29 January 2009


Check it out -- back page of today's ChicagolandExtra section of the Chicago Tribune!


28 January 2009

Comparison shopping

It's 18 degrees outside right now -- sunny, but just a bit too cold to hit the LFP for a lunch ride. Which of course triggers the thought that I did a bunch of lunch rides last January. Which prompts my Type-A, XC-weenie personality to crack open the Excel file to see just how many lunch rides I did. And what my training volume was a year ago. And how many fewer days of training I have this year so far.

I'm not quite as crazy about it as, say, Adam Myerson, but in the quest to make this year the best ever, it's hard not to start making comparisons. Julie has a great perspective on this -- and I have to admit, I'm right there with her when it comes to reading about what my competition is doing and getting just a bit nervous that I'm not doing enough. I had an interesting conversation about it last year in the run-up to Nationals, whether you could really believe what people put on their blogs when it comes to training. Me? I'm the gullible type, and if you say you're out there doing 6-hour night rides every Wednesday, deep in the woods of Michaux, despite working 50 hours a week, then I believe you are going to fly this year. (In my own blogging, I take the opposite approach -- keep 'em guessing and don't post numbers, since I've found most people don't believe me anyway.)

The sad part is, I know this is all wasted energy. The trick to training is to be as Zen as you can: the training I'm doing right now is exactly the training I should be doing. It helps that I have an awesome coach, Steve Weller at Bell Lap Coaching. He manages to keep things in perspective, and is a whiz at integrating "life" and "training." January too cold for lunch rides? No problem: we'll start from here instead of there, and we'll still manage to get the best from you and exceed your goals anyway. Pretty sweet.

But it's easy as I sit here at lunch to crack open the browser and start to scroll through the blog rolls. It's hard not to start wishing I was in Southern California, or Colorado, or Pennsylvania. It's a challenge not to throw on the three layers of clothing and ... aw, hell, lunch ride anyone?

27 January 2009

Ray's Indoor XC event!

Ray's was awesome! My camera? Not so much. Here are some photos from this weekend -- such a great event!
The contestants: Lindsey, Judy, Melissa, Catharine and Emily
"Catharine, you just placed 4th at the Olympics. Where are you headed next?" "Cleveland!"
The course: Prologue stunt - XC loop - 2 stunts - XC loop - 2 more stunts - XC loop - final 2 stunts - last XC loop. FAST.
The "Fantasy" prizes for the amateurs
And the cash. Pros got double the stacks!
Emily Batty, "The Future of Mountain Biking" - U23 Canadian National Champion and one heck of a baker of cookies!
Maybe Kate will be doing this someday?

21 January 2009


I'm giddy. Not sure where that word came from -- Ben? Just finished cleaning up the Song a bit and added Stans, ready to go for Rays and then Arizona. Took it for a 2-minute "spin" on our test track and I CAN'T WAIT to get down to the Land of Cleve tomorrow. Sweet!

In the meantime, we've worked the system just a bit and have come up with some serious WBR-Siren love! Big thanks to the media outlets for publishing our press release ... it's not real unless it's on cyclingnews?!

Daily Peloton


20 January 2009

Pin-up boy

Thank goodness January is almost over. I don't know how much more a$$-kicking I can take!

Ben Popper, Team Rock Lobster, USGP of Cyclocross Calendar 2009. Sweet.

19 January 2009

Siren Bicycles ‘Teams’ with World Bicycle Relief


Siren Bicycles ‘Teams’ with World Bicycle Relief;
Endurance MTB Brand Finds New Home in Tucson

TUCSON – (JANUARY 19, 2009) – Siren Bicycles, a boutique builder focused on the endurance mountain bike market, has partnered with World Bicycle Relief to field Team World Bicycle Relief-Siren for the upcoming season. The team will be aboard production softail Song SL bicycles, riding to raise awareness of World Bicycle Relief’s programs and mission.

“This is a fantastic opportunity to showcase the work of World Bicycle Relief,” said Siren Bicycles founder Brendan Collier. “Siren is all about seeing the bicycle as a sustainable mode of transportation, and World Bicycle Relief is dedicated to providing bicycles in support of healthcare, education and economic opportunity.”

Collier also announced the relocation of Siren Bicycles to Tucson, Arizona. The location in central Tucson offers space for design and fabrication of both production and custom/semi-custom mountain bike frames, in addition to an upcoming “city bike” project focused on an affordable and sustainable bike design for urban use.

The partnership with World Bicycle Relief is part of the organization’s “Grassroots” campaign, in which athletes and teams support its work by serving as ambassadors. “Teams like World Bicycle Relief-Siren are out there every day, on the roads and trails, raising awareness,” according to Katie Bolling, head of the Grassroots program. “Using our logo on their jersey and with our educational materials, individuals and teams can speak knowledgably about our work in underdeveloped regions of the world.”

The team consists of Pro endurance racers Dan Brennan, Todd Carpenter, Brad Majors and Chris Strout, and amateurs Craig DeAmbrose and Stephen Janes. Between them, the riders have scored several top results in recent seasons, including a podium and several top-10s in the 24-Hour National Championships; national and regional wins in 12- and 24-hour events; and strong finishes in National Ultra-Endurance (NUE) races.

For 2009, the team will open the season at the 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo, near Tucson, and will go on to contest national and regional races including select NUE events and the 24 Hour National Points Series.


17 January 2009

Making it happen

So there it is. It's out there. I am gunning to win the 24 Hour National Points Series. Three races. Twenty-four hours each. Three very different courses.

How am I going to do it?

First off, it all starts at home. Kim says she is on board with this, even in her slightly sleep-deprived, physically worn down state. The number of races and amount of traveling is a huge step down for me, especially compared to some of the road seasons I used to do. So I'll be home more, and the build-up races will be more local. I'll be cutting back on my trips to Wausau, sure, and will probably be hitting Palos instead of Kettle sometimes, and for sure will be out at dawn more often than not -- but in all, I won't be shirking my duties as a father. That's the most important thing.

Kate? She'll go along with whatever we do. We're pretty much a package deal.

Second, I won't be traveling as much for work. No Sea Donkey this year, and probably no trip to Zambia, although you never know. There will be a couple of days in Seattle here and there, but nothing I can't work around. Less air time means more saddle time, and even though the long rides in the Monterey hills were awesome, having all of April at home to train will be very helpful.

Third is the bike. Brendan is making some big-time changes (more to come on that next week!), and I'm proud to be flying the World Bicycle Relief-Siren colors this year. I can't say it enough: My Song has made me a better rider. Period. And having another as a backup? Watch out. And I'll be looking to my teammate Brad to push me with every pedal stroke.

Of course, none of this would happen without a plan. To that, I turn to my coach, Steve Weller, of Bell Lap Coaching. It's hard to believe we're going into only our third year together; it's such a natural fit that it feels like forever. We don't quite finish each other's sentences, but Steve has pushed me to places I never dreamed possible while simultaneously balancing my "life" outside of training. Coaching's not for everyone, but when it works, you know it. Steve works.

I'd be remiss without mentioning World Bicycle Relief, and by extension, SRAM. It's hard to overstate how incredible it is to believe in what you do every day. Knowing that every person who sees my jersey is reminded of the great work this organization does adds an element of pride every time I kit up. And knowing that I enjoy my time on the bike while others use it to survive adds an element of urgency.

It's going to be an interesting, crazy, up-and-down year. But as deep as this post may sound, the key will lie in not taking myself or this racing thing too seriously: as Brad always says, "Why not race endurance? Even the training is fun." I just want to get out there and ride!

16 January 2009

72 hours: A look at the season ahead

Seventy-two hours. Three, 24-hour periods. In the span of, say, roughly 350 days of riding/training a year, three days amounts to practically nothing. Or they can mean everything.

The upcoming 2009 season boils down to just three days for me: The 24 Hour National Points Series. People may have their opinions about Laird, but think what you will, the three races that make up the Series this year are monuments. And I can't wait to ride them.

I had a brief moment last night -- when I found out Nationals was going to be in Phoenix -- in which I reconsidered my season goals. Swap Big Bear for Lumberjack, Moab for Nationals, and you have a pretty sweet season ahead. But being good in three events across a season -- maybe not the best in each, but riding really, really well -- suits me more than trying to be the best on any one day. And I have a better shot at winning -- there, I said it, WINNING -- the Series than I do at taking home the Stars N' Stripes. So let's make it happen.

Huge thanks go out to Brendan at Siren Bicycles for his role in all this. His support of World Bicycle Relief is fantastic, and means we can bring together a few of us like-minded enduros to form a fun, fast team. Big thanks to Brad, Todd, Dan, Stephen and Craig in advance. I think we all look forward to stellar results this season aboard Brendan's brainchild, the Siren Song. Times two!

And of course, none of it's possible without the help of Kim and Kate. At the end of the day, they're all that really matters.

Season 2009
  • Apr 25: Cohutta 100 NUE (tentative)
  • May 9: 12Hr of Stump Farm
  • May 23: 12Hr of GEARS (new location!)
  • Jun 7: WORS Wausau (tentative)
  • Jun 13-14: 24 Hours of Big Bear
  • Jul 11: Levis-Trow (tentative)
  • Jul 19: Sunburst Showdown (tenative)
  • Jul 25-26: 24 Hours of 9 Mile
  • Aug 30: Reforestation Ramble (Palos?)
  • Sep 6: Shenandoah Mountain 100 NUE
  • Sep 13: TREADFest
  • Oct 11-12: 24 Hours of Moab

It's a smaller, more focused season than I've ever had. With just a couple of exceptions, Kate won't have to endure super-long car rides. It doesn't start until late April (at the soonest), so if we run into any, ahem, growing pains, I have time to make up the training. And there's a bail-out option: if Big Bear or 9 Mile go south, I can always head to Phoenix instead of Utah in October. Either way, I'll double the number of 24s under my belt, and if Nationals are in Phoenix in 2010 ...


So Kate needed a bottle while I was on the trainer ... just don't call DCFS ... or USA Cycling ...

Really cute pics are up, 6 weeks and counting! http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=82121&l=30f3f&id=811368326

Made a decision last night about the season. A look at 2009 to come ...

15 January 2009

Need ... more ... info

Oh, man. Need more info. Fast. Anyone?


"The USA Cycling 24 hour national championships, originally scheduled for September 19-20 have been moved to October 24-25 and a new venue. They will be held in Phoenix, Arizona, under the guidance of promoter Tucson Racing."

New date. New venue. Same promoter as Payson. WHAT VENUE? McDowell? The Pemberton Loop? Or the Marathon course of Long --> Pemberton?

There are just a couple of trail systems I can do in my sleep. McDowell is one of them. This. May. Mean. A. Change.

Should have thought of this sooner

Having a kid is the perfect excuse-maker. "Is that your fifth (sixth? seventh?) cup of coffee?" "Yeah, kid kept me up last night." Need to leave a party? Kid. Need to skip an event? Kid. Didn't return a phone call? Kid. Even if it's not true, no one questions you. We should have thought of this sooner!

Of course, with great power comes great responsibility. It's not kosher to pull out the trump card and then let slip that you were really engrossed in The Biggest Loser and were screening your calls. And there are certain people -- grandparents! -- that are actually more hands-on once you have a little one.

Kate is doing very well, thanks to everyone for the good wishes. Still figuring out Kim's diet a bit, but even with the obvious discomfort she's in at times, Kate is pretty good-natured. Has no problem with a bottle, and staring into her eyes this morning while I fed her just made my heart melt. Every day is a new experience!

Trainer time: I have limits: 10 degrees and I don't ride outside. The Tribune homepage has a timer on how long we've been below zero. (Last time this happened, Kim was in India on a semester-long study program!) I don't want to completely go stale, so I'm trying to not miss more than two days in a row ... so tonight it's on the trainer. We're hoping it lulls Kate to sleep. Best-case is she stares at me and laughs the whole time, since, let's face it, it's pretty absurd. Stay warm!

14 January 2009

6 weeks!

Has it really been 6 weeks? I hear every 6 weeks gets easier, but if last night and this morning are any indication, we will have our work cut out for us. I could hear her tummy from across the room today. Bodies that small should not be making noises that loud. And that's after the tummy drops! Poor kid. (But it did mean I got some snuggle time before leaving for work, always a bonus!)

In my other world, the calendar is coming together and 2009 is looking to be pretty awesome. I may have convinced one of my teammates to join me in my follies ... he was all set to do a few hundies this year, but I have a long car ride down to Ray's to change his mind. That said, I'm all about compromise, and if getting him to a 24 means doing an extra early-season hundred, well, I may just have to make that sacrifice ...

13 January 2009

Tip o' the week

I love this: from the guy who kills it from minute one, the first guy to race x-c pace for 24 hours, more or less:

Tip of the week -- 01/02/2009
Here is a racing tip:
The most common mistake in endurance racing is starting out too fast. ... I suggest a starting pace that feels a little too easy. Being conservative allows the body to ease into the race effort, leaving energy available for the middle and later stages of the race, which usually contribute more to a good finish time and placing.

... and then I will crush you (mwahahahahahahahahaha)!

OK, just kidding. Chris is a super-cool guy, and his new web site is pretty sweet. I can't imagine the range of emotion he's going through right now being the Last Man Standing from the Trek-VW juggernaut, and I'm looking forward to seeing him kill it on the NUE circuit next year ... especially since I'll be racing 24s!

Speaking of delusional

Rock Racing's Michael Ball, interviewed by cyclingnews.com, on rumors that his team still has a future:

We are in some good talks with some strong brands that are interested. Their budgets don't open for a few months and that is fine, as I said I am committed to the sport and will underwrite the team. ...

It has been tough to speak to my board and say that bike racing is a good investment! It just wasn't possible. I have to respect them with their decisions and advice, and we have to move on, unfortunately. From a business perspective we had to make cuts. ...

And I think we will get some support from another company that is a good fit and continue forward. It's a little hiccup right now.

This from the guy who was "here to stay." What a crock. Budgets opening in a couple of months? Answering to his Board, he the lone wolf? 'A little hiccup?' He says he'd rather be a chicken farmer right now -- I say he's the one with egg on his face. I will be so glad when he's gone.


Shoulda' bought them skis.

I finally caved today. I could have ridden in, the blizzard warning was canceled and it's nearly 20 degrees in the city. But with dropping temps and increasing winds predicted, I wussed out. Today will be only the second day this year I haven't ridden, and only like the third in the past 30 days or so (since the last super-cold spell, right after Kate was born).

I've found that as my winter riding wardrobe has increased, my standards have decreased: as long as it's 10 degrees or more, and not super-slick-icy, I will find a way to ride to work. Taking the CTA just sucks, and even a bad day on Clark Street beats standing at Belmont for 30 minutes, jogging in place and so cold you can't even read that magazine you brought.

Like with all athletic endeavors, though, my head gave up before my body did today. We watched the news last night (well, I did -- Kim fell asleep and Kate just fussed), and Tom Skilling informed us of the butcher's bill so far this winter: 25 snow events already, and today marks the day after which 60 percent of our average snowfall usually falls. Thursday may be the first day since 1996 -- the year we got married -- that we don't get above 0 degrees for a high. And at least in Evanston, we already have 15 inches on the ground, with another 3+ predicted tonight into tomorrow. Yeah, mentally, I'm done -- two winters straight of this. Uncle!

There is relief in sight: Next weekend at Ray's (sounds like a movie, huh?), and five glorious days in sonoran sunshine coming up ... the training effect of our Arizona trip may be minimized this year because it's further out from the season than normal, but the mental recharge can't be underestimated!

09 January 2009

Oh, come on

I rarely get political here. I'm not going to change your mind. You probably don't agree with my politics. But when it gets ridiculous, I like to call bullsh*t.

The Associated Press, reporting that Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin questions whether Caroline Kennedy is going to get treated with "kid gloves" in her placement as Senator from New York:

"I've been interested to see how Caroline Kennedy will be handled and if she will be handled with kid gloves or if she will be under such a microscope," Palin told conservative radio talk-show host and filmmaker John Ziegler. Clips from Ziegler's interview were posted on YouTube this week.

"It's going to be interesting to see how that plays out and I think that as we watch that we will perhaps be able to prove that there is a class issue here also that was such a factor in the scrutiny of my candidacy versus, say, the scrutiny of what her candidacy may be," Palin said.


Regarding her remarks about Kennedy, Palin said: "I was not commenting at all on Caroline Kennedy as a prospective U.S. senator, but rather on the seemingly arbitrary ways in which news organizations determine the level and kind of scrutiny given to those who aspire to public office."

PUH-LEEZ. Arbitrary? Level-setting? Class issue? You were running for the second-highest office in the land. You would have been one missed heartbeat away from leading the free world. What do most of the nation care of a junior Senator from New York, no matter how famous her name? OF COURSE the media is going to dig more deeply into your background. And more media are going to do it. We J-types love to "expose" stuff. And when your grip on reality is so tenuous, we certainly are going to cry foul.

Is this really the best the RNC can do?

08 January 2009


Weeks 4 and 5 ... Let's face it, Facebook's upload is so much better than Bloggers, check out the full album here ... and you don't even have to be my Friend!

The rabbit hole

I'm at a decision point.

Like many folks, I've started to use Facebook pretty extensively. For an outgoing introvert like me, it's a great way to connect with people I know in a way that is "safe:" I can control what I say much more closely, since in person I tend to run my mouth and tick people off. And it's a way to keep tabs on all those folks who aren't nearby -- I love seeing photos from the Front Range on a regular basis!

In the past few weeks, I've connected to a lot of Friends. A lot. I say this not to brag, but to set the stage: I never knew how many people I know! People I work with, people who support our work, more than a few cyclists, college friends, a few random connections, even some family ... the craziest is the bike-rider-friend-turned-business-associate connected to a friend of mine whom I hadn't spoken to since high school, who know each other through the rider's wife, now in Austin, TX. Small world.

Thing is, even with all these Friends, I'm pretty careful about who I connect with. I can go through, person by person, and tell you how I know them and why I'm connected to them now. I think there's maybe two (perhaps three) who are Friend Accumulators, but it's fun to be connected to the 24 Hour race in Italy, isn't it? Other than them, I have a personal connection to each and every one of my Friends.

Through it all, there's one category of Friend that has been missing: "Friends" from high school.

I hated high school. I have very few people I want to be re-connected with from high school. Apart from the aforementioned small world connection, I think there's maybe 5 people in my Friends that I knew back then, and at least one of them is more of a connection through a different mutual friend.

Even then, I'm starting to get requests from other high school people. Names I haven't thought of in 18 years. Names I don't want to think of. With Friends lists of even more people I don't want to think about. It's not that I hold any grudges, at least not any more -- it's just that I don't have anything in common with these people. We were together by the accident of location, and I've moved on.

But I feel bad. Is it wrong to ignore a Friend request from someone who was at least marginally nice to you back then? Does it come across as being aloof or whatever to have a pretty open Friend list but not accept a request from someone you used to know? How deep down the rabbit hole of high school memories do I want to go?

07 January 2009


OK, here's your chance: if you haven't been to Ray's Indoor MTB Park in Cleveland yet, I'm giving you a reason to go.

Nat Ross and Tri-Flow have teamed up for an XC "race" in a couple of weeks: January 24 to be exact. It's a TT format, laps of the newly remodeled cross-country loop with a skinny in the intermediate section at the end of each loop. Brad and I whittled away hours doing exactly this last winter, and now it's your turn!

Anyway, it's a great excuse to hop on I-90 and head on over -- it's not a bad drive, and the party at the Holiday Inn (great rates for Ray's customers) afterward is usually pretty fantastic. Drop me a line if you want more info, or check out http://www.raysmtb.com/ The three of us will be making the trip, and I plan to hit out in my WBR safari shirt, stylin'!

06 January 2009

So ... tired

Did the math on last week's New Years riding. Plus one month of having a newborn baby. Plus two months of hardcore fundraising. Plus a return to work. It equaled TIRED.

I knew it, I struggled to stay awake during yesterday's planning meetings, I drank copious cups of coffee. I thought I was OK until last night:

There I am, in the bathroom, using the facilities, and I hear Kim laughing. I didn't think anything of it. Wash my hands, turn off the light, go into the bedroom. She's cracking up: I had left the door open. In 13 years, I've never left the door open when she's at home. Never.

And when you can laugh about it, it just means one thing: Life is good.

02 January 2009

Vital stats

One-month checkup today: 9lbs, 15oz (nearly 10lbs!!!!), 22in, melon head at 38cm. And a shot. Boy was she not happy!

Things are good, doc says we're at the height of the evening/night fussiness. Yeah. Tell me about it. Thankfully I can skip the commute and more or less take a 5-day weekend at home. And Palos. Love them studs!

01 January 2009

(N)ice ride

What a way to start the New Year: Palos, upright the whole time, very little walking -- completely the opposite of yesterday, and one of three good winter rides there in 2 years! Studs were the way to go -- most of the trails are still pretty packed with ice and were slow going; those that weren't have that weird crust on top, and the studs just grabbed perfectly. Awesome!

(Another day of cold and sun, and Cemetery Hill should be completely ridable [it's pretty close]; the connector is OK without studs to the east, but anything west and on the north side of the Island is pretty much impassible without studs.)

Kate celebrated New Years Eve in style, snuggled in her daddy's arms until we all hit the sack about 10:30. Yeah, we're getting old. But homemade oatmeal-chocolate chip cookies more than made up for the lack of partying ...

Welcome to 2009!