Thursday, May 26, 2016

My trip to one of the best places ever. A Graphic Novella.

Jack is involved with Academic Pentathlon at his school.  It's kind of a big deal.  There are 2 teams of 9 kids.  One team for each middle school grade (7 and 8).

Jack is in seventh grade.  After a several month long process, he was selected for the team. Isabel was also selected.  Isabel is also in seventh grade.  She lives across the street from us.  So that was cool.

Anyway, there was a big city or state competition several weeks ago.  McMillan (Jack's school) won the trip to Nationals in Boise Idaho.

At first the whole family was going to go, but it ended up just being Jack and me.

Jack's trip was paid for by the generous donations of people who generously donated.  My trip was not, so I booked my own flights and things to save a few bucks.

I got on a plane Wednesday night.  It was a small plane.  My seat was 13B.  Of course we know that "B" is just another "13" scrunched together.  So that was pretty omen-rific.

It was kind of crowded, but the seat next to mine was unoccupied.  So to save the lives of everybody aboard, I slid over to 13A.  But before I did, I took a picture of it ...

Then the plane took off and stuff.

That was just a short flight to Minneapolis.  Then it was straight to the hustling, bustling Boise Airport terminal.

But I kid the Boise terminal.  The next morning, I decided to get some breakfast before I went bumming around to bike shops, looking to rent.  But then I saw this car and decided I didn't want breakfast.

So I rented a bicycle and put it in the trunk of my rented car.

Then I put on my fancy bike pants and went for a ride.  That's when I realized I was in the best place ever. The bike infrastructure was incredible.  Bike lanes everywhere.  The traffic was cognizant of bikes. Riding in heavy traffic was never scary.  Then there was the scenery.  It was like this all day long:
 and this,

and this,

and of course, this.

Yeah - they have a bunch of blue and orange stuff up there,

The thing about Boise was that everybody there was unbelievably nice.  I had never seen it before.  I could only describe it as "Munson" nice.  Why, they even had a colorful happy place for the area freaks.
Freak Alley
If you know me, you know I can only take so much "nice" before I become suspicious.  Sure that something funny is going on.  It's the same reason I'm convinced Munson is pure evil. Nobody could possibly be that nice.

Well on my second day there, I saw something that confirmed my suspicions.

Yep. Figures. At night, Boise is filled with filthy rotten soul sucking vampires.

So that sums up the best place I've ever ridden my bike.  What? Huh?

Oh yeah, sorry. The kids had a good time doing their smart thing or whatever.

And posing for photos

and riding a bus

and I don't remember if I mentioned this, but the scenic bike riding was nice too.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

True Story

I'm pretty sad tonight.  I finished the Ashland Criterium in 11th place.  I lost contact with the lead group of 10 and could not get back to them.  But that has nothing to do with why I'm sad. In fact, I didn't know If I'd finish well or not. I was more concerned about my handling skill.  There were corners.  There were climbs.  Overall, I felt pretty good around the corners. There really wasn't anything too difficult or technical.  I certainly have room for improvement, but this is where I'll get it.

The race was scheduled to be 40 minutes long.  After about 20 minutes, I lost the front guys.  Then I was working with 2 other guys. We were hoping (in vain) we could catch them.

Sometimes it looked like we were closing in, but I don't think so.  With 13 minutes left to race we were about 15 seconds back. Not likely we'd make that up.

Then a strange thing happened.  As we turned toward the start finish line, there were a bunch of cyclists standing in the road.  We didn't have any idea what was going on.  we were told we had to stop. That the race was being neutralized.

The lead group was put at the first turn.  After a while, our group of 3 was told to come up behind them.

The rest of the guys came up behind us.

We were told that we had to wait for an ambulance to clear the road.  There had been a crash and the person who crashed didn't know what his name was.

That's why I'm sad. I was involved in his horrific crash.  I didn't go down.  He did though.

It was during the first lap.  It was a fast downhill section and people were moving around all over trying to get a good position.  It was the first lap. Seriously.

On the way down the hill, A guy came up on my left fast and tried to cut me off.  I started to go to my right to avoid getting hit by him, but the guy an my right started drifting toward me.  All I could do was brace for the impact.  We hit shoulders hard.  I pedaled hard to try to stay up.  The guy drifted back and his arm and handlebar hit and went under my left thigh. I was pretty sure I was toast at that point.  Then I heard his crash.  I was still up, but had to be careful of all the Cat IVs in front of me looking back to see what was going on.

So that sucked.

After they paused the race 20 minutes later, they told us that there would be 3 more laps.  A neutral lap and then 2 finishing laps.

They sent the first group and a few seconds later we thought we'd be able to go.  But Darrell Webb started yelling at us like we'd done something wrong.  I think he was having a stressful day.

He said we were 50 seconds behind the front group.  He knew that because of the timing chips.

But ...  No way we were 50 seconds behind them. They had still been in sight when the race stopped.

The timing chip theory was flawed in the first place, because when they stopped the race, they stopped us behind the line and the front group in front of the line.  Then we had to wait at least 30 seconds before they let us move up in front of the line.

Again - it doesn't really matter - we weren't going to catch them.

But then, this is where it got really stupid.  At the end of the neutral lap, we were closer than 50 seconds to the front group.  Darrell Webb went all ape shit on us.  We were not trying to catch them.  In fact we got to a place where they were roughly the same distance ahead of us as they had been before the pause.  It seemed fair.

But the faulty conclusion about where we were in the race and the yelling at us was completely unnecessary.  Yes - the officials got it wrong.  No - it would not have made any difference (probably).

But it was still irritating.

But the worst thing (besides a guy went to the hospital) was that the 3 of us in our little group had 2 laps of racing left.  Sure it was for 11th place, but to me, it was still a race.

After one lap, one of the other 2 sat up.  I found myself in front of the remaining guy for most of the second lap.  I wanted him to come around, but he wouldn't.  Eventually he pulled up beside me and we just rode side by side until the final turn.  He sped up a little and I matched his speed.  I was really hoping for a fun little drag race.  Sure it doesn't count for anything, but c'mon.

Nope.  He sat up too.

Screw you guys, I thought as I stood up and sprinted home for completely meaningless 11th place.

The things I'm happy about are that I didn't quit even when there was no reason to continue.  I handled the corners well enough to get me by for now.  I didn't freak out and fall down when a guy ran into me.

Still though.  Very scary.  I don't pray, but I'm praying this guy's ok, just because I really want him to be.  Because in the end, this is just some stupid thing we do on the weekends. 50 seconds indeed!

Thursday, May 12, 2016

I've fallen and I can't get up

I was talking to my dad today and he reminded me of something I hadn't thought about for at least 4 or 5 days.  

Actually it was funny that he brought it up.  He didn't think I'd remember it.  But I did.  I was pondering it on my way to Des Moines last Sunday.

Dad was telling me that he was happy with the way his children turned out having jobs for the most part and stuff.  He always says it wasn't important to him if his kids excelled at sports (good thing). He always wanted us to focus on education (oops).

While I think that education should definitely take a priority over any sort of athletic endeavor, I believe there is a lot to be gained from being involved in sport.

The story I was thinking about on the way to Des Moines goes like this:

The whole family was at a picnic. It was some sort of big party thing.  The people were organizing different competitions.  There were foot races for all age categories.

At the time, I believed I was the fastest runner in the world.  I believed that even if I was slower than someone, I had the will to go fast enough to win.

I believed this based on results.  I was by far the fastest runner of all the kids in my neighborhood.  I could always outrun any of them.  I hadn't factored in the fact that I was only counting kids younger than me.  I wasn't considering kids older than me.  They were essentially adults or something.

So I lined up for this picnic race of kids my age and we took off at the whistle.  I must not have gotten a good start because right away there were 2 kids beating me.  Well, no problem.  I'll just run faster and get past them.  I was pretty excited about this because this was one time I was racing and my dad was actually watching.  My whole family would see how fast I was.  As I switched into high gear to overtake the others, something bad happened.  They went even faster and pulled farther from me.  Then horror of horrors, some other kids started passing me.

I think I ended up 4th or 5th out of about 10 or 12 kids. I was devastated.  I spent the rest of the afternoon heartbroken about what I had just learned.  I was not a fast runner.  At all. And now my whole family knew it.  I went back to them ashamed and they wouldn't look at me.  They just sat there absentmindedly chewing on their potato salad.  

So I went to a far corner of the park, sat at a picnic table alone and pouted. After a while, my aunt came up and asked me if I wanted to go throw rocks at the people at the swimming pool.  There was this pool that was fenced in. It was next to a forested area.  We could throw stuff at people from the forest and they'd never see us. That cheered me up a little.

My dad's version of the story is a little different so maybe he's right about me not remembering it.  In his version, I came in dead last.  His dad gave him some crap about it and my dad said that it wasn't important to him.  My education was the only thing that mattered.

As much as I can't conceive of the conversation between my dad and his dad going anything like that (they would have both been drunk, for one thing.  They were both truck drivers, for another) I'm sure my dad is right about the part where I came in last place.  I may have rationalized myself up a few spots or something to ease the pain. I don't know.

Oh wait, I remember what happened.  Seriously, I just remembered just now.  The entrants of the race were not arranged by age, but height.  I was a really tall 6 year old, so I was racing against 8 and 9 year olds.  Ok, that makes me feel better.  After all these years of carrying that pain, I finally remembered something about it.  Except, that's bullshit too.  Nope.  I'm just slow.

Anyway, on my way to Des Moines, the memory popped into my head because I was headed to a bike race and contemplating my ongoing dread of racing. Why am I always so nervous about every little part of a race?

In 2007, I decided to quit racing for good.  A few years later, when I gave up golf to get back into cycling, I figured I'd never race again. Just get fit enough to hang with the more challenging group rides.

The problem is, all of those people race and when you start seeing your equals winning races, you think, maybe you should ...

But then the fear creeps in and more often than not, I chicken out.  I've usually got a pretty good excuse that sounds believable to me.

I get so nervous about doing a race, it will effect me for days in advance.  This is not true of cross racing.  It was at first, but after my first 2 or 3, that shit's just fun.  And - I suck at it.

No - road racing is what I'm best at.  Also, what I'm most scared of.

So I've been wondering for years (literally), where all this apprehension comes from.  I've been trying to pinpoint an event or place blame somewhere.  I did that in 2007 when I crashed completely through the fault of another. I told everyone back then that I quit because you can crash and it's completely not your fault.  Though this is true, it's not a good reason to quit.

Another fear, though pride related, is getting humiliated.  I've been humiliated (at least felt that way) so many times that I never want to try again. One time I got pulled from the Papillion crit on the second lap because I was immediately dropped as the race started.  I could not get clipped in and sat there in front of everybody while the whole race rode away.  By the time I clipped in, it was too late.  Afterwards, Shim told me it was the funniest thing he ever saw. If there was YouTube back then, I'd be famous. 

The good news about all of this is that today, I found out what my problem has been basically my whole life.

Now I can move past it and just get on with the racing.

My dad was telling me another story.  I have absolutely no recollection of this one though.  My fear of crashing goes way way back.

Dad was telling me that I could walk when I was about 6 months old.  I would take steps here and there.  But then I fell hard.  After that, I would only walk while holding on to furniture or something.  I wouldn't even try, though it was obvious I'd be fine if I did.

I was over a year old before I started walking without holding onto something,

That was it.  Not the falling while I was learning to walk.  Just me.  That's how I am. That's how I've always been. It's probably why I was born 3 weeks late.  Unwilling to take risks.  It's apparently always been with me.  It's just who I am.

Now that I know that, I can ignore it - because as I've already pointed out, I'm insane.

So I will see you at the races this weekend.  And it's going to be a blast.  Because even though I'm nervous, I now know that's just what I do so I will shut up about it from here on out. You're welcome.

P.S. I would like to mention that I did "win" the race last Sunday in Des Moines.  In the end, I had the fastest sprint.  I felt pretty good about that for about 5 minutes, but then I realized that just like my former glory days when I thought I was a fast runner, all of my competition was way younger than me.

Maybe I should pick on somebody my own age for a change.

Friday, May 06, 2016

Well That Sucked

Have you ever had "One of those days?"

Every once in a while, I have "One of those days."

It seems like the shit just piles on.  Like you're just that close to a whole heap of trouble or personal loss.  It doesn't make sense to me that all of this should happen on a single day. Well, it kind of does.

I think most days, an average number of positive and negative things happen to you (based mostly on your perception).  But some days, there are way more positive things. Some days - way more negative.  In the end it averages out.

Perception is the key.  If you are in a foul mood, you tend to notice bad things. Every little thing that happens seems to confirm that you are having one of those days.

Sure, that explains some of it, but I swear - whenever I have "one of those days" something really bad happens that has nothing to do with my mood.  Or does it ...

For roughly the last 24 hours or so, I've been in a crappy mood.  I've had to reevaluate how I look at certain things. I hate doing that.  I like to think that I have a pretty good idea of what's going on. When I discover I was way wrong, it tends to bum me out.  

The last 7 days hasn't been much help.  With rain and weather and commitments, I haven't been getting enough riding in to keep the demons at bay.

So tonight I decided to try to exorcise most of the demons that have accumulated over the last week.  I knew I wouldn't have enough time to get them all, but if I could get a relatively hard ride in, I might drop their numbers to something manageable.

Unfortunately, from the start of the ride I knew something was off.  Hamilton was closed at about 50th.  I always take Hamilton and I know the detour.  I followed the detour sign to find that all roads (except the one going the way I'd just come from) were blocked.


Eventually, I circled back and got across Saddle Creek for my destiny with the BK Bridge.  A couple of times, I encountered people in cars doing stupid stuff, nothing really out of the norm.  It was just heightened by my bad mood.  Since it was really nice outside, there were lots of stoned people driving around.  

Well, it might be the same number as normal, it's just that I smelled lots and lots of weed on my ride tonight because windows were down.

When I got to 30th I just about got hit by a car.  It was my fault.  Through inattention, I didn't see it and started to roll through the intersection.  I hit the brakes hard and no problem.  But still. I thought I had better start really paying attention because the gods are out to get me tonight.

Then I got to the BK bridge.  I went around a young couple pushing a stroller.  I made the sharp right hand turn onto the bridge proper.  

At the beginning of the BK Bridge, there is a gate that's almost always open as it was tonight.

I was not to the gate yet, but I saw a young girl riding a rental bike down  the steep slope toward me.  I noticed she was going kind of fast.  Hmm, I thought, she's going kind of fast.

The next thing I noticed was she was on my side (my right) of the bridge.  Then I noticed that both her feet were occasionally sliding on the pavement.  She was trying to scrub speed with her flip-flops.

Then I realized with horror, that she had no brakes and no idea what to do.

What a day I'm having, I thought.  Because the thing about having one of those days is that even if it's way worse for someone else, you perceive it as all about you.  So yes, the girl in great peril was about to make her problem my problem.

I wasn't sure how to avoid getting hit by her.  Then I saw the gate.  If I could get to the gate, it would effectively protect me from this poor girl.

In this photo, the person walking away is about where the girl was riding out of control toward me.  I was pulling over to the far right to let the gate block me.  She eventually went all the way to her left and tried to use the fence to slow her down. And Blammo!

The gate stopped her rather abruptly.  Her glasses flew over the fence.  Her head bounced as it made hard contact with the edge of the gate.  It made a deep gash in her left eyelid.
That's gonna leave a mark

I was panicked. I was sure she would be seriously hurt.  The terrible realization that she needed immediate assistance and this might cut into my ride time was too great a burden to bare.

Just kidding.  What really happened was I realized how most of my problems the last 24 hours and even 7 days had to do with my selfishness.  The things that were upsetting me boil down to a succession of days of me not getting my way.

This girl was bleeding all over the place ...
And I had been whining about the weather and family stuff.  I have it pretty damn good overall.  I have zero valid complaints.  My complaints come from the fact that sometimes my extreme privilege gets slightly interrupted with life.

Thankfully for me, I got to witness a girl banging her face into a big metal gate to knock some sense into me.  She was having one of those days.  Not me.

I asked her some questions.

"Are you ok"

"Did your brakes go out?"

"Is it 'One of those days?'"

Then I reached down and grabbed the hand brake of her rent-a-bike.  It was fine.

I had the awful realization that she must have thought this was a coaster brake bike.

She was a little bit in shock.  People were starting to gather.  She said, "My glasses."

I said, "I'll go find them."  I didn't even know her at all and I stopped to help her.  I did not just keep riding. It would have been ironic if I had, wouldn't it?

She said "Thanks."

I must've looked through those weeds for about 10 minutes.  But I eventually found the glasses.  

Her friends caught up with her and started giving her aid or some shit.  I gave her back her glasses and continued my ride. But now with a new outlook.  I've got it pretty damn good.  For instance, I know how brakes work.

Then when I got onto the trail on the CB side and started heading North/East, I was completely blocked by five people just standing around. I slowed and said, "Howdy."

I startled them.  For some reason, one of them tried to hide the big old joint he was smoking.  They moved aside and I thought "What a day I'm having."