it. I had only one hand on the bar, or more accurately, on the left hood and I smacked the road hard and slid about 20 feet after landing on my palm, wrist, forearm, elbow, shoulder, hip and head. One hand on the hood and cement blobs and 26 mph don't mix very well.

Michael Olheiser
I jumped up, checked over the bike, brushed off the road rash, snapped my useless helmet on my stem, grabbed my rear derailleur and yanked it out as best I could and coasted down the three remaining miles of hill to the nearest bike shop to get my derailleur hanger straightened, buy a new helmet and clean my scrapes up in the restroom.

My collar bone was wondering "is that all you got? Meh. Piece of cake." Got the bike fixed up enough and rode it back home. I was stiff and sore the next day but no real harm done. Except for the cracked open helmet and a few items of kit. Oh and the abuse to the bike. It made me thankful that I'm not a "real" cyclist. It gave me some consolation for always being the last guy up the hill and for being the big guy that's usually popping off the back. It made me glad (kind of) that you don't have to squint to see my upper body like you have to do with a "real" cyclist.

So, if you're a "real" cyclist, let ME inspire YOU. Do some upper body work. Eat something. Stat. I need you to slow down a little so I can keep up. I need you to get to a point where I can make it up the hill with you.

I learned a valuable lesson that day. Maybe I can share it with you "real" cyclists. The only thing that should be cracking is your helmet or your bike. Lift some weights. Please. Eat some food. Please. I'm getting tired of hearing your collar bones snap.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Mr. Lonely

This week I'm working hard on the bike. I found out last week that racing in a crit can be a very lonely experience. I don't want to be lonely any more. I want to be surrounded by friends that enjoy pulling me around the course. I must get faster.

I spent most of the race in a one man break - off the back. The nice thing about these photos is that you really can't tell one way or the other. But I know. I get the feeling that I'm going to spend a lot of time this spring and summer doing intervals and hill repeats as well as the races and the Dream Small Rides.
photo courtesy of DNA Cycling

Monday, March 5, 2012


PARISNICE. It's one of my favorite words. It means daylight savings time is right around the corner. One week away to be more precise. Winter is almost gone and spring is almost here. The shadows are getting shorter and the days are already getting longer. It's still windy and cold. It still snows here and there. But for the most part it means that we are turning the final corner on the grey sapping haze of winter and can just see the promising red kite of spring up the road off in the distance.

PARISNICE means that it won't be too many more days until a ride on the trainer is something that fades into a not so fond memory and the fresh air outside replaces the stale air blown from a fan that you have been pumping in and out of your lungs all winter long. There will be that day soon when all of a sudden you notice the little life giving buds there on the cold stark winter worn tree branches and you wonder how your fitness is going to respond on your first long ride of the season where your legs and arms get touched by the sun again.

PARISNICE means that it won't be too many more days until a ride up one of the canyons turns out to be more than a "wish I could" and instead becomes a "wish I didn't" as you take stock of the lost glory that has slowly leaked out of your legs and the extra pounds that have quietly crept onto your body during the off season. It means 70% savings on all the cold weather gear you wished you'd had over the past few frigid months. PARISNICE. It means so many things - all good - not the least of which is that it's time to shave your legs. Again. Finally.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Well That Didn't Taste Very Good

It's a good thing my first crit race was free. Otherwise I would not have gotten my money's worth. I found out today that I am as slow as I thought I was. Everyone in the D flite must have started real slow because I felt pretty darn good for about 2 laps and then I just fizzled right off the back going around the first turn on the third lap into the headwind.

Everyone in my flite just kind of slowly glided past me until - poof - there I was spit out the back and the elastic just snapped. Doink. Without the protection of the group I simply could not hang on and they slowly motored away. It's much harder pushing all the wind yourself so I learned for next time that I MUST hang with the group NO MATTER WHAT.

original art work by @936ADL
After a bit here comes the C flite and they cruise right by me too. Talk about feeling like a weak sissy. Near the end of the race my flite comes back around to catch and pass me as well. Just like crushing a bug. So that was my first taste of racing. I thought: "well that didn't taste very good." OK no problem. Now I know what I need to work on. Today I figured out my weakness: I am slow. I have to work harder on getting faster. I must keep calm and apply the five and dime. More. Much more. And much more often.

I was off the front for about 2 minutes. photo courtesy of Alex Headman

Friday, March 2, 2012

Number 537

Well it starts tomorrow. D flite should be off at 12:55 or so. I am excited and nervous and really don't quite know what to expect. I'm sure I will be breathing hard and I'm sure that my legs will be burning. I'm sure that the speed (even for D flite) will surprise me and I'm sure that my bike will be dirty. I am ready to start close to the front and I am ready to try and stay within the top 25%. I am also ready to take corners really fast from the outside and lay off my brakes as much as possible and I'm ready to try to position myself in the top 5 on the final few laps and cover every attack.

I am ready to get a good nights sleep tonight. I am ready to eat a good breakfast in the morning and I'm ready to pack my bike in the car and drive down to the race. I'm ready to be too cold before the race and too hot during. I'm ready to put that number plate on my bike. It is number 537. I don't know, but I wonder if there is some significance to number 537? I'm pretty sure the digit 5 stands for Category 5 and I am. I guess after 10 mass starts I can be upgraded to Category 4. But I wonder if the 3 and the 7 mean anything?

I will find out tomorrow. I am ready but being ready and being able are usually two different things. Tomorrow the able? question will be answered too. I'm looking forward to that answer. I am looking forward to learning and improving. I am looking forward to the able. I'm looking forward to the race and the season. The ready part is over and now it is time for number 537 to get on with the doing.