Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The joys of "suburban" commuting?

As I’ve likely mentioned before my new commute is pretty great. So far I’ve done it twice on the fixed gear and once on the Cannondale so I’m getting the full effect of the ride. I really love doing it on the fixed gear as that is some of the longer fixed gear riding I’ve done.

Before the move most of my fixed riding was to and from locations in the city with my commute only being 3 ½ miles, barely enough to break a real sweat. Now I can really get into the flow on the bike and get a rhythm going in the pedals. That said I’m really hoping to be able to fix up the old Schwinn Traveler I picked up off a friend into a reliable commuter. Fixed everyday with my overly tight legs just won’t continue to fly. For the time being though the rear wheel is beyond repair and a search is being carried out for a used replacement.

I also LOVE the first parts of the commute. Once I get down across 193 I jump onto the bike trails for probably about 5 or 6 miles where everything is quite and peaceful and no cars come flying by, frustrated by the cyclist going under/near the speed LIMIT. This morning I saw a handful of other cyclists and said hello or gave a wave to each of them. Some were commuters while some were just riding; all the same to me though, as long as they’re on a bike.

One guy that I’ve seen twice now is a really large guy riding an old mountain bike probably from target or something. He kind of swerves back and forth and you can tell he is really working hard on the bike but all the same I was really happy to see him this morning for the second time in three days of riding. He’s very courteous and moves well to the right when I announce on your left and just fact that he’s out there giving it a try is awesome. I hope he sees some really positive results from his bike commuting time and continues it for a long time.

The times they are a' changin'

Over the course of the last week or two so much has happened. I’ve bought a house and moved in, started commuting 4x’s farther then I used to, bought a pick up truck, made numerous trips to Ikea, Target and the Home Depot and basically have taken up a whole new lifestyle as a homeowner. Things from here on out will be very different for me, especially now that I own a car and live outside the city, but on the other hand, Old-Town Greenbelt is very accessible both by foot and bike and I can and will continue to ride to the town center for small grocery trips, meals and even to see a movie at the old theater.

I’ll continue to commute by bike as much as possible, even if last week I only did it two days, though two other days I biked to the metro as well. Yesterday in an attempt to hit the MVA and transfer my residency over to MD, I ended up driving in to Fort Totten since I’d be going there to the animal rescue league after work anyway, though I doubt that will become a regular thing.

Anyway, lifestyle changes abound for me at the moment though I’d like to continue to keep things very simple and easy. The simplicity of my life since moving into DC has been one of my favorite things with stress taking a back seat to all of the fun I’ve been having with everything else. There will likely be more stress now with the house and everything, but then at the same time the house work I can do will be a good stress relief as well. I’ve got big plans for the place and have begun getting a lot of small things done throughout the house. The front and back yards both look tremendously better after a small amount of work and a few lawn bags filled. I can’t wait to get to work on all the window and door trim.

Home Depot is likely to become a very good friend of mine over the coming months and years. It’s sort of strange doing all this shopping there after spending three years in college working at one. Don’t want to be that guy that tells the employee they’re wrong, though so far some have been less helpful then I remember being in my days.

Oh and another new developement; the dog I fell for that went to foster and supposed adoption appears to now be available again. Greta the weimaraner with the one bad eye may be finding a new home in Greenbelt very soon. I need to read a little more on her file as she apparently has a bit of trouble getting along with other animals, but I said if she was available when I got my house... I LOVE this dog!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Downtown drag racing

At the end of my commute this morning I drag raced a big box truck. The passenger loved it and was laughing and yelling. I turned and flashed a big grin after I won (he had to slow down for traffic in front of him) and zipped between some cars and the curb. That was fun. My legs are thrashed today and I didn’t even race last night. I did pick up the new (used) pick up. It’s nice. I’m still commuting by bike though.

Monday, August 20, 2007

The new digs

It’s official; I’m a homeowner! I made my first Home Depot run Sunday morning as a home owner and did my first bit of yard work too. I even grilled out on the BBQ for the first time Sunday night. Put up some curtains, swept the walk, drilled some holes; you know, homeowner stuff…

My folks are pretty excited about it as well; my Dad maybe even more so then me. He helped me out more then I could’ve asked over the weekend including all day Saturday with moving and took me on my Sunday morning Home Depot run. Don’t have a car yet though so it was very good to have the help. He even helped me get the motorcycle in to a repair shop to get it fixed up.

I currently don’t have internet or cable and have no plans to change that so I probably won’t be posting much from home. Hopefully though I’ll start spending some time in Microsoft Word writing posts instead of surfing the interwebs aimlessly and channel surfing when I’m bored. More books would be good too, though probably the best thing that should come of this is more motivation to do things around the house with less other options to distract myself with. Need to go check out the fitness center soon and get signed up for some classes there.

The truck I got transferred from SC got into the Carmax on Friday or Saturday and should be ready to go by tomorrow, a whole week earlier then they said. Hopefully by tomorrow night I’ll be cruising to the Home Depot on my own set of wheels. I know this seems like an abrupt change and I’ll try and explain it in a future post. I don’t plan on using it that much, especially during the week so things won’t really change a whole lot. With the move to a less public transport friendly area though and not flexcar nearby a personal car seems like the way to go. On top of that with the likelihood that my folks will be moving to PA entirely and starting a embroidery franchise up there a flaxcar just won’t do the trick.

I'll try and get some pictures posted of the place soon.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Racing Crash: The 1st Edition

It’s been a while coming for me but last night it finally happened; I popped my cherry of bike racing crashes at Greenbelt last night. It was a pretty large crash in the number of guys that went down and were ultimately affected by it as the initial crasher was in the very middle of the pack when he went down. Apparently he crossed wheels with a rear wheel in front of him and couldn’t regain his balance from there. There was basically a road wide fall out of riders with a large group having to stop behind the crash group. No one was terribly hurt and even more remarkably it looked like all of the bikes got out relatively unscathed a well.

Aside from a sore ass and wrist and a small scrap on my knee I am fine as well. The body of course was sore this morning and I stuck to the sheets ever so slightly last night but otherwise I’m good as new. Unfortunately I still didn’t sleep well due to my anxiety and excitement for the big day tomorrow. The WaPo is certainly not helping with the anxiety part.

The race itself was going really well and we at least three guys well positioned at all times leading up to the crash. Michael, Joe and I each had good long breakaways that helped keep the pace a bit higher this week then last week. I managed to get upfront to try and help Joe’s breakaway survive which was pretty fun and we were actively discussing things going on in the race as well. After my near lap long time off the front I took a couple of laps to recover and was beginning to feel good again and was actively moving back up to th front of the pack when the crash occurred.

I was naturally pretty disappointed after the crash especially considering that I was feeling pretty decent and felt I had a good chance for a strong finish. In stead I took a couple of laps out and then jumped back in to try and help pull back a rider who took advantage of a pack slow down after the crash to allow riders to get back into the pack and put in a hard attack. I think I helped close the gap quite a bit before being and attacked and then subsequently shelled after that. All the better though at that point, I pulled off and watched the rest of the race from the sidelines.

The remaining two Union riders at the finish, Joe and Chris managed very respectable 11th and 12th place finishes respectively in probably one of the largest fields of the year at this race so all was certainly not lost.

This pic was from before the Greenbelt race last week, Joe, Mikhail, Chris and me. As you can see I like to dream. Have a few more which I thought I got loaded but apparently not. I will put those up when I get a chance as well.

Next week will hopefully have a different outcome for the final Greenbelt race of the season. We should have a strong Union force once again in the B race though.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Link laughter

I've found myself highly entertained by a couple of posts today that do a little bit to touch on the ridiculous nature of the sport of amature cycling and the awful things which we cyclists will do to ourselves for our sport. I believe you will as well.

Mike May laments the loss of a life (even if it was the life of a family man which we all know is in reality no life) due to his hateful coach's latest workout regiment.

The Unholy Rouleur provides a telling description of how to train for cyclo-cross season. This may be my favorite Unholy post yet!

My Squad(s) of the Year

I’ve been putting off this post for a while now; not because I don’t want to write it but instead because I want to write it well and actually put some thought into it (hard as that may be for me). I’ll likely still fail but at least I’ll have given it some effort here. The post is one going around the local racing community as requested by Mike over at GamJams.net and asks guys to state their favorite local team aside from their own and to say a few things about them. A sort of “spread the love”, let’s gather around the campfire, sing songs, hold hands and pat each other on the back sort of post.

So far I’ve seen some great (if maybe a bit tail kissing… ;-) posts by some well respected riders. The Unholy Rouleur loves everyone. My teammate Chris gets misty eyed for a few clubs and a couple of other guys spread the love as well. So far it seems Artemis is a fan (competitor) favorite with a shout out from three of the four responses I’ve seen so far. I almost wonder if the guys over at Artemis should view this as a wake up call and need to jump up the training after this; I mean if all their competitors like them they must not be winning enough, right?

I not even going to go into describing my favorite team of all, Racing Union as I believe the originality, popularity and judgmentally damning nature of my communist squad speaks for itself. On the other hand, I like Chris and Jim cannot really single out a single club that I like head and shoulders above the rest. For one thing, I haven’t been riding seriously for even a whole year yet so my knowledge of the local teams is limited. I’ve really only met a handful of racers out there and pretty much all of them have come across as great people.

In my brief racing career one club that has always stood out to me (and I’m not sure if that’s because of the purple team kits or because they’re always there) is the “club of the moment”, Artemis. Some of the first guys apart from my own teammates I spoke with at my early races were guys from Artimis. They’ve always been friendly and approachable and seem to make racing bikes at this level the type of camaraderie building events that they should be. Plus, they’ve got Mike May who runs gamjams and provides my blog with more traffic in a day then I would get in a month. How could I not like Artemis.

Next up is Jim’s squad, Squadra Coppi. Some of the first non-Union riders I met were Coppi riders and after a fixed spin down at hains a group of us including Jim and Eric went out for drinks at Gordon Birsch, getting drenched in a sudden downpour on the way and sporting our classy cycling gear to boot; quite the GB style of clientele I might add. The Coppi riders I have spoken with and ridden with since have always been friendly and gracious riders; one even going so far as to offer a few words of encouragement following my disappointing performance at Giro di Coppi. Plus, how can you not love those powder blue kits; many with the matching powder blue bikes.

I’ll leave my “favorites” at that for now, simply because these two were the two that stood out to me first. As I’ve continued racing throughout the year, I’ve met a number of other great riders and witnessed a few excellent team outings that could lead to new favorites but for now my clubs of the year are Artemis and Squadra Coppi.

Mike, will there be awards for this doled out at the end of the season?

Monday, August 13, 2007

Farewell AdMo

My last official weekend in Adams Morgan and what a great weekend it was. I didn’t do what one might expect and go out and get drunk but instead went out for a couple of drinks Friday night before spending Saturday packing and preparing more for the move. Sunday morning I joined The Bike Rack 8:45 am ride with fellow Racing Union teammate Joe and had a pretty fun time. The ride seems to be a mostly easy paced ride following the typical out and back route featured in the Lanterne Rouge-esq ride we did a few times earlier this year and a few others I’ve done along the way.

I think Joe and I might have cause the pace to be a little higher then it normally would have been, but everyone stayed to together for the most part and overall I’d say it was a pretty great ride. When I first showed up to the shop I got a little nervous seeing a guy on a Bike Friday foldable bike but he managed to do pretty well on it for the majority of the ride and the pace was quick enough that I felt good about the ride afterwards. I’m going to need to do a lot more of these types of rides this off-season to build up my base better then it’s been this year. Luckily I’ll have plenty of good roads out near me to work on that as well.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Kmax Attax

I learned a couple of very important lessons last night in my second Greenbelt B race. One, I can attack the pack and get a separation. Two, the pack will not chase me. Three, I cannot hold a break that well on my own; explosive power but no sustainability. Four, the pack knows this and will not chase me. Dang.

As Dear Leader so aptly put it last night, “Respect for Kmax’s Attax Lacks on the Trax.” Or something along those lines. Rightfully so.

In hindsight I should have held my second, and maybe even first attack as well since I don’t think I ever registered enough of a threat to pick up the overall pace of the race as was my intended goal. Not that the pace was exactly slow; on the contrary it felt much faster then the previous B race I’d done. I would have been a much greater use to my teammates coming into the final lap or two where my efforts may have been able to be put to good use. Hindsight of course is 20/20.

The race was a bit of fun and a bit of a pain for the Union squad. We matched our record number of teammates in a single race with four of us in the B race with some ideas on how we wanted to operate and work together on some things. A bit selfishly and naively I wanted to ride an aggressive and offensive style of race for as long as I could with the goal of puking on the side of the road before the race was finished. I managed a small amount of ill-places aggressiveness in a couple of hard attacks but did not manage to do much damage with them.

In the mean time the other Union riders rode smartly and strongly with Mikhail covering a break away early and Chris taking a few solid pulls at the front of the pack including one on the final lap at a blistering pace to keep our other rider Joe in a strong position for the finish. In the end Joe ended up boxed in and unable to get out strongly for the final sprint though still finished with a very solid 11th.
While our results could have been a bit better and we each likely have plenty of bad things to say about our own respective performances out there last night, I think we’d all agree that riding together as a team was a fantastic experience. For the next two weeks at Greenbelt we’ll be looking to do more of the same with a strong group of riders in the B race and hopefully one of these days our strong work will come to fruition in that final push to the finish.

Bike commuters FTW

I've just got to say; right now I am SO happy to be a bike commuter most days. With the way things are going with the metro lately it just isn't a very reliable or comfortable way to travel at the time.

First I noticed this effort by metro to ensure safer train travel and knew things would be bad yesterday on all the trains with the excessive (it officially hit 102 at Ronald Reagan) heat.

Then last night when I got home I noticed a barrage of Metro Alerts and saw that there was a suspicious package snarling rush hour commuting on top of that. (Oh and apparently my Ad Mo Safeway had one too).

Finally this morning I noticed this post on Streets Blog on the latest NYC commuting nightmares. Apparently yesterday just was not a good day to be a commuter.

The best thing is that in the comments of the suspicious package post people start railing on bikes a bit. Not sure I understand why, it's not like it was a broken down bike causing all the problems, but hey just because you ride a bike and didn't get snarled on the metro yesterday go jump in the river. Right...

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

No tax here still means a tax over there

I wrote this post yesterday but then got tied up and didn't get the chance to post it. Today there is another article to direct a bit of similar attention to. Bush wants to cut corporate taxes; so his trillion dollar war is not going to be payed for the corporations that bankrolled his presidency and whose benefit from the war is the greatest (Lockheed Martin, Halliburton, etc...).
Seems smart, instead me and even more so my kids will pay for it. President Bush, you're a first class asshole.
This morning in the post an article caught my eye and got me thinking about the recent attempt in VA for abusive driver fees that raised such a huge stink. The article this morning dealt with Fairfax County looking to increase commercial real estate taxes in order to raise more money for transportation projects. The message here; they’ve got to get it one way or another and either way someone’s not going to be pleased. Though, if they don’t get it somewhere they’re going to hear about that instead since the transportation system will quickly turn to crap, bridges will fall, road will crumble, paths will not be built, additional lanes of super highways won’t be built (ok so some of it would be positive, though those would probably be the things that would get pushed through first).

Anyway, throughout the life of this abusive driver fee bit I’ve been kind of sitting in disbelief and chuckling to myself at the same time. Disbelief that people are justifying their arguments against the law with the fact that they’ll be hurt by it because they are breaking the law. “No way! Ya’ll can’t fine me lots of money for speeding or blowing off that stop sign!” sounds to me like “No way! Ya’ll can’t put me in jail for stealing those CD’s!” I mean I know they’re different and all but they’re both breaking the law, plus a traffic violation is much more likely to cause harm to another person then a minor theft.

Chuckling to myself because, well, the money’s got to come from somewhere and in the end it always comes down to the people’s pockets. Higher commercial real estate taxes mean higher costs for business which of course are then transferred over in the end to the consumers, aka potential abusive fine payers. One way or another guys, one way or another.

The abusive driver fees on the other hand are actually pretty great in my eyes and would be far better then additional taxes else where. If you think about it it’s an additional “tax” that would be so easy to not have to pay. All you’ve got to do is OBEY THE F’ING LAW and look at that you’ve in retrospect kept your taxes from rising, or from another view essentially lowered them. Yes, please! I’ll take that option. 20 MPH+? Who needs that?

I’ve got to give it to folks that I’d be upset if this fee were applied to cyclists too so every time you get cited for running a red light or blowing through a stop sign you pay a hefty fine. I would however grit my teeth and bear this oh so terrible and undo burden, oh and probably not blow through any more stop signs. The difference here though is that cars doing similar things unfortunately have a much higher chance of causing harm then me riding my bicycle. That’s generally just my own life I’m putting in my hands with that as opposed to all those around me.

The arguments about it hurting certain people more then others is just a bit ridiculous as well. Yeah some folks can afford to pay the additional fees and will therefore probably still do stupid things and continue speeding as before; but EVERYONE can slow down! I took driving school just like everyone else and I distinctly remember being taught how to use an f’in brake. No excuses people. Have a little sense and get over yourselves.

Hump Day Round Up

Not a whole lot to say here other than to recap the day to day operations of Kmax incorporated which can get a bit boring. My mind and energy are focused almost exclusively on the upcoming move and everything that will go with it so coming up with interesting commentary and reflections is essentially out of the question. Closing is in just over a week (holy S#$%!!!) so I’m really having a tough time keeping my mind off it (including at work… oops).

As we all know the heat has been brutal lately, today likely being the worst of the week before it looks like things will be cooling off. Hopefully the weather lets up for us a bit for the weekend. Tonight though is Greenbelt so today will not be without its extreme suffering. We’ll see how that goes. Luckily Scott will be rolling with the Union vanguard out there so we won’t sweat away our energy too much pre-race.

In other news I finally got my pictures posted to my picassa web album from the Pleasant Valley Road Race. Nothing too special there but there are some ok shots of some individuals and the pack riders. Feel free to use them, save them do with them what you will.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Hateful, I mean Pleasant Valley Road Race Recap

Well the second road race (in a long list of RR’s to come) was once again pretty stinkin hard! This time I believe it was a little less about the course itself and more about the heat and humidity of the day. That was the early 9am race too, before the temperatures got up to the upper 90’s (possibly hitting 100 even) for the afternoon races. I lot of the later races were shortened due to the extreme heat and humidity though and there was plenty of neutral water in the feedzone for all the riders.
Photo courtesy of Chris Henry @ ChrisHenryPhoto.com
I’ve really got to say, Maryland Velo Club did a fantastic job with this race. The course was beautiful (when I actually looked around) and the races were run very smoothly and professionally. The best part of the day was when the finish officials “relieved” the riders off the back of the pack from further suffering and placed them based on their current positioning in the field. Provided quite the relief to riders not interested in “quitting” but even less interested in continuing in the heat.

Anyway, I managed to ride strong in the pack for the majority of the race and going into the beginning of the final lap I even felt strong. I managed decent positioning in the pack for the majority of the time and felt I had solid position going into the last half a lap to finish strong. At one point in last lap I told myself (an attempt at mental conditioning) that I was going to win the race, though I never really believed myself on that one.

In the second half of the first lap there was an S turn, right then a quick left, followed by a modest but long uphill section of road where the eventual winner of the race attacked. Suddenly my legs (and my mind) began to hurt and I struggled to keep a hold on the back of the pack. I managed to dangle on the back for a while until finally I hit the sharp right onto a climb where I just couldn’t keep up any longer and I fell off the back alone. Tried unsuccessfully to catch a couple of guys ahead of me and finished the race in a respectable 21st. What seemed so strange to me was how strong I was feeling going into the final lap and even half way through it before just dieing after the attack. I think the high mileage certainly didn’t help in that regard; had it been 20 miles I’d have been fine, but I’ve still got some work to do. Much more satisfied with my performance though then post Giro.

Some positives highlights from the race; I dropped my chain twice while shifting to the big ring and managed to reach down and put it back on while riding in the front half of the pack. Big thanks to the guy in the red and white (polka dot almost?) jersey that kept an eye out ahead for me both times when that happened. The final climb to the finish was hell, especially when I had no motivation to beat anyone and just wanted to get up it and finish. The spectators however were incredible and cheered my lonesome tail on through the line. While I dejectedly refused to look at any of them I really, REALLY appreciated their support. I needed all I could get up that final climb.

Oh and one more thing; not sure if I should be happy about this or more disgusted, but for the first time during intense physical activity I puked. It really just came out of no where while trying to chase down the pack but it really actually felt good; both getting it out and the splashing on my legs. Sorry, that was really gross; or disgusting if you will. Oh well, I guess it comes with the territory.

I sat and watched the entire ¾ and 4 races after mine was over and took some pictures of the riders coming through the finish area. I’ll post them to my picassa account tonight if I remember and throw some into this post as well. I’m no professional, but some of them turned out pretty well I think.
I've got the love of Road Races down, now I've just got to get good at them.