Monday, July 28, 2008

Aw, Shucks

ProBikes is my local shop, right around the corner from us...its whose jersey I wear in races and its where I go to read bike magazines, use obscure tools, annoy the mechanics with my ineptitude, ring up one hell of a huge tab, and feel like I have a semblance of an extended family.

I went in there today for the first time in a couple weeks (I'm usually more regular than that) and it was just Jamie and Alex, which was other official customers, so we could shoot the shit for a little bit. Jamie has experience in every type of biking ever, and he's done them all well, and he's Canadian, so he's great. And everytime I talk to Alex I learn or think about something new. He's the fastest guy on a bike in Asheville, he's rediculously intelligent, he'll dish out more shit than you can handle, and for all these things, I have a huge amount of respect for him. He's also all legs, which reminds me of the drawings children do, which look rediculous, but I think are actually an incredible example of the ability to draw perspective, which is hard for even advanced artists to do. Think about it: when you're knee high to everyone around you, this is how you would see people: I drew that myself and added the cycling cap so you would know it was Alex. Anyway, this is sort of what he looks like to me, because he's so tall.

These guys help me out a lot, in little ways that really amount to a lot more. The sort of "I'll be back around 5 to get that bottom bracket and put it in." Then I slip out for a ride, come back, and Alex has come and gone, to finish up some other job he had to do, and just for the hell of it, he finished up my bike for me. He freely tosses me spokes, Stan's, advice, ridicule, wisdom, etc. and I fully appreciate and take in it all.

Sometimes I feel like I put a lot of work into this cycling hobby, not to mention a lot of money, and getting breaks is hard. I sent out tons of race resumes last season, only to recieve rejections, dinky-sponsorships, or no response at all, and I see the same thing happen to riders who are a hell of a lot faster than I am, and super hard-working, and such good advocates of the sport...and its all them, not much outside help, and its hard. So when folks like Alex and Jamie and Phil and Kevin and to a much more prolonged extent, Art Shuster, show a little bit of faith in me, and are so willing to help, that means a whole hell of a lot to me.

Oh, and better watch out for Team Canada. Alex, (who is rediculously fast and deserves to show the rest of the world how fast he is, and I want him to because he's still young and needs to do this for himself) and I suckered Jamie, the GodFather-Like-Woah-of-Cycling, to be our "coach." Whatever that means. But we'll be sponsored by beer (Labatt's, of course), ice-fishing, maple syrup, and hockey. And Alex and I will figure out where our potentials lie. This is important, this is good. Sometimes being serious and determined is ok. We'll probably make fun of ourselves a whole bunch, we'll have to give up certain things like real jobs, Alex will call what we're doing (i.e. training) "gay", but that'll be ok, because we're going to go for it. We'll be faster than we are now, and that's cool. But we really won't try that hard, because we all now that that's not cool.

Jamie (right) on a day off

Philosophisizing.....or whatever

"Were spinning around in inifinite space,
why shouldn't we encounter difficulties?"
--Marie Rainer Rilke
Ok, so I'm back from my run in awhile, and first time in two weeks that my knee didn't hurt. I went kaboom on the road bike a couple weeks ago, and since them my knee's been old-man style. But I did to it what I usually do for injuries...keep forcing running and biking, making it hurt, acknowledging it hurts, but not doing anything about it, and then suddenly it just goes away. Of course, this isn't always the best way to handle injuries, and each case takes good-judgement and critical thinking, of which I have neither, so my advice will stop there.

Anyway, this injury-treatment method of mine is now applicable to boys. It hurts, it sucks, then one day its over, and I go out for a great run, and think about life philosophies, bad jokes, Beatles songs, and why anyone would ever own a tiny dog.

So here it is...what I learned from my first good run in two weeks: we should all just be like the British. They have a rediculously absurd and wonderful sense of humor, probably due to the fact that they live in a very dreary part of the world. For some reason this didn't work out for people in the Pacific Northwest, but they produced grunge and Nirvana, so I suppose it evens out. Anyway, what I'm trying to say is that life pretty much really does suck a lot of the time. It's grey and dreary and challenging and uncomfortable and so far beyond us (if you don't believe me, go read the newspaper or go have a beer with a social worker, which I did on friday, and wow....) but in the end, nothing ever turns out to matter that much, everything is so fleeting (especially, that is, in the long run), and the only way to get through any of this is to have a sense of humor. I think its ok to recognize that life sometimes isn't all that agreeable, so long as you can maintain a focus on the whimsy, absurdities and pleasantries of everyday life.

Bad road ride the other day...fixed easily by a roadside bush of ripe blackberries.

Boring-ass, motivationless day at work....fixed easily by an impromptu fight of bear corn (Cornopholis americana)


Three months of being sad over a boy...fixed by an incontinuitious weekend, immature blahg posts, and an evening run.

Well probably not entirely. But whatever. At least my knee's all but healed...I've got a 24 hour adventure race this weekend (ugh! I thought I retired from those...) and being hurt over the boy is ok because its been motivating me to step up my search for grad schools and ph.d programs, as a way to distract myself by day-dreaming of my future full of coffee, cowboys, and math classes.

The Final Blow, and Why I've Finally Resolved to Move the Hell On

I'm under the impression that no one really looks at this blahg, and that's the way I like it: that's how I focus my writing, that's why I write about unimportant things, that's why I don't usually bother to post pictures...I'm just sort of writing for the sake of writing, and because written out diaries are for little girls.

But I look at other people's blahgs fairly regularly (and some, like bikesnob's, fairly religiously) and that made me worried that some people might actually be looking at this. Whoops.

Anyway, came across a blahg of the boy of late the other day, and uh....woah, there passive agressive blagh posts. Second time something like this happened. Ouch for real, dawg. I've been so hurt over this, he won so hard (and he must know it), and its probably all me rubbing salt into my own wounds, but dude...I'm hurt. I tried and I lost so hard. Don't be like this, dude. So of course, the mature adult in me in combating my distaste for passive-agressive ways of dealing with relationships (or lack thereof's, or sudden declines thereof, or whatever) with a passive agressive blahg of my own. But whatever. He's not reading this, I'm sure.

I'll grow up in time for the next post, I promise.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Mountain Bike Nationals

Bicycle Nationals just took place in a little overpriced ski town in the Flannel Capital of the U.S. I had never been to a real live NORBA before, so it was pretty neat getting to see the pages of Mountain Bike Action (I only look at the pictures, I don't read the articles....honest) live and in person. Ryan Trebon is actually taller than he looks, his seatpost is higher than it looks, and he goes faster than you could even dare to think. But I spent the week in a house full of more humble and average-heighted professionals (goon-balls, really...but that's off the bike.) And it proved to be an absolute blast.

Start of the U-23 women's race.

I raced the U-23 race (got 3rd to Jamie Dinkens and the forever natty champ Chloe Forsman) and the singlespeed race a couple days later. There were something like forty dudes entered for the latter, and two girls. Lame. There were also only four pro women entered in the dual slalom. Lamer still. I fully appreciate the, as a collegiate racer pointed out once, "forty million to one" rato of guys to girls in this sport, but I do not appreciate showing up to a national championship and seeing hardly any competition. Elizabeth Shorgrun beat me like woah, and after racing three laps on her 32-22 (yeah, those climbs were steep...) she stayed on the singlespeed for the women's pro race and finished 23rd in that. She's a super badass, and if she'd give just a smidgen of her badassness to the next twenty women around her, we would have had a much more interesting race that day. Half empty podiums suck, is all I'm trying to say.

Moving on...fellow SECCC rider Johanne won the expert 19-29 women's Super D, Housemate-of-the-week Travis Livermon won the men's singlespeed race, Sam Don't-Worry-About-His-Last-Name won the Naked Crit, and Ryan Woodall had one good-looking mustache in the pro men's shorttrack. Good job, friends. I'm proud.

The only thing that didn't really win this week was the Otter Creek Porter. I was told I had to try it, which I wasn't opposed to, but its about as average as I am, which is very. I remember hiking up past Sterling Pond somewhere off the Long Trail in Vermont a couple years ago, getting to some shelter, and having a group of ruggedly good-looking, guitar-playing young men off me and bff Sarah some Long Trail Blackberry Wheat (this memory may have been embellished). Normally not a fan of the pussy beers, I was blown away: holy cow, perfect experience. So there's a special place in my heart for local Vermont brews, and Otter Creek kind of weasles its way in there by default. But I'm still in search of the world's best porter. I'll keep you updated.

But overall, USAC Mt. Bike Nationals was A-Ok. I'm pleased with my result in the U-23 race, and it kind of makes me ambitious for next season. I think I might get serious about this. I made new friends, old friends did well and made me proud, I spent too much money eating out but it was worth it, I didn't see any moose, dang, I rode the course backwards one day and liked it better that way, I read my book a lot, etc. It was a good week.

And now its back to the ol' work routine. One more SERC race this weekend, and then I'm kind of on my own for entertaining myself bike-wise. Weird.

An Ode to My Road Bike, or A Brief Discussion in Numerology

The six month post-graduation grace period finally ended, and I got my first bill for student loans. Holy cow! That hurts the ol' budget. I'm good at living cheaply, but this mandates it. I think my typical dinner of animal crackers and a beer is going to have to switch to saltine crackers and coffee. That'll save me some money, for sure. I don't understand how (or why for that matter) people like me (i.e. a half-adult) own plus gas money on top of health insurance, student loans, rent, utilities, mobile telephones, etc. I own a truck, but it doesn't work, and I don't care much to fix it because, dang.....that's a silly waste of money.

Which reinforces my love for my road bike. I had a Giant OCR 1 for awhile, which took me across the country once, but it was a sort of forced love. Something to do when I didn't feel like mountain biking. But then one day, I got a call from Tina, who served as the Cupid in the formation of my new love. Cpl. Sergeant Major, as we call him, was selling an old Litespeed with full Campi Chorus components, and Cane Creek Ti wheels...for $700. It was a 49cm toptube and a 49cm seattube. That means its a perfect square: 49 x 49, and besides that, 49 is the sqaure of 7, which is a divisor of the price, and 7 is the best number in the world, and two 7's put together makes 14, which is my jersey number (I played soccer, once) so sevens, fourteens, or any multiple of seven is good. Very good. I don't know why, that's just how I feel. There are so many sevens in this bike. It is awesome.

Anyway, there's no rationality to that previous paragraph, but whatever. To make up for this lack of rationality, however, the bike is made out of titanium, which is found in such obscure items as ferrari hubcaps, airplans, replacement kneecaps, robots, and some day, my wedding ring. It's flexy and awesome like steel, but with higher strength, fatigue and corrosion resistance, and of course, its rediculously light. My particuler bike corners like a ninja, and zooming down twisty downhills to the point of getting so sideways as to almost clip a pedal is about the most pleasant experience I can think of right now.

A full afternoon road ride with Art Shuster through Leicester, up Potato Knob, down Rabbit Hen, up Turkey Creek, over Tater Tot, and all those other silly-named roads and passes out there on this bicycle is almost as good as 7 hour mountain bike rides in Pisgah. I never thought road biking could be this awesome, but it apparently can be with a good bike, awesome Western North Carolina farm land, and a man who knows his roads.

Also, my road bike gets me from here to there everyday. It gets me to work on time. I never have to fill it up with gas. Sometimes I have to pump up the tires and lube the chain, but that's about all. Like Shuster said once, "the great thing about a titanium frame is that you could leave it in the back of your truck and piss on it for a year and it'd still be good to ride."

Finally, the bike is all silver and black, no decals at all. Just some black electrical tape holding the quote "Just go Fucking Faster"--Fisher on the top tube. It's the most aesthetically pleasing thing I've ever owned. That's not really saying much, but's a great bike, it's a great car, it's a great piece of art, and I appreciate the hell out of it.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

This past weekend was my ideal recovery weekend: a four day holiday weekend, no races, and 15 hours of riding. I thought I needed long solo rides, but the weekend quickly got set up as social with a two hour easy road ride with Shuster. This was followed by a phone call from Camille, Sam, and Tally to meet them at Bent Creek--Wilsonites I haden't ridden with in a long time, so I took my singlespeed and had a hell of a time with them til about dark. Afterwards we went to visit fellow-former-teammate Ryan Morra, who broke his jaw and collar bone while denting the hood of a car. He got struck real hard while road riding, and he's wired shut for awhile, but he's still very much alive and coherent. The moral's always the same: people aren't always paying attention (whether the biker or driver) and helmets do save lives. I tend to wear my lucky Beatles visor when zipping into town for errands or to meet friends for a beer, figuring its just as good as a helmet and certainly more stylish. That doesn't make any sense. I'm retarded. Do not be like me.

Anyway, Friday, the Nation's 232nd Birthday, or something, the four of us from Friday, plus Philly Cheese Steak did a Pisgah loop I'd been itching to do for awhile. It included some seasonal and hiking-only trails (I have no conscience) so I can't tell you what the route was, but it was awesome. A late thunderstorm and majority-rules decision caused to the ride to be tweaked toward the end and resultantly shortened to put us back at four hours. Initially disappointed, I'm now excited about having a 5+ hour dream loop to do next non-race weekend. Our post-ride, pre-fireworks celebration took place in the raving metropolis of Brevard over $3.50 Grandes. Being at a Mexican restuarant for America's birthday is, these days, a very appropriate way to acknowledge and celebrate the ethnic-heterogeneity and largest minority of this little Melting Pot of a Birthday Boy, I think.

Saturday was my easy day: 2 1/2 road ride, introspective hike at the Alma Mater (which you can see I needed, if you'd read my last two blahgs), then a Rodeo in Old Fort. The Rodeo wasn't as cool as I had hoped, though. Our new housemate's dad told us about a rodeo where they put a monkey dressed up like a cowboy onto a greyhound (the dog, not the bus) and let it run around the arena. That is hilarious! PETA would be pissed, but whatever, they have no sense of humor. Nothing like that happened at this rodeo, not even goat wrangling, which I had also hoped for. Just people on bulls--which is undoubtedly badass, but it's so old-hat.

Then Sunday I somehow weasled my way into a ride with the 2nd faster father-son duo in the Southeast: Nathan and Dwight Wyatt. (The Koerbers, Sam and Bob, would be first, but they hardly count since they're inhumanely unattainable.) Starting from my favorite trailhead in Pisgah, Dwight's route-picking was great and coincendentally included the best part of the Black Mountain Trail, which Friday's group decision caused us to miss. Only we rode it in reverse, which was even better.

So anyway, that was four good days off. Now I'm halfway through the weekly 5:30 am coffee and NY Times cram followed by 10 hours of work and 2-3 hours of recess (i.e. bike riding.) Next weekend is NMBS Nationals and Mount Snow. I want to do well, but right now I don't even now how I'm getting up there. Shoot....

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

This is the end.

Lucero is my current band of choise. I can't listen to The Avett Brothers anymore because they remind me of the wrong things and I can't listen to John Prine, because he sings about love too much. But Lucero sounds like they drank too much whisky before they started playing, and I either listen to it and go, "tell it to me, brother..." or "well, at least I'm not that down and out." Usually the former, but that's me being a whiner. Anyway, pertinent song of the moment is "Hold me Close" a bit of which goes like this:

Smoke and the wine and the whisky don't mix
Shaking so bad, think I'm gonna be sick
But another Scotch as I head to the door
Now it won't make me better
But I wanna make sure
I feel the cold ground underneath my boots
for no good reason it reminds me of you
Never made good though I tried and I tried.
So I turn back around,
and I walk inside.
Now hold me close
I love you more than you know
Now hold me close
I love you more than you know
And that won't make things right.
It's a lot more effective when you hear the song, of course. Writing songs out poetry style always makes the lyrics seem so cheesy, unless you're writing out an Arlo Guthrie song, in which case its amazing.
I'll write more about things that really matter later, like bikes and Fraser Magnolias. But it seems like for the past two weeks I haven't thought about a single thing while riding. Sort of like the emotional equivalent of tunnel vision. At the end of 2 or 3 hours, I'm amazed I made it back to where I started, suprised I apparently held my line well enough to either not crash into a tree or get hit by a car, and that I somehow knew where I wanted to ride beforehand, because there was no real conscious thought between the start of the ride on the end. It's kinda cool, but also kind of scary. It gets to be 8:30 at night, and somehow I wind up on my back porch. Today in the middle of my ride I remember thinking, "What the hell bridge is this? Oh, I'm here now? Oh." And that was about it. I don't know what happened the rest of the time.
So anyway, I don't know what I'd say about bikes besides that. I'm apparently riding them still, but I don't know what's going on while riding. My head's somewhere else, it would seem.