Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Snider And The City

I've noticed that Sex and the City's Sarah Jessica Parker ...

... and Twisted Sister's Dee Snider ...

... have never been seen at the same place at the same time. Coincidence? I think not.

Speaking of which: The Plain Dealer, embarrassingly, has still not led its sports section with a Sex in the City story. A1? Check. Arts & Life? Maybe half a dozen times. Style? Natch. Food? Yes'm.

Why the failure to cover this movie in the sports pages?

Fortunately, there is still time. There are three days left in this week. Serendipidously, the Chicago White Sox are here playing the Cleveland Indians. A "Sox and the City" feature, speculating on which of the girls would shag Tribe players and which would rather get Pale Hosed, is a natural.

- JN

Monday, May 26, 2008

The Oh in Mid-Ohio

Long, long ago -- back in 2007 -- the Mid-Ohio Grand Prix was a heck of a race.
It's held on a wide, fast, sweeping sports-car/open-wheel race track with no 90-degree corners but lots of really fun S-turns that put a premium on apex-hitting. The 2.5-mile track is also quite windswept, adding another tough element to the long, gradual climb that is more than a false flat but not really a hill, per se. That makes it unlike any other race around.
For me, it was a solid top-10 finish in a solid Cat 4-5 field back in the day -- aught-sev'n. The field was respectable -- especially for an early-season race. Yes, the best 4s were racing in the 3-4 race. Still, there were a lot of up-and-coming racers from Columbus (many of whom are now Cat 3) and all the strong guys from Summit, Stark and Snake Bite. I was unattached, and just a 5. So I was pleased that I worked hard and finished 8th, I think.
Last year's other races drew fairly well, too, and yes, a good time was had by all.
All these years later (oh ... only one, plus two months), much has changed.
Some sort of civil war between race promoter Tym Tyler and the Ohio Cycling Association (USA Cycling's state affiliate) led to Tyler's races losing, or surrendering, USAC accreditation. That means no upgrade points from Tym's races, which naturally slashes the 4/5 and 3/4 fields. So the turnout for Tyler races has shrunk even below the mediocre level of the previous couple years. (It's a shame. I'm sure there are good reasons for hard feelings on all sides. But the dude works hard. Without him, there would be fewer than 10 races north of Greater Cincy each year.)
Turnout was thin again on Saturday. Maybe it was because Mid-Ohio is usually a March race that, this year, got snowed into May and onto a holiday weekend -- with starting times at 5:30 and 6:30 p.m., to boot. Maybe it was the purses: about $50 or $75, total, for the 1/2/3 and 3/4 races and nothing but merchandise for the 4/5, women and 5/citizens.
Whatever the reason, the turnout was disappointing for a day that was just about perfect for racing at a unique and exciting venue.
The promoter combined the 4/5, women's and 5/open fields, so the decent-sized pack of 25 or so at the start line was pretty deceptive: Most of them were unattached Cat 5s. One Stark racer, no one from Summit or Spin, and three of us from SBR against a bunch of Columbus racers and three strong women.
Given that, it wasn't surprising that the race quickly blew to smithereens. And it also would be unsurprising to anyone who has followed my regression this year that I was among the blow-ees.
This time, though, it wasn't for naught. Or at least that's the story I'm sticking to.
Teammate MattO jumped on the front and stomped on it from the outset, dragging everyone up the hill and then through the thick headwind leading into the backside. No one was letting him get away, so we were up in the 30- to 36-mph range quickly when we hit the down grade. When things came back together, I was going much faster than the folks ahead of me and found myself deciding between braking and rolling out of the slipstream to slow down in the wind. I elected not to brake and just pulled to the left, figuring the field would drift up and swallow me.
Instead, it was like everyone but me hit the brakes while I was flowing downhill: In a few heartbeats, I inadvertently had gotten a big-ass gap.
So I figured, maybe I can draw somebody out into a chase and wear out some of the competition for teammates Gary and MattO. Through the S turns, I cut the apexes perfectly and my gap was growing, and I still wasn't really trying to get away. Next thing I knew, I had 100 meters or so between me and the pack.
Yet my strategy wasn't working as planned: No one was chasing hard. So as I passed the S/F, I decided to just drill it and see what might happen. If they all kept parking it back there, I might have been able to put half a lap into them and then just settle in at LT for as long as possible. Who knows what would happen then?
Well, when I stood up and hammered, two things happened: One, some folks behind me decided to take my escape seriously; and two, I zoomed past LT and way over my redline on the way back up the crosswind-pounded hill. I looked back and saw people drilling it on the front, and my gap was shrinking as I was cresting the hill and heading into the headwind-swept chicane. And here came Gary, barrelling out of the pack, completely effortlessly.
We were 75 yards up, so I tried to make a 2-up break with him. That wasn't working. "I'm dying!" I shouted. By the time we came out of the chicane and entered the back stretch, things were coming back together, and I thought maybe I could catch my breath.
BANG! Gary attacked into the wind. (Two laps, three strong SBR attacks.) Two guys went with Gary, so Matt and I pulled up to the front, set a firm tempo and dragged things down just a bit through the back-side turns. But I was still out there in the wind, and had never recovered from my break. So I could stick on the front only for 3/4 lap before I had to drop back into the pack and gasp for awhile.
By then, there were only about five laps left in a race shortened by time constraints. The chase was spirited. I dropped halfway back in the pack only to discover that I had forgotten to open the eyes in the back of my head. Had I done so, I would have known that the "other half of the pack" behind me had actually been blown into pieces that were scattered all over the track by now.
Sheet. I wasn't halfway back. I was on the back. Then I was off the back. Then I was gone. There was no one behind me to help.
I tried drilling a hard TT pace to catch back on, on the back side. But I wasn't gaining at all. So I tried to convince myself that everyone else might blow up or flat out or get swallowed by a sinkhole and if only I kept going, I could still do fine. That lasted 2/3 of the way through the long, windblown grind toward the S/F, which is when I called it a race and started doing intervals. During recovery a couple intervals later, I got lapped by a field that had come back together.
I pulled over at the bell to watch the bunch sprint. Looked like Gary got caught behind a bad sprinter just long enough to get passed by the eventual winner, who outsprinted Gary by a wheel. Meanwhile, MattO was in the sprint of his life and came from behind to beat another guy by maybe -- maybe -- a foot. So we got 2nd and 3rd.
Was it fun? Yes, to a point. But was it a real race race? Naw -- a shadow of last year, which other guys said was a letdown compared to prior years. It was more like Westlake. With chintzier prizes. (For Gary: Luna bars! For Matt: chamois cream!)

- JN

Thursday, May 22, 2008

The Essence of Commuting

Here are just a few of the things that crossed my mind -- or, more precisely, my nose -- on my ride to work this morning:

(Dipping into Euclid Creek Parkway) Hmm ... somebody's roasting coffee.

(A bit farther down, where a guy was getting into his car at least 50 feet away from me) Ahh -- that new-car smell!

(On Dille:) Ugh! That's some serious antifreeze stink. That car is on its last leg.

(At Lakeshore:) Mmmm! Kentucky Fried Chicken!

(In Bratenahl:) Mmm-MM! Bacon!

(Developing theme there? You're right -- I didn't have breakfast. Had to fast for a cholesterol-test blood draw. - ed.)

(Slightly farther into Bratenahl:) Eew! Skunk somewhere!

For better or worse, these are some of the little things commuters in their cars miss.

- JN

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The Weekly Worlds Report

The Westlake Weekly Worlds turned out to be a very hard bit of fun last night -- much harder for some of us than others, it seems.

And it ended with some controversy and squawking that probably still has some guys rubbed raw this morning.

The race took on a new character when two strong Spin riders dropped down from the A race (involuntarily, it seems -- there reportedly was some consternation among other A riders over bike-handling skills). Meanwhile, our strongest B riders were elsewhere: Gary B. in the A field and Jason R. at work.

The downgraded Spin guys include an expert-class MTB racer who's not too familiar w/ road racing, and a strong young Cat 4 who is moving up and hoping to go pro someday soon. They joined another young Cat 5 rider who's been a regular in the Bs. They apparently thought they'd put the wood to SBR. They made the race faster than any B race I remember. But as for whupping up on the SBR guys? They miscalculated.

Two Spins broke on lap 2 and apparently thought they'd ride away from the rest of us for 28 miles, but I was right on their wheels. And they didn't know how to rotate. So that break lasted less than a lap.

To their credit, they kept attacking, and kept trying to set up a leadout train for the primes. To their fault, they kept attacking over the yellow line, blowing way too wide on turns and screwing up their leadouts by towing other sprinters. Our guys -- particularly MattO. -- had much merriment by abusing the Spin leadout and beating them on prime after prime. And I kept marking and bringing back solo attacks until my legs turned to Jell-O.

Every time I looked down at my computer, it showed us going 26-28 mph.

About 40 minutes into the race, as I was chasing down one such attack, I felt my front tire getting low. No sudden deflation, so I hoped to ride it to the end. But within a lap, it had leaked past the point of safe riding. So I bowed out.

At that point, my computer showed an average speed of 23.5 mph -- which included two warmup laps, one of which was about 16 mph. Even after I walked my bike 700 yards to the parking lot, the average was still around 21.4. I've been in B races where that was the pace for the whole race. Teammate Rick A. had the final average at something close to 25 -- I forget what, exactly.

Anyway, as to that the controversy: On one of the late laps -- maybe the last? (I was sitting at my car by then) -- another guy attacked after the turn onto Bassett and two SBRs -- John V. and Michael L. -- went with him. Then, as the A field passed, the break latched on to its draft. Now, 2/3 of the breakaway riders insist they did no such thing, and I know how they feel: I felt wrongly accused when this happened to me last year and I got DQ'd by a consensus of the field led by my own (new) teammates. A year later, I still feel like I got hosed. But mixing fields is mixing fields, and if it looks like a duck ... Bottom line: You either pass the As or drop behind them. Unfair, maybe, if the As don't hold a steady and brisk pace. But non-negotiable.

Likewise, crossing the yellow should be a non-negotiable infraction. It's understood that everyone sets up wide of the yellow for the 90-degree and sharper turns. But attacking over the yellow on the straights, or through the S turns, or even using the yellow to advance through the cop turn are all violations, and I saw Spin riders commit them at least three times. The double yellow is the equivalent of an imaginary barrier, and even if you get forced into crossing, it's the same as getting forced into a barrier: Your sprint is done. You cannot advance. If they're going to keep that up, it's time to start demanding some DQs, for their own protection and the peloton's. We do not need any head-on collisions w/ cars or pileups caused by guys cutting back into a sprint from the wrong side of a double yellow.

Utimately, after the mixed-field DQs, the race came down to a field sprint, which leads us to the final Spin miscalculation: MattO broke into their train -- again -- and took the sprint from them -- again, just as he'd done w/ primes all night. Rick A. took 2nd place. Mitch G. from Spin took 3rd.

'Twas a very spirited, hard and fun race. I expect it has a "To Be Continued" tag on it.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

I Hope We're Not This Bad

Congratulations to both the runners and organizers from the Cleveland Rite-Aid Marathon!

Not content to simply hold an irrationally long running race, these legsters also embarked on a novel and expressive interpretation of sport as art. During, or maybe before or after, Sunday's event, they installed at least 500 empty Gu and Hammer gel packets all up and down the lakefront portion of the route (and, we can project, along the rest of the route as well).

The colors add such vibrancy to the North Marginal, and the sheer durability of the non-biodegradable packaging ensures the permanence of this sprinkled-art installation.

In less-hip cities, where the populace isn't tuned in to such impromptu manifestations of street art, some minimum-wagers or volunteers might have been out there "cleaning up." Not here!

Way to go, fellow endurance athletes/artistes, and way to go, Cleveland! The Gund Foundation has a grant for just this kind of urban-creative exuberance!

- JN

Monday, May 19, 2008

What Was He Thinking? (You might be sorry you asked)

Will Frischkorn provides some fascinatingly mundane insights into a pro racer's train of thought -- or lack thereof -- at Velonews today. Check it out!

The Finish Line?

I felt winter's last breath this morning as I rode along the lake.

It was a beautiful, crisp day, with a stunningly blue sky accented with cumulus clouds -- about 49 degrees with a 20-mph wind out of the west/northwest that made me have to grind.

The calendar tells me summer's warmth is closing fast, and common sense and experience tell me this front will pass and southerly winds will soon envelop us in balmy weather.

But it's funny: That's not what I felt as I watched the brisk wind whip waves against the rocks.
Rather, the cool, clear day took me back to an early-October morning on the Gulf Islands National Seashore about 18 years ago.

We were on the way back to Little Rock on last day of a vacation at Seaside, Fla., the New Urbanism utopia that then was only in its toddler stage. Every day of the vacation was sweltering and still, until that final day -- those blindingly sunny but unmistakably autumnal hours on the cusp. We donned windbreakers and had a quiet and somewhat sad picnic overlooking the whitecaps and dolphins, to say goodbye to Florida, and summer.

There's a thick melancholy to that kind of sunny but pull-on-the-jacket-for-the-first-time transition, and the waterfront -- any waterfront -- seems to amplify it by about a thousand times.

It's bittersweet, and I've felt it many times in the years since that day on the Panhandle. There was a Labor Day on Put-in Bay when a good friend's barely-ex girlfriend held my hand and we both wondered whether we should hold on to something more, but didn't. There was a long, cool drive alone, along the windswept Lake Erie shore en route to some forgotten place in Michigan, listening to an early-season Buckeyes game as the first flashes of scarlet were appearing in the trees. There was a pleasantly dull afternoon on the deck at Shooter's, watching the big, noisy boats drift in along with an undercurrent of cool air and a forlornly encroaching buzz from eight or nine Bud Lights.

Often by Labor Day weekend, I'm tired of summer, tired of hot, tired of dusty and brown, tired of cracked clay soil and incursions of weeds. I'm ready for fall's color, which I've always loved. I'm usually happy to have had a good summer, and just as happy to have some change blowing in. Close that book and move on to the next one.

It's odd that I can't recall a single transitional day like that in the springtime, in my entire life. Some of those season's-end, summer-into-autumn days are so vivid in my memory that I still relive them in my dreams, over and over. Maybe it's because those first crisp and chilled days after the hot weather are summer's goodbye, and we feel goodbyes more intensely than hellos. Hello means we get to spend some time taking beauty and goodness for granted. Goodbye means we will soon miss it.

What does this have to do with biking? Well, it doesn't really have to have anything to do with it for me to write about it here. But in fact it does.

I was supposed to do a bit of hard work on the bike this morning -- a few sets of sprints on the way to work. But once again, I just couldn't get into that frame of mind. And there's a pattern emerging. I couldn't bring myself to do lactate-threshold intervals on Saturday's 51-miler. I catch myself getting gapped -- by only a couple bike lengths, maybe -- in the A race at Westlake and even though my body might be able to close that gap, my spirit just cannot summon the will to suffer enough to do it, and it's over. Hill repeats? Haven't done any since, what? April Fool's Day?

I read other blogs, like Ray's Racing Adventures and young Robert's, where riders/writers seem to have limitless discipline and enthusiasm, some of which I've often had. And it makes me wonder whether there isn't a parallel in my bike-racing life to those transitional days -- whether I'm watching the summer of my bike-racing era fade into the autumn of my next phase of cycling life.

Or maybe it's the cycle of cycling, where renewal and rejuvenation will soon flower and I'll be eager to go out and punish myself.

All I know right now is that I'll keep swinging my leg over the saddle and going fast. Will I need to try to beat someone else as I do that? Not sure. But if not, I won't look back over my shoulder with regrets or longing. I've never been one to do that. Life rolls on.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Non-Race Reports

We're halfway through May, and this weekend was supposed to be the Chippewa Creek Road Race, one of the area's oldest and most revered races.

It's also one of the hardest. A lot of my buddies are very disappointed that poor road conditions led to its cancellation.

Me? I'm not really crying. Given my luck, had it gone ahead, I think my race report would've gone something like one of these:

Had a great time at the venerable Chippewa Creek RR on Sunday -- until I crashed out.
The first 27 meters after the start were fun and brisk (29 mph! So much for warming up in the race!). The snow and ice weren't even very bad, considering that this is Cleveland and it's only mid-May.

But somewhere around 28 or 29 meters in, somebody in a car approaching us in the oncoming lane started throwing handfuls of DVDs out the window. Wouldn't you just know that one of them found its way under my wheels? Ay chihuahua - down I went!

Funny I'd say that, because the Sharpie handwriting on the DVD said "Hot Sexy Young Chihuahuas." There was a sticker on it that mostly got scuffed off, but it looked like it said something like O'Malley and Recorder. Wonder what that means? Maybe has something to do with how the DVDs were duplicated?

The driver of that car looked really familiar -- sorta like that prosecutor I've seen on TV, Bill Mason -- but everything happened so fast that I can't really swear to anything. And it wouldn't make sense: Why would Bill Mason be tossing out DVDs labeled, "P.O.'s Pre-Teeners Pix"? He's not running for anything now, is he?

Anyhoo ... speaking of pix, here are the photos of this week's injuries ...

Or this:

Got out of the house late, shoved a banana and a granola bar in my pie hole, waited in the registration line for 30 minutes and did a thorough warmup from my car to the back end of the peloton just as the starting gun went off. I usually like warming up in the race, but I really had to pee!

Nonetheless, I did well compared to other races lately. I didn't flat, didn't wreck and didn't even get dropped until we hit the second set of rollers after the first turn -- probably almost half a mile or more into the race!

My teammates MattO and Gary were in a break with Summit's Russ Fogle and a Spin and a Stark, and they lapped me twice. But the second time wasn't until I was most of the way up the hill on Valley Parkway, almost an entire lap into the race. I think I pulled Matt and Gary for about 15 or 20 feet, so I felt like I did my part to help the team. But I totally blew.

Maybe I shouldn't have quit at the end of the first lap, but I was roached.

On the other hand, it beats the hell out of having my kid die in an earthquake!

- JN

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Everything is relative

Are you grievously bummed that you got dropped from the break at Westlake? Feeling depressed that you just couldn't hold your wattage on that last interval? Or are you angry, maybe, that your kid's dental bills are keeping you from getting the Zipp wheelset you wanted?
Well, here's a little perspective.

- JN

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Bike Week: Hurrahhhhh...yawn.

Are you enjoying Bike Week?

It is just SO different from every other week, isn't it? I can just feel the electricity in the air!

I hear that a few, or maybe even several, additional people are riding their bikes to work this week -- even a judge of the Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court! Handfuls enjoyed a bunch of "bike-related" movies at the Natural History Museum. Dorky, outcast hipsters played bike polo. And there may have even been a proclamation from the mayor of Cleveland, or something. Plus, all sorts of other regular bike activities that were happening anyway were declared to be "Bike Week Activities," including RATL #4 and a towpath night ride.

But the one event I really wanted to see apparently won't happen: a cage match between Andy Clarke and Fred Oswald!

Local racers know Andy Clarke to be an ass-kicking former Tennessean who rides for the RGF Solutions Cycling Team. He rose from Cat 5 to Cat 1 in less than two years and is sickening in many other ways, too -- a handsome, apparently prosperous businessman who is happy, interesting, and downright nice in addition to being a leg-breaker.
Unfortunately, this Andy Clarke, from Medina, is not the one who is speaking here. (Too bad: the RGF version has some cool stories about riding the Tour of Flanders last month.)

No, the Andy Clarke who's speaking is the head of the League of American Cyclists.

Our own Fred Oswald is an engineer from Berea or Brook Park or some other such badlands who also is an excessively cantankerous, abrasive cycling activist and know-it-all.

Clarke -- the one from LAB, not RGF -- is a big advocate of spending gajillions of taxpayer dollars on bike infrastructure -- dedicated bike lanes, dedicated bike paths, dedicated bike tunnels, dedicated bike toilets, dedicated bike spacecraft and such -- while our schools crumble, crime ravages our country and people starve. If he has his way, the prosperous middle class can ride along unswept pavement deluded by the abject illusion that they have been made safe, while sharing space with jog-stroller moms, poodle-on-a-reel dog-walkers and drivers who make right turns across said passageways without a second look. And anyone who rides anywhere that does NOT have a bike lane will get hit in the head with bottles hurled by tattooed women leaning from the passenger window of pickup trucks yelling "Git outta th' road! Use th' bike path!"

More rationally, Clarke also favors concerted public-education campaigns aimed at teaching motorists and cyclists how to coexist safely and with mutual respect.

Oswald is under the "vehicular-cycling" spell of John Forester, who hates bike infrastructure and really, really hates Andy Clarke. (Wanna see geek vitriol in full flower? Follow that link.) Oswald and Forester call bike paths and bike lanes "bike ghettoes" and they pretty much think the sole raison d'etre of motorists is to kiss cyclists' asses. There's a lot of truth in their condemnation of bike infrastructure, of course, but then, Dennis Kucinich makes a good point now and then, too. That doesn't make him any less ridiculous.

Oswald periodically appoints himself the spokesman for all Ohio cyclists, most of whom loathe everything he stands for. ClevelandBikes and other groups that reluctantly acknowledge him as a member kinda roll their eyes and dismissively say, "Well, that's Fred being Fred ... heh heh."

But it's no fun for Fred to just be Fred -- the pariah/messiah and self-appointed "expert" in Cleveland and Ohio. He seems to slip from time to time toward becoming the William "D-Fens" Foster of the so-called "cycling community."

He, Forester and all their ardent sympathizers (about four in toto) are trying to hijack -- er, reclaim -- the League of American Bicyclists by fielding an insurrectionist slate of other militant bike-junta strongmen to take over the LAB board this year.

Now, if these guys really want to take control of a near-laughingstock organization almost completely bereft of any influence and power, I'll be happy to ask them to run for office on my bike club. The LAB is one of those organizations that calls for a sunrise, then claims credit in the morning. Yet Fred and John are wasting enough energy spreading contempt for Clarke that, if it could be harnessed, it could power a recumbent around the globe two times.

Clarke seems to regard them with the same respect and attention that Dick Cheney bestows on anti-war activists. That pisses off the insurrectionists even more.

We should've gotten Vince McMahon to promote the Ultimate Resolution -- right here in Cleveland, right now during Bike Week!

Picture it: First, the two prophets take turns with a bullhorn to proclaim their gospel to the throngs of bloodthirsty spectators on Public Square, and denounce the opponent as someone who rides without a helmet.

Then, the drama unfolds. The blinding light from a high-noon sun glints off their helmet-mounted mirrors as the two warriors face off on Euclid Avenue, hemmed in by a cage of mobile bike racks. Wearing their neon-orange dorkvests, they clutch the bell- and horn-adorned moustache bars of their fender-and-pannier-equipped commuter bikes in sweaty palms.

Then, as a heavily tattooed, limping (but nonetheless kinda hot) bike messenger drops a hanky from cigarette-stained fingers, the two "men" charge toward one another with such fury that their Nexus hubs trail a smoke cloud from burning grease. Hurling expletives ("Three feet, asshole! It's the law!"), they madly swing messenger bags (covered with anti-car bumper stickers) at each other in pass after pass until one of them gets knocked to the ground, or quits.

For entertainment value, this would beat the shit out of a bike-polo expo at the West Side Market.

Then again, this could be even more death-defying, gory and violent!


Page Two:

Hats off to the officer from Cleveland's Finest who pulled Car #512 up behind me this morning while I rode through Rockefeller Park along MLK. She flipped on her lights, bleeped her siren and then sidled up alongside to scold me: "The bike path is for you!" she said (somewhat politely, I readily concede).

"Thanks, ma'am," I replied, "but so is this road."

I think she expected me to cower and comply, and when I didn't, she just drove on.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Back In the Saddle Again

Page One:
It would suck to get caught in the middle or the back of this bunch in Sicily, wouldn't it? Just think: You're in that Giro d'Italia pack today, with rain falling, while the peloton is cutting around corners at 30-35 mph in pursuit of a break with 12 miles to go. Think that might have gotten hairy? Ask all of the wounded. Bad day to be an Aussie from CSC, that's for sure.

And to think there was a lot of trepidation over the narrow, shoulder-less roads at the Bull Run Farms RR.

Page Two:
Speaking of which: I got back on the bike in earnest today for the first time since biting it at that bloody downstate race eight days ago. (Caveat: I did in fact ride a few miles, total, over the previous three days, towing my kid on the tagalong, to and from school and the hardware store. But those were short and very slow.)
Today I rode for an hour in the morning, wending my way from Cleveland Heights to downtown via South Euclid; and then about 30 minutes home in the afternoon. Total: About 24 miles, mostly in Zone 1-2, with some Z3 periods -- but generally quite easy.
Two observations:
1) I'm happily pain-free with only this not-insignificant exception: Hard cranking, or the jarring from riding over busted pavement, hurts my left foot and ankle. That foot was unscathed in the wreck, but is now black and blue, because the giant hematoma on my shin bled and the blood drained downward, leaving me with a swollen, sore and occasionally numb foot. I did not use enough RICE over the last week, that's for sure.
2) I was just starting to round into something close to decent shape a couple weeks ago, then had a regrettably short, light training week leading up to the wreck, and virtually nothing since. Today confirmed the predictable: I'm in shitty shape -- again.
So Westlake looks doubtful at best, and certainly futile, for tomorrow.
But hey -- I'm back in the saddle again! Whoopie-ti-yi-yo.
- JN

Sunday, May 11, 2008

My Wife: The Cervelo SLC-SL of Mothers

Mother's Day is just about wrapped up, and it hasn't passed without me being thankful. As a son, and as a husband/dad, I got more than my fair share of good luck.
I'm not going to go into some John Denver thing here, gooshing all kinds of mushy Hallmark pap. It's not that I'm not a sentimental guy; it's just that this is mainly a biking blog. I have to ride at close tolerances with people who might "swerve to miss a hole" and "accidentally" take out my front wheel if I write that kind of pabulum.
Nonetheless, I reflected on something as I spent a weekend on the DL, a week removed from the wreck I've documented in the last few posts, and a year and a day removed from the first of two crashes last year that inflicted a good deal of pain.
Here's the thing: After each wipeout, acquaintances and even family members surveyed the damage, looked at me stupidly and asked, "Why do you do this?" Yet my wife ever asked that question. How lucky am I?
She has never once suggested that I'm foolish for getting back on the bike after doing the equivalent of jumping out of a car traveling 25 mph. She has never looked at a bill from the physical therapist or whatever and yelled, "We cannot afford your stupid self-indulgence!" She hasn't even rolled her eyes in a condescending way and said with a patronizing smile, "I just don't understand why you do it, honey."
My wife has never once even implied that she wishes I'd quit racing. On the contrary, she encourages me to do it even when I feel like other responsibilities or needs ought to pre-empt that day's, or that night's, race.
She has seen me near tears as I peel off bloody bandages, or hobble around the house on purple legs, or grimace and groan through another painful half-hour physical-therapy session aimed at loosening up a shoulder so internally ravaged that I couldn't remove a T-shirt without her help.
For a lot of people, including some of my relatives, seeing me after a wreck would be outright aversion therapy. Those people may never get on a bike again after seeing what they think it did to me.
But my wife? Not only is she not cowed by my misfortune, but she is actually biking more often lately than she has in years. She'll ride to her exercise class Monday morning. She turned to me this morning as she read a newspaper feature about the Great Allegheny Passage -- a bike path from Pittsburgh to Washington, D.C. -- and suggested we do it with the kids in a couple years. She's come to two or three races a year for the last couple years, including one of the races I wrecked in, and is eager to bring our girls to watch some more.
Maybe that's because she has seen what my bike has really done to me. It has made me a better person. With her help.
We cyclists ask a lot of our spouses, and mine is happy (most of the time) to give the support I need. That's a lot to be grateful for.
Happy Mother's Day, Jen!

(She doesn't read this blog, so if you see her, tell her about this post. It could score me some more brownie points.)

- JN

Wednesday, May 7, 2008


I'm getting kind of used to this crashing stuff. But it's not easy to get used to the bruises -- because they change by the day, almost by the hour.

I wrecked Sunday, in the 2nd turn of the Bull Run Farms Road Race -- thanks to an orange cone that someone left inside the yellow lines just past the apex of our 25-mph turn.

Here's where things stand this evening. They look a lot different than this morning.

This first one was the reason for the ER trip. That shin bump was shaped like a little Great Smoky Mountain. But gravity has pushed most of the blood from that swelling down to my ankle. There's a white stripe in the purple, from the top of my shoe.

Now, here's one that was hardly even noticeable in the hours post-wreck. Evidently, it's where I bashed my inner right thigh on the saddle. Didn't hurt much, and it was mostly just a scrape -- in the yellowish area I'm pointing to. But it must've kept on bleeding internally. Now all that blood has pooled on the bottom of my thigh. Who knows where it'll be tomorrow. China?

Finally, the elbow boo-boo. It's starting to hurt now because it's scabbing over. Should have bought the Johnson & Johnson Advanced Care/Advanced Healing pads:

But hey, I've got two family members in the hospital and another friend whose cancer just reappeared. His doc told him to "get your affairs in order." So I'm not complaining. As just about anyone who races knows, the fun isn't free, and these are part of the price, right? With luck, I'll be at Westlake on Tuesday. I can't have my teammates all doing so well without me there to help, right?

Ride on!

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Crash Vics OK

Good news for the (other) folks injured in the Bull Run Farms Road Race: They, too, are recuperating at home. I'm recuperating at work today -- in shorts, with ice packs on both legs. But I could be back on the bike by the weekend.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Evil Doc Plays God with Dogs!

Remember those sci-fi movies, where some evil scientist makes an evil twin/clone from someone/something else?
They are not fi. They may be sci, but they're not fiction.
How do I know?
Because I have found an evil scientist who has copied my dog. I just saw more proof.
My Molly:

Good girl.

NOT my Molly:

Grr! Bad dog!

The latter is a copy -- a cloned dog. More proof? The bottom dog's owner is a DOCTOR -- a MAD SCIENTIST!

And hers is an Uber-dog: It runs five miles!

Suspicious? I am.

- JN

SMACK! Down!

I keep telling myself that tomorrow I quit mainlining black-tar heroin. Well, tomorrow is going to have to wait a few more days.

I skipped RATL on Saturday because rain was pouring on my drive down to Munroe Falls and racing a crit, with forty-five 90-degree turns, looked way too dicey.

I elected instead to wait a day and do Sunday's nice, safe Bull Run Farms Road Race -- four "mostly flat" laps around an 11.2-mile loop half an hour north of Cincy, on desert-dry roads under a brilliant, beautiful sun.

Therein lies the irony: One minute and 31 seconds into the safe and sunny race, I was scraping myself off the pavement. Again.

The whole day on Sunday got off to a stressful start when my teammate/driver Gary and I realized when we got to Matt O's neighborhood (15 minutes late) to pick him up that neither of us knew where he lives and neither of us had him in our phone's address book. We eventually solved that by waking Rick, our non-racing teammate, way too early in the morning.

When we finally arrived at the race, , we were about 40 minutes from the scheduled start. It looked like we'd pulled in to Buckeye Lake. Cars filled a big farm field, and hundreds of racers were there. This would wind up being one of the biggest races I've been in -- even the women's field had to have close to 30 entrants, instead of the usual 10-12.

We changed, grabbed bikes and got into the registration line, where a girl was typing entrants' registration data into a laptop, and we waited. And waited. And waited. Finally, after about 10 minutes, there was a great jolt of progress: We moved up one place in line! There were about 15 riders ahead of us. And half an hour til the start. And the P/1/2/3 field was already closed out. Word was that the 3s and 4s were close to full.

The start got delayed by 30 minutes to accomodate the throngs, so even though we got no warmup, that part of the story had a happy ending. And our race had a happy beginning. For the first 10 or 11 seconds, anyway.

After that, it became evident that this simple four-corner circuit would wind up being very technical and congested. The 12-foot-wide lane had no shoulder on the right, but it did have a lot of busted-up pavement there. On the left was double yellow, and the ref emphasized that the yellow-line rule would be strictly enforced. So our field of 55 or 60 riders was squeezing through an 8-foot-wide funnel from the get-go. That's an interesting dynamic for a race featuring some of the biggest purses of the year so far ($750 for the Cat 4s, about $2,000 each for the 1/2/3 and 3s).

After half a mile of sketchiness, we hit the first turn, 90 degrees to the right, and the hammering started. Immediately, we hit 28-30 mph and stayed there. We SBR guys were near the front, so there wasn't much braking when we hit the 2nd right-hand 90. That's when I saw a flash of discombobulation ahead of me and heard Gary shout a warning.

Now, you might know by now that those dreams that seem to go on for hours actually last only a few seconds. The human brain can process so much more information instantaneously than we realize or can react to.

That's sort of what happened here. I was 4 feet off Gary's wheel and was standing to sprint out of the turn when I heard him shout: "CONE!"

This is not why:

It probably took 1/10th of a second for my brain to figure out what he said and another 10th of a second to figure out what that meant as he swerved. In all, I had about as much time to react as a major-league hitter has to size up a fastball and swing. I swung and missed.

But I didn't miss the cone. It appeared in front of me in a flash when Gary swerved to avoid it. I tried to swerve to its left. But I just clipped the edge of its base.

That was enough. I went airborne.

Again, the microflash seemed to last a minute. I rolled to a seated position and defenselessly looked over my shoulder at the bikes splitting around me, hoping no one hit me. They didn't.

I stood up, cussing, just as my tire popped with a gunshot crack. More cussing. Someone apologized, saying she warned the sheriff's deputy not to put the cone there and that it was on our side of the line and all that. But it was over.

I caught a ride back to the start-finish, where I bitched about the cone placement and asked for a refund. But the purse holders just shrugged helplessly.

Turns out I was the first and by far the most fortunate wreck of the day. As the 1/2/3 field approached the same corner I wrecked on in that race's 2nd lap, two guys bumped and one went left of the yellow line. He got hit by a car and was hauled away in an ambulance. The 1/2/3 field, the 3s and the 4s were all stopped because of the closed road, but the 5s and women were still racing far behind, on their first lap. That's when a woman racer crashed and needed an anbulance.

After 30 minutes or so of everyone standing around, the promoter cancelled the race. I got my refund after all.

My elbow was bleeding and my legs were banged up and my left shin was really swollen. I cleaned up my road rash, got some ice for my leg and lay around while my teammates got a ride in.

Then, on the really long car ride home, it kind of stiffened and swelled. As long as I was sitting still, it was OK. But then when we got back to Matt's house and I got out of the car, the motion of lifting my leg out of the car made me think for a second that I might black out from the pain. Same thing when I got back in the car. Repeat at Gary's.

The leg had a sharply angular bulge in the front. That, coupled with the pain, was getting me a bit paranoid. So as I drove up Carnegie, I decided to stop at the ER at University Hospitals.

The ER doc thought it looked broken and ordered X-rays. I couldn't sit down because the pain was too intense every time I sat down or stood up again. (Wah wah!)

Then I got some non-narcotic anti-pain/inflammatory injection and a tetanus shot. It took about 15 min. for the pain shot to kick in. After that, it was fine.I lucked out: I was in and out in less than two hours.

I took today off work (wah wah!) 'cause the doc told me to stay off my feet as much as possible and keep it iced and elevated.

Now the road rash on my hip and inner thigh (saddle rash?) is probably more annoying than the giant shin contusion. But it's all definitely bearable.

No riding for 5-7 days -- or more if it still hurts, he said.

The bike is a little f--ed up -- tape destroyed, scraped-up shift/brake lever (now matches the left one) and the front wheel was knocked out of true. But nothing major there, either.

And I really lucked out: I always, always race w/ gloves on, just in case I wreck. Digging asphalt, sand and gravel out of your knuckles and palms really sucks. I forgot to pack gloves yesterday. But my hands never hit the pavement.

In all, I am fortunate, especially compared to the two folks whom the meat wagon hauled away. And for the first time in my life, I can put a tape measure around my calf and it measures as big around as one of Dave Steiner's.

I just hope ibuprofen tabs do as well as that shot I got. I'm all out of black tar and Oxycontin, and the doc says I have to stay off my feet. Can't score more. Oh, well. All my veins are collapsing anyway.

- JN