Wednesday, April 29, 2009

testosterone patch

Honestly I'd like to try one of these some time.

The whole performance enhancing drug scene doesn't impress me in the least, I think cheaters are amongst the lowest forms of life, but I can't say that I'm not curious as to the effects of HGH, EPO and the like. Guys dope and get caught all the time, but depending on who you listen to, everyone that isn't caught is either completely clean or completely dirty. There is one indisputable fact: none of them are me.

Isn't it hypocritical for people that have no idea what sort of effect the go-go juice has on performance to criticize those who use them? How do we know how much they help without first hand knowledge? Maybe they don't help that much at all. To assist us in properly scaling our disdain for cheaters we should all get a shot at trying some of this stuff out so we know exactly what kind of an effect it would have.

But blood transfusions and anything else delivered via a needle seem hardcore, the heroin of performance enhancers: serious shite. The testosterone patch is like marijuana... it'll still get you high but you're not a junkie if you dabble in it.

None of this will ever happen but if there was a gun to my head and I had to choose one performance enhancer I'd go with the patch and get my Floyd Landis on.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

The Way Back

Last week a younger colleague and I were traveling to a conference together in her well equipped and relatively comfortable Toyota mini-van. The van has seating for 7 with a full sized row of seats behind the second row of seats but in front of the tailgate. In discussing her van's utility she referred to this row of seats as the "way back" and I had to stop her mid sentence. "Sorry" I said "that's my generation's term, and I forbid you from ever uttering it again... unless you do so in deference to those who actually experienced a true 'way back'." I'll accept mini-van owners saying "seating for seven" or "third row seating" but "way back" is sacred ground.

No way back ever had seats. In my estimation time has cheapened the significance of the term "the way back." There once was a time when the way back was a frontier, a vast wilderness of molded plastic, carpet and safety glass. There was no direct access, you clamored over the bench seat or crawled in through the tailgate to get there. There were no seat belts or air bags, curtain or otherwise. Your protection was limited to the very low probability that you'd actually get in an accident. Entertainment was spit balls and pretend space travel, not tiny TVs hanging from the ceiling.

Everyone, and I mean everyone, loves station wagons. We love them for their sentimentality as much as their practicality. It's funny to see how car manufacturers are now trying to come up with vehicles that drive like a sedan but with the carrying capacity of an SUV. They make crossovers or CUVs... when all we really need are station wagons. They'll come up with an entirely new vehicle, when they only really needed to blow up the trunk of the better sedans on the market.

My family's first wagon was a Pinto with fake wood panels that looked just like this except it was green where this one is white. These weren't prone to explosion as far as I recall... at least ours never blew up.

We moved on to a pair of Chevy Malibu wagons, like the one below but in blue and red and without the jacked up wheels. My strongest memory of that car was slamming our dog's tail in the rear window which opened separately from the tailgate.

Take a moment and appreciate the enormity of that rear storage area. Such a beautiful thing.

Today I drove neutral support today for the Quabbin Road Race in our current wagon, a 1995 Corolla Wagon (seen below). Once again the wagon proved to be an perfectly suited tool for the job. This car is going on 1/4 of a million miles, and I'd replace it if there was something as good as it on the road.

There isn't.

But the reality is the the corolla does have 225,000 miles on it, and we've been looking. Here's what we found so far.

The first generation Matrix (below) was looking pretty good, but there was a corolla redesign coming and we were hoping for a proper wagon to replace the stubby rear end of the 2008 version.

The new Matrix was a disappointment. Check it out here. The tiny third window standing watch over the cargo area was eliminated. What the hell is that? Doesn't this create a huge blind spot? Are we as car buying consumers that afraid of station wagons that we can't handle the third window?

Apparently so... check out the Venza. A wagon by any other estimation, but again they've jumped through hoops to avoid a sizable window over the cargo area, and have created another monster blind sot in the process.

Here's the 2002 Protege 5, another good looking car. This is a respectable small wagon.

The Mazda3 replaced it, and again the third window has been hacked down to near non-existence.

Hyundai's new Elantra wagon sedan seems to be afraid of that rear window too, but perhaps the name "Touring Sedan" will help it overcome the station wagon stigma.

Hopefully some of the euro "touring sedans" make their way stateside, like this straight sexy accord wagon.

That is a way back I can relate to.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Having fun

Yesterday's ride confirmed a something about triathlon that I have known for years but just recently came to fully understand and appreciate.

Triathlon sucks.

I've been riding a bike since I was a kid. I started banging around the neighborhood like everybody else, spent many hours pedaling around delivering papers, and got interested in BMX & freestyle in the years right before I began to drive. I started mountain biking in college and it never occurred to me that riding a bike would be anything other than fun.

I bought my first real road bike 6 years ago and did a few triathlons mostly because a few of my riding partners were doing them as well. The bike part was always my favorite, I never liked running much and swimming wasn't a whole lot of fun either. I moved on to road racing and cyclocross to continue to compete without the running and swimming, but my focus had changed significantly. I worried more about watts, results, and crossresults points than about having fun. 

The joy had been sucked out of riding.

But that's nothing compared to training for an Ironman.

I started training in January for IMLP, logging 7-12 hours per week, watching everything I ate, and spending a lot of time alone just pounding out the miles. After the first 10 weeks of my program, my right knee developed some mild pain. Pushing through that for the next 5 weeks was hurting more and more, so I shut it down two weeks ago to try and fully recover. I stressed over the injury for nearly two months worried how I was going to heal while still maintaining fitness, and whether I'd be well enough to complete the event itself. At best I was looking at a very long day, 14 hours or more, and at worst I wouldn't even be able to start. 

Looking back, most of the training time and miles have just been stressful. Not relaxing or enjoyable at all, but something else to maintain and worry about. It is for this reason I don't own a dog: they are one more thing that requires time and maintenance.  

The recent time off got my knee feeling better but that's no way to prep for an Ironman. My physical therapist/coach/friend told me to ride this weekend, I needed to get out and put some time in as we were under the gun. To stay close to home I took the 29er out to the trails behind our house.

OMG what a great time. This ride reminded me that cycling is supposed to be fun. Cleaning some fresh twisties, dropping off steep rocks, railing the switchbacks, and point and shoot downhill runs are so much more fun than being hunched over a set of aerobars pounding out the miles all alone. Crits are great too and of course cyclocross.

But even with cross somewhere along the way riding my bike(s) got way to serious. Thom came to the same epiphany in his 3.23.09 post. There's no reason not to enjoy each and every ride. 

If the Ironman doesn't happen because of my knee, I'm comfortable with that and would not try and sign up for the race in the future. Why? Triathlons are not fun. Training for triathlons is not fun. Maybe it is for some people, but not for me. Sure, there's a lot of energy at the start and the finish but very little about the actual race is enjoyable either. Most people do them for the accomplishment of finishing or breaking a personal record and not the enjoyment of the actual event. This is now seems to be a waste of time.

All this said,  I do want to finish the race for the same reason I signed up to begin with: to complete a grueling endurance race before I die. My motive for doing the race hasn't changed, nor has my desire, but I've not caught the Triathlon "bug" if there is such a thing that's for sure. I do hope that my knee holds up to the training... and through the race. If am able to finish, I hope I do well and finish before it gets dark. I hope my wife, kids and friends will be there at the finish so I can thank them for the sacrifices that they made. 

After July 26th I'll leave the multi-sport cr@p to the tri-geeks. Let them chase negative splits, smooth transitions, and worry about fueling strategies.

None of that fits my definition of leisure time, so I'll simply go out for a ride.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Play ball!!

Phish FP 2009

Tried to imbed (embed?), but this video is worth the link.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

after the battle, the smell of lime, we miss our friends

Last night was the perfect storm for having weird dreams, which I usually forget the instant I wake up. This time though a hard ride yesterday followed by late night movies lead to a memorable night's sleep.

A group of us headed out for a tour of the scenic and historic Blackstone Valley for the second edition of a ride I call de Ronde von Blackstone Valley. It's a tribute to the greatest of the spring classics, the Tour of Flanders, but in name and calendar situation only. My event is around 50 miles with rolling terrain and well maintained roads, while Flanders features 17 cobblestone covered climbs and regular carnage.

The radar was ominous so we headed out expecting the worst, but we got nary a sprinkling all day. The only consistent weather phenomenon we were dealing with was the incredibly gusty wind which had us riding pitched over off camber more than once. Brant and Colin set a pretty high pace early on, something just at the limit of conversational. We hit our first longer climb about 18 miles in, and there was a lot of spinning. The difference between being in front and in back was huge: out of the wind you were thinking "man this pace is slow" but at the front it was all business.

Unlike last year, Colin wasn't bitching about not having any miles in his legs, but he was clearly reserving the right to qualify his performance based on the fact that he was riding his cross bike which was equipped with, amongst other things, wide handlebars, a 46 tooth big ring, and anti-aero cantilever brakes. Kenny was concerned about the length of the ride, so he spent a good deal of time sitting in, as did Tom.

We only contested one town line, I hit 1300 watts at the outset of that effort and held Colin off for the win. The last 15 miles of our ride featured 3 serious climbs, including the road up through Purgatory Chasm State Park and the infamous Sutton Dip. Despite very little riding this spring, Kenny hung tough up Purgatory but he joined Tom off the back on the dip. The multiple difficult climbs at the end of a hard ride cracked all of us, but not enough to stop some shenanigans coming home along Manchaug Lake Rd. I attacked the group with 2k to go and only Brant responded, and we got an instant gap. When he took the front I stood to get into his draft and cramped. I was done.

Check the map below as well as the power graph... notice the spikes towards the end? Reindeer games...

Apres ride we had some homemade lasagna and bread, sampled tasty Long Trail beers and chatted about our 2009 plans. While everyone has a different focus for the beginning and middle part of the season, we'll all be gearing up for cyclocross soon enough.

The kids were away so I stayed up late looking for a decent movie to watch and found Braveheart. I got hooked in until midnight, and went to bed exhausted.

I started to dream about being at University. I often dream about school, but never good stuff like beer die, single women and Sega NHL 93. Usually I'm panicked about some assignment or class that I have completely lost track of and am about to fail. This was the case last night, but three hours of Braveheart put some serious english on the topic of my dream.

I realized that a poetry class I was taking was giving the final in 5 minutes and I hadn't been to class in months. I made it to class in time, to find everyone dressed like Robert the Bruce. The professor was a big fan of the middle ages, and apparently our assignment was to deliver a poem to the class that reflected on the reality of life during the Wars of Scottish Independence.

Soon enough I was standing in a foggy field listening to my classmates participate in a bizarre poetry jam, emulating the kooks you see at Renaissance Fairs complete with smelly clothes and horse swords. The handful of people willing to volunteer for the humiliation of this final exam had completed their poems and the professor started to scan the rest of the class for the next victim. Of course I was next, and as he pointed to me a teacher's aid approached from behind to guide me out to the presentation area. "The smell of lime" she whispered in my ear.

Two things to note here. Much like Princess Isabella did for William Wallace in the movie, this fair maiden/teacher's aid was trying to help me survive the day. Strange I would bring that into the dream but stranger still may be that I knew in an instant that lime was an important component of burying dead at that time in history.

I was about to ace my final.

I took a knee, stuck my sword into the mossy earth, and slowly looked up at the class.

"After the battle, the smell of lime, we miss our friends"

The professor, who apparently had no idea that I had missed most of the semester, was tearing up and applauding with long, slow claps: medieval style. I realize I'm making a lot of assumptions about what life in England was like in the middle centuries, but I've seen Braveheart and the commercial enough to consider myself something of an expert.

Whoops... the Tour of Flanders is on TV... gotta go.