08 June 2008

I'm Not Dead...

Just have been very busy. But not now. Actually I haven't done shit with my life in the past two weeks. Not that anybody has read this like ever, but whatever. It's a masturbatory exercise for my creative ego.

And here's to Cat. 4 intensity:
Even mediocrity has its own intensity. It's just a slower-paced intensity with a lot more unnecessary crashes.

And here's to the Swedish Chef from the Muppet Show - because crude parodies of Scandanavian peoples are funny:

"Jag tycker om att laga mat!"

28 January 2008

The Trainer TV

Today I finally resorted to riding the trainer for a workout. It's been nearly nine months since the last trainer workout, so it was a strange experience.

Why did I do it? I don't like the wind outside.

It should be noted that I'm a freak (or mentally disturbed...actually that's probably a bit more accurate). I can withstand 4+ hour trainer rides. How? The proper entertainment.

Everyone has their own ideas about the proper trainer entertainment. I've tried most things. I've tried reading to increase academic productivity, but mainly that just ends up with decreasing the performance of both my workout and my academic comprehension of the material. I've tried cycling DVDs, but mainly that just reinforces my true belief that I'm exponentially less of a badass cyclist compared to the European pros. I've tried non-cycling sports DVDs or shows (skiing, football, baseball, car racing), but mainly that just reiterates how completely non-badass of an athlete I am outside of cycling (and even my claim to badassedness in cycling is quite small as the previous sentence demonstrated).

What does work? For me, any sort of television or DVD entertainment that requires no active thinking but has a consistent, progressing, even predictable plot. The proven ones for me include:

-Law and Order (I still don't remember the different versions of the shows or the characters, but the plot is always about the same and with it goes a good hour block of training)
-Sesame Street (another good hour block of training with a little educational material)
-Sabrina the Teenage Witch (because she's hot)
-The Price is Right (because he's hot)
-Local news in Providence (again see the importance of predictability...Gene Valicenti makes the time go past the best)
-Curb Your Enthusiasm (this is not for hard intervals, though, because I usually laugh a lot and that can cause asthma attacks)

If I'm exiled to the trainer some more in the following months (as I surely will on Tuesdays and Thursdays at approximately oh-dark-hundred in the morning), I'm hoping to try new things. Anything. It's unfortunate that there's only a finite number of reruns that one can choose from, but at least there's always Gene Valicenti. But he's only on for about thirty minutes.

22 January 2008

The Return

I have returned to Rhode Island. Strangely it feels warm to me, although we're hovering precariously on the rain/snow threshold right now.

My departing flight was delayed for an hour and a half (although I only had 40 minutes scheduled layover for my connecting flight to Providence). Although it was snowing, that was not the primary reason for the delay. The plane was overweight - don't look at me, I lost about five pounds in the last month in a continuing effort to not be fat! Instead of the pilot turning back and saying "fatasses off!" they had to do that whole "who's willing to volunteer to get screwed over for a $400 Delta Airlines voucher and a hug" ordeal and I suppose that took time. Apparently, though, the airlines are all overscheduling their flights by about an hour so they're 'on time' more often. I got off the airplane at 7:35pm and my next flight was scheduled to leave at 7:40pm, and one irreverant sprint across the entire freaking airport got me back here! My bags even made (I don't know how or why).

That aside aside, what did I miss about Rhode Island when I wasn't here?
-Government corruption
-Organized crime
-Buddy Cianci's radio show
-88.1 WBSR (Brown Student Radio on FM)
-Spike's (just had a Grinder Dog on Thayer St.)
-Hair-raising events on I-95 (also just had some)
-Central Falls (just kidding)
-Depressing weather
-Cardi's Furniture Superstore television commercials

I've also mapped out some cool new rides that debark from the East Side of Providence and am looking forward to trying them out. If any of them work well, I'll be sure to share them here.

17 January 2008

The Spiritual Experience of the Bike Shop (aka the most heritical thing I've ever written)

First off I need to make three apologies of sort:

1) I apologize for imitating Bikesnob NYC a few days ago. I couldn't resist the opportunity, though, when I saw that Schwinn.

2) I apologize for my continuous Pawtucket-bashing (although it won't stop). I do it because I know Pawtucket can take it...tough love of sorts. Pawtucket can be humorously insulted because Pawtucket has good self-esteem, Pawtucket knows that the insults pointed towards it are only jokes which are probably subconscious ways of telling Pawtucket that it's loved, and Pawtucket is big and mature enough to fight back if needed. If I intended to be cruel, I'd pick on some place like New Bedford or Fall River because that would legitimately be messed up (because those places really are legitimately messed up in a not-good sort of way).

3) I apologize (in advance) for offending people of any and all religions.

Today was flipping cold and the real possibility of frostbite kept me indoors. So, I went to my favorite bike shop in Colorado Springs (Bicycle Village...they may be a big-store almost-chain sort of bike shop, but they're shop is superb, they'll always get you back in the road in the minimal amount of time, and they have good prices on all their merchandise). It was nice because I was the only shopper in the place the time that I was there - making it even more of a zen-like spiritual experience than normal.

Now, when I'm in a bike shop I like to look at EVERYTHING in the store. I like to spend a good hour or so in the shop, and when I can't then I feel a bit empty inside. Even if I'm just buying something mundane like a tire or shoe cleats, I'm still gonna look at the nicest bike in the shop and drool for a couple of minutes. Normally I like to do it in solitude, but if I'm there with a fellow bike-racer or if someone in the shop is a knowledgable hardcore cyclist sympathetic to my cycling views (and ultimately understanding that while I may be looking at a $6000 bike for ten minutes, I don't want to buy it, and I don't even want to test-ride it because then I'd be cheating on my own committed relationship with my bike), I'm cool with sharing the experience as well. Looking at a Lemond might evoke powerful images of, well, Greg Lemond, as looking at a Bianchi or a Giant might evoke other strong emotions related to overweight German cycling superstars and blood-doping.

So, in a weird sort of way, bike shops are like churches. At least for a very small minority of the population with Kermit the Frog chests, ripped shaven legs, and sub-45bpm resting heartrates:

The Megastore (aka Megachurch)
Colorado Springs is home to Bicycle Village, as well as other landmarks like New Life Church. The megastore phenomenon cannot be found in Rhode Island. It derives its strength not from the quality of its products (because there's really no money to be made from selling racing bikes), but from the quantity of its selection - and there's something very alluring about strength-in-numbers. It makes more money than God from naive souls who know little about what cycling is all about (it's history, culture, meaning, etc.), but who just want to make cycling a part of their life. Then, with the passive background support of the megastore, its customers continue to evangelize and spread the sport of cycling to other souls. The results are a mass of families thronging to bike paths on sunny weekends on crappy (but shiny) mountain bikes, and great numbers of overweight hairy-legged men and their stay-at-home wives paying $200 to ride a century in full Team Discovery Kit on $600 aluminium triples to spread the good word of cycling and piss off traffic in the most awful way imaginable.

The 100 Year Old Bike Shop (aka the Catholic Church)
This is the oldest bike shop in town (I suppose in the case of Rhode Island this would be Caster's, owned by the same family since it opened in 1919). It too has strength-in-numbers, but it sticks to the value of its time-honored traditions and strengths to gain followers...rather than the glamor and glitz of racks of Team Discovery jerseys and sixty different models of low-end mountain bikes. If you damaged some carbon fiber by over-tightened a screw or took apart your freewheel without knowing what you're doing, this is the shop you go to to confess your sins and get things straightened out properly. They're not going to make fun of you or shun you for what you've done; they've seen it all in their long existence. They also probably have at least a few vintage posters of Eddy Merckx and Greg Lemond hanging on the walls for you to pray to.

The Older 'New' Shop (aka Continental Protestant-type Church)
This is the shop that was the first to open and challenge the Old Bike Shop (see previous section). For Rhode Island, this would probably be East Providence Bicycle (open since 1951). This type of shop opened to provide an alternative bike shop, and to make cycling more accessible to the masses. Today, it contains less exotic high-end road bikes that seem foreign and scary to most people just getting into bicycling, and remains committed to its core of accessible mid-range Treks, Specializeds, and Giants. As time has passed, though, it too has begun to earn an image of also being a bit archaic, old school, and steeped in its ways. If you've committed a repair-sin against your bike, though, don't look to this place for reassuring and heartfelt service. It's staple is selling stuff - not repairing it.

The Newer 'New' Bike Shop (aka American Protestant-style Church)
When the Older 'New' Bike Shop began behaving like (or was perceived as behaving like) the Old Bike Shop, then a plethora of newer responses sprouted in the scenery of modern cycling culture. This would be Providence Bicycle. It's a decided rejection of the old-school cycling shop, where there's good moral support and the people in the shop know your name. Indeed, there's a fine line between this and the Megastore - although the line is still clear. In this shop, the focus is still in the equipment. There's usually a whole range of bike brands available, from the core staples to even a few exotic European types. If you want, they've got the highest-end equipment available, but they still reel in a lot of money of of lower-end recreational bikes. They're not afraid to evangelize the sport of cycling, whether it be supporting an upstart local team or selling some generic jerseys, but it's still done in pretty good taste. With its hand in so many jars, though, it just doesn't seem overly passionate about any branch of the cycling world.

The Cycling Purist Shop (aka the Synagogue)
Now, I don't mean a shop solely dedicated to bike racers (that would be cool, but they wouldn't ever make a profit). I mean a shop like The Hub on Brook Street in Providence. This is the kind of bike shop that really isn't a bike shop; it's a bicyclist's shop. There are rules that seem strange to outsiders - like they will refuse to service a 'department store bike' or a bike with a powertap because powertaps are unkosher. They are closed on strange days and open at strange hours...because they all want to go out and ride a lot, too. Once you have proven that you, too, are a cycling purist and are willing to commit to a bicycle as your primary means of transportation, primary competitive sport, and primary passion in life, then you too are forever a part of this shop's culture.

16 January 2008

Henderson Bridge Madness

I don't like the Henderson Bridge, as many know. That's why I have come up with three (count them, three!!!) possible ways to avoid the Henderson Bridge to get out to Massachusetts for some riding.

Unfortunately, they all go through Pawtucket - and going through Pawtucket is never a good thing. Why? Well, let's consider some of the most popular reasons for going to Pawtucket:
-I went to Pawtucket to go to the RI DMV.
-I went to Pawtucket because I know somebody at the RI DMV.
-I went to Pawtucket to get trashed at a really, really sketchy bar.
-I went to Pawtucket to score some crack next to an abandoned factory.
-I went to Pawtucket because I work at an abandoned factory.
-I went to Pawtucket because my name is Peter Griffin and I work in a beer factory there.
-I went to Pawtucket to go fishing off the Division Street Bridge (seriously, read this Projo article).
-I went to Pawtucket to dispose of a dead body off of the Division Street Bridge.
-I went to Pawtucket because I live there.

Pawtucket has a train station

Actually I'm being unfair - Pawtucket is certainly the embodiment of what Rhode Island was pre-Providence-gentrification-douchebagification. Pawtucket is the reason why Rhode Island is ranked the 48th "least mentally depressed" state in the country.

Sorry for this digression into Pawtucket. The point is that, apparently, RIDOT decided that the Henderson Bridge needs major critical repairs (duh!) because it is unsafe (duh!). So they're going to turn it into a hellacious construction zone for the year of 2008 (i.e. the next decade). Presumably, this will require at least four dozen police officers to oversee the construction (as is the law, apparently, in Rhode Island and Massachusetts):

Rhode Island State Troopers - ranked best-dressed in the nation (seriously)

Actually a police presence wouldn't be so bad for once. The speed limit is posted at 35mph on the Henderson, but everyone goes at least 65mph since the bridge isn't really in any city (it's over the water dividing Providence and East Providence), all Rhode Islanders know legal loopholes ten times better than Dick Cheney and three times better than Chicago street-gangs, and RI state troopers are too busy doing Canadian Mountie impressions on the steps of the capitol building.

According to Bike-To-Brown, an organization made up of people who like to bike to Brown, this is what will happen to new Little Red Bridge:
  1. The Eastbound lane, once you ramp onto the bridge from Waterman will be reduced to one 10′ travel lane.
  2. Eastbound (1st) Massasoit Ave. off-ramp will be closed for approximately 6 months once the interim repairs begin.
  3. Sidewalks will remain open. RIDOT is currently deciding whether or not to post signs directing cyclists (& pedestrians) to use the sidewalks and for cyclists to dismount and walk their bikes across the bridge sidewalk. Railing height is not up to specs. for bicycle use/travel.
Hmmm. Getting me to ride on the sidewalk on the Henderson. Never again - I tried it once at night before (see One Ridiculous Ride - Rhode Island at Night from the Bike). Actually since I'm not a commuter and really only care about training to race my bike fast, the only large way that this will impact me is trying to get to the East Bay Bike Path for, like, a nice recovery ride. Taking the Pawtucket detour to get to the Bike Path would be 15 extra miles, about. And I actually wouldn't mind taking up the whole lane on the Henderson the whole way just to say that I, for once, forced traffic to slow down on the Henderson. But I sure as hell ain't walking my bike over the entire bridge since that'd take well over 10 minutes WITHOUT cleated cycling shoes. I can't wait until I return to Rhode Island...

15 January 2008

Some Random Embarrassing Bicycle Thought

Bikesnob posted another one of my absolute favorite "bike love" posts extracted from NYC's craigslist - do read: Weird Weather Bike Love

While Bikesnob NYC is the one and only master of the craigslist commentary, I couldn't help but to point out this wicked evil thing that can be found in Cranston:

1970's SCHWINN Stingray Orange Krate - $1500 [original http://providence.craigslist.org/bik/536798680.html]

Reply to: sale-536798680@craigslist.org Date: 2008-01-12, 1:02PM EST 1970's SCHWINN Stingray Orange Krate Nice shape, new rear correct tire, new brake and shift cables; rear shocks; front drum break, rear caliper brake(original owner must have removed disc brake which this model came with) ; professionally set up and ready to go. beautiful bike! $1500.00. Please no tire kickers! Serious inquiries only. Thanks.

This bicycle was professionally set-up by the Schwinn Hell's Angels, Cranston Chapter. After removing the disk brake, the original owner committed suicide. I do think that with the $1500 pricetag, limiting this to "serious inquiries only" is a good plan. I can't wait to see this think pop up in the driveway of a Propsect Street manion one of these days.

On a somewhat related note (for the heterosexual male bike racers): have you ever checked out a rider before/after a bike race thinking that it was a a female with nice legs/nice butt, only to have that rider turn around at which point you realize that the rider was a male. Because it happens to me a lot. But only at bike races. I hope I'm not the only one, but at least I admit it. And, hell, I'm a student at Brown University so anything goes in that department.

Today was just a nice 50-miler in decent weather (no wind!!!) while attacking the hills - except I got lost out on the plains east of Colorado Springs and ended up doing WAY too many miles on these washerboard-rough dirt roads. I kind of like dirt roads, except today I thought that I was going to: a) destroy a carbon-frame b) destroy my strong-as-diamonds 32-spoke wheels built in the 1990s c) destroy a vertebrate in my back. The experience was like a combination of riding over Brance Avenue in Providence and several miles of cow-catchers.

12 January 2008

ugh, snowriding

Ugh. That says it all.

Two days off the bike. Ruined my volume goal for the week - because I have enough discipline to not clump together two workouts into one day (I don't want to be doing a 6+ hour ride right now for fear of bonking or otherwise destroying myself). I took a picture of myself on the second day:Not really. But close. I did get a haircut, though.

So afterwords I decided to say screw it and go ride despite the still rather snowpacked road conditions. I knew that the arterials were at least somewhat cleared despite the city's inability to plow in the critical hours after a snowstorm. I also know that the only two places around here that are actually really good at clearing their roads after snowstorms are the Air Force Academy and the Garden of the Gods. Since I knew that I could realistically get to the Garden of the Gods, I went there to ride.

The Garden of the Gods is a storied and beautiful city park here, and the paved roads that circulate through it offer the widest bike path that I've ever seen and speed limits of 20mph throughout the park (meaning that on the descents and even the flats bikes speed past cars which is pretty cool). Theoretically, it should be a wonderland of road cycling. Indeed, most roadie weekend-warriors and newbies make it a staple of their riding. But I hate it nearly always. It's always freaking filled with tourists who park in the bike lane on blind switchback descents, and is generally replete with dumb-as-dandelion Texans at all times of the year. If you're looking for a low-speed collision with an SUV or oblivious human-being, then eschew midtown-Manhattan and go to the Garden of the Gods. Furthermore, there's one descending switchback in the park where I have actually crashed multiple times on the road bike. I freaking HATE that corner because even when I go through it at like 10mph, I still seem to have a knack for wiping out on either gravel, the slick reflective lines, water, ice, or some tourist standing in the middle of the road taking pictures. The guardrail there is also totally beat up (and if I remember correctly a few years ago it was totally destroyed), so it actually must be a lot more dangerous for everybody than it looks. Finally, back in high school cross-country we used to have 7am workouts there every Tuesday morning in the summer, and generally throughout the rest of the year as well. I always got my ass kicked and handed to me on a platter by absolutely everybody on the team along with various unrelated recreational runners, equestrians, and leisurely hikers, and I've probably had over a dozen sprained ankles there as well.

The main problem, for me mentally at least, with the Garden of the Gods (either running or on the bike) is that it really is wicked hilly with numerous steep climbs - but all of them look flat as a pancake. The entire park is a mental illusion. It's a general problem in the foothills here in that since the whole terrain is really slanted, it's difficult to judge the steepness and difficulty of climbs. Easy ones look ridiculously hard, and ridiculously hard ones look flat. So, I always end up destroying myself WAY to early in all of my Garden of the Gods workouts unless I prepare for it mentally.

The loop I did was, apparently, just over 5 miles and (from the veloroutes measurements) had just over 800ft of climbing per lap. I did six laps on the last workout, which was a record for me and accounts for a fairly good amount of climbing in a short period of time. It's really not physically hard if you actually do the climbs in the effort zones that one should be in, especially with the recoveries on the numerous descents, but each lap does have a climb (High Drive) that is, I think, about as steep as Jenckes Street in Providence except a bit longer. It was mostly snow free except for some obvious black ice on a few descents and one wicked slush/white ice spot on a climb...no crashes, though!

Today, I headed out the same way expecting to do more Garden of the Gods, except I found myself inexplicably lulled to climb 26th Street/Gold Camp Road...which I did. It was passable going up, but apparently I forgot that I had to descend. Most of Upper Gold Camp Road was still snow-packed/slush-packed with some ice spots, so I think I descended it slower than I climbed it. No crashes again, though (despite some really close calls).

Then, I got a phone call from an old high school friend that Cigar Friday - an old high school tradition - was being revived. Yes, going back to when I was like 16 years old I used to smoke a cigar on many Fridays with a group of friends, even during cross-country and track seasons (my coaches knew). So, that entailed high-tailing it back to downtown and the park next to my old high school. I didn't smoke a cigar this time, though...which was somewhat of a shame I think (ah, the freaking sacrifices one must make for dear old Brown and the glory of its cycling team).
Luckily, though, it did mean that I only did a ride about half as long as I planned - so theoretically it did have some negative impact upon my physical fitness level!

This weeks training goals have been obliterated by weather and tobacco-traditions. I don't care, though. Maybe 'ugh' isn't the best modifier, after all.