Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Great wheels make good riders faster

Do wheels matter?  I think absolutely yes.  The bottom line for me is that great wheels will make a great rider faster but great wheels won't make an average or beginner rider any better.  I realize this doesn't sound entirely logical but in my experience it's true.  Because if you think about it, great wheels are more like a technology instrument than a piece of equipment and only great or at least good riders have the capabilities (physical talent,skills acumen & racing IQ) to get the full performance from the superior design and technology. 


If this still doesn't make sense to you think of it this way; It's kinda like aeroplane pilots and planes.  Only top gun pilots can fly a Lockheed F-117 Nighthawk effectively.  The pilot that flies bi-coastal for Virgin could probably only get an F-117 up in the air and land it but not much more.  He's far from being able to make that plane do what it was designed to do, which is to cause a lot of damage.  A top gun pilot however is a totally different cat.  He knows just how to make an F-117 perform and can eek everything out of it.  He'll strap that stealth fighter on his back like an Alpine pack, flip the blowers to blue flame straight off the deck and do serious damage.  Riders & wheels are like this.  Make sense?

So what wheels are the top gun riders winning on these days? Tech guys out there will probably know this but I was impressed to learn that Kazakhstans' Team Astana rode Corima MCC wheels to victory in two Classic's this year, the Amstel Gold Race and Liege-Bastogne-Liege.  And this past weekend Alexander Vinokourov won the London Olympic Games Road Race riding the MCC's also.  Astana won a whole lot of other races too but these 3 wins are massive accomplishments.   Two Classics and the Olympics?  Not too shabby.

Corima MCC wheelset
But as amazing as these results are it's my opinion that Astana 'probably' would have won these races anyway because they're a top tier professional team and they know how to win the world toughest bike races.

That having been said, it's also fair to note that 'probably' winning three of the world toughest races (among many others) is very different than 'definitely' winning them.  And here's the thing, Astana definitely won those races so now we're talking absolutes, which gives solid ground to recognize the MCC's have proven themselves at the worlds fastest level as unquestionably fast and consistently fast in different conditions.

Bottom line;  Astana has ridden the MCC's to victory all year long; therefore the MCC's deserve a definite & meaningful level of credit for Team Astana's incredible success.  The MCC's are really super fast by any measure...probably even maybe the worlds' fastest wheels.

Peace and roll strong

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Bonsai tree

I'm thinking about picking up the Bonsai tree I bought last month.  It's a crape myrtle Bonsai and back at the nursery for rehab after a touch of heatstroke and I'm looking forward to getting it back.  I was bummed that I almost killed it within the first month.  The peace and tranquility that these awesome little trees are purported to give was completely usurped by the urgency, stress and anxiety of thinking that I nearly killed it in less than 30 days.  But I'm told this is all just part of learning the art curve in Bonsai, which makes me feel a little bit better. 

I don't have a picture of my Bonsai because it's at the nursery but it stands around 9-10 inches tall and is about 25-30 years old.  It has a gentle 'slanting or windswept' style to it that I really like, and as with all bonsai's, it's a miniature version of a massive tree and looks as though it belongs elsewhere, somewhere expansive, open and rugged.  The tidy cream colored pot my bonsai sits in now, on my bathroom windowsill, belies it's appearance entirely.  And I guess this is the allure of Bonsai trees.  Their scale throws you off and effects subtle stirrings of internal perspective.

My tree comes from a nursery in Littleton, MA called Bonsai West.  I've seen the place for years but had never been there.  I became curious this time though as I was riding by.  Visually it was probably their cleanly branded flags waving in the breeze that really got my attention this time but there were also other reasons that really don't matter I guess.  The fact is I decided to return in the afternoon, which I did and the rest is history. 

Here's a picture of a trophy Bonsai with the same pruning style as mine.  This Bonsai is far older and more beautiful than mine.  I'd guess it may be 100 years old but regardless of their age all Bonsai are very amazing.

Bonsai West photo.  Their exhibit at D-Scale in Boston

I registered for a pruning and care workshop that starts in a few weeks and looking forward to it.  I'll need to know a lot more than I do now.  The cerebral and artistic aspects of this are intriguing.  All I know at this point is that Bonsai's require a lot of attention, knowledge and care but you also tap into a lot of creativity.  They also demand a consistent part in your daily mind-scape but hopefully this will be in a calming and underwelming way.

Peace and roll strong.

Friday, July 27, 2012

London Olympics

The Olympic Games are opening tonight in London.  My mother was British and I lived in England for most of my early childhood (Cornwall).  She met my dad while visiting Washington DC.  He was a Lt. Naval officer stationed at the Pentagon at the time and I guess they met at a party or something, so I have strong associations over there.  Mostly weird ones (Catholic boarding school) but also a few good ones that I choose to align my experience with. 


 
London has hosted more summer Olympic Games than any other country.  I didn't know that but it doesn't surprise me.  The backdrop for the film Chariots of Fire was the London Games in 1908.  Google told me they also hosted the 1948 games; which to pull off just four years after the WWII Blitzkrieg on London, is pretty amazing.  Londoner's rebuilt their city from rubble and had it dressed up on display for the whole world in just a few yrs....so much as to say, 'We prevailed and won over Nazi tyranny.'   Quite the accomplishment. Given their track record I suspect the Briton's will pull these games off beautifully.


I liked Chariots of Fire too.  True stories always make the most gripping films.  Scotsman Eric Liddell said "When I run I feel his pleasure".  I don't compete for god in that way but hearing him say it the way he did, from essence, was moving.  This visceral level of commitment is just incredible.  Every Olympian has the same 'fire' in their belly as Eric Liddell.  Different drivers, probably?  But the same level of passion.  I'm looking forward to watching this on display for the world.  Just an awesome thing.

Peace and roll strong.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Do it now


I was scanning an article (When beauty fades) in the NYTimes Fashion & Style this morning.  Guess there's a documentary called “About Face: The Supermodels, Then & Now.” to be broadcast Monday on HBO focused on supermodels as they age.  I don't know too much about that stuff but it sounds like it can be a rough scene, from the stand point that the players play for keeps and, if you don't make it, there's an over flowing raft of lows waiting for you.  But the trade off can be a life of super highs.

Obviously, the risk is worth it to many people.  After all, you only live once.  Why not give it your all, your best shot and design a life that makes you truly happy?  The world is full of doubters and sulking finger pointers pontificating a life of self pity and compromise.

My daughter turns 14 in August.  She has always had a strong drive to be successful.  From an early age I've watched her pursue improvement in a process and make a mark in whatever she wanted.  Perhaps this is too much adult speak for such a young women, even for one so accomplished and gifted.  But essentially, this is exactly what it is.  Anna is a hard worker and she wants to be relevant.  These are some of her best qualities and among other things, why I admire her so much.


Thinking about this it occurred to me that working hard and the desire to be relevant go hand in hand.  Meaning you won't hit your mark without mixing both of these together; in a life bucket, so to speak.  Desire alone isn't enough and just working hard by itself  isn't enough either. You have to have both of these in your bucket at all times.  Easier said than done.

Back to the NY Times piece for a sec.
One of the former model's said "My social status has diminished because I know I’m not invited to the A parties anymore, As you grow older, you don’t count anymore."  Sounds to me like her desire is still all there; however, she doesn't mention anything about what she is doing to change her situation.

Maybe I am assuming too much here but it sounds like she's resting on her laurels.  Which is a fatal mistake. You gotta keep working at what you want.  She forgot to keep pouring hard work into her bucket.  Sure, she's older and less energetic but life doesn't care if she is 20 or 60 yrs old.  It rewards relevance. The missing piece here is being busy at your passion, so I say... just get after it and stay after it.

I think it is natural for people to have periods of ambition and adventure and then at other times sink into a sphere of ambivalence.  Having said that, getting what we want out of this veil of experience (Life) is earned every day.  We have to find the bucket we want, maybe even make it ourselves, then protect it and continually fill it with hard work and desire.

Peace and roll strong.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

The Spice in Life

Sitting here on a Saturday morning contemplating what to do is kinda different?  I've been off the bike for a week and thinking about taking another week off.  Back in February I wrote a post about recovery.  That was almost six months ago and the signs around rest described then are back & I'm not second guessing them.

So I have a lot of down time on my hands which isn't 'necessarily' a good thing. lol.  The last time I felt like this I ended up at a Rave in Lowell, MA and lost my voice for a week? 


It's times like this that I wish I didn't live among some of the North East's best biking roads because the tradeoff is the lack of nearly everything else (save serenity for writing).  I reckon to be happy here next week when I'm riding again but right now I'm a thousand miles away thinking the Running of the Bulls might be a better place to be!
 

I get pretty damn Rammy with too much downtime.  Sound familiar?  A beckoning wells up inside calling for the existential and memorable.  Tangential experience(s) aren't enough.  I guess a life of just the mundane has always scared the hell out of me?  I think it scares a lot of people but there's a time and place for everything.

That having been said; Hemingway wrote about the Running of the Bulls masterfully and colorfully.  He even participated.  Despite his demons he could connect and he sure knew how to have a magnificent time too by god.  I think he knew the spice in life brings out its' flavor.

Peace and roll strong.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Friends

My friend Tom Sterbutzel called me out of the blue yesterday.  Tom is my oldest friend, the one I've known the longest.  We met in first grade but became chums in second or third grade on account of our fathers' being friends.  I call him Sterbz.  He calls me Skooch (don't ask).  Over the years we got closer, going off to boarding schools in NE together around the same time and hanging out in the summers.  We weren't inseparable though.  It was more like we had our separate circles but still connected and would catch up on the next flip side, when-ever and where-ever that was. Tom was best man in my wedding, a support through its breakup and is godfather to my son Luke.

Jughead51 rocking the Paisley, 3rd grade,'72
Talking with Tom yesterday I was thinking that has been a long time since we met.  This tune will give you a hint as to just how long.  It was on the FM pretty hard around that time and I posted this video, not JUST because of the 70's psychedelics or the 'groovy' revolving graphics resplendent of bike rims, but because it represents the era in which Sturbz and I met.


I have a couple of other friends I've known a really long time too.  You could say they're my 'oldest' and best friends.  I truly appreciate the few friends I have like this.  Its rare that separate paths of individuals intersect with one another throughout an entire lifetime.  Over a span of time this long many challenging experiences happen and actualize in our lives that can break the bonds of friendship but it's the awareness and support throughout these things that provide the stuff needed to cultivate meaningful ground and lasting ties between two people.  Friendships like this are special and the exception rather than the rule.

It's okay to have acquaintance friendships too though.  They last a while then you part ways, which isn't always the greatest thing, but it's a part of life and I think there's a place for both levels of friendship.

I also think it's important to be by yourself once in a while without friends around.  It's during these times that you can befriend yourself and hone insights around self clarity. Having said that, I don't think anyone should be alone for too long.  We need friends.  Solitude heals, loneliness kills.       Peace and roll strong.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Grand HUNdo (Report)

So I made the scenic drive out to Southampton, MA yesterday for the Grand HUNdo ride.  It was a banner weather day and I gotta say Western MA is some beautiful territory.  Too bad it's so far from everything else I like.  But it was nice to be out there regardless and to part-take in the HUNdo because it is truly a unique cycling event and was a one of the highlights of the season so far.


The HUNdo is first and foremost an event that includes a very tough ride.  One might even say the overall experience at Grand HUNdo takes precedence over the ride itself.  There's a laid back celebratory atmosphere going on boosted by a sound system van rocking good tunes; kinda like a renaissance festival vibe with an all you can eat feasting of authentically prepared Fowl & Hog Roast and free flowing frosty brew to chase it all down with.  They also set up a giant tent for everyone to gather and part-take under and had an ice cream truck which also gave the whole thing a campy jamboree flair.  They picked a cool spot too, on a elevated pasture overlooking a lovely vista of the Pioneer Valley.  The spot was just above a quaint, shabby chic vineyard where they offered free wine tasting, so it wasn't too bad at all.

Image from favin.com 

The Grand HUNdo ride itself is an 87 mile trek traversing sharp foothills along rugged country routes including many harsh off road gravel sections.  It is sorta like what I envision a cyclo cross race to be like but this is for 5 hours vs the 50 minutes of most cross races.  It has about 7,500 feet of climbing but distance and elevation are far more difficult over the terrain of irregular sand, loose gravel, roots and rocks that this course offers.  I don't know for sure but I'd guess there was about 35 miles of off road sections.  These roads are the training ground for Jeremy Powers and it's no wonder to me that he won National's last year training out there.  

All in all it was a very challenging ride and quite tiring.  On a 'normalized' Cat 1 scale of 1 to 10 I'd give it a 9.3 for technical challenge and a 9.7 for physical demand.  The ride itself was not so much fun as it was edgy, interesting and kinetic.  I guess if you knew the course beforehand these qualities would diminish a bit but as a virgin HUNdo rider I found it to be all of these things...which is a win.

Jeremy, Al and Mukunda, the JAM guys & all the volunteers did an impressive job putting this together.  It was easy to see the effort and thought that went around everything.  Not the least of which was the excellent coordination of safety and guidance around the whole course including the directional signs and the posting of the copious hazardous sections.  There was an awesome outdoor shower and plenty of really good support of water/drinks and Ice Cream stop's and technical assistance provided by two Shram vehicles.

Proceeds of the Grand HUNdo go towards the JAM Fund (Grant for aspiring cyclists) so the $95 entry gives you sense a synergistic philanthropy; which is refreshing.  I think many of us are a little worn out paying $45 for crits that are strictly for profit and that we've all done at least a dozen times before; and that often times leave you with the feeling you've been blocking hockey pucks like a shell shocked goalie for 2 hours.  Crits and road races still have their place though, absolutely.  I still enjoy them but cycling offers an enormous panoramic with many other experiences too.

Peace and roll strong.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Grand HUNdo

The last couple days I've rolled into my place around 9:00 pm after extending my ride home for no particular reason other than the weather has been perfect and I want to get some mellow longer rides in my legs this week in prep for a ride/race on Saturday called the Grand HUNdo.

I guess the HUNdo has been going on out in Western Massachusetts for a few years now and it's run by some good dude's Alec Donahue & Mukunda Feldman of J.A.M. Fund/ Wheelhouse Racing and cyclocross uber star & road pro Jeremy Powers aka J-Pow.  I guess J-Pow, Alec and Mukunda are pretty tight, hence the acronym J.A.M.


I had no plans to do the HUNdo until this past weekend but here's how it went down.  I was racing in New Britain, CT on Sunday.  New Britain (a hop North of NYC) is always a jankie guerrilla crit earmarked by gnarly last lap crashes and usually a fist fight or two after the race.  Last year even the race promoter got sucker punched in the face.  So, yeah it's like that.

Anyway there was a break of four up the road with two laps to go. They were going to take the race but I was irritated and on edge because the crashes were beginning (my good bro's Keith Kelly & Jon Lowenstein both went down) and I wanted no part of it.  Dudes started screaming and I could feel a big pile up coming on.  I noticed Brad Huff (Jelly Belly) on my left and my friend Aaron Hubble (Bissell-Abg-Nuvo) on my right so I told both of them to follow me as I drove through the mess and chased the break full gas for about a mile or so.  This got the pack up to the break with a little less than one lap to go. The effort kept everything  strung out & safe.  In the final sprint Brad got pipped by Mengoni  for 2nd and Aaron rolled in strong for 3rd and there were no crashes so it was well worth the effort.

After the race Aaron let me know he appreciated the effort and Brad Huff came up to me as well.  Brad & I had never met but he was super cool and let me know he appreciated it as well. I guess J-Pow was crashed out as well so Brad was isolated and he didn't let my gesture go unrecognized.  After a bit of this and that, Brad mentioned the Grand HUNdo and encouraged me to do it this weekend.  He said it would be the most fun of the summer; highlighted by 2 ice cream stops and a pig roast n beer at the end, so I figured 'what the heck why not, I'm in.'  Somehow I get the feeling 'fun' will also include a plenty of time in the pain cave.  

Peace and roll strong.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Post race 'Let Down'


Ever notice a day or two after a target race you have a feeling of let down or even a little depression?  It doesn't happen to me much anymore; probably because I haven't set up target race in a while.  My only target these days is measuring the 'fun factor' in every pedal stroke... 'Fun' defined as being strong & fit and the expression of this in races and training.  The results aren't that important to me now although continuing to learn the complexities and positives within a race and the lifestyle are.  And yet regardless of this Monday's after a weekend of racing can still be a bit rough.  I'll feel a fluttering anxiety throughout the day and maybe be a bit bummed out too.  It's a murkiness nobody wants on their shoulders but I suspect many athletes experience the same thing on a regular basis.

I also think the bigger the event is (or the build up to it), the bigger the let down-depression can potentially be.  There's definitely a correlation here. The scale of the former affects the degree of the latter.


Personally speaking I'd have a weight in my head after a big event. Sorta like a 'now what' question mark that would spiral in my head.  'What am I gonna do with this fitness and focus; ...all the sacrifice, those training hours....what do I do with all of that force now?' Stuff like this would swirl in my head. Couple this with a honed physiology and acute urgings for an outlet, it makes for a potent projection of  fight or flight nervousness mixed in a grey sense of drift at the same time.  It sucks!

Sport psychologist's have it all mapped out but for guys like me I think simple reasoning is a good approach. I don't have a solution but I think awareness of it will make for better preparation going in and help manage expectations & emotions going out...you know?  Be aware and recognize it for what it is, then figure out a way to deal with it that works best for your personal makeup.  I reckon that'd be the first step.

Peace and roll strong.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Retro July 4th

A couple of days ago I was talking with some Triathlete friends.  They were joking around about having a retro triathlon where everyone would use vintage Tri-gear and clothing from the 90's.  It was pretty funny.  If they ever actually pull it off I could see myself training for that one, maybe?  But with the the 4th of July just around the corner the conversation got me thinking about 4th of July's back in the 80-90's.


I grew up in Great Falls, VA about 15-18 miles west of DC along the Potomac River.  The Forth is a big deal in DC and something all 'kids' looked forward to.  As I remember it there was a pretty laid out regime for everyone between 17-21yrs old.

Basically you'd go to Ocean City, MD a day or two before the forth then head back into city for an all day & evening bash on the monument mall.  There was a live concert (usually The Beach Boys) followed by fireworks.

This was pre 9-11 so the city would really open up for it and made friendly accommodations for the 500,000-700,000 people that would migrate in for the party.  The cops were laid back then and most people were pretty chill.  Being discreet enough you could even bring a keg of beer in there with you without a problem.


It was a good and special time.  Innocent and pure.  I can clearly see the sunburned and semi-inebriated smiles on the effusive faces of friends I thought would be in my life always.  Images, cooling off in the reflection pool with 'Help me Rhonda' boosting a carefree atmosphere of certainly and promise.

I look back at those times with a grateful spirit to have been there and shared this with friends and other happy and content Americans.  I don't expect we'll ever see this particular element of national celebration and fun again.  It was a moment in time that can't be repeated, not in my lifetime anyway.  I'm hopeful there will be cool and fascinating new times and experiences ahead for this incredible and complex country but those were days and times we won't ever see again.  Sad but true.

Peace and roll strong.