Monday, October 29, 2007


CycloCrossism – The act of continual post-regular-season (see road or mountain biking) self abuse carried out over a mixture of grass, pavement and everything in between with the goal of being able to down multiple beers without completely destroying an entire season of training and riding before winter. This beer consumption also serves to replenish lost bodily fluids due to post race cookie tossing, aka grocery shouting. Often considered a form of self mutilation Cyclocrossism appears to be reaching near cult like status throughout the US bike racing community as serious racers and weekend warriors alike turn out in full force to take on what ever conditions mother nature chooses to throw their way.

I LOVE Cyclocross! I did the DCCX race this past weekend in DC organized by the DCMTB team and I couldn’t have asked for a better time. I had a vague idea of what things would be like; a bit of a festive atmosphere with some pain, pleasure and glory mixed in along the way. What I got though was a shit ton of pain, very little glory and more pleasure then a leisure suit larry with the disco fever.

I started in the very back of the pack after forgetting the unwritten rules of race starts and having to get Chris to re-pin my number on the correct side of my jersey within 5 minutes of the start whistle. The first lap I went out hard, determined to pass as many of the bunch as I possibly could before settling in at a solid race pace. Of course I don’t know what that is it being my first race and all but I gave it what I had and tried to hold off the riders who quickly began creeping up on me. Unfortunately in practice the longest I’ve probably ridden cross was two laps at the UMD course which I think is a bit over 1 mile so the 40+ minute race was a bit more then I was prepared for.

At one point a friend watching the race said they counted me somewhere in the top fifteen but I ended up at 22nd crossing in the top 1/3 of finishers for the C race. I believe I can do better, though during the race I didn’t really even think I was in the top 30 so maybe my motivation at points might have been a bit lower then they should have been. A long stretch heading into a solid headwind after the second set of barriers had me riding so slow I might as well have been cheering on the riders behind me as they worked to pick me off.

This weekend is the Squadra Coppi’s produced Tacchino Cross out in Leesburg, VA so hopefully I’ll manage to pull out a more consistent performance in my second cross showing. If the last Coppi’s produced race was any indication however I may have to forget about a top 20 finish and just hope that I can hang in to the finish!

Oh and I have a new headset coming in that I'll hopefully have by tomorrow so here’s to shutting up the chatter box that is my current rig.

A parting kiss to leave you with. I must say that I should have won either the prettiest or ugliest title (not really sure which one) on the day hands down though apparently most folks were too busy concentrating on racing their bikes to be distracted by my flowing locks of golden brown hair. As I was passing one woman though she did tell me she was trying to beat me since she thought I was another woman. I've gotta say, that makes me lean toward title of the prettiest racer...

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Batimore Half Marathon

This past Saturday I mounted my scaled down attack on the streets of Baltimore in the Baltimore Running Festival. Unfortunately my training regiment over the past few months did not allow me to compete in the actual marathon as I had hoped but I didn’t want to just not take part so I managed to just sneak in off the waitlist for the ½ marathon. What a great race! The half joined up with the marathon at about the half way point and basically ran the second half of the race with them. Not sure that was the greatest experience for the marathoners but for us in the half it sure was cool.

I had what I felt were reasonable expectations of myself for the race and figured I’d clock somewhere around 8 minute miles for a modest finish that’d be slightly better then my marathon time back in March. The weather was perfect and I was feeling pretty good so I took off at a moderate pace from the start line. By the two mile mark (I missed the first mile marker) I realized I was cruising along at a bit under 7:30/mile and was feeling just fine though I figured I’d slow up a bit later in the race. A bit later came and I was still running strong, encouraging the folks with full stickers on their backs (full marathon runners) every time I got the chance.

When I crossed the finish line I looked down at my watch and realized I’d shattered my expectations for myself in the race. My brain was a bit too fried to figure out any details but crossing the line in 1 hour 36 minutes and 3 seconds was far better then hour forty-five I had expected, and a full 40 seconds per mile faster. What was even better is I still felt great. I obviously only did half the distance, but if I could manage a full marathon at this pace I should probably even be able to qualify for the Boston Marathon (my new next running goal!).

Check me out cheesing for the camera with two thumbs up. MarathonFoto was at the event and took more pictures of me then I've ever seen for a race.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

An interesting point of view

That I tend to agree with this view more often then not. Don't get me wrong I love my gadets and goods as much as anyone else, but when it comes right down to it the most important things in life to me are not the material things but the people I enjoy them with. Shoot, I entertain the idea of moving to the rural mountains of Eastern PA simply because my family is moving there. Imagine the kind of job I'd get and money I'd make out that way...

Friday, October 05, 2007

Blessed be thou puppy

October 4th is the day of the feast of Saint Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals and the environment and in celebration the National Cathedral held their annual blessing of the animals ceremony on the church steps. The Washington Animal Rescue League was bringing a group of dogs over to be blessed and to be held by important people (aka senators) and had requested volunteers for the event so I went to lend a hand. I got a great little terrier mix named Trudy who loved to cuddle and spent a nice evening surrounded by way to many cameras and a bunch of great dogs and dog lovers.

The whole event was a bit a of a spectacle but it was good to see the dogs and their owners getting out to and socializing with each other. I had a nice moment in the lone interview I did early on when the journalist asked me about my feelings about chushes getting involved in animal outreach programs as opposed to human outreach. My “Duhhrrrrr” moment was short sweet and too the point… Duhhhrrrrr. Ah well, maybe I’ll get my name in a paper.

The congressman who was going to hold Trudy during the ceremony never showed up so I ended up holding her the entire time and taking her to get her blessed. I didn’t hear much of what was said and didn’t really participate in the religious aspect of it but it was fun to be there with all the dogs and spend some extra time with a great shelter dog. Hopefully this will lead to more dogs being adopted from WARL and people won’t take my ramblings as anything to judge the shelter by.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Cross campus cross racing

Last night I joined in on my first Cross practice with some riders from Proteus and the Bike Rack out around the UMD College Park campus. I got there a bit late and watched as the group finished up the first warm up lap, a bit in awe as the dismounted picked up their bikes and ran and then hopped right back on again, one after another in a line. I’d never tried remounting again and had only dismounted a couple of times so I was pretty nervous about the whole thing and watching them do it so flawlessly didn’t help.

Photo by Jim Wilson

I joined in for another warm up lap completing my first dismount/mount combos with more ease then I expected which really just means it was easier not to bust my balls then I thought it would be. I was not graceful by any means of the word and only got maybe two or three really clean mounts throughout the night but I definitely feel a bit better about doing it then a day previous.

Practice was fun (aka hard as hell) and I think I did alright but we did only do one lap each time before resting for a good 5 to 10 minutes so I’m not sure how this would translate to an actual race. When finishing the laps it was all I could do to make it up the massive hill next to the Comcast center where the unofficial finish line was so I can’t even imagine what it’d be like if we had to continue and do 5 or 10 more laps after that. The physical exhaustion of cross is quickly becoming apparent to me though and I can’t wait to get out there and try to race it.

Riding on the UMD campus was pretty fun also and the course Jim laid out was pretty tight. There were plenty of extra "obstacles" to handle including people and vehicles so it added a little spice to the riding. A few times I almost was taken out by a car but it was really not much different then riding around DC. Can't make it out next week, but I definitely plan on making this a regular ride while it lasts.

Turtle Power: Can it stop the ICC?

According to this article in the Washington Post this morning construction on the Intercounty Connector (ICC) was supposed to begin on October 16th. As most people who care probably already know, the project has been delayed by multiple concerns including (I think) most notably concerns on the effects of the new four lane toll road on the environment. I say I think mostly because other then seeing a few things in the news and on blogs here and there it’s never really caught my attention too much before moving out to Greenbelt for somewhat obvious reasons. As a DC resident and car free individual it really didn’t affect me at all and I really didn’t care one way or the other.

Image may be found here.

Obviously my situation has changed pretty drastically over the past couple of months. I’m now in a decent position to benefit from this ICC deal; Greenbelt is just South of Laurel and a connection out to 270 would be pretty easy. That said, I doubt I’d ever really use it much; for one there would be a toll and with 495 right down the road I may as well save my $2 and use 495 like I always do. But when I thought about it aside from my general feelings that more roads accomplish nothing but more traffic I didn’t really take an opinion on the matter, even after I saw an article in the Greenbelt Co-Op newspaper that stated the community’s lack of support for the road.

Yesterday morning reading a bit of a random article in the Washington Post, I finally took an opinion on the project and the reason for my swing vote selection was a bit surprising. The intro included in the email from the article included in my daily email pulled me in when it mentioned short tails wagging and when I clicked over and read on a bit I was somewhat surprised reading on about the turtle activists. Passionate turtle lovers are not something I typically think about when I think about activists and most certainly not when I think about proposed highways.

But, here it was, an article in the Washington Post talking about turtles, turtle activists and the ICC. Reading on the article explains that the path the ICC is proposed to cut through is a solid habitat for turtles and that when the construction would likely be taking place the turtles would be in hibernation underneath the leaves and brush. If nothing was done the would be crushed by the heavy trucks and equipment or buried alive. Yes, they are “just” turtles but at what point do we become so much more important then the rest of the planet’s ecology that we can do something like this? I realize that this delves further into our society as a whole then this and further then I am going to go here but sometimes we should really be sitting back and thinking about the effects of these actions of ours have on our surroundings.

Image may be found here.

The article highlights what the state is doing to protect these turtles; finding and tagging them with locating devices so they can find them again later if the project goes through and move them to safety. While I am glad they are taking these things into consideration and making the effort, this has also swayed my opinion against the ICC. It would be very likely that the turtles would not survive in the area since during their lives they don’t travel more then a few miles within a given area and moving them away would take them further from their initial habitats then they’d ever be on their own. It also shows just how much of an impact this road really would have on the environment by shedding light on an issue that I never would have even imagined.

As my thoughts and opinions about our interactions with our environment have developed over the past few years one thing that I’ve come to believe is important is that we limit our impact where we can. Building the ICC could pose a near devastating impact on the environment and would only promote further damage to the environment by encouraging people to drive instead of finding other modes of transportation, drive further distances and in the end produce only more traffic causing even greater damage to our surroundings.

I personally don’t view myself or my commute as important enough to justify that much more damage to the same environment my children and grandchildren will have to grow up in.

Logging miles

A bunch of cycling blogs I frequent like to include their mileage on occasion for the day, month and year. I’m sure it’s more of a personal reference point for themselves and helps them keep track of things, though maybe it’s a “hey I’ve ridden this much, what about you” type of statement; doubt it though. One thing I have no idea about is my cycling mileage and running mileage for that matter. Only one of my bikes includes a cyclometer and I long ago stopped logging my running miles so really I have no idea where I stand on this front.

Out of my own curiosity I’d like to start tracking this information, and maybe in the future when the motivation starts to lag tracking and posting it here will get me motivated again and help get back out there. So, I’ll start with October 1st and try and go from there. I’d like to track both my running and my biking, though since neither of them will be officially measured these are gmaps pedometer estimates and general estimates of distances.

October 1:
Commuted to and from work: 32 miles biking
Lunch time mall run: 4 miles running

October 2:
Rest Day

October 3:
Commuted to and from work: 32 miles biking
Cross practice at UMD: 5 miles (missed the first warm up lap)
Lunch time mall run: 4 miles running

October 4:
Ride from Haines Point to work: 2 miles biking

October Totals:
Biking: 71 Miles
Running: 8 Miles

*A quick side observation here just for shits and giggles; my cycling log will be substantially different then if I had started this while I lived in Adams Morgan a couple of months ago since I’ve racked up over 60 miles already just in commuting 2 days. Those numbers would likely be somewhere in the neighborhood of 24 for commuting, 30 or so overall since my commute was only 3.5 miles each way then (though I would likely be doing it everyday).

Monday, October 01, 2007

A losing weekend

No, I didn't race (though that'd likely be the title if I had as well); but everything else at least felt like a loss aside from my one major victory of a mechanical variety. Not only did the Ravens lose badly yesterday, the Orioles lost the final game of the season in a trouncing by the Yankees; a game I sat through with a bit of dismay despite the beautiful weather. It really looked like the players just wanted to be finished from the start of the game; even though the normal started weren’t playing nobody looked like they cared. Innings lasted forever, runs were walked in, pop flies were dropped and O’s managed to go out with not even a slightest hint of a fizzle; more like the final bit of air squeezed out from a slow leak.

The night before SC barely eked out their 3 point win over Washington; a team that when they played their best the offense could pick apart as shown towards the end of the 1st half, though too many dropped ball, bad passes and mental mistakes led to a game that was much closer then it should have been. In reality I should be glad they won, though they apparently showed enough people their weaknesses to drop to 2nd in the coaches poll to LSU despite the win.

Enough of the loser talk now though, on to the best news from the weekend; I finished building up my cross bike! Everything came together well and I commuted in on it this morning and even felt relatively safe riding it! Aside from the headset and the wheels I built the entire thing from the ground up which I’ve got to say is a pretty good feeling. The only real work I’ve even done has been on the fixed gear which seemed like nothing compared to everything that’s involved in building a full geared bike. Amazingly the bike shifts perfectly and feels solid; though I need to do some more adjusting to the saddle before I get much further with anything. It's probably a tiny bit big at 57cm for me for cross racing, but it doesn't feel awkward or anything I feel like I've got adequate control for cross riding. Hopefully the larger size doesn't mean more ball busting though.

In the end I ran the cables, installed and adjusted the derailleurs (ok, so the front was already clamped on the frame as well), ran and adjusted the brake lines and brakes and finished it all off with some slick looking grey and black cammo bar tape. It looks pretty slick actually; not at all like the thrown together franken bike I expected. I even love the way the red and black saddle (that came with my fuji track bike) looks on the bike; the bit of red really makes it look pretty sharp.

Unfortunately the flash drive solution I came up with for transferring pictures to post online didn’t work out when this morning my computer won’t recognize the memory stick. Hopefully I’ll figure something else out soon and get some shots of the bike up along with everything else I want to get up there.