Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Scattered Dreams - Pelotonia 2011 Day 1 Ride Report (Part 2)

And So It Begins

Wherein the author describes the beginning of the journey...

We launched out of Columbus in a jostling flurry. The motorcycles blazed a path through the dewy morning streets, and the front of the pack settled into a three-wide arrow, following the lead rider.

Iron Man leads us out of town.
The guy on the front—wearing an Ironman Canada kit—tucked on his aerobars and cranked out a steady pace. It was good: not too fast, and not too slow.

I jumped into the fray and found a comfortable spot in the front dozen. I had a few Clydesdales in front of me (polite racer-speak for "large men"), who seemed perfectly happy to ride together and protect me from the wind.

The lead rider's long, steady pull settled the group while forcing an initial selection. Sure, there were a lot of guys in the lead bunch who wouldn't be there after Starner Hill (whoa). But the folks in the first 30 or so could do their part, rotating in and out of the wind like an Emperor penguin daddy colony, protecting their precious cargo from the biting chill.

My turn, no, YOUR turn...get out there in that wind!
There was plenty of time and space to stretch out, warm up, eat, drink, and converse. For you heart-rate geeks, I was in a high Zone 2. If you took a pull—depending on the length of the effort—it was a Zone 3 to low Zone 4. Nothing crazy. Easy peasy.

The city rolled past us. We entered and exited suburbia and glided into rural country. Steady, calm, no surprises.

I stayed in the middle, maintaining a position in the initial dozen or so riders. It was the safest place to be: no "sketchy" riders ride that close to the front; I could see and react to any road hazards, as opposed to the blind-riding that occurs in the big bunch; and I could keep my eye on people, learning who was strong, who was laboring, and who had what habit.

Nasty Habits

Wherein the author describes shares secrets...

We all have them: habits. Like poker "tells", they identify us. One guy loves to ride with one hand in the drops and one hand on the hoods. Another guy likes to ride on the bar tops—he's the one to avoid. No way he gets to his brakes in time.
What's your tell, M. Le Chiffre?

Some riders have an exaggerated "throw" of the bike when they get out of the saddle, and woe betide the rider on his wheel. When the "thrower" launches, his bike jets back a few inches, and an unwary follower eats rubber (and possibly gravel). Bad. Bad. Bad.

And then there's snot-rocket guy...You've got the idea...

Cyclists—especially racers—look for these tells.  A bobbing shoulder, or a particular look on one's face can say volumes about how you are feeling, and let you know when to attack.

I have habits. For example, I adopt Chris Horner's smile/grimace when I'm suffering, and I come out of the saddle more than is fashionable, or predictable. But not all of my habits are harmless. I always grab my bottles with my right hand, and nudge to the left when doing so. Unless I am completely focused on not swerving, it happens. A multitude of shoulder injuries have had their impact! I'm not as young as I used to be! I'm left...no! Right-brained!

I know this, and I try to make amends. When I drink, I try to do so only when I have space around me. And when I eat, I move outside the bunch—into the wind. It's safer for everyone. Especially me! I don't want to be that guy..

Cruising

Wherein the author writes of input and output...

The steady pace let me eat and drink comfortably. I didn't plan to stop on the ride—if I did, I knew I would have a hard time bridging back.

Dave C whizzed past, taking his station near the front. His white-and-black kit standing out amid the explosion of color around me. He looked good—fit and happy and bursting with speed.

Blair Beavers (Old School Blair), on his lovely steel steed, paced with precision; making forays into the front, and representing the Limited Brands Peloton with aplomb.

MS Trent was everywhere—sometimes in front, sometimes behind. His white spokes whirred dazzlingly as he chatted up and down the line. He had a video camera on board, and has quality footage of my rear end, and a flopping, flapping name-tag thingy. Why, oh why, did I bother to put that thing on?


Pelotonia 2011 - The Adventures of the Bath & Body Works Brothers from MS Trent on Vimeo.










One of my habits is to not look behind me. This sounds strange, but it answers the question: "Where was Sloan?" I had no idea. When I ride I am completely conscious of my immediate front and periphery. I sense what is behind me, but (unless it's a race, and tactics dictate it) I don't look back.

Sloan could have been behind the guy sucking my wheel, but his whereabouts were unknown to me. I didn't even know how big (or small) our group was. It really didn't matter.

We glided past the 23-mile stop, with barely a blink. It was only notable for the one rider who pulled off to use the bathroom. Given our pace, we wouldn't see him again.

Unfortunately, his leaving reminded me that I needed to pee.

I was not yet at floating-eyeballs level, but I could have used the stop. It's that whole pre-ride hydration thing. and once that "I gotta pee" thought pops into your head, you're doomed.

Amanda's Popcorn

Wherein the author discusses detritus...

Before I could blink, we approached Amanda (mile 43) and—almost as though on signal—bottles flew.

Like popcorn from an air-popper, bottles popped out of the bunch. We rolled through town, and pop a white one flew to the left, then pop-pop-pop a yellow and a white to the right, a blue to the left.

It was something to see.

Souvenirs! But I'm not certain how the locals felt
about having our discards in their lawns...
I'd never been in a bunch that actually did that. The pros jettison their empties; clearing space for new bottles and losing unwanted weight. But I'm neither pro nor neo-pro (A wannabe pseudo-pro? Guilty as charged...but that's a conversation for a different day!)

Yet, there I was, riding with a crew of tossers!

Unfortunately, these guys were heaving their bottles into front yards. That seemed a bit rude to me.

Now, in fairness, I had tossed one (of the three I'd started with) as we passed the first rest stop. And that's the point, I threw it into the rest stop, where I knew that volunteers would dispose of it.

And that was my plan in Amanda: drop a bottle in the rest area, and be gone!

Flying through the parking lot I tossed a bottle (into which I had put my food wrappers), aiming for a garbage can. I hit it, with a satisfying "thud". Grinning with childish self-satisfaction, I rolled on...

Columbus-Roubaix

Wherein the author finds himself in the middle of a Spring Classic...

Left. Right, then left. Cornfields. Farmhouses. Small hills. Then...larger, rolling hills .

Lovely stuff.

Fast descents, slower ascents. The bunch held together, constantly reconfiguring. Big guys go fast downhill. Little guys go fast uphill. I'm in the middle at 173 pounds, so I was flitting about, like a bird in flight—finding my place in the flock.

I knew from previous years—and recent visitors emphatically confirmed—that the valley road leading to the Starner Hill (whoa) turn was a mess. Translation: eat and drink at the covered bridge; it's your last chance!

I saw the bridge, shot some gel, swallowed some water. I drank a little more than I wanted—to prepare. We made the left, and...

...it was on!
The cobbles of Arenberg...in Ohio?

In Paris-Roubaix—a legendary race that must be seen to be believed (and even then, it's difficult to appreciate)—when the pros approach the Forest of Arenberg's brutal cobblestones, the peloton accelerates. It's blinding. It's as fast as the lead-out for a sprint finish, but there's no finish line in sight, and it's over roads that test mettle and metal with merciless scrutiny. Riders fight for position, using every tactic and trick to lever themselves in with the leaders. Why? Because the Arenberg Forest is treacherous. It destroys bikes and mocks carefully-planned stratagems. It is a force of nature.

Who decided to throw-down the gauntlet and power through the valley?

So, who the hell declared that this road was our Arenberg? When did this become Paris-Roubaix?

Someone lit the fuse; we were flying.

The group scattered. We took the entire width of the road—praying that no cars would appear from the other direction—and spread ourselves. Orange paint marked the largest of the hazards, but it would take a pool-full of paint to warn us of what was to come.

This is what you're trying to prevent
by powering across the rough stuff.
And it came fast. We rocketed down that road like the Dukes of Hazard, getting nearly as much air-time as the General Lee. I kept my hands as light as possible, knowing that a death-grip would only make it worse. Even so, my arms were punished and my teeth crunched with each bump and crack.

I glanced at my computer and saw 500 watts. Holy carp! Really? 500?

Perspective: I ride long tempo at 275 watts; I press on climbs at 450 watts. On a flat? 500 watts puts me just under 30 mph.

We were moving!

MS Trent was a few positions in front of me when life became slow-motion.

Bottle! Bottle! Quick, boys! – An ecstasy of fumbling...

It's a missile!
I watched as one of MS Trent's gorgeous blue gingham Bath and Body Works CamelBak bottles popped out of its cage. He tried to pinch it against his frame with his leg, but too much was happening too fast. The bottle dropped, and bounced, inscribing a white-blurred arc against the grey road. It bounced again, with the randomness of a football—defying predictability. And again it bounced...

...as bicycles raced past at 30 miles per hour.

And somehow, some way, by some small miracle, it bounced to the side of the road—and no one got hurt.

Gobsmacked. I was gobsmacked.

At that speed, in those conditions, for that to have happened, a slew of guardian angels worked overtime. How they managed it, I'll never know. Maybe they play hockey in their down-time, or maybe they all had a bet on "how many bounces can we get and still keep our boys safe." I don't know.

I do know, however, that I wasn't thinking about how badly I needed to pee. I was praying to the Holy Spoke that I would survive!

Starner Hill (Whoa)

Wherein the author recounts his ascent of Pelotonia's most-famous hill...

Really, it's not that bad. Three kicks and you're there. That's all: three hard kicks.

Now, a "kick" in this case is "an effort." It's not one leg-thrust, but many revolutions, following an initial power surge.

In other words, the hill goes up and levels off three separate times. You kick each time it rises.

Three small hills; that's all!

Not buying it?

We made the right off the Road to Roubaix and onto the Starner Hill (whoa) approach, rattling past a rest stop. People cheered! Nice! It helped relieve my mind of a nasty realization: if anything, this road was worse than our previous dragstrip. This made the Road to Roubaix look like the Yellow Brick Road. Gravel! Potholes! Cracks! Lions! Tigers! Bears! Oh, my!

And the band played on.

I took a 30-second recovery, considered the tactical situation, grabbed my bottle, and nearly drained it.

Yes, tactics mattered. I knew that Rick the PPPPP-PP SAG master was somewhere after the next rest stop—the now-legendary stop atop Starner Hill (whoa)—and I had a bottle-and-fuel cache with him. So, I could afford to drink.

But what of the guys around me? We had just power-blazed across the past two miles and we were about to hit the first climb. Who had what left? Who were the gazelles? Who were the Clydesdales? Where was MS Trent? Whither Dave C.? What about OS Blair?

MS Trent was gone. Dave C. was on the front. OS Blair was just ahead. I was boxed-in among three Clydesdales. I couldn't tell who was still strong.

There's where it starts! I couldn't see it
from behind the behinds I was behind.
"Where does it start?" I shouted. Between the road's twists, the forest around us, and the behemoths surrounding me, I had no idea where the actual hill was! I knew that false flats and teasing grades led to the hill proper, but I lacked local knowledge, and I couldn't see a damned thing! I needed to know where she started. My attack depended on it.

And I planned to attack.

The selection would be here—that much was clear. The lead-in had softened legs, and riders were about to get dropped.

The powerful Clydesdales who had gotten us to the base (many thanks!), were going to go. Those with spirit, but not the legs, were about to founder. It was about to happen.

And if I was to have any chance of realizing my ambitions, I had to attack this hill.

The road straightened, chains rattled, gears clattered...we were there!

I spied a gap to my left and shot through, shifting to my climbing gear as I rose from the saddle. I flashed past riders who waited too long to shift, and I was in open space. 360 watts.

I looked down and drove it. Eyes focused on the road just in front of my wheel, conscious of others, but aware that it was every man for himself.

Just before the top of Starner Hill (whoa) Marty S. unleashes,
beating me over the top. I hope he was just angry with his bike.
Did he know I wasn't racing him?
I'm a power climber. Short and steep is my happy place. Starner Hill (whoa) is short and steep—three short-and-steeps. It's my kind of hill.

I had rhythm as the road leveled. I saw Dave C. as we hit the second rise and moved past him. 600 watts.

I felt good. I had great rhythm and my breathing was in-sync. Lactic acid welled in my legs...and we came to the second reprieve. It was enough, just enough. I flashed a look around, surveying the scene: a handful of riders in front, few near me.Gears exploded next to me as I passed Marty S. Problems with shifting under load. He was not a happy camper.

Steady on. Don't race. The selection is made. You're in the top ten. Steady.

460 watts across the top.

Relief.

Recovery...and

Wherein the author...ah, to hell with it!

A flatter grade means a lower heart rate and less-labored breathing. I finished my water, recovering nicely, and charged. In front of me was a strung-out line of a few riders, negotiating the downs-and-ups that remained on the gravel-strewn roads.

Starner Hill (whoa) has a nasty little secret: it ain't over 'till its over.

You see, after you've climbed her; after your legs and lungs have stopped burning, and your heart has returned to your chest from its stratospheric vacation, you're greeted by some short steeps.

Bastards.

You dig deep, asking your legs to power-up once again. They respond (or not).

I climbed the last of the steeps (590 watts), feeling good as I closed the gap between me and the riders in front.

We passed the World Famous Top Of Starner Hill (Whoa) Rest Stop (the one with the brownies). In my sights along the straightaway in front of me I spied Marty S. and a few others. Tactically, everything was perfect. I was over the top, closing the gap, and my cache was just ahead.

Nice!

Then...

KA-POW!!!


If a tubular tire explodes in the forest, does anyone hear?
(Er, yes, they most definitely hear! DAMMIT!)


Tuesday, August 30, 2011

P P P P P-P P - Pelotonia 2011 Day 1 Ride Report (Part 1)

Preparation (Part 1)

In which the author fuels-up for the day's exertions...

0400: the alarm rings.

Tenderly, my feet hit the floor and I pad down to the kitchen.

Not P.M., dammit! A.M.!
Open fridge. Grab bowl. Open microwave. Insert bowl. Button, button, where's the button? Cook! Grab bottle. Hydrate. Beep! Open microwave. Lift bowl. Close door. Drizzle honey. Spoon? Scoop into maw. Chew. Swallow. Scoop. Repeat. Empty bowl. Pad upstairs. Check clock: 0415. Snuggle pillow. Sleep.

Preparation (Part 2)

In which the author armors for battle... without and within.

0515: the alarm rings.

Tenderly, my feet hit the floor. I pad to the bathroom to attend to "necessaries."

Ride: Nowhere
Mission accomplished, I check my K-Tape. I run my fingers up and down the tape, and I gently probe my calf. I wince a little at a particularly nasty spot: deep breath...release. Mostly good.

I'd spent the week hemming and hawing and avoiding commitment. Would I ride with the lead group?

I'd tested it a bit the day before on a "spin up your legs" ride. I'd felt good, as long as I remembered to be careful.

But I hadn't completely committed. And in the dark at 0525, I still wasn't sure what I could do.

Back in the bedroom I dressed: base layer, bibs, ankle brace, socks. I warmed the chamois cream in my hands. I applied it, protecting what cancer left behind. I stared into space—focused, not tired—seeking my answer.

Headphones in, iPod on. Music flowed. I padded back down to the kitchen. Green tea and chocolate time. A mouthful of peanut butter. "Polar Bear" pulsed.

It's on.
I had my answer.

Energy coarsed through me...slowly, but undeniably. Awareness. Sensation. I was alive. Each moment...precious.

I sipped some water and felt it trickle into my gut. I warmed as I stretched. Rhythm pulsed through me. Building...building. "Dreams Burn Down" began. A tear welled. I loosened a neck kink. And another.

"It's on," I declared.

"It's on."

The guitars crashed into cacophony. Noise swelled, tensed, and...released.

It's on.

I donned my jersey: the one that answers the question "Who Are You Riding For?"

It's on.

It hit me: I'm invested in this event. It matters.

It's on.

My Not-So-Little Secret

In which the author soliloquizes about his motivations and goals...

I'm a heart-on-his sleeve guy. To know me is...to know me. Of course, I'm human. I try to play poker; I obfuscate. I have ambition and guile.. But, I do those things so...badly!

I'm most comfortable when I'm most natural. It's why I write this blog.

So, here's my little Pelotonia secret: I wanted to be the first survivor to cross the line.

There, I wrote it.

Now, most of you are thinking: "meh."

Got it. Fine. Move along. But it's far more than "meh" to me.

I've written before about the importance of thriving. About how survivors face choices, and how I have chosen a different, difficult path.

I'm wearing my heart on my sleeve...
(Late-nite artwork inked by the effervescent Kara Razek.)
Transforming one's life is not easy. It requires intention, demands commitment, and consumes. Yet, the rewards are incredible—if you are open to them and wise enough to recognize them.

I was driven to be the first survivor across the line. I'm a good rider. I have power, I can endure, and I can swallow pain. I wanted to show what survivors can do.

Survivors can do...whatever they set their minds to doing.

And I wanted to be among the first riders across that line in Athens. I wanted to be a testament to my concept of "Thrive"

A Brief Digression...

When I was in the hospital I promised myself to get better, when I got better. In other words, I promised myself that I would forge a better person from me.

Easy promise. Foxhole promise. Gallows prayer. Easily made; easily forgotten.

Two years after the hospital I was the same bum as before. But I was angrier...consumed by bitterness. My weakness disgusted me.

I was so disgusted with myself that one day I dragged my sorry, fat ass up off the couch and started working.

Sometimes you have to break it all down before you can build it back up.

On the bus at 0515 every day. In the gym by 0615. I'm still working.

But I have results.

...Back to the Narrative...

The lead group is a hard place. It's fast. It's risky. It's no place for the weak-willed. Tenacity matters. On the day, you might not have the legs. But if you have the drive, you just might stick.

And that's what I meant when I declared: "it's on."

I didn't have the legs. I knew that. I had a leg and (maybe) 3/4 of the other.

But I had something that few others had: a hard, core desire. A smouldering burn from within that fueled my effort and tempered my pain.

It was on. It was so, very, very on.

Proper Prior Planning Prevents Piss-Poor Productivity

In which the author recommends a service and (perhaps) foreshadows (a bit)...

Leading up to the event, whilst hemming an hawing, I'd been in contact with a few of the local lads who were absolutely driven to be the lead group. This crew was targeting an outrageous finish time of 4:30. They had trained all season—riding long and deep into the hills—to prepare for Pelotonia.

They planned, plotted, and prepared for the day with military discipline.

One of their brilliant ideas was to have their own SAG wagon. They commissioned Rick (of Rick's Bicycle  Service...more on him in another posting) to meet them along the route. He would be a mobile water bottle and fuel cache.

Rick Rocks. Call him at 614.266.8822 (serving Central Ohio).
Rick's also an amazing mechanic.

So, if anything happened along the ride, Rick could help to make it right.

In the midst of all my hemming and hawing about "would I, or would I not" ride with the lead group, I jumped on the opportunity. I wanted to plan ahead, too. Feeling optimistic, I gave Rick four bottles, two flasks of energy gel, and a wheelset.

A wheelset?

Yep. I was riding tubulars. I knew that if I blew a tire it was "game over!" Knowing this was a real possibility, I gave him a set of clinchers—just in case of worst case. If I blew, at least I would have something to ride to complete the day.

And though I prepared, I prayed that I wouldn't need it.

On Food

In which the author proves pedantic regarding Real Food....

Years of Powerbars, Gu, Accelerade, and all sorts of "sports nutrition" has left me...unsatisfied. Most of it tastes chemical, all of it affects me in some unpleasant way, even though it helps with short-term energy.

Where's the honey pot? I'm just a Pooh-bear, after all!
My stomach always feels...icky; and I always feel like I need a good cleanse afterward.

Hippocrates suggested that we should "let food be thy medicine."

I'm a believer.

To that end, I've been making my own gels in recent months, and I've been packing "real food" for long rides.

No, I haven't gone the old-school Italian panini route. Instead, I pack nut butter and honey (or jam) wraps. They're portable, tasty, digestible, and wholesome. When I need to eat I chew on a 1/3 wrap. When I need a quick burst, I squeeze some of my home-brew gel.

It works. And I'm not ingesting monopotassium phosphate (used as a fertilizer, a food additive and a fungicide!) or FD&C red 40 on my ride!

For this ride I had five peanut butter and honey wraps (one for each hour) and one flask of gel, with several more flasks in cache with Rick. It would be just enough

Preparation (Part 3)

In which the author and his mates make their way to the start...

Scott ever-ebullient was lacking perk. His caffeine hadn't yet kicked in, but there were signs of life. His spirit was eager, and the spark was in his eye, even if the rest of him had not yet gotten the message.

I was somewhere deep inside. I occasionally emerged into non-self-consciousness, like an open-water swimmer lifting his head and seeking his bearings. I was ready: kit on—pockets brimming with food; body loose—ready to ride; and spirit free. I was with people I trusted completely, and it calmed me remarkably.

The Pelotonia SAG wagons hit the road on Day 1.
0600 and Lovely Lady Lucy smoothly strolled down the drive—an early morning visitation from an angel—vigorously escorted by Robert "I'm Kitted Up in Pink and White and Why the Hell Aren't You Ready Yet?" Collier. Robert was driving our train; making sure we racked bikes and got to the start. He was acting the hard man, getting us out on time. For my part, I was a happy passenger.

We loaded up and Lucy drove us through the pre-dawn mist. Robert had a plan. We executed.

We unloaded...somewhere, parking next to Trent "I've Got Mad Skillz, I'm Insane, and I Can Ride Like the Wind!" (Hereinafter referred to as "MS Trent.") Trent handed me a Campagnolo window sticker, and declared that he was paying his fare to ride my wheel. We laughed; (I was stoked! All my bikes are Campy-kitted!) But when I considered his steed and his physique—he had white-spoked Spinergys and a racer's physique—I thought to myself: "who's gonna be riding whose wheel?

Oh, what a beautiful morning!
T'was a half-mile ride to the start—far enough to file off the burred edges of my stacatto nerves. My heart rate was flying. I sprinted—because I had to! The energy was boiling up and over!

I needed to get back inside myself. I love my mates, but the stimulus was too much. I was frenetic with nerves; I needed to re-center.

At the start we convened with other friends, saying our "hello"s and "good luck"s and our "keep the rubber side down"s. Good vibes and smiling faces—just what you want to see and feel before setting off.

Mass starts—even the best of them— are chaos.
With 15 minutes to go, Mother Nature knocked once again. Blessed, blessed, Mother Nature! The perfect excuse to separate, isolate, and calm.

With 5 minutes to go I rolled to the "start-after-the-start", out on the road and away from mass-start chaos. I wanted to avoid the whole triathlon swim start experience. I was looking for Sloan "I Am a Rock and I'm Here for YOU" Spalding. He has that uncanny ability to set you at ease and make you believe that you're the center of the universe.

We found one another and were looking for other mates on the broad boulevard, when I heard a voice singing the National Anthem.

We stopped to honor the flag. As I listened I thought of the hobbled veterans I see every day at my gym. As I type this my bus passes Walter Reed Army Medical Center—another daily reminder of others' sacrifices. I'm humbled.

Papillon and me...we're pensive before the start.
A photographer captures the moment. He asks me my name and my cancer—referencing my arm artwork. We chat. Sloan rolls up, taps my shoulder, and says, "It's time."

We clip. We glide. We cross the median to catch the wave.

Here it comes!

Lights flashing! Sirens woop-wooping! The surge is upon us!

We're off!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Why We Rode

I'm back in Maryland. The road trip is complete!

Pelotonia 2011—the event—is in the books!

What remains? Exhaustion, post-Pelotonia blues, re-entry into the daily routine...and 60 more days of fundraising!

I'm working on my post-event musings and ride reports (for the two of you who might read them...). In the meantime, I thought I would share a video. Entitled "I Will", it's a wry St. Crispin's Day speech—a call to arms that balances poignancy and humor nicely.

And it's some pretty damned good film-making.

Once more into the breach, my friends...



Share and enjoy!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Tomorrow we ride.

I was preparing an entry today...but then I re-read some of my posts from last year.

Mistake.

They were good.

And the message is the same.

So I visited my muse, and I pondered, and I had a moment of clarity: I can't improve on last year.

So, here is today's post, on Pelotonia eve. It's the same post as last year's (from Pelotonia eve).

Share and enjoy...

++++++
Bike to Battle, Missouri
The diseases we call cancer are legion. Mobilizing a counterforce to do battle is our challenge. The enemy must be engaged on all fronts: financial, scientific, spiritual.... Such an undertaking requires endless resources and boundless passion.

Are we up to the challenge? Are we prepared to wage total war against this inexhaustible enemy?
Safe & Sound, UAE

The human spirit is able. But have we the will to harness our resources and march forth? Have we the strength to carry ourselves once more into the breach, dear friends? Once more?

Pelotonia is an answer. All who ride have declared themselves. All who support have pledged themselves. All involved have mobilized. We are a force, countering cancer's corruption.

Love Life. Fight Cancer, Netherlands
You play a part. Your neighbors play a part. We are all part of a global struggle. We all fight this battle.

We are the dreamers of dreams...we are the movers and shakers, of the world forever...

We are audacious. We are bold. We draw strength from one other. We are united in our cause: end cancer.

Ride. Roll forth. Show the world that we are making our stand. Here. Now.

Be bold. Be defiant.

Sound your barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world and declare "no more!"

You are among many.

Together, we ride.

Together, we...

Thrive.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

For the Bike Geeks

Cyclists like the rain...
Author's Note: Today I'm writing in a lighter tone. I'm on the road from Maryland to Columbus...thinking happy thoughts.

I am convinced—absolutely convinced—that all cyclists are bike geeks.

That's not to say that all who ride are bike geeks. There are riders, and there are cyclists. (If you need to ask, you're a rider; if you're nodding your head vigorously, you're a cyclist.)

I'm a cyclist.

I'm also a geek.

I'm the kind of guy for whom the Competitive Cyclist website is designed. Yes. I admit it. I surf for bike porn.

Hell, I'm the kind of guy who loves videos like this (the bit at 4:35 is jaw-dropping!):



Pathetic, aren't I?

So, in response to someone on Facebook, who recently suggested that Pelotonia riders should consider naming their bikes...

Here is my response...

Introducing Papillon


I call her Papillon. She's my butterfly. She's transformative. She's inspiring.

She doesn't let me down. She never discourages. She supports, and she encourages.

See, if you're a bike geek, not only do you NAME you bike, but you describe her in rapturously (and sometimes in hushed tones). And yes, BCB is aware of how much I love my bikes!

She's 16.5 pounds of Swiss-precision engineering excellence. She's a rocket (when she wants to be), and she's a companion on many of my excursions.

It took two years of collecting, trading, selling, and acquiring parts to build her.

I test-ride more than 20 bikes before buying her.

She's perfect.

And she's going to carry me through Pelotonia this weekend.

I only hope that I am rider enough for her. She need to be ridden by a cyclist.

(Photos below, for all of you who cannot STAND not seeing her!)

What She's Made Of...



Frame BMC SLX01 (2009)
Fork Easton  EC-90 (BMC CUstom Paint)
Seatpost BMC Streampost 73.5
Seat  Fizik Antares VS
Headset FSA Integrated
Stem Deda Quattro (100mm)
Bars FSA K-Force Carbon Compact
Bartape Fi'zi:k Microtex (Black)
Shifters Campagnolo Record 10
Brakes TRP R960
Cables Campagnolo -
Bottom Bracket Campagnolo Ultra Torque (Record)
Cranks Campagnolo Record 11 Compact (50/34)
Front Derailleur Campagnolo Record 10
Rear Derailleur Campagnolo Record 10
Chain Campagnolo Record 10
Pedals Look Keo-2 Carbon
Wheels
Tubular
Rim Zipp 303 (2011)
Front Hub Zipp 88
Rear Hub Cycle-Ops PowerTap Pro+
Cassette Campagnolo 13-26 (Record)
Tire Tufo Elite Ride 23
Clincher
Rim November RFSC 38s
Front Hub Novatec -
Rear Hub Cycle-Ops PowerTap SL+
Cassette Campagnolo 12-23 (Record)
Tire (1) Bontrager RL All-Weather (25mm)

Papillon rests in all her splendor!

That's a clean drivetrain. But, if you're a serious bike geek,
you'll spot a flaw in the build (that will soon be rectified).

PowerTap tells me just how weak I am.

I like the TRP brakes, but they barely fit with the 303s.
Break-in period was needed!

I think I tried 437 saddles before deciding on the Antares VS.
I can finally manage my numb-tush.

I love the lines; and the seat-post adjustment rocks!

Campagnolo Record 11 cranks with a 10-speed system...
because no one had the 10-speed cranks in stock!

I love the tight tolerances among these components.

My mechanic is a bigger geek than me.
He sourced this fork; she's a custom beauty!

Ignore the tire and the dried glue...look at the dimples!

Why—exactly—do they call it a "cockpit"?

Cables routed, cleanly, and she's ready to roll!

Geek-boy has a stickers with his name. He got it from his team.
It's like a customized jersey! Really, how pathetic is that?

I absolutely love this photo.



Wednesday, August 17, 2011

For the Ladies

Last week I published a shameless, patronizing post.

I'm ashamed.

But it was for a good cause...

...and allure attracts. Sex sells.

And the good folks at Victoria's Secret know it:
Women make up the majority of the company’s executives—they represent two-thirds of those tuning in to their fashion shows, and they account for a whopping 98% of the company’s customer base. This is their audience, plain and simple. It’s no coincidence that two of the most high-profile Angels in its short history are women other women don’t, as a rule, dislike: Tyra Banks and Heidi Klum. Both are charming and down-to-earth models who aren’t bitchy about their beauty...

...men aren’t entirely disregarded, but according to Ed Razek, Victoria’s Secret doesn’t “do salacious shots that women would not like.”
As I've written before, Ed's a genius.

So, based on this logic, my post...while intended for the guys...was really for the ladies!

That's my story, and I'm sticking to it...

All kidding aside, let's talk about the ladies...

One in Three


Yep. It's better than us guys (1 in 2), but still. That's quite a number.

One of every three women will be affected by cancer.

And the incidence trends are worth noting:
Cancers on the increase in women include leukemia, lung cancer, melanoma, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, and thyroid cancer, which began to increase sharply during the early 1980s. The increase in thyroid cancer in women is "particularly notable"....

Ovarian cancer began to decline in 1985 and has continued to decline to 2003, and the incidence of breast cancer has shown a "recent stabilization and possible decline"....

"Save the Boobies" indeed...
[A] detailed examination of breast cancer incidence shows stable rates in the most recent time period (2001-2003), preceded by a deceleration in the rate of increase since about 1987.

Even so:

Worldwide, breast cancer comprises 22.9% of all cancers (excluding non-melanoma skin cancers) in women. In 2008, breast cancer caused 458,503 deaths worldwide (13.7% of cancer deaths in women).

So, Why Is This "For the Ladies"?


Please help me raise $4000 to help END CANCER!

Donate to Pelotonia
at my rider page
.

  • 100% OF EVERY DOLLAR
    raised goes directly to life-saving cancer research!
  • DOLLAR MATCH, TOO!
    Every dollar you contribute will be matched by The Limited Brands! I will be wearing their colors proudly!

You caught me. It's more "about the ladies".

We all know what motivates guys. So I directed a post at them. It was a bit of adolescent fun.

Women are motivated...differently.

To that end, I happily will share this with you: I adore my wife.

I'll repeat that. I ADORE MY WIFE!

BCB is absolutely the light of my days. We're in our 14th year of marriage, and my passion for her has never waned. She completes me, teaching and nurturing and...simply being.

And the thought of her developing cancer crushes me.

She deserves better. She deserves to live a life without that suffering.

Cancer strikes at us all. Let's do something to end it.

Author's Note: It's late, and I'm feeling a bit mushy.
Three songs..special to me, that remind me of my beloved...


This one's about meeting her...



This one describes what she is to me...



This one expresses the way she affects me...



Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Limited Brands = Cool

Author's Note: This one's for the Limited Brands peloton.

I'm one of you, but I'm not of you

I'm in the peloton, but I'm not a Limited Brands associate.

I'm not married to one of you. I'm neither a vendor nor a consultant. I'm not from Columbus (not even close). I'm not from New York. Heck, I'm not even from Utah!

I do, occasionally (and accidentally) wear BCB's VS underwear But stories about sorting black bikini's in the near-dark at 0500 are, perhaps, better suited to another blog).

All of which contributes to my outsider's perspective on what the Limited Brands is doing for Pelotonia.

And what you are all a part of is, simply, remarkable.

Political Theory 101


When I first visited Columbus, I was struck by the city's small-town feel. The word "community" resonated—in a non-political way.

I grew up in New York, colleged in Miami, lived and travelled overseas for years, and work in Washington—I "get" big cities. All of them have their unique neighborhoods—each contributing to the patchwork that is a city, but not defining it. In these metropolises, "community" is a word used by politicians to denote...something larger than individual self-interest, but something artificial—a construct. It's a word that—from the left or the right--means: "my posse".

That ain't what you've got.

Pelotonia 2009 was a wet slap across the face for this urban observer.

Are YOU in this photo?
I saw a huge participation. I witnessed complete buy-in. It was apolitical. It was unselfish. It was...amazing.

And it felt truly grassroots. Sure, there were sponsors, but the power—the raw energy—came from people, not institutions.

Wonderful!

But limiting.

For Pelotonia to grow—and grow in a meaningful way—where "meaningful" translates as "raises more money"—organizations needed to step in to help buttress the solid, but fragile, structure. Pelotonia's foundation was strong, but growth needs support.

Enter, Limited Brands.

Leadership


You probably know (or know of) the backstory far better than I ever will. In essence, Limited Brands declared itself a leader—without declaring itself to be a leader. In 2010 the organization committed significant funding to support riders, and thus Pelotonia. By offering a corporate match, Limited Brands was following a basic economic principle: people respond to incentives.

The result? Thousands flocked to the peloton, committing themselves to raise money and get in shape to ride against cancer.

The result? Geography became less of a factor, as the peloton attracted riders and supporters from well-outside the Columbus community.

The result? Millions raised—just by the Limited Brands peloton.

Coolness


Andrew Keller observes:
To try to be cool is to not be cool. To chase cool, you're chasing something that already exists, which means you're always going to be on the wrong side of it, you'll always be following.
The King of Cool. He did it...all.
Oh....and cancer killed him.

I love that observation. It appeals to my sense of real.

The struggle to End Cancer is sexy.

The struggle to End Cancer is cool.

Cool is doing the right thing for the right reason in the right way...and with a little style and impeccable timing.

Limited Brands isn't chasing; it's leading. It's showing how to engage a corporation with the community, while breaking down silos and crossing borders. It's doing the right thing (charitable work) for the right reason (cancer affects us all, and we have the power to fight back), in the right way (through corporate matches, internal "friendly" competitions among brands, and through personal, C-level support and commitment), with a little style (VS Angels, rallys and pep events, and absolutely rocking jerseys...in pink!), and with impeccible timing (the communication and activity flow has been coordinated to peak this week, and the execution has been what you would expect from a world-class marketing organization).

That's a long sentence, designed to provide nuance to four simple words:

Limited Brands is cool.

Audacious You


Danton is credited with stating:
Pour les vaincre, messieurs, il nous faut de l'audace, encore de l'audace, et toujours de l'audace...!"

(To defeat them, gentlemen, we need audacity, still more audacity, and audacity forever...!)
Limited Brands is audacious. Its commitment is audacious.

The dead, angry French guy
is on topic!
What's audacious?
  • Limited Brands committed $2.5 million over the next five years to support Pelotonia. With corporate matching of donations, it will likely be far more...
  • Rick Paul raised more than $100,000, but he cannot ride on the date, so he rode last weekend. “It says on my website that I’m riding to Athens and back. It doesn’t say when."
  • A Limited employee working in Dubai plans to start riding there at 3 p.m., which coincides with the 7 a.m. start next weekend in Columbus...
  • Your story. Whatever it may be; it's contributing to the audacity of our fight against cancer.

Limited Brands isn't riding shotgun; Limited Brands is on point. Limited Brands is a leader, focused on defeating cancer.

And you play a part.

And I am privileged to be a part, and I am honored to be able to write this.

Chapeau! Limited Brands!

Roll on!

Author's Note: Often, when writing this blog, a song pops into my head, providing the theme music for the subject. Most times I'll place the tune in-line. Somehow, today, that didn't feel appropriate, so here it is, appended to the end of today's post. Share and enjoy!

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Ride I Needed




Please help me raise $4000 to help END CANCER!

Donate to Pelotonia
at my rider page
.

  • 100% OF EVERY DOLLAR
    raised goes directly to life-saving cancer research!
  • DOLLAR MATCH, TOO!
    Every dollar you contribute will be matched by The Limited Brands!
    I will be wearing their colors proudly!
When you leave the house before sunrise, you know you're committed.

When you leave the house during a downpour, before sunrise, you know you're something.

I had a few companions on my ride: Anne and Shirley. Their voices echoed through my head for the five hours of rain that helped define my ride.

If it were not for them. I would have been left entirely to myself. In the first two hours of my ride I only saw three vehicles. I didn't see any bicycles for four hours.

Like I wrote: when you leave the house during a downpour, before sunrise, you know you're something.

And when you plan to do all of that for 130 miles with ~8,000 feet of climbing—while injured—you're...something unprintable.

I'm Only Happy When It Rains


Sunday's ride was a test. My injury was forefront in my mind. This ride was to help me set my riding expectations for Pelotonia. I know that it's the money that matters believe me, I get it. But my performance matters to me as well. And I know that I won't be happy if I don't ride to my expectations.

Mercifully, it was raining. Sometimes, it was pouring. That makes me happy.

Shirley

As I've written before, I do so love to ride in the rain. It comforts and tests me like no other conditions. It's primal, elemental. It's full commitment and complete concentration

Riding in the rain feels pure. If you're there, you're there because you want to be. Something is driving you, and being there is being true to yourself.

I hope Pelotonia 11 is in the driving rain.

Here Comes the Rain Again


I felt remarkably good. My legs had required from Wednesday night's sufferfest. And I was armored for battle.


Annie (Come on, you knew this was coming!

My physical-therapy sage recommended that I use an ankle brace—to give me feedback that would limit my calf movement. He also suggested kinesio tape, to help support the calf.

Good ideas, those.

Armor!
I was two hours in, tracking at ~16 mph, and I was managing my power output to the low 200s—often much lower. It was not a ride about speed. It was not about power intervals. It was to test myself—my fitness and my leg—to assess what I could do.

And I learned a lot.

I discovered that I could do...most of what I could normally do I'm about 80% to 85% on a bike. That's compared to about 50% on foot. Overall, my power average was identical to my 2-day Shenandoah ride in July. But it came at a cost.

Because of my calf, my biomechanics are...different. I'm working far more with my left leg, with predictable consequences:
  • Left IT-band tightness
  • Left knee soreness
  • Left hamstring fatigue
On the right, there are consequences as well:
  • Right hip-flexor fatigue
  • Right hamstring...weirdness
  • Right shin fatigue
I'm imbalanced—no surprise there. And if Pelotonia wasn't less than a week away, I'd succumb to mindful rest and a lot of swimming.

But Pelotonia is in six days, and all my biomechanical issues are manageable. Stretching, massage, tape, bracing, and Vitamin I can get me through.

What else did I learn?
  • I can't sprint
  • I can't surge
  • I can climb—but I need to do so by adjusting technique and with less top-end power than I am accustomed to
  • I can push out long, sustained power sessions. I can still handle a bike
  • I can put my head down and suffer
And I can still enjoy the experience.

Taking Flight


Mile 73. On a long, flat-ish stretch outside Thurmont, with farms on either side of the road. Realizing that I have a lot of miles in front of me, were I to make it home. I'm soaked through, but the rain has just stopped. Traffic is beginning to appear, as folks emerge from their rainy-Sunday cocoons.

On the periphery, from my left, I see something in the sky. It's larger than it should be. Thump-thump-thump beat its wings. Three strokes. That's all it took to cover the distance between us. It was heading straight for me, and then it banked, as only a bird can. Strong, fluid, powerful. It turned, curving away to my left, passing behind me just as it approached the road.
Sometimes Mom pays us a visit, bearing wonderful gifts...

And I was blessed with a perfect view of an American Bald Eagle in full flight.

"Thank You!" I called as non-rain-induced chills passed over me.

I closed my eyes, pedaled on, and watched as my mind replayed all 5 seconds of the experience.

And I rode on.

Decisions, Decisions


I wasn't going to make it. 130 simply wasn't going to happen. I was out of food, out of energy, and somewhere around mile 87 I got the first twinge in my calf. It was time to reconsider.

If I pushed on the whole way, I might make it home uninjured. But chances were that my bio-mechanical issues would result in another injury. I started the ride with the intention of testing myself. I had achieved that goal; so why push it?

And—much to my surprise—my ego wasn't throwing up barriers. Somehow I wasn't viewing not finishing as a failure. I actually believed what I was saying to myself.

Well, we all grow up sometime, don't we?

So I called in the cavalry (for the second time in two weeks), and I was picked up.

112 miles. 7.5 hours. 16.1 mph average. ~8,000 feet climbed. 4,000+ calories burned.

And one decision made.

I'm riding Pelotonia. Both days. And I'm going to...

...decide on Wednesday if I can hang with the big boys.

Let's see how I recover, and what I have on Tuesday night.

Yep...I'm wussing-out on making a decision today!