Friday, February 27, 2009

Spring, is that you?

As the crocuses start to peek out of the ground, one is tempted to herald the coming of Spring.  But the forecast for wintry mix on Sunday would lead the pessimist to feel otherwise.  I find myself firmly in the optimistic camp that Winter is almost over and warmth and green are about to replace cold and dead.  Think positive thoughts and hope for the best.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

When in doubt - deny

In the high stakes, competitive world of school bus driving, drugs have begun to creep in following the drivers as the salaries and sponsorship deals have grown to astronomical proportions. In an effort to get in front of this lurking problem, school systems across the country have instituted drug testing programs to try and level the playing field and send a strong message that cheaters will not be tolerated in a sport with the storied purity of competition that competitive bus driving has long enjoyed.

Due to some recent stellar performances on the road side of Bus driving competition, I found myself visited by the anti-doping control squad for an unannounced out of competition test. Not to brag, but I have been finding strength in both the extended backing up competitions and in the road course/slalom competitions recently and I viewed my visit by the "vampires" (or more accurately the "urine drainers") as a sign that I have arrived!

In an effort to try and show the future generations of competitive bus drivers that performance enhancing drugs have no place in the sport, I would like to formally announce the launch of my new anti-doping organization, DriveClean. The DriveClean movement seeks to encourage all current and future competitive bus drivers to compete with their natural gifts and talents, honed by years of practice and to not try and take the easy way to victory by using PED's. Together, we can make a difference!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009


You may or may not have noticed, but the biggest deal in North American Men's Professional Road Cycling, the Amgen Tour of California (or AToC for those desperate for initializing) began on Saturday. This race marks the return of Lance Armstrong to his first US race, Floyd Landis to his first post-suspension race and Ivan Basso to his post-suspension era as well.

It struck me as odd that in a week dominated by the performance enhancing drug revelations of Alex Rodriguez, that no fewer than 5 professional cyclists who had served suspensions for drug violations would be in California. They include the aforementioned Landis and Basso along with Stage 1 winner Francesco Mancebo, Tyler Hamilton and Oscar Sevilla (all of Rock Racing - a supportive, half way team that eases those coming off of suspensions back into the rough and tumble world of the pro peloton with all of its temptations and pressures). Couple this with convicted party drug imbiber Tom Boonen (cocaine) and everybody's favorite man in grey (the area between legal and illegal), Lance Armstrong and you just know somebody is going to have to say something. Paul Kimmage, former pro cyclist, journalist, and author of the tell-all drug expose Rough Ride, confronted Armstrong in a press conference and really told it like it is to his face. Armstrong's reaction was to be expected, but his recent dropping of his much touted and publicized self-testing program under the direction of Don Catlin, doesn't exactly make for a strong defense in Armstrong's corner.

What is even funnier is the American public's seeming desire to really, really, really want to forgive A-Rod and move on from the whole drugs mess, while cycling just keeps devolving into a sordid, soap opera like series of scandals and bitter recriminations. Maybe, just maybe, this will be the year that nothing much happens in cycling and the rest of the sports world gets its share of cheaters and dopers exposed.

Monday, February 16, 2009

a day that will live in ignomy

I suffered my Short Track Mountain Bike racing debut yesterday.  Going into it, I wasn't to hopeful about how I would do and in retrospect, that was probably a pretty optimistic outlook given the reality of my race.  Short track, for those of you who don't know, is a mountain bike race that is raced by time (like cyclocross) and features a short course with some technical mtn. biking and some wide open, power sections.

This race started on a sidewalk, went into a parking lot, turned in the parking lot and then dove into a singletrack trail in the woods.  There were lots of high speed berm turns, which are not my forte, and a little bit of climbing.  So how was my race?

(spoken with heavy southern drawl a la NASCAR) First off, I want to thank all of the Fiets Maan Racing and Luna Cycles Crew for getting my SRAM/Crank Brothers/Rock Shox/Specialized Epic Expert bike in perfect condition for today's race.  Things were looking purty good... I came off the line good... hit the woods in about 6th position... and then the bike, she got a little loose in turn 2... I came off the berm funny... slid a little bit and got right into a tree.  I'm just glad all the other racers behind me were able to get around me clean. I guess that's racin'.

I got back in it after putting my chain back on, but I was tentative from then on. I was way back, so not much hope of doing anything, but I stayed in it for the training effort. I didn't finish last which is both gratifying and surprising, but I'll take it.

Monday, February 09, 2009

pushing limits

Yesterday, Jeff and I set out to do a training ride for the upcoming 6 hours of Warrior Creek mountain bike race.  Our plan was to do 4 laps without the myriad stops and breaks that are the hallmark of group mountain bike rides.  Just the two of us in a not quite race simulation ride.

The weather was nice and warm, but inexplicably, the trails were greasy to peanut buttery for long tractionless stretches.  Right off the bat, precious watts were exerted to essentially go nowhere.  Forcing your weight onto the rear wheel proved futile as I was still spinning it while nearly pulling a wheelie.  Our plan looked questionable as we made slow, energy sapping progress.

We got out of the truly sloppy portion of the trail and were greeted with decently tractionable stretches of trail broken up here and there with more glop and goop.  The first lap was finished and we were on the second lap as we realized that the trail was tacking up the riding was getting much better.  For me, the second lap was when the demons started to work on me as I toed into the uncharted waters of more endurance type mountain biking than I am used to.  I pushed through the dark moments and made it to the finish of the second lap, convinced that I had reached my limit and would not be riding further.

We sat and ate, took stock of our physical state and took off for another lap.  At this point, we were 2 laps and 3 hours into the ride.  Physically, we were getting somewhat sore and fatigued, but not unbearably so.  I kinda got alittle concerned about our plan when I noticed that the sun seemed to be going down at a decent rate and the air was getting cooler.

It is weird how fatigue magnifies little mistakes and you find yourself crashing in really stupid circumstances.  I started to walk the short power climbs that were greasy, rather than waste the energy trying to ride them.  Concentration seemed to waver at the wrong moments and it becme a game to try and snap back to attention in time to keep upright and pointed down the trail.  It was nice to come to the end of lap three.  Despite the myriad problems on each of the three laps, average lap times were pretty close to each other.  I was pleased to note that I felt like I had another lap left in me, but was equally pleased to head to the car, get out of the chamois and head home for some food.

Now the question remains: should we do another shakeout ride and push for 6 hours prior to raceday? or just keep training and save it all for the race?

Saturday, February 07, 2009

med school bound

Some time back, Kaibab decided to blow both of his rear ACL's.  In September, we got the worst one operated on and he recovered nicely.  In fact, he has been very sweet and appreciative of being in full blown house dog mode. 

At the end of January, we took him in to get the second ACL repaired.  I went in to the vet to visit him after his surgery and there he is, resplendent in a party hat.  Apparently, he decided to start gnawing at his stitches as soon as he regained consciousness.  I brought him home, party hat and all.  We would take it off of him to give him a break and BOOM he'd be gnawing at his stitches like they were going out of style.  So, we left the hat on from that point on.  He started to use it like some kind of weapon, ramming you with the plastic to push you out of the way.  It also served as a kind of funnel/target for Owen to throw food at Kai from the kitchen table.  Lovely.

Friday was the day for Kai to get the stitches out, so Thursday night we decided to take off the party hat and let him chill out for the evening.  When we were getting ready for work Friday morning, Golden asked me, "does it look like his stitches are all gone?"  I looked at the 7 inch incision on his knee and sure enough, zero stitches were present.  Seems Kai decided to remove his own stitches Thursday night.  It isn't really a big deal, but if he was going to do the follow up medical procedure, I wish we could have given him a shot at performing the initial surgery on himself.  We could have saved a lot of money that way...

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

dreams of warmth

It is truly hard to be happy when the temps drop to the teens at night and the wind is brisk and biting.  I am starting to lapse into daydreams of fun in the sun, sitting in a garden in full bloom with a glass of ice cold white wine (don't ask me, I'm not sure why it's popping up, either).  One of my colleagues at school took off this afternoon for a week in Puerto Vallarta.  I'm stuck in the arctic.  The bad thing is that it is cold, but there is no snow.  No way to engage in fun but fleeting winter sports like snow shoeing, skate skiing or the like.  It's just cold and it is starting to drive me slightly bonkers.

I just got a heads up on a review of the new Fuji D6 tt/tri bike.  We saw this bike at the show and it was more than a little revelatory.  While Fuji makes a solid product, we were really surprised to see such a well thought out, highly engineered and in many ways, revolutionary bike from them.  And while the idea of a time trial is enough to give me the heebies AND the jeebies, I have a deep admiration of the equipment.  This new bike from Fuji is being hailed as a legitimate challenger to the heretofore unchallenged Cervelo P series.  Check it out: Fuji D6 Review

This weekend should (fingers crossed) be warm and great for another long base pace ride.  Talk of a scenic tour of Lake James is in the air.  Hope to see you there!  I'll be the guy with really pasty white legs poking out of his shorts.  ON second thought, I'll be the really good looking guy with really pasty white legs poking out of his shorts.  The other pasty legged guy is Max "ghost faced killah" Dyer...

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Oh, what a beautiful day!

Beautiful weather today on our Cycle to Serve loop ride.  Several of us actually stripped down to shorts halfway through!  Four of our team riders from Charlotte made the trip up to join us, swelling our group to about 10.  The pace was just right for base miles, the sun was shining and the conversation was convivial. 

It was great to get out and do a nice, long ride.  Lots of climbing has made it impossible not to remember today's ride for the next few days.  My legs are certainly not used to long road rides, but some chocolate cake and soy milk are helping to ease the pain.