Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Time to Rant


I've been traveling the DC beltway now for the past 2 months working on a project in Herndon, VA. At first the commute wasn't so bad, about an hour each way unless I roll out of bed late and then maybe 1:15. I leave by 2:30 to miss the afternoon rush hour. But lately , the beltway is just a cluster f&@$. It all started the day before Thanksgiving when a tanker truck blew up at the entrance to the beltway from 95. Since then there have been accidents almost daily. Last week it took me 3 hours to get into the office one day, the day after that it wasn't even worth trying so I worked from home.

When will people wake up and realize that the solution to traffic is not to increase the size of the roads? By the time the roads are expanded, they're beyond capacity. Mass transit is the only answer. Problem is, people in this country are so damned tied to their cars they'll never give up driving even as their commutes get longer and their quality of life goes further down the toilet. And lawmakers and government are helpless to address the issue. If they even try to promote mass transit as the solution to fixing the areas congestion, they would never get elected/re-elected to office.

Look at NYC today, people are walking, riding bikes and car pooling into the city. Unfortunately this is due to no mass transit, but the restrictions on vehicle occupancy coming into the city still forces alternatives. Image the reduction in pollution and strain on resources (not to mention the health benefit to an increasingly overweight society while reducing the strain on our already over-burdened health care system) that would come about from forcing people out of their cars.

Personally, I hope the price of gas in this country stays high and forces people to become more open to alternative modes of transportation and fuel sources. Too bad the American automotive industry screwed the pooch on that one. They've only had since the oil embargo of the 70's to get their shit together, now they're behind the 8-ball and paying heavy royalties to the Japanese to use their hybrid technology. Hopefully we can look forward to those SUV type tax incentives on hybrids soon, with GMC and Ford are headed for bankruptcy with the decline in SUV sales, they need every option to help them compete with a shrinking market, and I'm sure this administration couldn't bear to see a large American icon disappear on their watch.

Anyway, I made the 52 mile commute in my car this morning. As a consultant, it's unfortunate that I really don't have the option to commute by bike to work every day. Most of my work is in the DC/NoVA area and living outside of Baltimore does not really provide me with any viable alternatives to traveling that far without having to start my commute at 4 in the morning. If you ask me what my dream job is, it would be the one with a 20-30 min. bike commute.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

'Cross Nationals Race Report

I was orignially going to send this out as an email to the Snow Valley list serve to hopefully be a bit more interesting than the usual FS: (insert favorite bike component here) emails posted to the D20 this time of year but it grew so large I figured I would just post it to the blog. Enjoy!

As late September approached, most people were thinking about the end to a long road season and looking forward to the rest and relaxation of the off-season and preparing themselves mentally for those cold winter rides and shorter days forcing us onto trainers and rollers. But for some
of us, fall marks the start of a new cyclocross season. A sport that originated in Europe as a way for cyclists to stay fit through the winter. 'Cross has always been seen in the U.S. as a kind of the black sheep of cycling, a somewhat eccentric sport with it's U.S. roots in the New England region. Maybe that's the alure of the part of the allure, or maybe it's the mountain biker in me looking for a good excuse to go ride through the mud.

In any case, late September through early December marks the U.S. 'cross calendar. The courses in the Mid-Atlantic Cross (MAC) series stretch from Reston, VA to High
land Park in northen Jersey with plenty of stops in between like the DuPont estate in Grenougue, DE. Nothing like a couple hundred cyclists decending on such pristine grounds to pedal, push, pull and carry their bikes through impecably maintained gardens.

After moving Nationals to the west coast for the past several years (last east coast showing being Patterson Park in Baltimore), the east coast finally got the big dance. This past weekend, 1700+ racers from around the country made the pilgrimage to Providence, RI for the U.S. Cyclocross Nationals. Juniors from 10 years old to Master's in the 60+ category all looking to see how they stack up at a National level.

Randall Root and myself were amongst those 1700+ racers to make the journey up to Providence for what turned out to be an incredible weekend of racing. After getting into Providence Thursday afternoon, myself a couple of friends who race for other teams but all travel the circuit together headed to Roger Williams Park to check out what was in store for us. As we warmed up on the course, I quickly realized this was one of the best laid courses I had even ridden and in the current conditions it would be very fast, even with some leftover snow from prior storms still covering sections of the course.

What a difference 12 hours will make. When I went to sleep that night, none of the snow in the weather reports called for had started yet. Some reports were expecting the area to see anywhere from 8 to 12 inches of snow over night. As I woke that morning and looked outside, a layer of about 2 inches of fresh snow covered the ground. As we gathered ourselves and made our way to the park for the 2pm 30-34 master's race, the snow was still heavy but the air was warming. By the time we started to get dressed, the heavy snow had turned into a down pour of ice cold rain. As we sat in the car contemplating the future of the day's race and our own mental toughness for racing in these conditions, the rain turned to small pellets of ice being driven by 30+ mph winds. Much better I thought than pouring rain. As we made our way to the start line, the mass exodus from the venue had already begun. The promoters had decided after the master's 35-39 race to cancle the remaining races for the day due to so many racers making their way to the ambulances for hypothermia. Personally, I love the harsh conditions, but honestly as my face was being pelted with bits of ice being swirled around by the wind, I realized I couldn't have raced that day.

By the time we made it back to the
hotel and cleaned up, the storm had broke and the sun was shining again. Fortunately the rest of the weekend was blessed with sunny skies and temps in the upper 30's. But the course was a new beast, nothing like Thursday. Our masters race had been rescheduled for 11:30 so we headed over to the park to take our shot. I don't even remember if I got a chance to warmup on the course, I don't think I did since the promoters kept a tight rein on course access between races. All I know is when we hit the snow exiting a 90 degree right hander after flying up the road at 25mph, all hell broke loose. Bodies and bikes were going in all directions. The next 45 minutes was a slug fest between you, your bike and the snow. Nevermind the other 70 guys in the race. After recovering from a horrible first lap of trying to stay up right, I manage to ride to 33rd, but way off the pace of the winner who happened to finish top 15 in the elite men's race.

With one race down I felt good about going into Sunday's B men's race since I already raced against some of my competition in the masters. Sunday presented an entirely new element to the course,ice. Racing at 9:30, the snow on the course was now ice and the deep mud and snow ruts from the previous day's races were now frozen solid making your ability to hold a tight line a key component to staying upright. Both days I saw a second row start due to early registration, but unlike the day before, the field was 168 riders deep. Fine for a road race, but on a tight technical course, a back of t
he pack start makes for a long race trying to move up. As the race wore on, the course continued to thaw giving way to slick mud and diffcult run ups. I managed a respectable 36th and took the top placing of any mid-atlantic rider. I really happy about that as my regular season was a roller coaster of emotions and expectations each weekend. In any case, it was a great end to the season.

I found this collage photo at www.pedalpushersonline.com
Pretty cool that it was Sean, John and myself, sorry don't know the forth guy. (Could it be a missing Baldwin brother?)

Here are some links to some other great photos of the race weekend.


Thursday, December 15, 2005

I Suck at This

As I've stated previously, I'm not a good blogger. I guess I just don't feel the need to put myself out there. Plus, I'm not going to go around to people and say hey man, read my blog. I'm keeping this thing going as a kind of way to look back and reflect on things personally. It's a bit less cheesy than a diary.

Anyway, since my last post, way back in September, alot has happened. I no longer work for Metreos, the company out of Austin, so it's nice not to be traveling all of the time. I took the month of October off, trained hard on the mountain bike to get my ass somewhat back into shape for 'cross and went to nationals in Providence this past weekend. For the most part the last three months have been nothing but racing every weekend. Now that 'cross is finished, Gina's finally going to get that hardwood floor put down in the downstairs, eventually.

Gina was suppose to come up to RI for Nat's but it didn't work out so I made the 7 hour drive with Sean and Phil. We headed to Phil's house in Jersey on Wednesday, crashed there and drove the rest of the way Thursday morning. Coming back sucked since we drove pretty much straight through. As far as the 4 days in between, I can only say that was one of the best times I've had on my bike, ever. People are bitching and complaining about the course and how technical it was. Well here's the deal, that course was going to be dry and fast had the snow not come, and if the promoters could control the weather then maybe the course would have stayed that way. But the fact is, they had no control over the weather. You're racing in December in New England, HELLO, it snows in December in New England!

Photo courtesy of Mike O'Hare @ Phattire.net
Here's a cool pic Mike's girlfriend Natasha took during the B Men's under 34 race. I'm really not struggling as much as it looks. The expression on my face always looks like that in every race photo.

Anyway, I'll try to post something interseting over the winter. We're heading to West Virginia this weekend to visit Gina's sister so I get to see the nieces. Except for the 4 hour drive it should be somewhat relaxing, NOT.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Murphy's Law

So, I'm here in Austin spending the week at the office. Austin is a pretty cool town, has to be for the likes of Lance Armstrong and Andy Roddick to take up residence here. It's also hot, real hot, and for the first time, humid, like Baltimore sweat box humid. Even so, the riding is pretty good west of town is West Lake Hills which lives up to its name. Rolling countryside overlooking the lakes of Austin.

I've been keeping a bike down here all summer so I don't get tagged for around $100 bucks each time I come down. This typically means I have to bring a certain amount of gear with me, helmet, cycling cloth, shoes etc... It also means the little things, spare tubes, pump, energy bars. Well, this time I managed to walk out of the house with one of those little things...my pump. Excited to roll out of the office at 5pm and get beck to the good old La Quinta where I stay while in town, I realize as I'm ready to rollout for a ride that I do not have my trusty, seldom used (as in "have I ever used it on a roadride?") pump. So, after a few minutes of debating with my conscience, I decide to head out anyway. Now, as nice as the riding is here, it's for one reason, there nothing around for miles sometimes. Despite that fact, there is still plenty of traffic, so don't get your hopes up. So from the La Quinta I take a quick right then another at the first light to put me on the closet road out of southwest Austin, Southwest Parkway. A 2 to 3 lane "highway" with a decent shoulder, 3-4 feet. Not too bad with cars whizzing by at 70+ mph, except for the trash, mostly glass, shards of metal, the occasional rusty mail or bolt and plenty of blown tire pieces.

As I'm riding along, my conscience is getting tome, playing tricks. Everytime I ride by or over something suspicious, I start thinking I have a flat. Next thing I know I'm just riding along staring at my rear wheel. So I'm about 6 miles fro mthe hotel and just split off from another cyclist who had been shadowing me for several miles when I finally decide that I want to check my rear tire. I get off my bike and immediately knew I was f'ed.

Fortunately I did bring my cell, I usually use that to call for directions home, but in this case it was to call Louis to come pick me up. It worked out for him though, he had a reson to leave work, and he lives right behind the La Quinta so it was kind of on the way. Anyway, Murphy's law bit me in the ass. As many miles as I've put in this year and the one time I consciously go out unprepared I get burned. Lesson learned.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

'Cross Season Awaits

Well, it's that time of year again, cyclocross! What a meniacal, masochistic way to spend your winter, but hey, it's fun right? As far as training, I've been spending a great deal of time on the mountain bike, single speed specifically. I'm hoping the combination of leg speed and pure power pedaling it takes to keep yourself moving will provide what I was missing last year in 'cross. If you've never ridden a single speed, it such a pure way to ride. Remember back when you were a kid and all you had was your little BMX bike with one gear and a coaster brake? How awesome was it tearing around on that bike? And it only had one gear! Well, add the aspect of riding in the woods on cool trails, minus the coaster brake and there you have it, single speed mountain biking, you're 10 years old again. I have to add that I'm fortunate enough to have one of the best areas for mountain biking just a short ride from my house. Patapsco State Park has such a great selection of trails that are well maintained, yet not overlly maintained that you feel like you're riding on a greenway.

So back to my first point, cyclocross is here. Last season was a disaster, between my fitness and my bike, I'm not sure which was worse. Every racewas an adventure, something always happened to my bike, and even if it hadn't, I was just never there. Two weeks and a couple hundred dollars later, a new drivetrain and kick ass new Empella Frog Leg brakes and levers, Frankenbike is ready to rumble. Now it's up to me, so enough rambling, it's time to ride.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Long time no talk

I find it's really hard to find quality things to talk about on a day by day basis, maybe that's why I don't post so often. Sometimes I feel like my life isn't interesting enough to warrant discussing it, or maybe I'm just not that open a person. I read my friend Meg's blog and it's so fun to just listen to what she has to say, sometimes nothing more than a hey what's up here's how I'm doin', or a long rant about one thing or another.

I just got back from a work conference in San Diego. I have to say, pretty nice town, still don't think I could ever like in southern California though. I need trees, big, tall, green trees. While there I decided it was time to start running, atleast get some exercise in. I know I'm not a good runner, I've always hated it but it seems to be a great solution to exercising on the road. A good pair of running shoes is about all you need. Which I did buy, but are in need of some breaking in as the blister on my left heel indicated after just two outings. I keep telling myself it's all about getting ready for cyclocross. Which speaking or, starts the last weekend of the month, I can't believe it's September already.

Last night we went out to a restaurant called The Strip Club. No, it's not that kind of restaurant, the receipt actually says The Strip Club on it. It's a steak joint and their twist was that they let you cook your own steak on an open grill. Not a terribly bad idea, but if I'm going to pay that much for a steak, why do I want to cook it myself? Since I didn't pay for it, I didnt actually care I had to cook it. Going with a group is better, it was kind of like getting fondu, but more work.

Other than that, I noticed that it's really starting to get dark early, that sucks since it's the definitive end of summer indicator. Well, that's about all for now, look for something new in a few weeks.

Oh, one other thing. Gina and went to see The 40 Year Old Virgin with Chip and Terry last weekend, holy sh!t, that had to be the funniest movie since Dodgeball.

Monday, August 08, 2005

More Tired, More Sore

Not that I don't like the morning, I think I just like it better asleep. Getting up at 5:30 three days in a row starts to hurt, especially when the third day is to get up and drive home from a hard weekend of racing. Did I mention something about over-compensating in my training this past week? Well, that's my excuse and I'm sticking to it.

The race this weekend was hard, but not that hard that I should have felt so flat. Ryan, Matt and Dan from LSV were there for the RR which always make racing somewhere outside of your local area a little more comfortable, seeing a freindly face in the pack. And if it's Ryan, watching him drop his water bottle at 25mph and hear a frenzy ensue in the back of the pack as everyone tries to dodge it.

We stayed at Gina's parents with the dogs and everything was going ok (with the exception of Riley's temper tantrums when we'd leave and he need to destroy something) until yesterday when Boulder decide he need to come outside to see what we were doing, through the screen door! He didn't go all the way through but Gina will be repairing said door next weekend.

Now we're home and the dogs are passed out. I need some coffee. Ciao.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Tired and Sore

Maybe this is the reason I have been racing like crap lately. I thought I was puting in good miles, getting the right intensity training, but my last two races have left me mistifed as to why I'm so flat. So, to compensate, or some may say overcompensate for this, I decide to adjust my weekly training regimen and mix it up a bit. Tuesday night, Davidsonville. Not a hard ride from a terrain profile perspective, but oh do the hammerheads come out. That was a wake up call to my legs, especially since I have PA State Championships this weekend. It was good, I had to really work at some points and push myself.

So, with my legs already scremaing for mercy, I decide to add insult to injury and hit the Greenbelt training ride last night. That's always fun, but riding with some of those people is like being in the mind of a schizophrenic. They are just insane and dangerous. Shear boredom with going around this fast, tight right hander 12 times at 10 mph led me to take off on the front for a couple of laps with Trey, who put in this incredibly kick ass pull up the hill to lead me out for the second go at the turn. In trying to conserve I sat up the rest of the ride, but it was a good night and the legs needed the wake up call.

Today is just another boring day. Working at home is cool,but sometimes it just sucks since you're all alone, except for the constant begging of the dogs to go out and play. Today they were pretty mellow. Looking forward to an easy night on the trainer and maybe some wine. Guess I should hit the store since I'm craving tuna.