Thursday, May 28, 2009

Sprinters Beware...

...RFK is the last of the bone-flat untechnical crit/circuit races of the year. Well, at least the last one that I'm signed up for in MABRA. From this point on out the road turns uphill and me and my lightweight cohorts are getting ready to throw down.

I won't retell too much of the story of RFK just to say that I tried to break it up. If I read my power data right, I threw myself off the front no fewer than 3 times. In the end an 11th place in a field sprint that was as organized as a Walmart opening on Black Friday.

Again, Amy Jones was there to capture a couple images. Thank heavens we not only have talented bike racers in MABRA, but also really good photographers and Joe Jefferson calling the races too. Notice the pain being displayed and the almost emotionless-where-are-the-white-elephants look on my face. Plus the uber cool argyle socks that I'm rocking.
I'm out in Kansas again chasing some leads and getting ready for a weekend of hardcore racing at Tulsa Tough. I've heard a lot about these races and cannot wait to see the best of Oklahoma, Texas and Kansas-- I ain't scared. This marks the beginning of a journey that has me racing 18 races in a row outside of MABRA in the next two months before returning for Coppi.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

What Are the Noon Time Rides???

Today I headed down to the Point to hammer!!! Ok, not really but I did go down to turn a couple of laps and to try to shake my muscles loose after a solid couple days of efforts. I had almost made it through my laps around before heading back to the office when the big guns rolled up in the midst of the hammer session. I was itching to get in there and mix it up with the likes of Chuck Hutch who has made a couple of my lunch hours painful when I was reminded that I couldn't do it today because I was trying to recover.

I did however notice my Mayor, Mr. Fenty, in the mix today which was exciting to see. It looked like he was handling the hammer session well. I've seen the Mayor out from time-to-time riding hard at noon in various places, with a small crew of guys who aren't on his DC Velo squad. This leads me to believe that there is either a planned or an impromptu mayoral-group ride, which I'd like to become a part of.

However, more generally, I'm curious what other noon-time rides there are in the area. I've heard rumors of a couple here and there that I'd really enjoy joining from time-to-time, especially on days when I don't have a focused set to do while training. So please, if anyone can help and write a comment on how long, when and from where these rides leave I'd forever be in your debt.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Unofficial Poll...

I've decided to conduct an unofficial poll, so here it goes:

-- If I didn't race bikes I would . . .

I'll start off. If I didn't race bikes I would eat a lot of pizza, likely be very fat and drink way too much.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Lonely Miles

It was suggested to me that my legs may not want to race 7 weekends in a row. Seeing the genius of that suggestion, I ended up not racing this past weekend so that I could have a little break in the midst of the season. I took the opportunity to head out of town to the mountains for some long lonely miles. It's nice to be out among the hills and it's great to listen to nothing but silence. It's an odd reminder of where my own athletic life started.

What I found the hardest as a swimmer back in college was the silence of the sport. When you bury your head in the water pretty much every noise from around you fades away. As a backstroker my ears were deep in the water and with the noise that my arms made going right by head it was pretty much a guarantee that once I started that I couldn't hear anything. I did get the privilege of looking up at the heavens as opposed to down at the black line on the bottom of the pool but that was a minor escape from my watery shackles.

Riding alone amid the mountains I am back in the same place. Aside from the occasional car horn honking, it's just me and the wind. Even better while climbing, it's just me, the steady rhythm of the crank arms and my breadth. Cycling is a social sport and racing in the pack is a great feeling; however, the quiet moments of suffering by oneself remind me of the joys of my youth. It was a nice way to reminisce and pass the long miles while reloading for the next phase of the season.

I'm about to launch on my first set of focus races for this season. I am still ahead of schedule on my personal quest for this season but as of late that rate slaked a bit. This weekend is Murad and the RFK Crit which I'm using as a tune-up before traveling to Tulsa Tough and the Low Country Challenge the following weeks. I'm excited to see what my form brings me in these races.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Into the Wind

Toni Morrison once said "if you surrender to the wind, you can ride it." When it comes to bike racing, that is totally bull. I surrendered myself to a breakaway on Saturday and I all I got was the joy of dodging a couple crashes and 1200 watts in a field sprint. I watched the break go at Fort Ritchie. I wanted to be in. I tried to be in. I tried jumping to it twice. Both times I came back a little more broken then before.

If I couldn't be in the break than I wanted to bring the break back. I tried joining in the chase at the front of the field. The break was right there the whole time, it was just 15-20 seconds off the front. One or two more guys on the front and maybe, maybe, maybe. The tail of the tape is that I maxed out at 1200 watts and 36 mph in the race. I put in a lot of effort and in the end it wasn't enough to bring them back. However, it's clear that I can still turn my bike and that Ben Coles' old adage, that "there is always room on the inside," holds true.

A couple points emerged from 60 minutes of racing. The first is that if you come with me when I'm bridging up to a break, I'd like it if you'd help pull a little bit. It's great to have a buddy suffering with you to get up to a breakaway. It reduces the workload and makes it all so much better. However, if you jump me to finish off the gap then you better make it up there. I realize it's bike racing and people are going to do that, so I cool when it happens. It's part of the reason why you learn that lesson to always conserve enough energy for one more jump. However, if you jump me to bridge the gap and you subsequently fail to get to the break...well then...maybe you should rethink your strategy because now both of us are back in the field.

The second point is, when are we going to start pulling riders who are out of contention? This season has seen a lot of lapped riders in the field in a lot of different crits. About 20 minutes or so into this race the main field started catching lapped riders. Fort Ritchie is a 1.5 km loop with 6 turns in it. It was technical to a degree and the attrition rate was high. It was clear from the beginning that some of the riders weren't going to make it the whole way. I appreciate that the officiating crew likes to leave riders in as long as possible, but when they get lapped by the field, then it's just dangerous. Especially when while in the process of getting lapped these riders don't move to the sides of the road and end up going backwards through the field like a bowling ball down a mountain.

At some point in time the individual rider needs to admit that they are beyond their capacity and it is in his/her best interest to pull the plug. We've all done it before, I've pulled myself out this season. It happens and it is nothing to be ashamed of, it's just a sign that tomorrow will be a better day. However, if you get popped and stick around to get lapped and take someone down in the process of getting lapped...well then that's just a plain bad decision on your part.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Quick Look it's Something Cool!!!

Clearly one of the cooler wheel sets I've ever seen. It's proof positive that Christian Vande Velde rocks in many different ways. On a side note it is also a reminder that I have to get my TT bike up and running. It probably wouldn't hurt to work on my positioning too.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Banned from the United Kingdom

Unrelated to bike racing but related to my love of the law, big news yesterday was that the British Government banned Michael Savage and Fred Phelps from visiting the United Kingdom. They were included in a list of close to 20 others including fundamentalist, religious fanatics and leaders of hate groups. This is both a great and frightening thing.

If you don't know who Mr. Savage or Mr. Phelps are, I wouldn't be too surprised. I became acquainted with Mr. Savage while driving through rural Mississippi late on Friday nights and before I learned of the genius of Sirius satellite radio. My choice for radio entertainment was limited to local high school football games or Mr. Savage's radio broadcast. I would normally listen to his broadcast for about 3 minutes before he would say something so incredibly hateful or ridiculous that I would be forced to turn the station or I seriously feared that my ears would start bleeding from his rampant stupidity.

Mr. Savage is a reactionary radio host whose syndicated broadcast reach too far beyond the sound of his voice. In my brief 3 minute stints of listening to him I gleaned that he was apt to explosions of profanity, insulting his callers and basically lambasting any and all socio-economic, racial or religious groups that he just didn't like at that moment.

Mr. Phelps on the other hand, is an attorney from Topeka, KS, who spent way too much time on the campus of my alma mater, the University of Kansas, spewing hate towards homosexuals and anyone who didn't despise them as much as he did. He has been known to protest at the funerals of U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq and has argued that their deaths are God's punishment for the United States' tolerance of homosexuality.

Both of these men are clearly not intellectual leaders of any kind and the world would obviously be better served if they stopped talking. I think it's great that the UK banned these individuals because of their intolerant behavior and their calls to hatred of various groups. The ideas that they spew provide little to no value to the marketplace of ideas. Frankly, they are a bigger waste of space than anyone I can think of.

However, as much as I dislike reactionary nut jobs like Mr. Savage and Mr. Phelps, I truly love the First Amendment. The idea that the freedom of speech is protected against encroachment and that everyone is allowed to basically speak their mind no matter how ridiculous their words might be is the hallmark of liberty, which as John Adams said is "the soul's ability to breath." Any law student who has sat through their first semester of Constitutional Law can recite this country's seminal case law on free speech and the limits of the First Amendment including such judicial doctrines as "fighting words" and "hate speech." I believe those decisions are correct and see their inherent value. It is the limits beyond that which cause me concern.

I realize that the United Kingdom is apt to do what it may when it comes to its immigration and travel laws and is not bound by our Supreme Court's interpretation of the very basic civil liberties which we as Americans are afforded. As to the former, I can justify the British decision to restrict the entry of individuals especially when viewed under the prism of public safety and therefore, would never challenge their action. However, as the bulk of our common law jurisprudence comes from the same source as British common law; such a decision purely on the basis of restricting free speech gives me pause.

It places all of us in a conundrum where in civil liberties are often tested and the classic judicial proverb, "bad facts make bad law" is found. What a slippery slope do we find ourselves when we place limits on the ability of people to freely speak no matter how ridiculous or hurtful those words might be? While, most would agree that banning either Mr. Savage or Mr. Phelp's right to propagate hatred is a good thing, where would it stop beyond there? Would it extend then to others on extremes of the right and left?

The marketplace of ideas is one of our most sacred treasures; while it cannot be quantified or placed on display at the Smithsonian its value is beyond measure. Those governmental actions that impose limits on that marketplace must be beyond few and far between. The marketplace of ideas must be self-regulating. In the end, the best way to end the speech of men like this is to simply do what I did, stop listening to it.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Darn Wet

The following is a retelling of 75 minutes of pain and agony. Every season a bike racer has a couple races where he's just off. For me last year was the Tour of Washington County. This year it was the Bunny Hop. I'm hoping that there are no more days like this. It was 60 degrees and raining at the start. The field wasn't as stacked as normal but 30 person fields have a tendancy of being harder than others . . . there just ain't anywhere to hide.

I'd like to write about all the moves I covered or all the breaks I got into; but the simple fact is that when I did put myself in the wind I couldn't recover after the effort ended. I'd swing back through the field and I just couldn't recover. I kept waiting for the speed to slow down or maybe for my body to adjust but neither was happening.

I redlined myself any number of times in what should have been a simple enough race to sit in and wait for an opportunity to develop. With about 10-to-go the rain started coming down heavier than before. Even if I wanted to see what was in front of me I couldn't. Guys started throwing themselves off the front and the pace picked up. I'm not sure how many of our group had been thrown off the back by this point but that didn't matter, because I knew who would be next if I didn't move up.

The bell lap came and went. I rode in with the field. Here is the silver lining to an otherwise rain soaked day-- I was still there.