Tuesday, July 26, 2011


No news here. Cadel Evans won Le Tour.

I've been a fan for a few years now, and I am ecstatic that a good guy won.

He's a completely different guy from some recent champions. Contador is an alien. Lance is...narcissism personified.

Cadel? He's a prickly, pug-like fighter who never saw a finish line he didn't like. He climbs like he's wrestling a crocodile. He ain't pretty. He wears his heart on his sleeve.

He ain't pretty. He's a tough bastard. He's a champion.

Look at what he did as he came across the line. He stopped, nearly collapsing from emotion, and initiated a group hug with the rest of the BMC squad.

It's a true team victory. Complete dedication = absolute triumph.

Lance believed in the power of the team, but his was a cold, calculated appreciation. Cadel's runs deep. Maybe two second place finishes—both with less than a minute separating him from the top step—makes the champagne taste sweeter.

Maybe he's just a good guy. I want to believe.

Chapeau Cadel! Thanks for one of the finest tours I've had the pleasure to see!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

I Ran (Cross-Masochism)

So, there you are, enjoying time with the family—in my case BCB and the LAs at the outlaws' homestead in northern Long Island.

But your bike is at home.

What do you do?

You're jonesing for exercise!

What do you do?

You run

Poppa Don't Like Running

My 9-year old says it best: "Daddy, I just can't picture you running."

Neither can I.

Running hurts. At least it does for me. When I see runners—real runners—I marvel at their effortless glide across the tarmac.

When I run, I plod. And my heels hurt. And my back hurts. And my neck hurts.


Post-run I am Indiana Jones:
Indy: "Ouch!"
Marion: "Well god-damnit Indy, Where doesn't it hurt?"
Indy: "Here!" (points to his eyebrow)

I admire runners, but I never desired to run.

Until now.

I Am an Accidental Runner

I run because I must—but not in the same way that I must ride (driven by a deep, abiding passion). I must run because I aspire.

I aspire to be a triathlete. I want to dive into the multisport waters and thrive—not drown. So, I must run.

Regarding running, I have one strength—my cardio capacity. Years of cycling has tuned my engine, so that "short" efforts of less than three hours are (dare I write this?) easy. Yes, they're still work, but I am certainly capable of staying in zone 3 for a looooong time.

Which makes running even more frustrating.

Imagine having a Mustang engine in a 1992 Hyundai's body. You wanna go-go-go, but you can only creak-creak-squeak along.



I work four blocks away from the White House. For runners, DC doesn't suck. You have the Mall and the monuments, and at lunchtime there are hundreds of runners out getting their mid-day sweat on.

This spring I went out for one of these lunchtime jaunts with two lads from my gym—Bassline Scott and Rob the Sadist.

Scott is a pleasant fellow—all bonhomie and pleasant wit. He's an experienced triathlete, a new father, and an accomplished bassist. He's steady, ready, and able.

Rob expects—no, demands!—that you
suffer during his classes.
Rob is a nasty piece of work. He leads the Friday noon spin class and delights in hurting others. He's also a lawyer. He dearly and passionately loves suffering in others and seeks out opportunities to inflict pain.

You can see where this is going.

I had mentioned to Rob some of my frustrations with swimming. I (actually) asked him for some coaching! And as we started our lunchtime run we chatted about it.

Then he hit me with a smackdown that still has me reeling.

As we ran, he looked me down-and-up. And in the a most devastatingly dismissive manner said: "I see we need to talk about your running technique as well."


So, he turned the firehose on me and hit me with a ton of information.

  • Heel strike - OUT!
  • Long, forward stride - OUT!
  • Weak abs - OUT! OUT! OUT!
  • Rolled shoulders - OUT!
  • Floppy feet!
  • Relaxed arms!
  • Posture, posture, posture!


Analysis, Paralysis

I drank from the firehose...and nearly drowned.

I had to stop running. So much unassimilated information ran through my head that I forgot how to move...literally.

I had been tumbling along, and when I looked at my feet, they were alien. They were someone else's. I had no idea how they had gotten there or what they were doing.

I froze.

I took a minute. I re-set my head. I focused on my breathing. I started again.

And something clicked. It worked!

Balanced, comfortable, painless, gliding....pleasant!

It wasn't perfect, but it was a whole lot better!

I was running!

Carrying it Forward

So there I was, northern Long Island, summertime, and no bike.

I ran.

And I ran some more.

My first run? Eleven miles. 11 miles!

Whip me and call me names! I'd never done that before! With hills! Like real, steep, 18% grade hills!

My second run? Thirteen and a half miles. 13.5 miles!

Smack me and promise me a rose garden!

It works!

Where Will This Take Me?

I did a little too much, too close together. That mileage made me sore and broke me down. But I recovered, and I have new frontiers before me.

I am competing in a 70-mile triathlon in October. Its final leg is a half-marathon. Sights set.

But after that?

Is there a marathon in my future? Might I go for it?

There's a lot of work to be done. I need to refine technique. I need to build up mileage.

Regardless of the destination, I've strode away from fear. Will I run a marathon? Become an Ironman? Or simply enjoy the movement—without pain?

Only time will tell.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Final Week Thoughts on the Tour

We're heading into the final week of the Tour. Shamefully, I never finished my prediction post.

Here's a quick rundown of what I'd expected, compared to what happened. Oh, and what the hell, I'll post my remaining predictions as well.

Tony Martin

I'd hoped for a strong, podium showing for this strong German rider. He's Germany's GC hope—even though there's no TV coverage in Deutschland. The UCI and German TV don't get along.

I Predicted: Podium
Reality: Not close. He sacrificed mightily for stage wins and the Green Jersey for Cavendish. He was a beast, pace setting the peloton for unconscionable amounts of time. He proved a stud, and a sacrificial lamb.


I believed the name exactly describes its nature: it is the combination of two ProTour teams.

I expected a decent (but not winning) showing in the team time trial. I predicted a stage win—by a former Cervelo (not Garmin) rider. I predicted no love for Tyler Ferrar, because I didn't believe he had anyone tough enough to lead him out against the mighty HTC machine. Where's his Renshaw? Where's his Goss? Where's the happily headbutting guy, who will take out an opponent? Where's the sting in the tail? Where's the fire?

I also predicted that Jonathan Vaughters would become more insufferable.

I Predicted: See above
Reality: They won the TTT; Ferrar won a stage; Thor wore yellow for seven days (SEVEN DAYS!) And then won an epic, historic, holy-crap-did-you-see-that? stage. And Vaughters ceased insufferability.

Crow tastes icky, even with hot sauce.


This construct of the prodigal Luxembourgian sons gives me the willies.

Even though it has three of my favorite riders on its roster (http://wheelsuckerdiaries.blogspot.com/2011/06/jens-boonenpiratical-sorts.html, man-crush Cancellara, and all-around-tough-guy O'Grady), I expected Leopard to gnash their teeth and lamenting...something...in Paris.

I don't believe in the Schlecks. That's the bottom line.

I Predicted: Pain!
Reality: Too soon to tell. So far, they don't look like a superteam.

Cadel Evans

I love him and I believe he will wear the Yellow Jersey on the top of the podium in Paris.

He’s always ready to race. He sees a finish line, snorts, and gets on with it.

He was spot-on in Tour tune-ups. Here's what Brent Bookwalter had to say:
I’ve only raced with him this year at the Volta a Catalunya. I really admire the guy because he always shows up to race. Even when he acknowledges he’s not at his best he goes for it, like in the finish in Macerata at Tirreno-Adriatico. He was patient and bided his time until the finish.

Ivan Basso

I love this rider, for the placidity he brings to racing. Unfortunately, I don't think it will result in a podium, despite all of Italy's hopes and dreams.

Here's Basso on Basso:
When I was obsessed with having to win it, I burned myself with negativity that certainly didn’t help me. [It's] something that you follow with a smile because it is a very beautiful and fulfilling thing. I’m serene.

Serenity and the aftermath of a bloody crash on Mt Etna, and I think he is out of contention before it starts.

I Predicted: Invisible man
Reality: Too soon to tell. At this point, he's in the mix and looking strong!

Green Jersey

I thought Cavendish would be out of contention, because of all the intermediate sprints and the many, many hills.

I believed in Philipe Gilbert and the Mighty Thor.

I Predicted: Thor and Gilbert
Reality: Cavendish and Gilbert. Odds-on for Cavendish!

Race Report - Giro Di Coppi (2011)

This is a simple race report.

28th place. 41 finishers. Yyech.

Excitement, Adventure, Really Wild Things!

Excited to ride a real road race—not some trumped-up crit.

Excited to be with four other members of my team—Adventures for the Cure. Friendly faces, strength in numbers, and all that.

Excited to see where my fitness would be, what with all the long, hilly rides I've been doing.

Three laps. 12.5 miles each. Always up or down. Few flat roads. Few turns. Should be a perfect course for me!


Dropped Like a Nasty Habit.

Half-way through the second lap the elastic streeeeeetched to its limit. I was off the back.

"Wha-wha-what?" I kept asking myself. How the he'll did that happen?

Then the answers flooded in...

  • You're old.
    You're 43 and you have no business racing against these young'ens.
  • You're fat.
    You may weigh what you weighed as an all-New England high school athlete, but this ain't soccer or lacrosse. Drop ten pounds you old, fat bastard!
  • You're weak.
    Up and down Skyline Drive in two days? 220 miles and 20,000 feet of climbing? Piss-tosh! Where's the intensity? Where's the punch? Ride long and slow and you train yourself to ride: long and slow...
  • You've got a head full of mush. Jens Voigt says "Shut up legs!" And they listen. You say "Sorry, legs, did that hurt? So sorry! I'll make it easier for you. There, there, everything will be OK."

You should try spending 10 minutes in my head.

No, scratch that. Save yourself. It ain't worth it.

So, What Happened?

Three things resonate, that when combined, make sense to me.

  1. I had no warm-up.
    D'ya think one of these might help?

    A combination of home obligations and traffic congestion meant that I got to the site 40 minutes prior to the race. With registration and getting spare wheels in to the wheel car, I had 15 minutes to get my body and mind ready.

    Considering that I was breathless that morning with excitement about the race, and that I had just had a traffic-induced anxiety jolt, there was no way that I could re-set my mind in 15 minutes.

    Considering that I have a long-established need for a 60-minute warmup (every everything I do on the bike feels like crap for that first hour), I was never going to get my body set in 15 minutes.

    Lesson Learned: Get there early, moron!

  2. I rode at the back of the bunch.

    Stupid is as stupid does.

    I know that it is a huge waste of energy to be back there, accordioning in and out like a cartoon character, but there I was.

    No warmup meant creaking knees, cracking back, and and popping hips. I describe myself as geriatric, sadly, all of that is true. Thus, when the course starts with a hill, and the well-warmed vigorous masses escalate it, I dig deep, scrape bottom, and whimper.

    So, I rode safely near the back, where I would have the race in front of me and would have the opportunity to warm-up.

    But that takes enormous energy. Much less than if I were in the body of the pack. I realized this, and near the end of the first lap I tried to move up, but three enormously-shouldered, thunderously-thighed riders from one of the Northern Virginia teams rode in phalanx formation, making it impossible to move up.

    Even when things got strung-out after a turn, I couldn't advance. Those thighs translated into vicious criterium-style sprints out of the corners.


    Lesson Learned: Fight for the pack and stay there!

  3. I'm Fatter and Weaker Than I Think I Am.
    More this...

    I weighed 173 the morning of the race. Not bad for a 5' 10" 43-year-old. Not great for a cyclist.

    I know that if I am going to improve that I need to increase my strength-to-weigh ratio.

    Looking at the problem backwards, my weight could be better. In the past few years I found that my best performance weigh is 168 pounds. Less than that and I break down; I get sick.
    ...than this.

    Five pounds doesn't sound like a lot. As a percentage, it isn't a lot. But that five pounds means a boatload when hauling arse up a hill. The old adage was: "1 kilo, 1 kilometer, 1 minute." Granted, Coppi ain't the alps. But five pounds = 2 kilos. You figure it out.

    Looking at the strength/weight ratio from the front, I need to improve strength.

    I need to get out of my comfort zones and burst with intensity. Time to get out of Zone 3, where I can spend hours, and hit the hard stuff.

    It seems like I'm always "saving it"—for...something. I don't know what.

    I get into a hard effort, start to feel the burny-ouchy-breathlessly-hard stuff, and back off. "I need to have it...later." That's the refrain. Bike commute, group ride, weekend ride, always the same: "I'll need it later."

    But I don't! So what if I drag myself in like a drowned kitten? So what if I get off the bike and wobble for the first ten steps? I'm not getting better! If I care, I need to leave it out there, and stop "saving it".

Why We Race

I thought I was better than I am. I never had the delusion that I would win, but I hoped to be able to ride for another, helping out in the finale. I genuinely hoped that I could help launch someone else to win.


I know I'm not the strongest rider out there. I simply thought I had more than what I produced.

And that's the magic, innit?

Why do we race? To test ourselves; to learn our limits.

I got schooled.

It was a useful lesson.


I appreciate Jason's comment (below) for a reminder...

We pin on our numbers. We mix it up. We bump elbows. We rub wheels.

We're alive in the moment. We're awakened to everything around us.

We race.

As long as we are out there, we thrive.


Tuesday, July 12, 2011

So, You Think You're Tough?

What? Guys in lycra don't meet your standard of macho?

Brajkovic goes out with a concussion and many stitches.
Radio Shack is losing riders...fast!
 It might be time to revisit that perspective.

If you want to ride in the Tour de France, make sure you pack your suitcase of courage!

The 2011 edition has been fraught with carnage. Major contenders are out (Wiggins, Vinokourov, Horner). Teams are decimated (Radio Shack has lost four riders, and Leipheimer is well-bruised). And the peloton...rides on.

If you have been living in a cave, or if you are not a cycling fan, you may not have seen this video.

THAT's not the punchline. Here's the punchline: both riders finished the day. Johnny Hoogerland—he of the barbed wire—finished the stage. Why? Because he is a professional cyclist. Because he is tougher than you or I will ever be. Because he would podium to take the polka-dot jersey—a dream come true.

He would end up with 30+ stitches. But he is still in Le Tour.

So, do you still think you're tough?

Here are a few more to consider:

Tom Boonen, former world champion and one of my man-crushes.
digging deep after his 437th crash of this year's Tour.

Juan Manuel Garate gets a close shave
Vino looks none the worse for wear—other than the broken femur.
This guy's a legend. The surprising thing is that he didn't keep riding.

Mileage, Injuries, Recovery

I'm hurt.

I pulled something in my calf (read: "running without stretching is stupid").

My neck is stiff and oddly-shaped (a legacy of my shattered collarbone).

I am about to turn 43.

I feel every bit of it.

What? No Lance News?

I am shocked...SHOCKED that the first rest day of the 2011 TdF did not feature some reveal, some announcement, some off-the-wall statement from someone involved in the Lance Armstrong case.

Where's Floyd?

Where's "60 Minutes"?

This can mean only one thing...

We're gonna get hammered by something on the second rest day.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Quick Thoughts on the Tour

T'was the night before Stage One...

I have a longer post drafted, but it's not ready for publication. My editor's not exactly happy about it...

So here's the short version.

Nothing Happens According to Script

But they don't tear it up...they don't know how to do so gracefully.

My expectations of Le Tour?
  • The Contador/Schleck "rivalry" narrative fails to materialize.
  • Leopard/Trek crashes and burns.
  • Garmin finally wins a stage. It's a former Cervelo rider who wins it.
  • During a critical move, Phil and Paul are so tied to their inner dialogue that they fail to mention little things like who is in the break and why it is significant. At the finish, they struggle to explain how it happened, relying on tired old phrases and bad cliches. 
  • Vaughters remains insufferable.
  • HTC wins stages...and the Green Jersey.
  • Bob Roll fails to resist the urge to mention "Lance Armstrong". 437 times. Each hour.
  • Spartacus crushes the peloton's soul by breaking to win an early stage.
  • DZ triumphs with a top-five finish in the time trial, becoming the first Tour finisher to survive on a vegan diet.
  • Cadel Evans stands atop the podium in Paris.

More after my weekend in the mountains!