31 January 2008

Snow-y day, keeping the sun away

No wonder I was thinking about cross-country skis last weekend: Tom Skilling says this is the third-snowiest winter in 25 years here in Chi-town. Up to last night, 30 inches had fallen, and we're getting more this morning with a monster storm on the way. Looks like I picked a good year to get back on the trainer!

In honor of the snow day, I'm going to give y'all one last hint ... the answer to be revealed tomorrow, since no one will be working anyway ...

By now you've guessed that I've got a new ride for 2008. But what you don't know is what kind of bike it is, nor who is building it. What I will tell you is a little story ...

Cast your mind back 30-odd years, to when I was but a wee lad. During the summer, my family would take small day trips, going up to build dams in the river, pan for gold, hike, and picnic. The place wasn't too far from home, just far enough to feel like a whole different world. Then, one year, we decided to take a trip to the river in the fall. What did we find there? SNOW! Being only 5, I had never seen the stuff, and my brother, cousin, and I had fun throwing snowballs at each other, sledding, and building a huge snowman. Only then, we sledded right through the snowman! All three of us started to cry, it was so sad ... WE KILLED THE SNOWMAN!!!

Here's the hint: the bike that's being built for me will be born near the river we used to play in, by the state park where we used to picnic. Can anyone guess the bike?

30 January 2008

Lori's in for it


Congrats to my cousin Michael and his wife Lori on the birth of their second son! Oh, man, with three boys in the house, Lori's going to have her hands full!!!!!

ROAD TRIP II!

Then, after all is said and done and I'm on my way to Ray's, Kim sends an email -- she's got training for work in Chandler on March 27-28. We weren't planning on an Arizona trip this spring, but now it's on! Four days of sun, sand, and RIDING!!

29 January 2008

ROAD TRIP! (aka, my wife is the bomb!)

How cool is my wife? She's the best ever. No one has a wife as cool as me. No one.

Here's the setup: I get an email this afternoon at work, from the MTB PR guy. SRAM is the sponsor of Ray's Indoor Mountain Bike Park down in Cleveland, and he's putting together a road trip for the B-I-K-E event on Feb. 8-9 (think H-O-R-S-E for freeriders). The park is open for riding except during the pro events, and I've been wanting to go down there since they opened a couple of years back.

Here's the rub: Friday, February 8 is Kim's birthday. It's also the day that her friend from college arrives to spend a weekend with us. We haven't seen Kristen in almost a year.

What do I do? I call Kim. I know I shouldn't even ask, but I want to put it out there. I dial. She's not there. Leave a message to call me back. She does.

Me: "Hey."
Kim: "Hi. What's up?"
Me: "When does Kristen get here?"
Kim: "Friday the 8th. Why?"
Me: "Well ... do you want it to be a girl's weekend or do you want me here?"
Kim: "Just go. Really. We'll figure out my birthday later."
Me: "What? Don't you even want to know what I'm doing?"
Kim: "No, not really."

I mean, c'mon guys. How incredibly awesome is that? Kim ROCKS!

Coming together

Wow. It's all coming together for this season and 24-9 in a biiiiig way. Confirmation from the crew, confirmation on the ride, confirmation on the form. It may only be January, but this weekend marks just six months until go-time.

And I'm gonna' keep you all in suspense for just a bit longer. Let's just say the titanium has been ordered, state-of-the-art doesn't even begin to describe where I'm going, and how often do you spend an hour on the phone with the president and mastermind of the bike company whose product you ride?

28 January 2008

The Trib is still following me

We even went to the Old German Beer Hall on Saturday night:

http://www.chicagotribune.com/travel/chi-milwaukee_rc_pmjan27,0,2343406.story

BOOM!

I'm not a big Emeril fan, but I gotta' say ... BOOM! Looks like the changing of the guard has begun. And on the women's side, two SRAM riders on top ... just a matter of time until the men start to take notice ...

As for me, I managed two aerobic workouts on a bicycle this weekend. You can't really call it "riding" when the snow is that soft and the trails are not packed down at all. Between the two days, I swear I had all of 30 seconds of "flow" -- the rest was grinding it out, running, and using every muscle in my body to stay upright. The snow was like a mix of mud and sand, so from that perspective it was really good practice, and I'm definitely a bit worked this weekend.

Both days were fun, though, with a small group from work on Saturday, and a friend of mine (and World Bicycle Relief volunteer) on Sunday. Jon was out there on a vintage bike with 1.95 tires -- totally not for those conditions, and it says a lot for his skill and experience that he kept it upright and moving. Can't wait to get out there with him on a better day. (I will say that this was the first time in 7 years of riding that I truly wished that I owned xc skis. It would have been a blast out there.)

Saturday night was a trip to Milwaukee for the MU-DePaul game ... one of the weird signs of our Internet-connected times is how easy it is to reconnect with people ... like the guys from my freshman year dorm floor, whom I haven't seen in 16 years! One of the guys has access to a skybox, and it was super-fun to hang out at the Bradley Center and catch up after so long. We even ate "real" hot dogs -- haven't done that in a long while!

And oh yeah -- Marquette KICKED DePaul's butt. Very cool!

25 January 2008

Wine me, dine me ...

Super-exciting developments this afternoon! Not ready to divulge yet, but let's play word association: "custom" "progressive" "mixed" "endurance." Yeah baby, this year is gonna ROCK!

Salt lick

If bikes are women, my hardtail is a salty wench. I started breaking it down to clean it this morning, and after my ride home Wednesday night, it is disgusting. Even the rotors, which are self-cleaning, are crusty. Ouch.

Long-ish ride on the trainer last night, Blizzard of Ozz followed by The Offspring's GH followed by NOFX. Yeah, I can be more than a bit schizo when it comes to musical tastes. You don't want to know what I listened to on the train yesterday. (Another 80s musical legend, now living in Wilmette, home of today's train music, Fall Out Boy.)

And on the screen? One of the best races I've seen yet from this season, the Superprestige Gavere, a slick crash-fest that looked more like a B race than a C1. It was incredible to watch Wellens open up a gap on Nys (who looked bad on the tech stuff) through the technical sections, only to lose his lead on a bike change and then have Nys attack on the last lap in the same place to take the win. Wow. Great choice for a trainer ride. (I started watching the WC at Igorre as well, which was LAME.)

Palos this weekend. They're saying up to 2 inches of snow -- SNOW RIDE! Tomorrow I'll get there early (7 or 7:30 probably) and meet up with the group at 9. Sunday I'm picking up a friend from the city, ealry to beat the midday warm-up we're supposed to get ... Anyone else want in?

24 January 2008

Torn

OK, second post in an hour.

Check it: Pro Bikes -- Chris Eatough's Trek-VW Trek Top Fuel

And word on the street is that Tinker is going to hit Worlds, which prolly means Chris is coming back to Wausau. Or maybe not, we'll find out, given that there's NUE events before and after. I could see Chris going after Floyd just for the challenge ...

At the very least, Chris and JB are headed to South Africa for Cape Epic in March. How cool is that? Some day I want to put together a team of me + Rob Eva (SRAM Australia, a legend in endurance racing) to head down there. Yeah baby!

I went through this last year, and it's happening again: I'm torn. I'm putting together my calendar, and there are some awesome endurance events that happen in September and October, and it's by far my favorite time of year to be out on the mountain bike. It was killing me that I didn't ride trail for 3 months this year -- and it would have been longer except for the trip to Arizona.

Because here's the rub: It looks like I'll miss Kettle this year, Stump Farm has to be a 3-hour to fit my 'cross training, and there's no way I can do any of the other late-season races if I want to be sharp for 'cross. I even told Kim, last year at Cam-Rock, "Don't let me forget how much I love to race 'cross next year." I have so much fun racing 'cross, and I get plenty of MTB racing, but the view from the armchair right now is cloudy. The pull of the endurance circuit is pretty strong.

Then again, so's this. Just 10-1/2 months to Montrose ...

Mamma's Fallen Angel

Late night last evening at work, helping host the local NBDA meeting. Very cool work being done up in Mad-town by Trek to help move the world by bike. And it was great to meet a bunch of local dealers, many of whom are really supportive of the work we're doing and are asking for POP displays and information ...

So I headed home about 9, and had forgotten my fender. Blech. Sloppy slush from the snow (say that 10 times fast), and 45 minutes in 13-degree temps. The ride itself wasn't too bad, it was the cleanup that sucked. And when I woke up to 1-degree temps today, and minus-25-degree wind chills, I wussed out and decided to take the train, and ride the trainer again tonight. I'm still pretty motivated to get the "ride" in, but I'm not looking forward to the time investment. All-in, I won't be climbing off to do my core work until about 8, then it's dinner and straight to bed. Somehow that's just much more fun in the middle of the summer, when the ride ends at 8 as you roll up to your front door ...

This weekend looks great, though, with a couple of long days, prolly down at Palos. Kim and I are headed to the Marquette game on Saturday night -- they're on a bit of a losing streak (or at least that's the results I've seen on WGN's news ticker), but we're not going just for the game ... I got "found" by a bunch of guys from my freshman-year dorm floor, and we're all getting together for the first time in 16 years. It should be interesting!

23 January 2008

Weight

I was all excited when I woke up yesterday morning and was already down to my 24-9 race weight from last year ... I'm determined to keep the pounds off this year (although the free pretzels in the lunchroom are calling my name ...), and plan on racing at my "Cat. 1" weight (which is 10lbs. lighter than I was last year!)

So I was all excited, and then I saw this photo of friend of World Bicycle Relief Jeremiah Bishop. Holy crap he's looking SKINNY!

http://www.jeremiahbishop.com/messages/index.htm

There's an even freakier one of him on his homepage, but it's a rotating photo so you may not get it the first time.

Congrats to him on the long-team nomination, here's to making the Team!

Wishing I was there

Last year, two local guys passed me (with a Californian in tow) in the early dawn hours of 24-9, with one of them going on to make the podium. As it was, we were the last four to finish with 18 laps, and just 22 minutes separated us in the end -- and me from the last step on the box.


So it was kind of hard for me to hate these two locals -- Dan and Brad -- when they called three weeks later looking to volunteer for World Bicycle Relief. I tried to not like them, in the interest of better competition, but they're both really stand-up guys, and we started working together on a pretty regular basis. In fact, they flew out to Interbike on their own dime to staff the booth and help out with the forum. Brad and his wife Nancy even came out to Montrose to cheer me on in the freezing cold.


So this year we hatched a plan to race as "team" World Bicycle Relief -- we're all pretty focused on the endurance circuit, and even though Dan is moving overseas, we've all got a hard case of 24-9 on the brain. Brad and I will be the Chicago contingent, and are working out race schedules now -- Brad has a lot more experience than I, and I'm looking forward to learning from him as the year progresses.


In the meantime, though, I'm finally beginning to feel some animosity toward my friends. See, Dan negotiated his departure from the States based on being able to race the 24 Hours of Old Pueblo next month -- and so has been putting in killer miles as the weather has gone downhill and the holidays have come and gone. To make things better, he and Brad headed out to Santa Monica this week (perfect timing!) to visit Dan's brother and put in some quality time on the bike.


The camel's back finally broke last night, when after pounding out 90 minutes on the trainer (again with Poison, again with Jaarmarktcross, thus doubling my entire trainer time from last winter) I get an e-mail from Brad.

Subject: Today's ride
"Wishing you were here."


Yeah. Me too.

22 January 2008

You gotta' cry tough

About a year ago, the Goat, Rachael and a few others in the blog-o-sphere were talking about their musical closets. I owned up to a bit of Cher's Greatest Hits and even some Cyndi Lauper, but I forgot one biggie: I still know every word to Look What the Cat Dragged In and Open Up and Say ... Ahh! even though I haven't listened to either album in more than 15 years.

This realization came to me a couple of weeks ago, when I happened to catch "Nothin' But a Good Time" and "Talk Dirty to Me" on a retro two-fer on the radio. Now, "Good Time" gets played quite a bit, but when was the last time you heard "Talk?" Yeah, me neither -- and then I sang along, word for word. Kim thought I was going nuts, especially when I pulled out the air guitar and started jamming.

So then I popped in my cassette of Cat, and sure enough, it is burned in the recesses of my brain. Seriously, I haven't heard it since before I left for college -- in 1991. Glam was dead, I had found alternative, and Bret and the gang were doing the "Unskinny Bop." (Bleh!) I immediately added it to my iTunes wish list.

So yesterday I finally cashed in my Christmas gift cards and downloaded The Best of Poison: 20 Years of Rock. I went for the compilation because it was $4 cheaper than Cat and included the best songs off of Open Up and later. And man, let me tell you, it ROCKS. I threw in a DVD of the Jaarmarktcross Niel, hopped on the trainer and queued up "Talk" ... I swear 45 minutes of trainer time never went so fast.

The only downside? I can't get the lyrics out of my head today. "I won't forget you baby (I won't forget you) ... even though I should ..."

21 January 2008

Oink

There's a saying about breakfasts: The hen is involved, the pig is committed.

This season, I'm going to be a pig.

Last winter, I was able to get through the cold months with only 1 hour of trainer time. Between a focus on work and getting out to the trails on the weekends, I managed to put less time on the trainer than I've ever spent before. It was great mentally, but the more I think about it, the more I realize that it probably meant losing that top-end 2-5% that I had in seasons past. It also meant dealing with a bit of excess weight, not really losing it until August/September. Which was OK -- I went into 2007 without any concrete goals, and had a ton of fun.

This year, I'm recommitting to some racing goals. Which means, given the weather we're having, that I'll probably be spending time on the trainer. And I'm OK with that -- if I'm really going to achieve my goals, it will be an unfortunate necessity in the near future. I'll still do my best to get out as much as possible -- this weekend was a great example -- but I also have to come to grips with a bit of indoor time as well.

So why is this important? I managed to get out for two good trail rides this weekend up at Pets, with the Goat and Jerry (and Bob on Saturday). Unlike last year at Pets, I put in two pretty solid rides, even going solo for a while yesterday when Jeremy flatted and Jerry had to get home. It wasn't *quite* as cold as the MKE trails last year, or maybe I was just better prepared for it, and no matter how you slice it, I was riding head and shoulders above where I was pre-24-9 last August, and light years above where I was a year ago. Especially when you consider it's been 3 months since my last MTB ride -- I shook off the rust pretty well, rode stuff I couldn't clear last year, and identified plenty of areas of improvement.

But -- and mine is a big but -- Jeremy was riding away from me, a combination of years of skill and much better fitness (ski bum) than I've got right now. And Jerry reminded me of a couple of important pieces of information: the Goat will be riding 24-9, and we'll be up against the likes of Ronsta, who is also going solo this year. So it's going to take everything I've got to make good on my goals in August, including a fair bit of indoor training time.

I don't anticipate going hog-wild about indoor riding. I'm still going to do whatever I can to get outside. But keeping a very clear goal in mind for this year should reduce the drudgery just a bit. I hope. And that, in turn, will increase my fitness base and help me keep the weight down.

And then, just maybe, I can bring home the bacon.

18 January 2008

Chilly willy

Spent the morning with our friends from CBF at Winter Bike to Work Day. This crazy "celebration" of Chicago's coldest day ever was my first expo last year, and my how things have changed! Much more prepared this year, know how to work with people, much better response. We even made it on the Channel 2 news coverage!

One funny byproduct of the event is that it attracts some interesting bike folk, and organizations. One of the female CBF volunteers and I were wondering why a certain couple of young women were talking to everyone but her ... and then they approached me. So gentlemen, here's your chance:

Bicycle riders needed!
The UIC Dept. of Urology is looking for male volunteers for a study on the effects of bicycling and perineal blood flow. They're looking to help develop a new saddle -- they need volunteers for a 30min ride followed by an ultrasound at the UIC hospital. Pretty painless, right?

If you're interested, call 312-996-2779 or email at christy.george87@gmail.com or ashah56@gmail.com. Good luck!

17 January 2008

Packers fan

I love Redneck Cheeseheads. Or is it Cheesehead Rednecks?

Father arrested for forcing son to wear Green Bay Packers jersey

Dad tapes his 7-year-old son to a chair during the game last Saturday, and tapes the jersey to him. Mom captures the family moment on cell phone camera, and turns him into the cops. Cops hold him from Monday night to Wednesday. Mom files a restraining order.

According to the cop: Smith said the incident sounded strange when reported at first, but the mother took pictures with her cell phone and that type of evidence is difficult to dispute.

You can't make this stuff up. It would be funnier if you didn't just know that there's other issues at play here.

Calling all lit fans

Kim asked me if it was a good idea to ride with the Goat on Saturday, since my season hasn't really begun, he's been skiing, he's a mountain biker, and I tend to drop chains and break parts of my body when I ride with him. So just to make sure, I rode the 100 meters of singletrack along Lake Shore Drive on my way into work today. I'm ready.

In other news, a friend of mine sent me this email yesterday. Get out the vote!

*****************************
My first novel manuscript, The Silence of Trees, has been selected as a Semifinalist in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award. It is one of 836 excerpts that were chosen out of 5000 entries and announced on January 15th.

The top 100 will be selected based on reviews and feedback. This is the equivalent of American Idol for writers. I am asking Amazon customers to please visit the website at http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0011ZCAJC, download & read my excerpt, and give it a review.

Each individual review submitted is the actual vote that is tallied. Your vote does make a difference! (Plus there are incentive prizes. )

Voters must have an Amazon.com account to download, rate and review the excerpt. The voting ends at 11:59:59 p.m. on February 28, 2008.

For more information, you can also visit my website at www.thesilenceoftrees.com

16 January 2008

HUGE thank you!

BIG thank you to everyone who donated clothing in support of the Zambian National Cycling Federation. From the Pony Shop and Turin in Evanston serving as collection points, to the 8 bags of clothes collected from the Brazen Dropouts in Madison, the clothing drive exceeded my expectations! We'll be sending over jerseys, shorts, shoes, helmets -- all the things the development squads need to train and race.

Now the real work begins -- packing and tracking. The race season starts in late March, so I'll be shipping over in the next few weeks. It's looking good for Kim and I to get there in April, who knows, I'll try to get a photo of a very Midwestern-looking peloton!

15 January 2008

Voting day

In the midst of all this political mumbo-jumbo, here's a chance to help make a difference in the life of a really cool photographer:


My friend Paul entered a photo contest @ Outdoorphotographer.com. There are a lot of great entries so we need your help in voting for the "people's choice" portion of the contest.
Thanks for your help!!

I missed the bus

And it's something I'll never ever ever do again.

OK, not really.

Up 30 minutes early to get the hardtail finished so's I could ride it to work today. Hefty commuter tires, new cables, all set.

Get dressed. Three layers. Takes forever.

Walk down the stairs. 3 flights. Realize my seat pack only has a 700c tube. Think to myself, "Self, you just got all dressed. No way are you going back upstairs. You'll just grab a 26in. tube at work for the way home."

And you can guess what happened. 15 minutes later, I'm sitting on the bus, listening to the CTA announcement about route cuts. Damn.

But hey, I got a tube at work, and at least I can ride home!

14 January 2008

"Easing" back into it

Feeling pretty worn today -- 2:15 each, Saturday and Sunday, Saturday with Judson, Sunday alone after sleeping until 11:30. Geeking out on good root beer will do that to you. The 'cross banquet was great on Saturday night, Renee and JPE put on such an awesome series, it's only fitting that we have a fun event to cap it off. I got basically nothing done all weekend, except we did catch "The Sarah Connor Chronicles" last night on Fox ... have I mentioned that Kim is a die-hard Terminator freak?

March 12 is on the calendar ...

11 January 2008

Open to suggestion

It's been months since I've been on a mountain bike. My hardtail is 20 minutes away from being fully rebuilt. Anyone have any suggestions for trails that may be ridable this weekend?

10 January 2008

VEGAS BABY!

So I went for a lunch ride yesterday, and ran into Lou. He says we should do Cross Vegas. I say no way, no UCI Elite for me. And then in the news today ...

CrossVegas to return

After the success of the inaugural race in 2007 which attracted 5,000 spectators, CrossVegas will back on the Interbike schedule for 2008. Boulder-based organizers, CrossVegas LLC, announced the event will be Wednesday September 24, once again capping off the show's opening day.

In addition to elite men's and women's races, CrossVegas co-promoter Brook Watts announced that a race for tradeshow attendees will be one of the new additions for year two. "There's obviously a lot of folks in the industry who race cyclo-cross and we've heard many pleas for a "Wheelers and Dealers" race to start the evening. We're ironing out details but expect full information by late spring."

Yeah baby!

09 January 2008

Big behind

It's only 9 days into the new year, and I'm already worried I'm falling behind. This guy is putting in centuries on his singlespeed; she's worried about being able to ride two days in a row; he has such a big chip on his shoulder from being snubbed that he's considering riding in tornadoes. This one's gone and hired a coach and is doing his testing in order to kill it in '08; and even The Injured One is riding again. He's starting to plan for 300km (and modifying his ride); he's searching for magic riding spots; and she's put the pyramid to bed and is putting in 2:45 at a shot. At least not everyone is so one-dimensional -- congrats Ben and Julie, kick some ass! In the meantime, here I am, getting soft and not really caring. I do this to myself every year when I start hitting the blogs in the first week of January ...

But then I look at the calendar again. And check and re-check my math. Oh, yeah. I'm not racing until May 18. And my season will very neatly fall into two, 12-week sessions. I've got like a million years to build the base I need to kick some ass and take names. Do I covet? Hell yeah I covet. Bring it on.

08 January 2008

I got nothin'

Neck deep in Excel spreadsheets, measuring costs and benefits for everything we did in 2007 ... who knew nonprofit administration could be so glamorous? It's a fascinating exercise, though, and a due diligence that not only shows our spend but exposes all those "hidden costs" like design time that aren't always top-of-mind ...

The cool thing is figuring out the benefits. Like the fact that, when you dive into our database, the state of Missouri has more contacts listed than any state except for Illinois and California. Missouri! And there's a high level of contributors -- like nearly 95%. And we owe it all to allsevens -- those guys were rock stars! So now I'm picking apart the numbers, and putting linkages together to show how our small spend added up to their big success ...

In the meantime, I got out on the bike on Sunday for a bit, and rode into work yesterday before the rain hit. Back to the upper body workout this morning, it's not quite "T" time yet (not riding today), but it's getting close ...

02 January 2008

Happy anniversary to me!

Just a quick note -- today is my one year anniversary at World Bicycle Relief! Woo-hoo!

House is a disaster ... what's the saying about a man and a hammer and everything looking like a nail? Once I discovered the lure of The Container Store, everything was fair game ... and now our dining room really is a bike room, except there's even more dining space too! I just hope the plaster walls are up to the challenge ... I suppose we'll find out tonight when we get home from work!

New Years was awesome, hanging out at Kim's coworker's house, chilling with the kids, playing games and eating. And eating. And eating some more! Oh, man, it was so much fun!

Work today should be interesting -- SRAM continues to reconfigure space, and we're without furniture until later tomorrow. It looks like you could play a full indoor soccer game in our office right now!