Jul 22 2010

marie had a little lamb

Soccer is so boring you wish there were sheep.  So you could count them to put yourself out of your misery, you see.  There’s nothing boring about the Tour de France and today’s stage on the Col du Tourmalet.  But there are sheep.
[UPDATE: Aw, man.  The original video has been pulled.  So here’s one of a donkey bothering some people at a café.]

Jun 8 2010

it really is america's most beautiful bike ride

Do I know this ride or what?  Before I left for Nevada last week, I wrote that I'd be getting to the big climb "at about two o'clock in the afternoon."  Well, I thought to check the time when I got there because I was curious about how long it would take to get to the top.  (It took fifty minutes.  And though I've never timed it before, I'm reasonably confident that that's ten to fifteen minutes faster than I've ever done.)  It was 1:57 PM.

The day before yesterday, I rode my bicycle around Lake Tahoe for the sixth time.  It was one of my best days of the year so far.  It always is.  I know some people who have done this ride once or twice.  They won't do it again – and this never fails to amaze me – because they say they're tired of it; they want to try a new ride.  I don't get that.  At all.  Even after my sixth trip around the lake, I'm still feeling today the letdown that inevitably occurs after something to which I've been looking forward for so long has passed.

Homebody asked the other day how many miles I've ridden for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.  I generally estimate that each century ride – once all the training is tallied – puts a little less than a thousand miles on my bike.  This was my eleventh event, so I'm going to be conservative and say this season nudged me over the ten thousand mile mark.  But that's incidental.  The important thing is that on June 6, 2010, over 1300 Team In Training cyclists – who raised over six million dollars – did something difficult because they are dedicated to finding a cure for cancer.  I was only one of them.

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Jun 4 2010

you can’t climb across a mountain so high

You know what this blog needs?  More GD Youtube videos.

That there is miles eighty-one to eighty-eight of America's Most Beautiful Bike Ride.  It starts at lake level and rises just under a thousand feet to Spooner Summit.  Because why not put the long climb at the end of the ride?  It's not that difficult, actually – it just keeps going up longer than is really necessary.  I mean, I get it already – life isn't fair.  Anyway, that's where I'll be Sunday at about two o'clock in the afternoon.  Between now and then, I'll doing my best Team Vox impersonation and posting pictures of the Lake Tahoe area from my glorious new telephone.
Have a good weekend, everybody.  I know I will.

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May 10 2010

mission monday

I haven’t been writing about this cycle season like I should be.  At least, I’ve not been writing here.  I have been writing, though.  I have an important job this time ’round; I’m the ‘Mission Mentor’ for the team.  It’s my job to keep people focused on the primary goal of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and Team In Training: finding a cure for blood cancers.  Mainly, this means the duty falls to me to write an email every Monday about where the money we raise goes or new developments in treatments or something.  A couple of weeks ago, after a particularly rough Saturday morning which found me wanting more than anything just to crawl back into bed, I wrote the following message.

I’m going to let you all in on a little secret. I came really, really close to bailing on our ride last Saturday. Neither of my usual carpoolers was with me, and I was almost out the door when the thought popped into my head that I’d had a long week at work. And rain was likely. And Berryville was an hour and a half away. And I didn’t have to ride. And what’s more, I hadn’t yet missed any of our Saturday trainings. At six o’clock Saturday, the idea of a leisurely morning followed by parking myself on my couch until the NFL Draft lulled me back to sleep sounded like a pleasant way to spend the day. Until, that is, I remembered why I ride in the first place.

I signed up for my first event with Team In Training on a whim. One of my co-workers at the time was on the Tahoe Team, and she was talking to a few of us about it at lunch one day. I’d never been out to Lake Tahoe before, and riding a bike around it seemed like a cool way to see the area for the first time. I barely even thought about what I was getting myself into. That was six years (and ten events) ago, so needless to say my first century ride with Team In Training turned out to be pretty big deal for me.

The one ride that really stood out that first season isn’t on our training schedule this year. It’s a beautiful seventy-two mile loop starting from Gainesville through the Virginia piedmont.  And it kicked my butt. Most of the ride is rolling hills like what we did last Saturday, but at about the halfway point, the route goes up and over Naked Mountain. It was the only hill I had to walk up after I ditched the mountain bike I’d been riding at the beginning of training. When I got the training schedule for my second event, I immediately circled the date of the Gainesville ride. My most important goal for the entire season was getting up and over that one hill. Which, I didn’t. I bonked. It’s still the only ride on which I have ever bonked. Obviously, by that point, I had a score to settle.

The day before my third crack at Naked Mountain, I was talking to my mom on the phone when she mentioned that one of my friends from high school had recently passed away. My friend – Brenda – had cancer and had moved to Minnesota during treatment, but a hometown memorial service was scheduled for the following day. This was before the ubiquity of Facebook, and it had been at least five years since I’d even talked with anyone with whom I went to high school. So it pains me to admit that my initial reaction to this sad news was muttering something like “Jeez, that’s too bad” and then calmly going about the rest of my afternoon. The next day dawned about as perfectly as you can imagine. There wasn’t a cloud to be seen in the bright blue sky and the air was still and warm. I led the Team out of the parking lot with Rob and Karen. We were a couple of miles shy of the first SAG stop when it happened. I rounded a turn and crested a small rise in the road to see a vibrant green valley before me, when I remembered the phone call from the day before and suddenly made the mental connection with the main reason I was experiencing that perfect spring day on my bicycle. The rest of the ride, well…. let’s just say it was difficult. But that one hill with which I’d had so much trouble on previous attempts was almost easy. There was absolutely no way I was going to walk up it a third time. I had to keep riding. For Brenda.

I thought about Brenda a lot last Saturday. She died four years ago this past week. She had melanoma, which – as we learned last Monday – may one day be treated with LLS funded pharmaceuticals like Gleevec and Velcade. And she helped keep me going over the last twenty miles when I realized maybe I’d started a little too fast and should have saved some energy for the end of the ride. (To say nothing of helping me just get myself out to Berryville.) The thing is – and I know I’ve said this before – there are always going to be challenges. Sometimes it’s Naked Mountain or the Wall; sometimes it’s just getting out the door on a Saturday morning when you don’t particularly feel like riding. Cancer patients don’t get to choose to take a day off. That’s why I don’t get to either.

I’ve had that story kicking around in my head for four years now.  I’ve mentioned it in passing, but I’ve been wanting to share it in more detail.  It’s been difficult to get right.  It needed to be perfect, and now – now that I’ve had a chance to edit it yet again – it is.  And it’s timely, too.  The Naked Mountain ride wasn’t on our training schedule a couple weeks ago, but that changed last week (due, in no small part, to my email).  I spent last Saturday out there in the piedmont – suffering through the early rain and the wind and the hills.  There was nowhere I’d rather have been.  It was bliss.There’s no way I could possibly recapture that same vibrant green valley I saw back in 2006.  The photo above is woefully inadequate, but it will have to do.  That’s Karen and Rob in the shot, though.  I was so grateful to be riding with them back then, and I’m glad they were there with me for at least this part of our ride two days ago.

May 3 2010

QotD: Happy American Bike Month

May is American Bike Month. Do you own a bicycle? When was the last time you rode it? Where'd you go? Bonus points if you show us a picture of your bike!

Normally, I wouldn't do this.  I answer the Questions of the Day next month.  But I think maybe the Question saw an opportunity to lob me a softball after my poor showing lately, so I'll indulge.  Yes, QotD, I do own a bicycle.  I own two bicycles, in fact, though only one is American.  (I'm not sure if that matters.)  Her name is Christine, and she and I met in 2004.  We had a long and mostly good relationship, but I dumped her last year for a younger and more exotic model.  Marta is Spanish.  She and I went out just last Saturday.  We went up to Gettysburg to see the battlefield.  I now have really sexy tan lines on my biceps and my quadriceps.  This is Marta below, on our anniversary.

You can just barely see Christine – old and busted Christine – angling to get into the picture.  Poor girl.  She really needs to learn to let go.

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Mar 22 2010

photos from my bike

It occurred to me recently that I completely forgot to mention that I’m planning on riding my bicycle around Lake Tahoe again this coming June.  Maybe it’s because of the weather – we got a late start to our training because of the February blizzards and then missed another couple of weeks – or maybe it’s because I’m a slacker.  Whatever the reason, it’s time to rectify this situation.

So yeah – I’m planning on riding my bicycle around Lake Tahoe again this June.  And since I want to at least try to form some coherent thoughts about my Saturday training rides, I figure I need some sort of gimmi-   I mean, hook… on which to hang a narrative.  Last year, I posted maps of my training rides.  But we’re doing most of the same rides this year, so that’s obviously not going to work.  Then I realized: I carry my camera most of the time now, so I should post a defining picture of each week’s ride and talk about that.  I have no idea how this is going to work out; it’s probably a stupid idea.This first one is from a couple of weeks ago, because I am a deadbeat slacker.  It’s Beach Drive, in Rock Creek Park.  I don’t often ride here, so I am always amazed by how remote it can sometimes feel.  It’s right in the heart of the District of Columbia, but there are areas which seem like the middle of nowhere.  In other news, I should spend more time in Rock Creek Park.  It’s way more convenient than some of the other places I’ve gone when I wanted to feel totally alone.

Mar 5 2010

spruce goose

About a week ago, Bicycling magazine’s annual pornography issue (also known as the “Buyer’s Guide”) showed up on my doorstep.  I don’t need a new bike.  It’s only been a year since I bought a carbon-fiber bicycle to replace my trusty aluminum number.  But still, when I was leafing through the magazine this morning one bike caught my eye.That, my friends, is a wood bicycle.  It may be the most beautiful machine I’ve ever seen.  I don’t want a new bike.  I don’t want a new bike.  I don’t want a new bike.  I don’t want…

Feb 28 2010

happy birthday

Marta is one year old today.  And what a year it's been.  Happy birthday!  I love ya, baby!

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Jul 27 2009

zero miles

Well, that was short-lived….

I had an appointment with an orthopedist/physical therapist this morning.  She spent two hours poking and prodding every square inch of my right leg below the knee and I spent two hours wincing and grimacing and trying not to cry like a little girl.  Her diagnosis was that I have a high ankle sprain or a stress fracture, and probably a stress fracture because that’s all she talked about for the last forty minutes.  There’s really no way to know for sure without an MRI (stress fractures often don’t show up on x-rays) but really it’s moot at this point.  In either case, I’m not going to be able to run for at least four to six more weeks.  So no Marine Corps Marathon.

I’m pretty bummed.  Not only am I going to miss the Marine Corps, but I’ll also have to give up on the Rock and Roll Half Marathon in Virginia Beach that I was going to run with Daby and CarrieNation and Emma and a few other people.  I joked a lot in the month leading up to the start of training about not following through, but this was something I really did want to do.  What gets me the most is the timing of my injury.  I was just starting to feel good about running again, and I was gaining confidence that I could actually run twenty-six point two miles every time I got out.  That – if anything – is the silver lining.  Signing up for the marathon was a means to an end: I wanted to start running again.  As much as I love being out on the bike – and I think it’s fairly obvious that’s something I enjoy quite a bit – there’s nothing quite like running.  I remember now that I’ve missed it.  It had been a long time, but I missed it.

So now I’m weighing my options.  I can switch over to the next marathon season, which won’t interfere with a cycle event.  The Walt Disney World Marathon is the first week of January.  The training will probably start in September, so – knock wood – I should be healthy.  But that’s an additional $2,000 of fundraising, which doesn’t bother me per se, but will mean I’ll probably have to alter my plans for next year.  I want to do the Tahoe ride in the spring, and we’re adding a ride in Solvang, California for the fall season.  My second century was in Solvang, and I’ve been dying to get back there for four years.  If I do a marathon in January, the fundraising – not to mention the constant training for over a year – will be a bit much.  Plus – and this is no small thing – I’d really been looking forward to a local event and having the support of my friends along the way and at the finish.  The Marine Corps Marathon will be there next year, but there’s much to be said for following through before I lose too much momentum.  I just don’t know.

Man, what a depressing post this turned out to be.  I sincerely apologize to both my readers.  I didn’t mean for it to turn out this way.  I’ll try to make it up to you starting now: Your taste in music is terrible!  Pie is the best and brownies suck!  I’m the best at Scrabble!  Daby and Jodi are stupid!  Hmmm, I think I might just feel a little better.

Jul 5 2009

eyes wide shut

I had a pretty great holiday yesterday.  I went for a forty mile ride in the morning, and got home in time to watch the end of the first stage of the Tour.  I puttered around for the rest of the afternoon, blogged a little, and then Dabysan and Carrie Nation picked me up around four-thirty to head to B—–e's for the quintessential Fourth of July celebration.  We hung out in a backyard in the suburbs.  The adults consumed adult beverages while a few children scampered around our legs.  Daby and I organized a game of touch football during one of the few moments when no one was jumping on the trampoline.  There was a big bowl of tortilla chips and various dipping options while meats and fake meats and vegetables were grilling on the grill.  There were desserts and good conversation.  And, of course, the naked pool party at the house next door.

Carrie Nation mentioned as we pulled into suburban Maryland's Flower Valley subdivision that B—–e's neighbors were nudists.  But I didn't realize that meant that they would be nude at that very moment.  Nor did I realize that they would have invited other nudists over for their holiday celebration.  I couldn't have been more wrong.  The party – complete with festive red, white, and blue bunting – was in full swing (so to speak) by the time we arrived.  Speculation about the goings-on next door didn't dominate the conversation, per se, but it was an underlying theme.  And I wish I could say I took the high road when B—–e asked if we wanted to visit the windows of the house from which we could see over the fence, but I didn't.  There's nothing quite like suburban naked people to turn a bunch of thirty-somethings into children.  Except, of course, the children weren't allowed to peek.

But for me, the most fascinating aspect of the soiree was the band.  The band showed up after we had been there about an hour, and they immediately prompted so many questions.  Were they naked too?  Where, exactly, does one find a band willing to play the nudist circuit?  Were they naked too?  Daby and I were tossing a football around when they launched into their first song – which was obviously selected to get the crowd fired up.  After catching a particularly wobbly pass, I paused and asked: "Is that 'Norwegian Wood'?"  That's when I decided I had to keep track of the set list for posterity.  I don't have a moleskine notebook, so I just used my phone.
Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown) / Margaritaville / Stand By Me / Lay Down Sally / It's Five O'Clock Somewhere / ??? (Bring Back My Something Something?) / Nowhere Man / Save Tonight / Brown Eyed Girl / Shaky Ground / –intermission– / Happy Birthday / Can't Buy Me Love / Cheeseburger In Paradise / Crazy / Me and Bobby McGee / Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard / The Game of Love / Mustang Sally / All Along the Watchtower / All For You / Rocky Raccoon / The Joker
The lesson, I guess, is that baby-boomer nudists like their Beatles.  Sadly, it was time for us to leave during the  Steve Miller Band cover, so I can only speculate how the rest of the evening went.  The reports from the upstairs window, though, were not encouraging.  As the evening grew cooler, more and more of the guests were putting their clothes back on, with only a few brave men holding (and hanging) out.  And besides, by then the "neighborhood watch" had gotten out their golf cart and had begun making their drunken circuit of the subdivision, asking the children if they had pooped yet.  As entertainment goes, it's tough even for a naked pool party to compete with that.

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