Fake race report

April 28, 2017 § 4 Comments

Telo is pretty much a fake race, but it’s so gnarly, and such a good lab for learning how badly you suck that it deserves its own fake race report.

A really good race report needs to be simple. This one sure is: “Josh Alverson countered on Lap Two and soloed for the last 40 minutes.”

In between the start and the finish there were some teachable moments. One of them was that people don’t like wind very much. It was howling. It was so awful that only about fifteen people showed up.

So, top twenty!!!!

I think racing in the wind makes you better. You either get stronger by fighting the wind, or you get smarter by hiding from it and metering your efforts, or you improve your echelon/paceline skills. Sometimes all of these happen.

Josh had two breakmates at different times, but he rode them both off his wheel. I ended up in the first chase group with Aaron, Eric, and Dan Cobley. Dan was the strongest guy by far and he got us within twelve seconds before Josh nailed the coffin lid shut and pulled away.

Aaron rode the smartest, because he is the smartest. With a teammate up the road he rotated through and immediately swung over. If the three of us could bring back his teammate Josh, fine with him; he’d wax us in the finish. Which he did.

With five laps to go it became clear that we weren’t catching Josh. Dan and I are teammates but we didn’t ride that way. Eric and Aaron are both very fast so our only hope would have been to start attacking them and hope to get away. Instead we kept hammering at a pretty steady pace.

Funny how guys can be too tired to pull hard but when you round that final corner they catch a second wind. Good bike racing is always strategic. I love racing with guys who can think and race simultaneously. It’s very hard to do and I wish I could.

I got fourth for the second time in two weeks. Forever Fourth, or something like that.

David Wells and Emily did the best recap of all, which describes every Telo I’ve ever done, and none more so than this past Tuesday. I now share with you below:

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The 16.7-year subscription

April 27, 2017 § 16 Comments

A giant box arrived at the office from Jessup Auto Plaza.

Sketch, for sure.

The name “Jessup” has long been associated with a wide variety of cycling beatdowns and shenanigans in SoCal, mostly as a result of legend Andy Jessup. A few years ago, Andy got shoved into the barricades at Redlands, smashed his hip, tore open an artery, and almost died.

His recovery was long, painful beyond belief, but inevitable. Just to show he could, replete with rebuilt joint and enough PTSD to spook a combat platoon, he suited up and did a couple of races last year.

Still, a box from Jessup Auto Plaza …

I opened it up and found this:

envelope

And this:

letter

And this:

swag

Andy must have taken especial note of my filthy water bottle nozzles and my love of cookies and my chapped lips! But most especially, this:

check

Mrs. WM was not impressed with the swag. “Where we onna put your more bikin junk?”

“It’s not junk, honey, it’s awesome swag.”

“I got one drawer onna underwear and bra and you got four drawer onna old tire and smelly bikin socks.”

“But look, honey! These bottles are the best. And all clean nozzles! Camelback!”

She scowled. Then she saw the blank check. “Thatsa blank check.”

“Yes, but it’s dedicated to the Wanky Defense Fund.”

“Not no more it isn’t,” she said, snatching it.

“Hey! That’s blog subscription money! At $2.99/month that’s a 16.7-year subscription! Gimme that!”

She turned her back and carefully wrote “Mrs. WM” in the payee line. “Itsa bout time some on your deadbeat reader onna payin. If you was atta McDonald’s like you wastin time onna that blog we’d be onna time and a half last ten years and retirin.”

“Now just a minute,” I said. “My blog provides a very important service.”

“Finally,” she said, as she walked out the door to the bank.

END

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Risk

April 26, 2017 § 12 Comments

I hope you like reading about Steve Tilford and the things he said, wrote, and did. Since his death I can’t stop thinking about him, which is weird because I only met him twice. The more I read, combing through his War and Peace of-a-blog, the more things stand out and make me think.

Steve wrote a lot about risk, indirectly and indirectly, something especially germane to cyclists in general and road cyclists in particular. Here’s one of his quotes:

We hate to admit it, but we don’t have control of our lives minute by minute. This is the way in bicycle racing. And in the way in life. The best way I know to do exceptional things in the sport, or in life, is to live a bit on the risky side. Get out of your comfort level. Raise your comfort level. In racing, hopefully, this will become your new base, your new comfort level, and this will allow you to progress in the sport. In life, it is a way to gain new experiences and to realize that the barriers that were holding you back were really not there at all.

Steve was superficially the archetypal big risk taker, or so it seems when you read through the things he experienced, tried, failed at, and conquered. But in the most basic way he wasn’t a big risk taker. He was a very careful guy. He did things after careful preparation, he never leaped blindly with no plan or idea or concern about the possible outcomes, and he always reevaluated and used what he learned to hone his approach the next time.

For him, risk wasn’t something to be avoided. It was something to be embraced, analyzed, and wary of, all at the same time.

Steve engaged in a hugely risky sport and survived it by constantly reducing risk. Checking equipment, evaluating the course, evaluating himself, evaluating the competition, taking calculated risks … all these things allowed him to thrive and survive.

What’s interesting is that Steve died not as the result of an incident on his bike, but while driving. In a way, this kind of makes sense. Driving is the riskiest thing any of us will ever do. No matter how good you are, how careful you are, or how experienced you are, Interstate travel over long distances carries with it so many risks that are so difficult to mitigate, especially when you do it for the millions of miles that Steve did. Crisscrossing the US in a van is so boring compared to bike racing, but it was ultimately the hazard that ended Steve’s life. Weather, night time, trucks, and so many other factors all came into play at just the wrong time.

If it had happened to someone else, Steve would never have concluded that we should stop driving, or that we should quit racing, or that we should quit taking risks.

Instead, he would have learned from it and not made the same mistake twice. He didn’t get a do-over. But we do.

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This race calls for a power meter!!

April 25, 2017 § 28 Comments

Since my training partner Kristie and I are doing the men’s team time trail next month, I decided to call Tony Manzella to find out the best way to prepare.

“You?” he said, fairly incredulously.

“Yeah,” I said.

He paused because he is a nice guy and a time trail champion and a problem solver and he didn’t want to hurt my feelings. “Well, as long as you have enough time to prepare, it should go okay.”

“How much time do you think I need?”

“Five or six years, maybe?” I could hear the note of faint optimism, and seized it.

My main question though was about equipment. I’m very cheap and don’t like spending money on anything, especially bicycle things. Tony was helpful there, too. “Don’t buy a TT bike. Get a power meter if you can. A helmet and a power meter and you’re good to go.”

I went online and stopped looking at power meters after twenty or thirty seconds, which was how long it took me to understand that they cost more than $15. Next I went to my bike parts drawer, located above the underwear and below the socks, and rummaged around. I was pretty sure I had an old Timex power meter in there somewhere. Sure enough, I found it.

timex_power_meter

Unfortunately, the battery was dead. It was complicated replacing it, especially pulling out the little watchband springy thingies, which shot across the room and landed on the beige carpet, invisible. I had to replace the blue strap because it was covered in a strange brown rusty fungus that smelled like the underside of a toenail.

Lots of people think you can’t really monitor your efforts unless you have a modern power meter that costs more than $15. But the Timex power meter has in the past been used in bicycle racing with modest success.

old_school_power_meters

The Timex power meter has several cutting edge functions that are quite useful and relevant today. First, it measures time. This tells you how long you have been pedaling. If you are pedaling over a set course, such as the state team time trail course, then you also will know the distance.

By combining the Timex time output with the distance, the Timex power meter lets you calculate something known as “speed.” With the time output, the distance, and the speed, it is then possible to predict whether you should pedal more, pedal less, or go home.

I have high expectations of this performance device and will provide a DC Rainmaker appraisal of it in much greater detail after the race. For now, here is a basic review of the Timex power meter:

  • Aero fit on wrist.
  • Easy to read display.
  • Lightweight.
  • See-in-the-dark dial for when you’re deep in the pain cave.
  • Convenient date display so you know you are there on the correct day.
  • Retails for $38, roughly 100 times cheaper than the SRM power meter.
  • Compatible with all bottom brackets.
  • Compatible with Campy/SRAM/Shimano.
  • Accurate to within +/- 5 seconds per year.
  • Installs in seconds.
  • Removes easily for quick cleaning.
  • Looks good with a suit and tie.

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A toast to Tilford

April 24, 2017 § 54 Comments

Just got home from Steve’s memorial service. It was extraordinary in every way, an amazing outpouring of love for Steve. Thank you Trudi, Catherine, Stacie, Micheal, Ned, Roy, and everyone else for such an unforgettable day.

Several people asked me to post the remarks I made — here’s the link.

Up since 3:50 AM, just got home an hour ago. And a hot meal was waiting!

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It’s gonna have to be a pretty big toast

April 23, 2017 § 13 Comments

I was in a hurry after the ride today because I’m flying out at 5:35 AM to attend a memorial service in Lawrence, Kansas. It’s called “Toasting the Life of Steve Tilford.” All I can say is, to do justice to that guy’s life it’s gonna have to be a pretty big toast.

One errand I had to run was at the nursery. The little stone pine I’d bought three and a half years ago in lieu of a Christmas tree had outgrown its second pot. I ran into Rich Stahlberg, who had helped me repot it the first time, and he said it was probably time to repot it again.

I went to the nursery and was getting a big bag of potting soil off the shelf. I was wearing jeans and a clean t-shirt and had my car keys on a lanyard around my neck. A pudgy, pissed off guy and his scowling wife came up to me. “Where’s the hardware section?” he demanded.

I stood up and pointed. “It’s over there, through those doors.”

“What aisle are the tape measures on?” The guy was staring at me like I was a real piece of dung.

“I’m not sure,” I said. “Let me see if I can find out.”

He and his wife exchanged glances, as if to say, “What a minimum wage loser, doesn’t even know where things are in his own store.”

I walked over a couple of aisles and found a clerk. “Do you know what aisle the tape measures are on?”

“Sure,” she said. “Aisle four.”

I walked back to the guy and his wife, who were now really mad that I had kept them waiting. “Aisle four,” I said.

They strode off and didn’t say anything.

I finished loading the potting soil and then got a giant ceramic pot for the tree, manhandled it into the cart, and pushed my way through the hardware store to the cashier. The guy in front of me was the rude dude and his wife.

She saw me first. We made eye contact. I smiled at her. Her face turned red and she looked away. Her husband finished paying and glanced at me. It startled him when he realized I was a customer. “Find your tape measure okay?” I asked.

“Yes,” he said, rudely, and hurried out.

I wondered what that was all about and then figured it was just normal life, people making mistakes and then being unable to apologize or even acknowledge their error. I see it all the time. It’s pretty sad, really. Mistakes are a great way to understand the world better, and to understand yourself better. Papering them over doesn’t fix jack shit.

Steve Tilford didn’t paper things over. He did the opposite. He examined what was in front of him, thought about it, and often let “it” change his actions and thoughts. Now that he’s gone, a lot of us are struck by how little we knew, or more accurately, how little time we spent trying to get to know. Once a person dies it’s really hard to get a handle on their life, what it meant, how they lived it, what they left behind.

Not so with Steve. He left a written record of over 360,000 words spanning fourteen years. The last seven of those years he wrote pretty much every single day.

One thing that Steve’s life inquired about was this: Are you doing what you want to do, the way you want to do it, with the people you want to do it with? That guy in the hardware store, what was his problem? Was he trying to live his life to the fullest? Or just marking time, and being rude to people in the process?

Better choose wisely. There aren’t any do-overs, as Steve would say.

stone_pine

World’s scraggliest pine tree.

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Fondo worlds ?!?

April 22, 2017 § 8 Comments

The UCI did away with masters road world championships and USAC is now encouraging riders to race qualifying gran fondos in order to have a shot at becoming a “gran fondo world champion.”

At first I wondered if they were doing this to fatally poison the delusion of masters racers. Maybe they were thinking that no self-respecting delusional old person would call himself a “gran fondo” anything. By ruining the competition pyramid so that “mature” riders are no longer the base, maybe they were trying to get the competitive focus back where it belongs, on young people.

But then I realized that road racing is still falling off a cliff at the rate of 32.2 feet/sec2, and that’s not going to change by jiggering around the titles for old fart race winners.

Then I thought that maybe someone got really pissed at all these masters world champions. I know several masters world champs and they can smash me without even trying. But maybe it rubbed someone the wrong way.

Maybe they were thinking that a world champion by definition shouldn’t be delimited by the word “masters”? Just like a true World Series of baseball shouldn’t be delimited by the geography of North America, maybe someone got upset about sticking the word “masters” in there next to “world champion.”

Or, I thought, maybe someone got ticked off that the masters worlds champions wear the same arm bands as UCI pro world champs, kind of like trademark infringement. Someone out there in pro UCI Land was afraid the masses will think there’s some equivalency between a rider who wins the elite pro road race and a grandpa who wins the 65+ masters leaky prostate road race?

Perhaps they were upset that when you win a masters world title in anything, you’re not winning based on ability, you’re winning it on ability plus the artificial limiter of age. It’s a stacked deck, a grossly un-level playing field because you’ve excluded reams of people who could beat you like a drum, people who are so much better than you, you’d be dropped after mile one.

They might have complained that if you’re going to have world championships based on age, why not also do them based on race, or native language? Or better yet, further refine it based on weight + age, like Strava. And why stop there? Why not name people world champions of certain Strava segments? Maybe they were scared we would have thousands of world champions every year, each one entitled to wear the same UCI stripes that Eddy once wore. “Wanky McWankster, UCI World Champion of The Driveway In My Gated Community Segment.” Bands, please.

However, none of those explanations panned out. I think the UCI looked at the amazing number of people who do grand fondues and decided they wanted a piece of the action. That certainly fits with USAC’s new motto of “be everything to everyone.” And as goofy as being a fondue champ sounds to the average bike racer, most fondue participants don’t race bikes at all and don’t want to.

They want to do grand fondues, and to them it’s way more prestigious to win the NYC GF than the East Dumblecrook Jakeleg Crit.

What’s awesome about the new Gran Fondo Worlds is that the words “grand fondue” put an emphasis on what the participants of these events really are: Hobby cyclists who are very serious and very good, and especially good when compared to people near them in age. Having the words “gran fondo” make it clear that no matter how seriously the athlete takes it, in the end, this is all just for fun. Gran fun.

No cyclist I know is going to brag about being a grand fondue world champion. Instead, they’ll do the race, get the result they get, and come back from what was a fun vacation in Italy or wherever with their attitude in the right place: They did a good race, got a good result, and are ready to move on to the next one. In fact, I’m doing Phil’s Cookie Fondue in October.

Minus the arm bands. Please.

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