Sunday, July 29, 2007

Back in Business

So I've been without my PowerTap for almost two months now, amazing how fast the summer has gone by. I sent it back a week and a half ago, it was delivered this past Monday and I got it back from Saris yesterday. Not sure what they did to fix the problem as I never knew if it was the hub, the computer or the wiring harness. They probably swapped the internals of the hub but on top of that, they replaced the cassette body and bearings, new plastic hub cover, all new head unit and wiring harness and even sent me another chest strap along with more zip ties than I could ever find things to mount on the bike with. Now that's service. I'm really surprised and delighted to have had such an experience from a company in the bike industry. It just seems like service has really gone down hill over the past few years. Maybe I'm just a bit jaded after my string of bad luck with the Surly stuff and my all too ridiculous experience with my Gary Fisher frame and one Light Street Bicycles in Baltimore.

So over the past month I've been on the Ned Overend "listen to your body" approach to my training plan since every other cycling computer I own has taken a dump as well, it seems like I have to send my Polar HR monitor back every six months just to get the damn battery changed. It's been ok so far, after three hard weeks my legs are cooked. It will be interesting to get the power numbers and see if I gained or lost fitness. Not that it matters much, I pretty much still can't push the hard efforts with my left leg. The fall on my hip way back at 'cross nats must have been worse than I thought. Off to see Dr. Collins again.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

The Chicken Doper

This photo of Michael Rasmussen with his Italian doctors is about to be leaked to l'Equippe and Velonews but you saw it here first...

Ok, I just had to do it, this is what too much free time on your hands gets you...

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The Reality of My (Future) Surroundings

So I was out at my parents a couple weekends ago and my mom was nice enough to give me a gift. At first I was somewhat confused, but then as I held it up in front of me, I actually became somewhat nauseous and disoriented by the thoughts running through my head. Come December I will be getting alot more familiar with something squirming around inside of it.
Gina had a sonogram appointment today so we were down a the hospital bright and early. It's somewhat unnerving having to go to all of these Dr.'s appointments, you're always worried you're going to find out something's wrong. Everything was fine though, although the spud was a bit uncooperative in posing for some of the pictures they needed. At the beginning the tech asked if we wanted to know the sex of the baby as they should be able to tell by now. We said no and she said she wanted to make as to not accidentally spoil it by saying something but I admit I was looking pretty hard to see if I could tell. I'm not positive, but I think it may be a girl, at least that's my prediction.

After the appointment we had lunch in Fell's Point at Cooper's Tavern. I haven't been there since I was single. As we were eating, Gina pointed out this SUV with vanity plates. There are somethings in this world I just don't understand and one of those is vanity plates that have no meaning to anyone except the driver. Really, what's the point? This one kind of stumped me though. So what, is this person dedicating their suburban yuppie symbol of excess, waste and environmental destruction to God? Or are they just thanking him for making it possible for them to afford such nonsense?

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

The Ride Diaries

I've been riding a lot lately, getting ready for what I'm not really sure yet. The season is starting to wind down although 'cross is right around the corner. It's going to be hard getting myself to train hard and prepare for 'cross knowing there is no chance in hell I'm going to Nationals.

Lately I've been hitting some of the local group rides, more for motivation than anything. Sometimes riding by yourself is good, other times it's not. Last week I hit the Tuesday Princeton ride leaving from Columbia. I rode over figuring to meet up with the group as they crossed over Rt. 108 onto Homewood Rd. I ran into my friend Trey and we cruised towards the shop to meet the ride where some Indian woman decided she thought she had the right of way coming across the road making a left hand turn and I was in her way. Fortunately for her she didn't hit me.

The Princeton ride is what I would call a "Fred" ride, lot's of hairy legged guys wearing Pro Tour team regalia or bright mono-colored jerseys riding deep dish wheels and clip on aero bars. The loop is loosely based on the Columbia Triathlon course and is fairly rolling and hilly. On the first climb guys were scampering like cockroaches when the lights go on for the wheel in front of them trying not to get popped 10 minutes into the ride. I wasn't feeling all that great as I recently started up my strength training regimen on Mondays and my legs were a bit tired and sore from lifting the day before. On the second climb Trey went off the front and had a small gap so I decided to stretch the legs and make a hard acceleration to close the gap without dragging anyone with me. This was my undoing. I caught Trey but went totally anaerobic in the process. We crested the climb and descended only to start the third climb, a long gradual stretch about a mile long that kicks up at the end. Mike was on the front setting a strong tempo and before the little kicker, I got popped. I figured the group would wait at the circle at the top but they kept rolling, TT time. I ended up finished with the "B" group. Somewhat embarrassing.

This week was a bit different, the group was a bit smaller as the rain may have scared some people away. When I rolled into the Princeton parking lot, the first thing I noticed out of a group of 60 or so cyclists was some kid in a full LiquiGas kit. I know it's somewhat arrogant and elitist to say this and falls under the "typical roadie mentality", but we all do it, on the road or on the dirt. It's a form of self motivation really. I told myself he was the sacrificial lamb, I would give all it took to make sure he didn't make the selection. As we started the ride we were somewhat disorganized as people trickled out on their own unsure of the rain but as we crossed over to Homewood Rd., about 12 riders formed what would be the main group. Of course, at the front was LiquiGuy trying to set the tempo up the first climb. I sat back gauging the rest of the group and could tell the pace wasn't as hot right from the start as the week before. As we rolled down the backside there were about 4 guys on the front when I realized they were all riding the brakes, too scared to descend in the rain and not realizing grabbing handfuls of brake on a wet decent was a sure fire way to cause a wreck. I decided pulling them was better than having one take me down so I rode to the front and started to pull us towards the second climb. It was there I decided this was where LiquiGuy would get dropped after hearing one Fred say he didn't think the pace was that hard and that he's usually struggling to stay on by this point. I set a hard tempo up the false flat and the steeper first half of the climb and when I moved off to let the group pull through, no one came by me. I looked back to see the closet guy 10m off my wheel. The group finally caught up, minus LiquiGuy and we were off to climb #3. As we topped the third climb, we were down to six. Again on the descents through the reservoir no one would get off the brakes so I hammered it on the series of rollers until we were down to 3. Of the 12 or so that started it was just myself and one other guy at the end. Ahh, sweet redemption.

The Wednesday Race pace ride is another one I've hit up recently. It heads out through Marriottsville and has a few nice climbs on the route. There are only two regulars, Mike and Dan. The first time I rode it I realized these guys only like to attack the hills so the past two weeks I rode my fixie, to their surprise and somewhat dismay of being able to keep up and set the pace at times. I'm probably bailing on the ride tomorrow as my legs are super sore from lifting. I'll probably pay for it since riding the fixie and spinning out on some of the long descents usually helps loosen them up and get the soreness out.

Saturday was a long hard ride out in Myersville with Bryan. Hard climbs, empty roads and good company. Sunday Nystrom and I hit Avalon where I proceeded to break my chain climbing up the waterbar trail. You can read about that debacle of that here.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Brain Surgery

Apparently our Commander in Chief requires brain surgery, think Cheney will perform the operation? For our sake, let's hope nothing goes wrong. It could get worse.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

TdF - Arm Chair Director Sportif

Ok, after last year's Tour I vowed to not watch this year and could care less about the French, but I have to admit it's been a pretty exciting race so far. Think the French aren't biased though? Did anyone not notice the amount of drafting Vino was doing off the team car to try and get back in the peleton on Stage 5, all worthy of a full disqualification from the race but amazingly it went unnoticed by the Commissaires, yet Levi takes one pull from the car after a mechanical on a decent and gets a time penalty? Fucking French.

Based on the way the race has gone I think a couple of teams need to change their strategies for hopes of salvaging a victory or at least a podium finish.

Discovery Channel - DUMP Levi. He has suffered like a dog the entire race and no one who truly intends on winning le Tour would go on record as saying they're not on their best but can still "ride themselves into form" before the end. Hate to tell you Levi, but the Pyrennes are harder than the Alps and you're no Lance so trying to play the peleton like Lance did just isn't going to work for you. Alberto Contador has proven himself since the start of the season as a rider to be reckoned with in the pro peleton and is further placing his stamp on that by riding all over the main contenders in the Alps. If they stick with Levi, I think Disco is missing at a minimum a podium opportunity in Contador. If he can gain enough time in the Pyrennes, he can afford to lose some time to Kloden and Cadel Evans in the TTs and possibly win the Tour.

Astana - Vino needs to man up and hand over the reins to Kloden or the Astana DS needs to do it for him. Yeah, it really blows he crashed but so did Kloden and most of the Astana team. He's now over 8 minutes down and not looking good on the climbs. Kloden is still in contention even after having to sacrifice his overall position so far to help Vino.

Unless these two teams make some changes, I think we'll be seeing Cadel Evans in yellow in Paris. Which is fine with me, I've followed Evans since he was racing mountain bikes and always thought he was a very talented rider. It's taken him a while but he's finally found the form and confidence it takes on the road to win a Grand Tour, good for him.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Friday the 13th - Into the Firey Abyss

Six years ago today I was just a single guy living alone and riding my bike without a care in the world. As was typical for the day, T-Star, triathlete, adventure racer and socialite extraordinare sends out the call for the start of the weekend happy hour. The usual round of suspects are on the list, all of the local cyclists and triathletes from around the Baltimore area are descending upon Bohager's for an evening of libations. My buddy Chad and I were the typical single guys working the scene trying to pick up girls. As the night wore on and our group slowing dwindled to only the hardcore partiers (those who would actually stay out past 9 as to not ruin their 5am swim, bike or run workout) I decided to go talk to a couple of girls who seem to have been there with our little group but weren't really part of the whole tri-geek scene. They were sitting at the bar looking very disinterested, especially at the guy currently trying to talk them up. I don't even remember what I went in with for a line, but soon after Chad and I were on the dance floor with them. The one I was dancing with was a blonde, the other a brunette. At some point Chad and switched off, I'm not a much for blondes and he's not much for brunettes.

The night continued on, the drinks were flowing freely from their roommate who they were there with and happened to be seeing a friend of mine. We were on the dance floor having a good time, laughing at the white trash that frequents the meat market so aply nicknamed Hobagger's, when she randomly decides to lightly kick one of three of Dundalk's finest in the ass. He was one of three guys walking around the bar in a grey t-shirt acting all tough and probably looking for a fight at the end of the night to suppress his sexual frustration. Next thing I know I have these same three guys in my face asking this girl why she kicked him. Apparently one of their friends stealthily cloaked in a flannel shirt had seen the incident and reported back to them an opportunity to release their frustrations. All I remember is looking around the place and not seeing anyone capable of backing me up should things get ugly. After a few tense minutes the guy and his friends (later dubbed the "Grey T-shirt Mafia") finally accepted the girl's story that she didn't know what he was talking about and that his friend must be mistaken. At that point I should have known it was time to leave but hey, things were going pretty good up to that point so why not try and close the deal?

We ended up closing down the bar and as I tried to get this girl to come home with me, her friends were there to "save" her. Chad was doing his best with the blonde but the red head wasn't letting it happen. The night ended with a string of phone numbers and email scrolled up and down my arms.

Now as I look back 6 years, I can only wonder where I would be if I'd never called those numbers on my arm a few days later and went out a week later with Gina on our first date. Probably still trying to pick up girls in bars.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

If You Haven't Visited Yet...

This site is a must read for all cyclists. I added this link a few weeks back, but after some of his more recent posts, this has officially become my favorite cycling blog, actually it's now my favorite cycling related website period.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Please Make it Stop

Ok, seriously, I've had enough. The month of June thoroughly sucked all around so I was looking forward to moving on and having a much better July. Maybe that was the point of getting sick, stay at home, inside in bed so nothing could possibly go wrong, right? Yeah, dream on.

So Sunday I was feeling a bit better. Gina and I got up, took care of the dogs and went into E.C. for some breakfast at the Hollow Bean. The rest of the day was sedate, just lazy Sunday. But late in the afternoon I decided I needed to go outside and be productive. We have a line of Leyland Cypress trees lining the one side of the yard. I assume the previous owners who planted them had hoped they rapidly grew into a pseudo privacy fence of sorts. We've been here 3 1/2 years and they have barely grown a foot, and actually one or two of them had died so I figured it was a nice day to work outside, why not cut them down? We also had this wonderfully dead lilac tree on the corner of the house that also needed to go. All went well in the cutting down and removal of said dead trees.

So Monday I'm standing in line at Quiznos with my manager when I realize my left forearm is really starting to itch. Not thinking anything of it and not noticing any little red bumps, I proceed to scratch what turns out to be poison oak. Fantastic. The past three days have been miserable, I'm not sure which is worse, the itching or the slathering a 3rd of my body with calamine lotion.

For those of you lucky enough to have never had poison oak or poison ivy, here is what you're treated with. I have been very good at not scratching but this shit has spread like wildfire. Ground zero seems to have been my left forearm and wrist. While there is no tried and true cure for this stuff, I did come across a good recommendation for relieving the itching, hot water. And just not somewhat hot, but hot to the point of almost scalding your skin, yeah, wonderful trade-off right? But it works and feels freakin' awesome. I was in the bathroom trying it out on my arm when Gina walked in and asked what I was doing based on the excessive moaning she heard. At that point I had to admit that relieving the sensation of all of those nerve endings at once ranked right up there with sex. And the relief lasts much longer than the calamine lotion.

Moral of the story, yard work is bad for your health.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

One More for Good Measure

I spent the past couple of weeks preparing for the Smithsburg RR which was the MABRA age graded road race championships. I knew this was going to be my hardest race of the season and as the days closed in, the 30+ field got larger and the competition got exponentially hotter. The plan was to work for either Bryan or Mike and make sure they got into what was sure to be a breakaway with the strong guns and leave no horsepower left in the field to chase them down over 62miles of fairly hilly course.

As a primer for the weekend I made it down to Greenbelt for the Wednesday training race. It was hot and humid and it took it's toll on me early, I was sweating buckets 5 minutes into the race. I ended up punching out after 11 laps. The plan Thursday was to get a long easy ride in, but Boulder had his ACL surgery the day before and we picked him up from the Vet around noon and he was pretty pathetic. The anesthesia had him well out of it but at the same time very restless. He just couldn't get comfortable and paced around and had to go out constantly to pee, which was limited to barely a trickle when he would finally get outside. Needless to say my chances of riding were quickly reduced to zero.

Then disaster struck. Around 4 I started to notice my lunch wasn't agreeing with me and felt like it was stuck in my chest. I figured I just ate too fast and it was indigestion. An hour later the fireworks started. First, I started out lying on the office floor with Boulder hoping the nausea would fade but then it hit me, my mouth started tingle and I was salivating uncontrollably. I knew what this meant and it wasn't going to be pretty. Within minutes I was hugging the toilet bowl and breaking into a cold sweat. Just to make things more complicated, my body decided to take a two pronged attack to purge whatever had invaded my gut and I found myself swapping positions and hoping I didn't have to blow from both ends at the same time.

To complicate matters, I was home alone taking care of Boulder who couldn't walk on his own and I had to carry him up and down the garage stairs to get him in and out of the house. After the second such trip following the start of my illness I couldn't do it and had to call Gina who was working late. For the next 7 hours I was downstairs on the couch making hourly trips to the bathroom. By around 2am I had successfully made it an hour without vomiting which meant I could start trying to replace the fluids I had lost. Since Friday morning I've lived off of Campbell's soup, pretzels and soda so needless to say, I didn't race yesterday. My dehydration headache has finally subsided, although it could have also been a result of my detox from caffeine helping the headache along.

Over the past three days what I did accomplish: lost 7lbs, slept for probably a good 60hrs, after watching Jay Leno Thursday night I have a new found respect for Dr. Phil, decided Leslie Mann (the drunk chick from 40 Year Old Virgin) is either the dumbest or most coked up actress in Hollywood and watched The Big Lebowski twice.