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 27 2010

welcome to the working week

Oh I know it don’t thrill you/I hope it don’t kill you.

Actually, things haven’t been too bad down at the lab lately.  And the outlook for the immediate future is positively rosy.  Today is my Friday, and I’m looking at glorious four-day staycation.  Then I’m off to Lake Tahoe.  And then I’m off to the Outer Banks.  Including the week that just ended, my next month is looking like this: Four-day week.  Three-day week.  Four-day week.  Two-day week.  Things sure are gonna be rough once June 21 rolls around and I have to work five whole days in a row.  The horror… the horror…

May 26 2010

isn't it almost june?

I know better than to pay attention to the weather more than a week out.  But I leave for Lake Tahoe in eight days, and I sure would feel a lot better about the idea of spending a day on my bike if the current forecast didn't look like this:

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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.

Apr 9 2010

treading water

Okay, okay.  I know.  Really, I do.  I’m waaaaaaaay behind.  I get it.  You don’t have to hound me.  I just haven’t much felt like writing of late.  Yes, there are several outstanding items that require my attention  And yes, I will address these topics in the coming week:

High Church of the Indie Rock Orthodoxy (DC Chapter): Last week I saw Wilco and Vampire Weekend, and both shows were worthy of much more than my meager-to-nonexistent commentary.  I aim to right that wrong.

The Onion AV Club Undercover: It would be generous to call my half-assed introduction to this new feature, which was to recur over the next half a year, “cryptic.”  I’m now three weeks behind, and there has already been a modest surprise.  No, it’s not Bryan Adams covering “I Will Dare,” but Lord knows I wish it was.

Photos From My Bike: I don’t even know how many weeks past due I am on these posts.  I’ve lost track, and it would probably depress me to pay attention to the date on my introduction.  Skipping a week for weather-related reasons certainly didn’t help with my sense of urgency.  This topic is the most important of these three.  I should – I do – know better than to slack on this.  I really don’t know what has gotten into me.

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.

Jun 17 2009

QotD: What is it too soon for?

What is it too soon for?

Submitted by Design Shark.

I’ll admit, Question of the Day, that this one threw me at first.  You see, most people complain about something they can’t wait for, rather than something that has arrived prematurely.  In fact, about the only thing most people complain about coming too soon (other than, ahem, coming too soon) is the annual holiday creep.  And they’re right.  Frankly, Christmas decorations could show up in stores on December 22 and that would still be too early.  But that’s not very timely now, is it?  I do enough complaining about Christmas after Thanksgiving; I don’t need to go there in June.

Ordinarily I might opine that it’s too soon for the brutal DC summer, but the weather has been rather mild and tolerable lately.  So I guess it’s too soon to start training for that marathon.  The month since I signed up has just flown by.  I didn’t run much before the big ride in Tahoe, because I didn’t want to risk jeopardizing that ride with an injury.  And I haven’t run enough since the big ride because I tweaked something in my left foot during the ride and have been in some pain since.  It’s felt better toward the end of this week, but it still seems too soon to run four miles on Sunday.

And, of course, it’s too soon for Christmas.  It’s always too soon for Christmas.  I guess I don’t have a problem going there this early after all.

Jun 13 2009

QotD: Burned!

Have you ever burned yourself?

Well, Question of the Day, this is an auspicious beginning to the next week.  I'm impressed by your query, as it manages to walk that oh-so-fine line between banal and slightly morbid.  A lesser interrogator might have asked "Have you ever been burned?" leaving the question open to interpretation.  And I might have answered with a story about being swindled (in Shanghai) or insulted (that's a burn).  Or I might have mentioned that despite the fact that I sunburn quite easily, I have a shaky (at best) relationship with sunscreen and that I am currently sporting a nifty sunglasses tan line and that my face was peeling for much of the past week after being outside all day last Sunday.  But your question implies a certain degree of participation beyond mere circumstance on the part of the individual so that information is not really relevant either.  You have limited my response to a simple yes-or-no answer.  Well played, Question of the Day.  Well played.

So, no, I have never burned myself.  But thank you for asking.

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Jun 9 2009

the downhill

Two days ago, I worked my ass off to climb the hills surrounding Emerald Bay on my bicycle.  The payoff was a glorious and screaming descent.  That – there – is a great analogy for all the riding I did this spring.  Despite some difficult training rides, I’ve been on an increasing cycling high since about mid-March.  And now it’s over all too soon.I got home from Nevada about an hour ago.  It’s hard for me to believe that two years ago I was ambivalent about doing the ride the next year.  I’d sign up for 2010 tomorrow if I could.