Friday, June 24, 2011

Jens & Boonen—Piratical Sorts

Jens Voigt....a calming presence in the peloton...

I have a man-crush on Jens Voigt. But you already knew that.

I've called him a hard man.

He's so hard, he inspired a (Genius!) Twitter feed, called Jens Voigt Facts (with a companion website...keep refresh the page to see more entries). A sampling:
  • Jens Voigt prepares for Tour de Suisse by reassuring scientists at the Large Hadron Collider that he means no harm.
  • Sharks have a Jens Voigt week.
  • Jens Voigt can touch MC Hammer.
  • Lance Armstrong was born the day after Jens Voigt. However, Jens immediately attacked and by the Texan's 13th birthday Jens had already turned 16.
  • You get the idea...

He's a rare character. And he's now a blogger. I hate the competition. (Seriously. He gets more readers in a day than I've had in two years of this blog.)

But I love him all the same.

But he may be getting come competition. There may be another character in the pro peloton who—with a cheeky grin and a mischievous manner—can upstage the master.

His name?

Tom Boonen.

The Belgian?

Yep, the 2005 World Champion, 2007 Green Jersey winner,  and multiple winner of Paris-Roubaix and Ronde van Vlaanderen (Tour of Flanders, to all you gringos out there).

NOT a Lamborghini.
The Lamborghini-crasher? The coke-head?

Now, now. He was avoiding a cat. And what's a little recreational drug use among friends...After all, Ullrich made mistakes, too!

Let's get this back on track.

In a recent post, Jens laments that he will have to miss going to a Foo Fighters concert with his 15-year-old son, because of his professional obligations.

He shares his conundrum with Tom Boonen. As Jens writes:
...Tom Boonen came up with a good alternative plan. When I told him about my dilemma, he was like, “No really! You know what we can do?” And he gives me this little pirate smile …

“We can stop along the road and start hitting each other! We’ll be in the news all over the place so it brings added exposure for the team. But we’ll also get kicked out so you’ll be able to get home and see the concert. Then at the Tour de France we’ll hug and make up in front of the cameras and get lots more visibility in the press. Everyone’s a winner!”
You cheeky monkey!
Genius. Pure genius.

That sounds like something I might have come up with in my boarding school days—like swallowing a pinch of Copenhagen just before class to get up a nice infirmary-sending vomit...and thus avoiding a test.

It's brilliant! And it shows a complete understanding of what it is to be a professional cyclist. It's entertainment. It's the limelight. Everything they do feeds the media machine—especially if you are a national hero, as is Boonen.

I only wish that they had done it! Just think of all the column inches it would have generated!

And think how much fun would have had with it.

I lament.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Sometime You Have To Say "No"

I wanted to ride. I really did.

Tuesday night's shop ride is a highlight of my week. It's short, fast, and the crowd is great! There are other rides in the area—and I've tried them—but I always come back to this one.

It's the people. The core of the ride is a solid crew who all get along. There's mild banter, the occasional smack-talk. Nothing too out-of-the-ordinary.
Alan Enduro: So Ray, you're about due for a crash.
Me: What?
Alan Enduro: Yeah, shouldn't you break a clavicle or something? How will you handle getting through an injury-free season .
Me: I hate you.
Alan Enduro: What? I'm just looking out for you!
Me: There's a special ring of Hell, just for you.
You get the idea...

So on this Tuesday, I was having a Monday. Nothing was going right. I was running late. I'd lost my cell phone. I walked home from the bus (no phone = no call for a ride). I was late. I walked in the door just as I was supposed to be leaving for the ride. I broke my pump...

...and when I rolled out of my driveway I heard a POP! Hisssssssssssssssssss...

Punctured tubular.


I ran inside, swapped out my front wheel, and headed out again. Adrenaline up, anger out, going, going gone.

I met the group on the road, made my greetings, and settled in.

First hill of the day for me was at Mile 10.  It felt like Everest.
The first hill felt...bad. My legs were still shattered from Sunday's ride. the five hours of sleep on Monday night didn't help either. I needed recovery.

I finished the climb in the pack—a rarity. Usually, I am one of the first finishers. I was sitting in today, and I knew it.

We got onto the flat, through a few traffic circles, and we heard something we never want to hear: "Rider down!"

One of the leaders—a triathlete, who had been riding on his aerobars—had hit a small-but-deep road hazard. He lost control and crashed. It was ugly. His helmet didn't look too good, and he had a deep gash on his lower leg—a deep gash.

By the time we had gotten to him, he was supine, in shock position (with legs elevated) and one sock and shoe soaked through with blood.

These are the good guys.
If it's never happened to you, imagine cutting yourself when your heart rate is elevated and you are well-hydrated. You're gonna be a bleeder. HE was a bleeder.

Fortunately, cell phones were out, calls were made, a veteran-Ironman-passer-by had a first aid kit, and our comrade was whisked away to the hospital lickity-split.

Someone volunteered to ride back to the shop to get a vehicle, return to the crash site, pick up the bike, and bring it back to the shop. Jay The Elder volunteered to stay with the bike.

I stayed with The Elder.

Know Your Limits

I knew...knew...that something bad would happen if I continued that ride. Everything inside me was saying: "don't do it!"

This time I listened.

It had been a Monday (even thought it was Tuesday). Nothing was going well. And as I watched the ambulance drive away, I knew that it could have been me.

And it would likely become me.

Sometimes you have to say "no". We do this for pleasure. And sometimes we need to stop, so we can ride another day.

One of the guys said: "It sounds like an excuse to me."

I responded: "Yep. It is."

Know when to fold 'em.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Father's Day Centurion! (Almost...)

When I was asked what I wanted to do for Father's day, I came up with a plan that enabled me to get in a long training ride, family fun, and one of my favorite things in the WHOLE WIDE WORLD! A picnic!

I'd ride and have family fun with BCB and the LAs!

The Plan

Maps are fun!

I wanted to ride to the west, and I hoped I could hit some real hills. I started playing with Google Maps and Google Earth and realized that I could make it from home to Thurmont, MD, then ride around and up Catoctin Mountain. I'd gone half-way a few times, but I never thought it reasonable to try the whole trip.

You can see my recorded ride—
including my meager power output—
by clicking on this caption.
Catoctin is the first "mountain" you encounter in Maryland. It's not an alp, nor is it a col. It's more a big hill (but it's not a muur,'s not that steep, and I didn't see a single Belgian).

Who came up with all these goofy words for "hills", anyway?

My Goal was simple: ride my first century of 2011. Ride some long hills

Reality? Great on the second part...not quite there on the first part.

The Ride

The trip from home is a lovely and solid ride through rolling farmland. Up. Down. Level. Steep. Gradual. Swooping.

I left at 0600 sharp. As is my habit, I felt crappy for the first hour. I didn't get my legs under me until 1:10 into the ride. Yes, I remembered the exact time. It's precisely what I need to remember for events (read: I need a 60+ minute warmup!).

No one was on the road (go figure, it was early Father's Day Sunday morning!). It was quiet, cool, slightly overcast, and beautiful. It was the kind of morning where you can catch all the aromas and hear all the morning sounds of farmland.
I had no idea! How cool is that?

Once I got out of the suburbs, I saw a lot of folks who were sitting on their porches, greeting the day. I waved and wished them all a happy Father's Day—even the ladies. Why not, right? Spread the joy!

I peaked somewhere between 120 minutes and 240 minutes. I really felt good during those hours. No discomfort, no pain, no weariness, and good spirits. My nutrition was good (my home-made gels are really working!), and I was feeling a rouleur's vibe—like I could ride forever. .

And who knew there are covered bridges in Maryland? I certainly didn't! I rode through one, and felt the goofy, inexplicable thrill one gets when encountering them. A delightful surprise!

Centurion Alert!

By your command!
I couldn't resist a BSG reference!

When I got to Thurmont, I had a minor problem—I was there too early, and my route was too short.

OK, so my map reading is excellent. My memory is nearly photographic. But my sense of distance is laughable. I thought it was around 80 miles to Thurmont. I thought it would take five hours to get there.

It was a little over 60 miles to Thurmont. I was there in roughly four hours.


I knew immediately that a century was out of the question. I had until noon to meet the family. I had a lot of uphill to do. 40 miles in 2 hours? Not going to happen!

So, I did what I could...I continued with my plan. I figured that I could add loops where I could find them to increase my mileage.

Up I went.

Who the @*&^* Put This Here? (Part I)

You know how it goes, you look at a map, see a line that declares itself to be a road, and you make it a part of your plan. All squiggly lines are equal, aren't they?

So there I am, having traversed the north side of Catoctin, following a squiggly line up a wooded valley, when my planned turn appeared. I crossed the road and the railroad tracks, and I continued. So far, so good!

The road forked just after a barn, changed name, and became non-squiggly.

I looked up. Straight up.

The road was unbending (rare for Maryland) and disappeared into the canopy about a mile uphill from where I'd turned.

Nice! Shade!

I climbed, steadily. I had no idea how to gauge my efforts, because it had been a long time since I rode long hills like this, so I kept it steady—not slow, but even-keeled. 350 watts.

I got under the canopy and discovered...that the road turned to gravel.

NOT the road...but you get the idea.
And turn it around...I was going uphill!

Not pavement. Not even well-crushed gravel. Gravel. With narrow "lanes" where vehicle traffic had traveled before.

Some perspective: I 'm riding a racing frame with carbon tubulars. My tires are 25mm wide at their widest, with only about 10mm contacting the road at any time. The gravel included pebbles and stones averaging 30-35mm in some dimension. When you hit them?...

It was ugly.

I kept going.

Why didn't you go back? Are you asking for it? Why risk a fall or a wilderness puncture?

Because I am a guy. A stubborn, foolish, risk-taking guy with low blood sugar, no water, and a misplaced sense of adventure.

Turn around? To what? The nearest...something...was 20 minutes downhill. I wasn't prepared to ride into a farm—clad in polka-dot lycra—and ask for water. Hell, all the farms I had just passed appeared to be sleeping. They were probably churching. Either way, it was a non-starter. I was riding.

And I had no idea what my alternative was! I was already committed to the north side. Continuing on the valley road would put me...where? What was on the other side of the mountain?

So upward it was. Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead!

Getting There

I survived the climb. After 23 years in the gravelly wilderness, I emerged onto pavement, took a left, and continued to climb into well-groomed nature.

Up. Up. Up.

Down. Down? DOWN?!

There's no marker to tell you you're at the top. You're left to your own devices there. But the clever among us can figure it out. One minute you're climbing, the next minute you're descending. Fast.

Gloriously, there was no one on the road. I did see a few people, but not a single vehicle on the descent. That made it fast.

45 miles an hour fast.

What fun!

Tuck. Snake. Turn. Glide. (Don't forget to breathe!)

I got to the bottom of the park (still several miles from Thurmont proper). There was a visitor's center and—most importantly—a water fountain!

Drink. Fill bottle. Drink. Check time: 1030. Hell, might as well go back up!

I climbed it again—backtracking up and down to the point where my gravel road connected with the pavement. I turned around and headed up again.

It was like doing hill repeats, but without the redline and the need to vomit.

I descended all the way into Thurmont—taking the entire road lane on Route 77 where necessary. (I can take most of the turns faster than any car.)

I found the planned rendezvous—an Inn called the Cozy that has been in Thurmont since Moses was in a reed raft—and called BCB and the LAs. They were still some way away, so I did what any obsessed rider would do.

I climbed.


Going Blind

There's a term some commentators use when referring to exhausted cyclists. They say that they are "cross-eyed".

Cross-eyed. Centurian.

I was cross-eyed.

I made it to the park entrance with no problem. I felt decent—weary but decent.

I looked at my computer and saw that my mileage was still in the 80s. I like the 80s—some good music there—but I wanted more. If I couldn't have my century, I wanted 90.

So I thought it a good idea to climb for two more miles (to mile 88) and then descend—achieving my 90.

The problem? I failed to convince myself that it was a good idea

Pain hurts.

You know it's bad when you are devouring air, your ribs sore from the effort.

And you know it's bad when you're counting distance—in hundredths of a mile!—on your computer.

Tick. Tick. Tick.

I watched my odometer. I didn't change.

Remember when you were in school? Class would drone on. You'd stare at the clock, willing the minute hand to click.

I've never watched a clock more closely. I've never burned with a more fiendish desire to see a number change than on that ascent. If willpower itself could have changed those get the idea...

YOU try reading a clock
I looked up. Mistake.

It's like when you're on a high walkway and someone says "don't look down." Everything is fine as long as you Don't Look Down.

I looked up; my soul groaned. My body shuddered. I was cooked, baked, toasted, roasted, and fricasseed.

But I continued. Upward.

I'm a guy, remember? Stubborn, foolish, and all the rest.

I ignored the computer. I closed my eyes and pedaled. When I opened my eyes again I could barely focus. Everything was a blur. Especially the computer. But something penetrated the fog. Pixels resolved. "88". I had done it. I could turn around.

Down, down I went, swallowed by the rushing wind and the fabulous forest canopy. Down to the entrance I rolled.

A quick right, a quick left, and I would be at the entrance to Cunningham Falls Park, our revised rendezvous.

Who the @*&^* Put This Here? (Part II)

Up? Again?

Oh. My. God.

No one told me (not that I asked...) that I would need to ride another uphill mile to get to the Cunningham Falls entrance! I expected the park entrance to be right near the road. In a civilized place. With water fountains. Hammocks. Lunch!

Somehow, though, I recovered enough to ride there. It wasn't fast. It wasn't pretty. It wasn't a lot of the elegant things I love about cycling.

It was sweaty, salty, dirty, and it hurt. (So, on second thought, it was all the things I love about cycling!)


Rapture! Joy! A picnic!
I rendezvoused with BCB and the LAs. We picnicked! We swam in the lake! We picnicked some more! We played at the (totally cool) playground!

Life is good.

We ate chips! We ate berries! I ate smoked salmon! (I loves me some smoked salmon!)

We laughed and played and spread lake-bottom mud on our arms and pretended we were at a spa.

Happy Father's Day to me. And blessed thanks to my girls for enabling it!

It was lovely. It was...perfect.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

It's a Small World After All

It was his laugh that confirmed it.

I hadn't heard it in nearly 25 years, yet I knew it was him.

The re-introduction? A formality.

"Scott Razek?" I asked.

Quizzically, displaced, he looked at me.

"Ray Whitney," I said, by way of re-introduction.

Recognition. Memory. Smiling, he bellowed: "Ray Whitney! What are you doing here?"

What was I doing there, indeed...

A Little Background

It's debatable who had better hair...or more confidence...
Elvis? Or Scott? And yes, this is Scott's page from his
Senior yearbook. Let's just say that he stood out!
Columbus is Scott's hometown. His being there...made sense. Me? Not so much.

When I attended Gunnery my family was living in Saudi Arabia. I had grown up in New York, and I had no concept of Columbus, OH.

To be honest, I was more familiar with foreign countries than I was with the Midwest. If you had told me in the 1980s that I would find a second home in Columbus, I would have laughed.

But then, life has a way of mocking us, doesn't it?

Scott graduated in '86, I escaped in '87. We were soccer teammates and social acquaintances. Neither of us would have described the other as a friend, but we were certainly friendly and thought well of one another.

So, what were the odds that two Gunnery alum would run into one another—within a crowd of thousands at a charity event in...Columbus, OH?

It's not like we were in New York or Boston—prep school enclaves where many of our classmates settled. This was the Midwest!

Columbus proved the old adage: it's a small, small world.

There for a Purpose

We were at the opening ceremonies for the inaugural Pelotonia event, a two-day charity ride with a simple mission: end cancer.

And he still has the hair!
Simple, no? That explains everything!

OK. Not really.

I have told my story before. In a nutshell:

I am a cancer survivor. I am also a cyclist and a fan of the sport. I discovered my testicular cancer because I had read Lance Armstrong's "It's Not about the Bike" some years prior to the onset of my "issues." Somehow my deeper memory remembered details long forgotten, and I recognized my symptoms. I saw the doctors. I had treatment, and I survived.

Years later—through a set of serendipitous circumstances—I learned about Pelotonia, its purpose, and that Lance would be there.

I had to go.

And there I was: in Columbus.

I knew one person—a work-related contact with whom I had only had email and phone contact. I was wandering around the event registration, taking in the whole of the experience...

And then I heard Scott laugh.

Riding the Wave

Where will you land?
Life is filled with random events. Like waves upon the sea, they influence our passage. We may spend countless hours and endless energies planning and plotting our course, only to be hit by a rogue wave that redefines everything. Cancer is like that wave—it tosses you about with disregard. And if you're lucky, you wash up on some safe shore...somewhere.

It's what happened to me. And I learned from it. One of the many lessons it taught me was to roll with the waves. I learned to stop holding the tiller so tightly. I learned to let go, to listen to life; that everything happens for a reason

It's how I ended up in Columbus, standing there, shocked stupid by seeing Scott. I had let the small waves guide me, and I washed up upon his island.

And what a place it is!

It's His Town

Make no mistake, it's Scott's world, and we are all guests at the party.

I remembered Scott as one of those rare people who made everyone comfortable and happy—just by being Scott. I remembered him as eternally positive and a magnet for good times.

How could you possibly NOT hug him?
I also remember him as Moncheechee—a nickname I don't think he remembers. He was short, hairy and cuddly. And eternally cute. To see him was to smile.

Memory serves. In adult form (are we really this old?) Scott is a raconteur, a sybarite, and an all-around nice guy. He has a winning smile and an infectious laugh. He is—in a word—fun! (You'll have to ask his wife about the cuddly-ness.)

He's also damned serious about ending cancer.

Scott embraced me—literally—and after a quick "catch up", he declared that I was with him. I had no idea what that meant. Three years later, I'm still amazed!

Scott knows everyone in Columbus—everyone. If he doesn't, just give him a minute. He will. And we all know his work. He's the Creative Director for Bath & Body Works. He's a man of impeccable taste and clear vision. He's a leader.

My head swam as he introduced me to scores of people. I found myself in a conversation with a short man in a bow tie (how was I supposed to know that it was E. Gordon Gee, president of The Ohio State University?). I had a serious discussion with the Dr. Michael Caligiuri, director of the James—the cancer hospital we were supporting. I met the family who own Limited Brands (you know, The Limited, Bath & Body Works, Victoria's Secret, and others). It was heady stuff. And I had only been with him for two hours!

At the center of his world are three people who sustain him. Scott is a family man who derives strength from his charming wife and his delightful son. They keep him anchored. Their love is palpable. He takes clear, deep pleasure from his role as a father and a husband. It is beautiful to witness. And then there's his incorrigible father, Edward.

Ed is a marketing genius. How do I know? He's the gentleman responsible for Victoria's Secret. He picks the Angels.

Ed the Magic Man...
Note the hair...
To call Ed exuberant is like calling a kitten cute—it communicates the thought, but not the experience. The exuberance is genetic. Scott is just like his father in this regard: to be around him is to be energized—to see possibility in all things.

It's a kind of magic.

It's uplifting.

It's irresistible.


So, with Razek as a guide (how easily we fall into old habits, using labels from years ago), I was introduced to a number of people I would come to consider comrades...and friends.

I shared dinner with my future peloton. Some looked ready, others looked...scared. All were excited.

Make no mistake, the next morning we were faced with a hard effort. The first day would be 102 miles long. Day 2 would be 78 miles. We would be facing a few leg-burning climbs.

It would be fun.

And it was a perfect opportunity to get to know one another.

From Strength to Strength

Pelotonia is about fundraising—not about riding. Cycling happens to be the activity that attracts participation, but the thousands who ride are rallying around a cause: end cancer.

I had no idea what I was getting myself into, as far as raising money was concerned. I didn't have a clue.

Scott, on the other hand, is a natural. As we walked through the crowd, he'd check his phone and declare: "I got another donation! I'm up to (some amazing amount of money)". It seemed like his phone buzzed every five minutes with more. (In reality, it was every 10 minutes, please forgive the exaggeration.)

I was below my required fundraising amount. Frankly, I was a embarrassed by it. I wanted to pull my weight, but it was simply not my strength.

It is Scott's.

There was a way, however, that I could pull my weight. I am a decent cyclist, considering my age.

Hills...lots of hills...
Long, hard rides are—in the cyclist's parlance—called "sufferfests". With respect and love, I must report that there were times when some of our group suffered. Untrained legs and lungs struggled with the route. Here I could help.

I had the legs and the lungs to lead. So I did. I took long pulls on the front of the group. I took us up hills, and circled back to shepherd our occasional stray. As a group we pulled it together. We had will and spirit. And it's amazing how far that can carry you.

I was not the strongest fundraiser, but I could contribute my cycling strength. I could help them and focus them. We were stronger for it.


That sounds a bit arrogant, you narcissist!

But, it's not meant that way at all.

I'm a cancer survivor. I know the pain of cancer. And I survived recovery. I now rejoice in my pain—it reminds me that I'm alive.

That's so cliche.

Maybe. But it's true.

I didn't choose cancer. I didn't choose to wake up screaming in the recovery room because my anesthesia had worn off and I was allergic to the meds pumping into my veins. I didn't choose to look down at my distended belly to see a zipper-like line of staples restraining my recently removed-and-replaced innards.

Aren't you being a bit dramatic?

I've had better days...
Look, I didn't choose cancer.

I didn't want to be half-neutered. I didn't want to be disemboweled.

I do, however, choose to ride.

I choose to reinforce life and validate strength with each pedal stroke.

So yes, the pain reminds me that I am alive.

And on this ride, pain reminded all of us of all those who are suffering through their cancer battles.

It may sound silly, or stupid, or trite, or absurd, but it's real. When your legs and lungs burn and you just want to stop...

And you look over and see a child—bald from chemotherapy—holding a sign that reads: "Thanks"...

And you look up and the rider in front of you has "Survivor" on the back of his jersey.

You look into yourself and keep pedaling

Cancer is insidious. The cure can be far more debilitating than the illness. Chemo is a race to the death—yours or the cancer's.

So, who's afraid of a few hills?

Back to the Narrative

Ride, but not mission, accomplished.
We came. We saw. We rode.

We overnighted in Athens. We returned the next day.

Our group of five crossed the finish line as one. It was planned.

We wanted to share our hard-won success—achievement through unity and teamwork. We had accomplished the ride together—but remember, it really wasn't about the ride.

What We Accomplished

That first year we contributed to the $4,511,868 raised to support the James.

In year two we helped raise the bar—reaching $7,846,705.

In 2011? Who knows what we can achieve.

Lasting Bonds

I drove back that afternoon, motivated to see my girls.
It's a long drive with 180 miles in your legs.
We celebrated together, and then we went our separate ways. I drove back to Maryland, and my comrades got back to their lives. We kept in touch via Facebook and email, planning for the following years and motivating (read: abusing) one another to train harder!

As we prepare for our third Pelotonia, I find myself reflecting on the past two years. I realize that I went to Columbus a stranger and departed Columbus a friend. I was reminded that it truly is a small world, and that shared passions lead to enriched lives. When I read this, it seems like cliché. But when you're in the middle of it, it doesn't feel that way. It feels real, and powerful.

We're two months away. Our ride? it's practically tomorrow; that's how quickly the summer passes. I'm looking forward to it all, once again: laughing through the reunions, charging up the hills, and working toward our mission: to end cancer.


During my final edit this song fixed itself in my head. So I thought I would share...
We've come a long long way together,
Through the hard times and the good,
I have to celebrate you baby,
I have to praise you like I should

Friday, June 10, 2011

Even When You Don't Want To

0450...The alarm blares.

Grunting, I reach over and slap it. Silent, again.

"I don't want to," I think to myself.

"Un-huh," I respond.

And so it begins—a ten minute conversation, a debate, really. Spirited. Passionate. All with my eyes closed.

Should I Stay, or Should I Go?

It's Thursday morning—bike commute day. It's the one day each week that logistics are not a barrier to riding. Normally I vegetate (or write this blog) on a commuter bus (like right now). But Thursdays are glorious!

It's such an opportunity! Decent mileage (~25 miles each way), varied terrain, a plethora of cyclist-assault vehicles (read: traffic). What's not to like?

Well, a lot, actually. Especially on this morning.

I'm tired.

And the pillow feels good.

And the ceiling fan is bathing me with luscious, cool air.

And my pillow really feels good.

And it's 0454 in the morning!

And it's already 80 degrees with 90% humidity!

...And the debate continues.


Doesn't everyone talk to themselves—silently? Don't we all have inner dialogues?

I do—constantly. Hell, you're reading a manifestation of that habit. Who's the audience for this blog? Seriously, for whom do I write?

0458..the debate continues...

I need sleep. I need a workout. I haven't slept well in two days. I had two days of low-or-no workout—I missed my normal Two-a-Day Tuesday (I only led spin class) and I completely missed running Wednesday (it was 100 degrees in DC).

Sleep? Workout. Sleep. Workout! SLEEP! Workout.

0500, My feet hit the floor. I enter the bathroom. I pull on socks. I start to pull on bibs. I knock on Mother Nature's door. She answers.

As I sit there, eyes closed, swaying from fatigue, the debate continues.

Sleep. Dress. Sleeeeeep. Dress!

And it hits me: the moment of clarity; the why.

Like a beam of sunlight, the answer is revealed. The decision? So obvious, so clear, so absolute that the entire process now seems a farce—an exercise in cliché.

It's time to ride.


Because if I don't, I will be so pissed off at myself that I will be an insufferable bastard all day!

And no one! Especially me!...will want to be anywhere near my smoldering glower, my feral snarl, or my vicious bite.

And if I ride, I may suffer, I may pant and wheeze and groan and complain. But come the shining of the sun and the bustle of my urban morning, I'll be happy.

So that's why I ride.


Friday morning.

0515...The alarm blares.

Grunting, I reach over and slap it. Silent, again.

"I don't want to," I think to myself.

"Un, huh," I respond.

You know how this ends...

Thursday, June 9, 2011


Why's he rolling his eyes?
Where's my redhead?
It was time.

After a long hiatus, I'm back.

But you already knew that...

And in coming back, I took a hard look at this blog and realized that it needed a makeover. I wanted it to look a little lighter (Don't get me wrong, I still love black!), and I wanted more functionality. I also wanted to get the old banner out. I love Rapha—dearly! But I needed to step out from behind its style shadow and become my own person.

And I love yellow. In all its flavors. It just happens to be the iconic color of cycling and anti-cancer advocacy.

So, here we are. New skin and new toys!

  • You can easily share posts to Facebook or Twitter (so I might increase my readership from three—thanks Betsy, Mickie, and Scott!—to...say...five!).
  • Comments SHOULD work (I realize there was in issue with the former design that caused problems with comments. It frustrated one of my three readers. For that, I am eternally sorry!)
  • You can subscribe! (Crazy as that sounds...)

Mandatory image of a reptile
shedding its skin!
I also did some clean-up with the "Labels" ("Tags", to the rest of us) to make it easier to reference you favorite posts from the past...or the future, when it becomes the past...because, after all, this is a living was just hibernating...

Let me know what you think. I might even suggest that you try to leave a comment (Gasp!) or share a post (No way!).

In other words, share and enjoy! (read: please be my beta-testers!)

And as a parting gift...
I kicked the habit...Shed my skin
This is the new stuff I go dancing in...

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Building Volume

On August 20, 2011, I will be riding with thousands of others in Pelotonia 2011.

Last year I was a top 20 finisher, completing the course in less than five hours.

This year I want to do better. My goals, for now, remain mine. I'm not yet ready to share them!

I've ridden a lot this spring. Tuesdays I lead my spin class and then have my local group ride—two high-intensity workouts in a day. My Thursday commute into DC gives me a solid 50+ miles, of varying intensity and anxiety. Heavy on the anxiety. (All the near-misses are getting to me.)

I've also been triathlon training. Swim and run workouts fill the gaps (and make me tired).

But I haven't been building volume.

Getting Miles into My Legs
Hairless! Hooray!

I miss my long rides.

This is the time of year when honeysuckle and other early-summer flowers sweeten the air. It's a time for re-connection—with myself and with nature. It's a time for leg shaving and chamois cream. It's riding time!

I have the short stuff wired. I can ride in the pack, take long pulls, and have something in the tank for the sprint finish. As long as we're done in less than two hours.

So, it's time to get the miles into the legs. Not the high-intensity miles I will do in late July and early August—filled with hill repeats and sprint intervals. Nope. Now is the time for the five-to-six hour rides that build foundation.

Sunday was the first of these rides. Eighty-five miles. Five hours. Six thousand feet of climbing.

It was a pleasant start. Atmosphere was cool and moist, but not rainy. The overnight sheen remained on many of the roads. Deer and groundhogs everywhere. Birds singing. Nice.

I was riding solo. Nice.

I had a few issues. Between miles 42 and 45 I was shagged. I topped off my fuel and got my spirit back. Same again at mile 62. I need to be more conscious of my eating!

As I came into the home stretch, I put in a hard effort (as is my tradition). It felt good. I felt the power from my entire leg—bone deep.

Going deep is deeply satisfying. (I know, that was lame...but how else would you describe it?) It triggers hard-to acquire endorphins. It reminds you of how much work you have done. It inspires you to do more. It's truly a hard place to get to, but if you can get there, it's powerful juju.

I plan to revisit this weekend.

And the next.

And the next.

It's my training. It's my pleasure. It's real.

I'm getting ready.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Why Haven't You Written?

It's not you, it's me! I hope we can still be friends! 
I just needed space. Time. Change. I was suffocating...

That's all sort-of true. If I am to be's all about me.

Why This Blog Has Been Dormant
  • I was angry with Pelotonia
  • I have had a difficult year
  • I lost the habit
Chronologically, that's the proper order. But I'll start at the end. I think the Pelotonia post should have some space of its own.

I Lost the Habit

Thirty days, the saying goes. It takes 30 days to make a habit.

So, NOT writing a blog for 30 get the picture.
Why didn't I write?

Writing a blog is a labor of love. It takes time; but time isn't the issue. We all can make time for the things we love. The issue is...honesty.

I am blessed with 437 sisters in law. One of these lovely ladies had once expressed interest in writing a blog, but she was having problems answering the writer's eternal question: what do I have to say?

I completely understood. It took me years to start a blog. Every time I thought I had something worth "publishing", I decided it was fatuous. At best. At worst? I shudder...

When I started Wheelsucker Diaries, however, I felt I had found the magical "it". It felt right. It matured. I invested a lot of me into it. Indeed, it had become a facet of me.

We all have our online personas—our doppelgangers (I daren't write "avatar" anymore...thanks James bastard.). There's a Facebook me who is different from my LinkedIn me. And the Wheelsucker Diaries me is another...

And it is the one most like me. It's the one where I occasionally go deep.

And that's why I lost the habit: I had to stop going deep.

I Have Had a Difficult Year

Writing a blog is a labor of love. Damn, I already wrote that.

When I write these posts  I am vigilant. To be successful, Wheelsucker Diaries must pass my sniff test. If I sense that I am BS-ing myself, I know I've failed. Plenty of failed posts have made it into my "drafts" folder. Some escaped—having been revisited and re-tooled. Others will never see the light of day.

A Necessary Digression...

I just re-read Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. As in most cases, the novella is far more interesting and subtle than the movies. You know the general story—what with the potion and the changing into an "evil" man. What is forgotten is that Hyde is a distillation of the evils within Jekyll. In other words, Hyde is a part of the larger, benevolent man. As it happens, the evil takes over, but Jekyll is not "good". He is a composite of both good and evil—as are we all.

Back to our Narrative...

I have been dealing with my own Hyde—and a few other things. In short, this has been a psychologically trying time for me and my family (particularly BCB and the LAs*). It's exhausting.

I am continuing on my path; and we are continuing on our path as a family. We are facing the new challenges as they arise, and as we learn from our histories.

When I tried to write I was failing. I had lost my voice.

When you don't like yourself, you don't like your reflection.

I was disgusted. I would read my drafts and (metaphorically) crumple the paper with disdain: violence.

My prose was either dishonest, or I couldn't stand to read the ramblings of the author. I thought he was crap. A fraud. A poseur.

I Got a Call from an Old Friend...

...And as it happens, I am in a better place.

Things happen for a reason. Had that email come to me a week ago, I would not have been ready.

But it came today. And today I can start afresh.

So here we are. Back together again.

I hope you're ready.

I have a lot to say...

BCB = Beautiful and Charming Bride
LAs = Little Angels (my daughters)

Got a call...

Got an email from an old friend, we used to be real close...

Actually, it was an email. Here's the text:
Wheelsucker Diaries....
Dude...what's up???  There ain't no recent posts!  But we've already done
the spring classics and the Giro!
And my response:
So many answers to that question...
I have been meaning to contact you...
Looks like I've got some 'splaining to do...