31 July 2009

For Leo

Huge thank you to family, friends, teammates and teammates who are friends for a job well done at 9 Mile last weekend. The Team WBR-Siren Bicycles "Solo Pain Train" rolled in together for 4th-5th-6th after nearly 24 hours of pedaling to enjoy a well-earned Point Root Beer in honor of my Uncle Leo. They may call our category "Solo," but there's nothing solitary about it -- this was a massive team effort for sure. Thanks to everyone who made it happen!

We're back home and just beginning to sort out the events of the last few days/weeks. Thanks to everyone for their well wishes -- the outpouring of support has been overwhelming as our family in California begins to piece everything back together. There will be both good and very tough times ahead, but we will always be able to look back on this time and know that we are cared for. If nothing else, that is the legacy that Leo leaves, having touched the lives of so many.

24 July 2009

NO REGRETS

The thing I've been struggling most with this week is whether Kim and I should be in California -- my uncle never got to meet Kate. At the earliest, we would have arrived late Wednesday, although more realistically yesterday ... and, as is often the case, fate stepped in.

My uncle took a turn for the worse Wednesday night, and passed away peacefully at home late yesterday morning with our family by his side. He didn't suffer, and was able to have some private time to say goodbye to my aunt and cousin. In the past few days they'd re-learned some of life's little pleasures together, including his love for good root beer, a passion which we shared.

In consultation with my mom and my aunt, we are still doing the race this weekend. My dad, Kim and Kate will be up here this afternoon, and we'll be racing in Leo's honor. It's what they want. No regrets for not being there right now.

And after 24 hours of racing, all my teammates and all our pit crews are going to raise a toast of some honest-to-goodness Point Root Beer in Leo's name. He'd want it that way.

22 July 2009

What I Did for Love

To say that my parents had their routines would be a bit of an understatement. Sure, now I'm the same way, but when I was 10, 11, 12 years old, waking up every Saturday morning to the smell of French toast and the sounds of John Denver, it got to be old.

See, after enjoying my dad's killer breakfast, it was time for chores. And as the smell of fried bread faded, it was replaced by the smell of Lemon Pledge and toilet bowl cleaner ... and John Denver gave way to the soundtrack to A Chorus Line. To this day, I can't hear "One (Singular Sensation)" without wanting to grab a rag and dust the nearest mantle ...

It was only fitting that Chorus Line would enjoy a revival in this, my biggest year of racing. See, the story is all about "making it" into a Broadway show -- even if it is just as a backline dancer meant to frame the stars. One by one we learn the stories of each character and what they went through to get there: mental abuse, physical abuse, loneliness, expectations, heartbreak.

The stories build to a crescendo, first with Cassie trying to break through to her ex-lover Director to get a place on the line, even though he had once made her a lead. "A dancer dances" she tells him -- you can't take the dance out of the dancer, at any level.

Then comes Paul, whose gut-wrenching soliloquy is only overshadowed by his immediate collapse from injury. The entire cast then explores what they would do if they suddenly couldn't dance: taking a long look at their sacrifices, their commitment to their craft, their lives in "What I Did for Love." When I was a kid, I never quite understood that the "love" in this case wasn't the love of another person, it's the love for the dance.

Kim and I went with my parents to see A Chorus Line about a month ago, just after I crashed out of Big Bear, and before all this family stuff escalated. And maybe I'm making too much of it, but it sort of feels like my whole life has prepared me for this moment in time, to finally understand what A Chorus Line is all about even as we face some of the difficult times ahead.

See, I'm a racer. A racer races. All of the work, all of the sacrifice, all of the commitment is because I love to race. More importantly, it's who I am. It's an affirmation of why we're here on this earth. And earlier this week, when I was trying with my family to decide whether I would be at 9 Mile this weekend, they reminded me of that. They made it clear that 9 Mile is something I need to do. For me. For them.

So Uncle Leo, this one is for you. Kim, Kate and I will be there as soon as we can. In the meantime, I'm going to go like hell, and when the going gets tough I'll remember the time I locked your keys in your trunk, or the track suit you wore in Tahoe, or the day in Balboa beach when we really didn't do much of anything. Because I know this is what you want me to do. And when it's all over, the whole crew is going to hoist some ice-cold Point Root Beer in your honor, and celebrate the love of life that only becomes so clear in times like these.

Love,

Your nephew

Real-time results

Follow the race here: http://grannygear.com/index.shtml

Secret weapon



Can't break my trend of race-week builds! Thanks to Brendan for coming through "just in time" with a clutch play at the buzzer!

20 July 2009

Ups and downs

It's been a while since I was around to hear Don say "Goooooooo" -- but I needed some interval speed work, and Sunburst fits the bill. I think once upon a time I vowed never to race there again (strong allergies to grass ... and hills ... and grassy hills ...), but I knew the risk of crashing was pretty low, and it was a course that would have me pushing myself the whole race. So, we skipped our hometown Superweek event and headed to Kewaskum ...

First off, it was great to see everyone at the venue. I had forgotten the size of WORS events, and the sheer number of people to say 'hi' to pre-race was almost overwhelming. It was super-fun to show off Kate, who mugged for smiles at every turn, and to catch up with a few peeps before it was time to get ready. Oh, and the sun came out, turning it into a beautiful day for a bike race!

Warmup went well, as I ran into fellow WEMS racer Charly out on the roads and he stomped me into the climb up to the Ice Age Trail. With no expectations and no XC-specific work, I had no idea how I would feel on course, and by the time Don was counting down the butterflies had taken over and I found myself super-anxious ... but then it was go-time, and thankfully that leadout lets you settle in. Up the hill, into the trees, down and around the dusty cornfield, back up, down, up, down and pedal pedal pedal ...

Charly passed by me the second lap, but then had a mechanical at the top of the hill and was behind. I played pass-and-be-passed by a few guys, including Bill Nigh -- who absolutely FLEW past me, and generally felt better as the race progressed, not climbing super-fast, but able to put really solid pressure to the pedals throughout the course. The five laps passed way too quickly, and before I knew it we were traversing for the last time, just as my body kicked into gear to go harder. It was strange to think that at my last race, the Metro Challenge, I hadn't even crashed yet in the same amount of time it took to finish Sunburst. Crazy.

So I got what I wanted out of Sunburst, and physcially I feel really good going into next weekend. 9 Mile is all about pedal management, and except for Twinkie Hill at about 2 a.m., is a fairly flat power course. I feel like I'm riding well and my preparation has paid off ... now it's time to make it happen!

Quick note: My apologies if I seemed a bit out of it pre-race yesterday. We got a call from my mom on the way to Kewaskum, and now it looks like there's a chance we may not be at 9 Mile this weekend. We're holding out hope, but at this point it's day to day. We're trying to stay positive, trying to not focus on what's going on in California ... Racing is an affirmation of why we're alive, and nothing makes this more clear to me.

18 July 2009

What a difference ...

... a couple of years makes!

July 2007

July 2009
Hey, at least the kid has taste -- she crawled right under the Cannondale and headed straight for the SIREN!!!!

16 July 2009

Yellow

Thanks everyone for their well wishes -- unfortunately, my mom's side of the family is going through some tough times right now, and I'm still figuring out how to deal with it personally. Those of you who know me, know I tend to wear my emotions on my sleeve, and I needed a few days off -- taking a page from my mom, "if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all."

When Lance Armstrong launched his LiveSTRONG initiative years ago, I was on board. I snuck out of work and walked 2 miles to the Nike Store on Michigan Avenue because it was the only place with yellow wristbands in stock. Finally, someone was shining a bright (yellow!) light on the needs of Survivors. Then, a few years ago, between personal feelings about Lance himself and a feeling that the organization had gone a bit overboard, I sort of lost faith. Stopped wearing the wristband. Stopped paying attention.

But see, that's the thing about cancer. It just waits for its chance. Turn your back, "wait and see," light a smoke -- and boom, it's there. Everywhere, in the blink of an eye. Taking over. Every day brings more discoveries. And treatment options suck -- I mean, think about it: whereas you can have your knee completely rebuilt more or less remotely through arthroscopy and be walking in a week, the only way to effectively treat cancer is to overwhelm it. Only, the only way to overwhelm it is to go in like Gen. Sherman in Georgia: guns blazing, fire and brimstone, take no prisoners and leave nothing behind. Slash and burn -- which means slash and burn all the healthy tissue and cells as well.

Sometimes, it works -- Lance lived. My dad lived. But often, it's a stopgap. You buy yourself and your loved ones time to say goodbye, if you're lucky. And so whether you yourself live or not, everyone around you becomes part of this enormous community called "Survivors." I joined that community in 1976, when I was just 3 years old. My grandfather defied the odds -- he was given 6 months to live, and made it 6 years, getting to know his three grandsons and giving me a lifetime of memories before he passed away. Since then, my mom's family has never been able to not be "Survivors" -- and now we're dealing with it again, for the 6th or 7th time.

So that's what's going on. I started wearing my bracelet again about a year ago, when Lance came to SRAM and described why it was he was re-entering the pro peloton. That's when I realized that no matter how I feel about him personally, what LiveSTRONG is doing for Survivors -- people just like me, like my family -- is too valuable to ignore. We only have so much time with our loved ones, and if one of those folks is battling cancer, you tend to look for hope wherever you can. And if the personification of that hope happens to be cruising the roads of France, well then, so be it.

Because damn it, we're all Survivors.

09 July 2009

Baby time

I've discovered there's only one answer when stuff gets really bad: baby time. Counting down the minutes until I can give Kate a big hug.

Things may be quiet here for a few days. Like I said last week, make sure you tell your family how much they mean to you. Even the wild ones.

07 July 2009

De-laced

Time to go de-lace my wheel. Craig said it best: it's not tacoed so much as it's potato-chipped. That is, it's not completely folded over. But dang, it's shot, spoke tension all over the place and rim clearly bent. I just hope the spoke holes are OK -- DT Swiss to the rescue!

Spokes and more red nipples are in-hand, new rim tomorrow ...

06 July 2009

Finding balance

Well, this weekend almost wasn't.

I set out to get away, find some balance with all the crazy stuff going on. Go solo, camp, and get some laps -- day and night -- on the 9 Mile course.

After sitting in Dells traffic all Friday afternoon, I arrived in Wausau with just barely enough time to pitch the tent and head south to Standing Rocks. Scott was waiting patiently, and pretty soon I was kitted up and ready to roll. Patience would be his virtue that day -- I had absolutely no flow on the tight, twisty singletrack, and Scott was kind enough to wait at every turn.

We started the second lap with me in the lead. I bobbled once or twice, but was starting to feel better and find my lines. Can you guess what happened next? Sure 'nough -- bam. Well, first I scraped my knee on a tree. Then bam. Trying to cut close between two trees, I got my front wheel sideways and got vertical -- game over. Front wheel taco with a side of beans, thank you very much.

And that was it. A mile hike out to the cars, and Scott was gracious enough to loan me his 29er front wheel, to at least salvage the weekend. THANK YOU SCOTT! Only I wasn't so sure, and although I took the wheel, I almost pointed the car south and said screw it, I'm headed home. Mind you, since I got the bike, I crashed every time I was on it. It is just different enough from my old Song that I hadn't figured it out, and I was being punished for it. I was beginning to believe that my coworkers were right, that there was a hex upon my ride.

I called Kim, and was ready to tell her I was done. Only the reception was crap, and I couldn't hold a conversation with her. And since the exit for 9 Mile is before the exit to the campground, well, why not try a night lap? At least I could ride the ski trails right?

Only. Only. ONLY ... everything changed. Instead of the round profile Karma I had been running, Scott's tire was a squared-off Small Block 8 -- and, as it turns out, was EXACTLY what I needed. My shit night turned to an amazing flow of tread and trail, and I spent the next 2 hours getting completely lost before finally finding the course and my way back to the chalet. Call it an "exercism" -- the demons were gone!

Saturday and Sunday confirmed, as the bike felt perfectly balanced and I ran some of the fastest laps I have ever done out there. The singletrack flowed, the doubletrack disappeared under my wheels, and by the time I was enjoying my Starbucks Indulgent Chocolate Chip Cookie and Caramel Light Frappuccino, bike and body had been in perfect harmony, day and night, for my last big block of training. Am I ready? Hell yeah, I'm ready!

So thank you Scott, for saving my weekend, and probably my season. Funny thing, I had a SB8 sitting at home, just waiting to be test-ridden ... funny how that works, isn't it?

(Funny social commentary for the weekend: EDIT: An observation on the weekend: I scoped out Rib Mountain State Park on Saturday afternoon for future camping trips. So beautiful! There was a wedding reception up top: bride, groom and family all Caucasian. That night at 9 Mile, my pit stops were accompanied by the heavy beat of Mexican dance tunes -- the reception for a Mexican wedding. For anyone who has been to 9 Mile, you know it's not the most glamorous spot for a party, unless you're riding all night. Is there anything to the white folk being on top of the hill and the Mexicans down below? I don't know, EDIT: and I'd like to think not, but it was kind of wierd to be riding with all my lights on past the chalet pulsing with disco lights and pumping music ... Uno, Dos, Tres, Quatro!)

02 July 2009

Can't get here fast enough

Holy crap, I need a break. I hate to play the victim, but I'm just DONE right now. I'm supposed to be finishing out the week, 30 minutes left officially, but I. just. can't. I'll use the excuse that my phone is low on battery. And I'll surf.

Unfortunately, the run of luck doesn't seem to have turned quite yet, and it's giving me a headache.

Thankfully, there's an antidote: ride. 10 a.m. departure tomorrow, set up camp, Standing Rocks at 5:30, maybe 9 Mile, then a bachelor/monk weekend of solo camping and hours at 9 Mile. Hours and hours and lights and hours and snacks and hours. I. Can't. Wait.

Happy 4th everyone, hope it's a safe and good one. Hug your family if you get a chance, don't forget to tell them how much they mean to you -- even if they drive you nuts sometimes.

01 July 2009

Can't keep quiet

I can't keep quiet on this one: Teen bullying: Tormented boy's short life ends in suicide

According to a spokesperson from his high school, "bullying is obviously not tolerated at [the high school]." OK, fine. Of course it's not. Then she goes on to say, "I don't think we're naive enough to think that bullying behavior doesn't exist."


Except. Except. EXCEPT, then she's quoted as saying, "we don't believe that bullying was an issue while Iain was attending LT. Counselors and a host of other support personnel worked routinely to make his experience at LT a positive one."


Oh. My. God. Are you really that ignorant? That unaware? Do you really believe, for a moment, that this kid wasn't picked on? In the world of CYA, you're better off saying "no comment" than saying something as clearly wrong as that. This kid was a target, and if you believe the news story's accuracy, all of their well-meaning "not tolerated" BS failed.


I'm not blaming the school -- suicide is a complex issue, and it sounds like this is a case where a lot of things went wrong. But I agree with his mother: "A lot of people don't want to talk about mental health or bullying because it's a difficult thing to talk about, but we need to talk about it," she said. "It shouldn't be a stigma."

Our schools are the front line to stopping this behavior. So don't give me a line about intolerance and "doesn't happen here" -- we're talking about high school, get your head out of your ass. This is the worst kind of silence: the one that denies and lets the bullying continue. And even though this young man is dead, it will continue.