March 30, 2015 § 35 Comments
How do you know it’s a shit day? When the Belgian Hardman winner from 2012 swings over to the side of the road and swipes Uber.
But there were so many little hints that Saturday’s 2015 Belgian Waffle Ride unofficial practice ride was going to be bad, little hints that, when added up, reached a disturbing conclusion: Failure is more than an option. It is a likely outcome.
Eric, Dan, and I had had done all the pre-ride preparation perfectly. We had woken up on time. We had eaten a hearty yet healthy breakfast. We had washed and oiled our bicycles. Most importantly, we had pretended not to have any cash so that Eric would have to pay for the gas to drive us down to North County San Diego.
We had opted to forego the local 50-mile Donut Ride and the 3-day San Dimas Stage Race because experience and common sense told us that knowledge of the BWR course would be vital to our survival on April 26. It would also give us some much-needed practice riding on dirt roads. The only part of our otherwise perfect preparation that we had left out was actual fitness.
This became apparent on the first dirt section. Unlike in years past, the 2015 BWR gives you a brief warm-up on paved roads and then plunges you down a 200-yard steep sand ravine that does a vicious 90-degree turn onto a lovely dirt track in a scenic valley. Several people chose walking the first section over certain death.
The pretty valley crosses a pretty stream and then rears itself up a long, endless, nasty climb that is a couple of miles long. Whichever rear cog you brought, by the last quarter-mile it won’t be enough. We regrouped and offered various excuses, each rider’s more innovative the the one before.
“Wrong wheels today.”
“These are totally the wrong tires.”
“My rear cog is the wrong one for this.”
“My cranks are too long.”
“I should have brought a compact.”
“Wrong chain rings.”
No one mentioned the obvious, i.e. having left the right set of lungs, heart, and legs at home and showing up with perfect conditioning for a 40-minute crit.
The ambitious 102-mile jaunt was scaled back after the first couple of dirt sections because we kept stopping for, um, me. Then my front tire fell into a paving crack and came within inches of sending me onto my face, and then MMX did the same thing just to show that he could almost kill himself more violently and recover better than I could, and then there were more flats, and then we had used all our CO2, and then Canyon Bob took out his mini floor pump and got us going again, and then Surfer Dan’s derailleur spring shot out into the bush and the rest of the assembly lodged into his rear wheel, and then Eric flatted, and then out came the mini floor pump again, and then I was THAT GUY at the end of Lake Hodges with everyone pissed off at having to wait, and then Baby Seal flatted, and by now Canyon Bob’s forearms had swollen to the size of huge pencils, which is big for a roadie, and then the group shrugged and said “Fuck you guys” and rode off, including that girl who we’d helped fix her brakes several times, and then Paul B. said he could take us up to Cougar Pass where the group was going, but we thought he was talking about a geriatric whorehose and declined, and then I told Eric he could do whatever he wanted but I was going back to the truck even though we’d given the keys to Surfer as he swiped for his Uber ride back, and then Eric TT-ed all the way back and we had a great hamburger but not before we scooped out the peanut butter sandwich mush from our jerseys and ate it like it was both tasty and food.
Next, we sat in three hours of traffic and got home at 6:30 PM, and Eric checked his Garmin and said we’d ridden 55 miles, five more than if we’d stayed and done the Donut Ride, and when it was all factored in we figured that we paid a total of $175.23 for those extra five miles.
Glad I didn’t have any cash.
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March 19, 2015 § 29 Comments
You may think that the full-length Belgian Waffle Ride is the only game in town on April 26, 2015. That’s what I thought, even though I noticed at the bottom of the sign-up form that there was an option for something called the Belgian Wafer Ride.
“Wafer Ride? Really? What kind of namby-pamby bullshit is that? I’d be embarrassed to even admit I’d read about it.” So I went ahead and did what REAL HARDMEN and REAL HARDWOMEN do; I signed up for the full BWR, the breakfast equivalent of a Denny’s Grand Slam plus China King’s $5.00 all-you-can-eat buffet topped off with two entrees at the Heart Attack Grill.
And I felt like a real tough guy. Something about tapping those computer keys, clicking that mouse, running that credit card, and pushing back from the desk with a smug smile made me feel like Eddy+Roger+Tom+Fabian all rolled into one. Take that, wankers!
This, however, was back in February, and a few days ago the smugness wore off as I realized that all my mouse pointing and keyboard tapping had not been accompanied by training or long riding or even practicing on dirty roads. And I started thinking about what the last three years have irrefutably proven: I’m not tough enough for the BWR.
My three finishes were as follows:
2012: So devastated that I abandoned my three years of sobriety and plunged into the abyss of a 3-year drinking binge.
2013: So devastated that I missed the following week of work.
2014: So devastated that I sold my bike.
That’s when I started thinking a bit harder about the Wafer Ride. Sure, its name insinuates that you’re too weak, too lazy, too slow, too soft, and too un-Belgian to do the actual 140-mile BWR beatdown. But you know what? It’s true! And in addition to the truth setting you free, the Wafer Ride caters to all my physical and character failings, and is actually a much better fit for your training schedule if you’re a road racer who doesn’t normally target MSR, Ghent-Wevelgem, Tour of Flanders, and Paris-Roubaix as the high points of your spring season.
If you happen to be an average masters schmo or schmo-ess, a 76-mile ride with 7,000 feet of climbing, 20 miles of dirt roads, and the undulating terrain of North County San Diego is beatdown enough for a day, and you really don’t have to train extra to do it or even survive it. Adding to the beauty of the Wafer Ride, it doesn’t interfere with your racing program, you can keep taking the same doses of test and EPO, it won’t ruin you for the following month, and best of all you’ll be back at the bunkhouse slamming Lost Abbey beer and Sam Ames’s famous post-ride sausages long before the real hard people (i.e. the idiots) have even thought about dismounting for the day.
Oh–and you’ll start at a humane hour, you’ll finish before sundown, get home at a reasonable hour, be able to sit at your desk on Monday without drooling blood, and will still have logged your toughest, most grueling 76 miles of the year. The sharpening effect of the Wafer Ride will translate into race fitness rather than leaving you a mass of broken ego and ground up flesh.
Best of all? There are plenty of spots left. Register here. I know which version I’m doing in 2016.
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March 5, 2015 § 40 Comments
This ride is not sponsored, authorized, approved, recognized, encouraged, abetted, aided, promoted, offered, suggested, referenced, affiliated with, created by, managed, supervised, regulated, reviewed, evaluated, or in any way, shape, method, means, form, or function related to or otherwise connected with SPY Optic and its officially endorsed Belgian Waffle Ride.
But that is not all,
Oh no, that is not all!
On Saturday, March 7, 2015 at 7:00 AM pointy sharp I’m leaving from the bricks of the Center of the Known Universe a/k/a CotKU a/k/a the Manhattan Beach Pier Starbucks in order to ride my bicycle. I will be riding my bicycle for one reason and one reason only: To prepare my spindly legs and spongy lungs for the battering that awaits on April 26, 2015, the day of the 4th Annual Belgian Waffle Ride.
This BWR practice ride of mine, which is wholly unaffiliated with the actual Belgian Waffle Ride and its sponsors, will ride from CotKU to Pacific Coast Highway and from there to The Rock, where I will pee, take in the view, and then turn around and head back towards Los Angeles.
On the way I will make a left-hand turn up Yerba Buena, and when I get to the top I will go down Mulholland Drive until it hits Pacific Coast Highway again, where I will turn left. After a little while I will make another left-hand turn, this time up Decker Lane. When I reach the intersection with Encinal I will turn right and go back to PCH.
Then I will pedal back to CotKU and from there back to Palos Verdes where I will climb another long hill. After it’s all said and done I will have ridden about 140 miles, which is a long way, and will have gone uphill a whole bunch. I will be very tired.
You can come if you want and you can ride as much or as little as you see fit, and here’s the thing: Anyone who wants to join me on this practice bicycle ride can. The same way that you can jog behind someone on the bike path, or follow someone on the freeway, or hop onto the tail-end of a bunch of wankers sliding along a cross-country ski trail, well, you can ride in my vicinity when I go ride my bike, too.
The catch? I’m not promoting the ride other than to note its existence, and I’m certainly NOT suggesting that you do it. I’m not providing protection, medical care, organization, road permits, or anything else. Why? Because it’s my own private bicycle ride that I plan to do alone. If you show up, that’s your business. It’s not a race or century ride or a Grand Fondue or a public event or a private one. It’s not an event of any kind. It’s my own personal bicycle ride.
What does this mean? It means that if you decide to leave from the same place at the same time with the same destination in mind as I, you may well die or suffer horrible, catastrophic injury. You may get hit by a car, you may fall off your bicycle and split your skull, you may have some wanker smash into you, you may slide out on a descent and get killed, you may blow a tire, bust a rim, snap a chain, crater a fork, or have any of a million other bad things happen to you.
And unfortunately, this is the risk you take when you ride a bicycle on public roads. You are trading the fun of riding your bicycle on the street for the risk of death or catastrophic injury. I’m not encouraging you to do it, to the contrary. I’m warning you about the danger and telling you that if you show up, it’s your life, it’s your safety, and it’s your responsibility to come home in one piece — not mine.
If you do decide to meet up with me, it will be good training for the BWR. I won’t be hammering, that’s for sure. And at the end of the day, although you may well get killed, you may well not. It could even turn out to be fun. Your call.
So see you on the road. Or not!
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February 8, 2015 § 18 Comments
The 2015 Belgian Waffle Ride is full. It took four days. Riders who didn’t get one of the coveted 700 slots are now on the waiting list, which will have 200+ names on it by the time the event goes off.
When the ride was announced, a big hoo-hah of publicity went out, which was awesome. However, not all of it was particularly beneficial. Especially disturbing were the “Top 10 Tips to Finish with Dignity” by Neil Shirley, and the “SPY Belgian Waffle Ride Tips” by some foreigner named Hupthur. If either one of these tip sheets comes across your inbox, please delete ASAP as they will lead you to ruin.
Shirley’s list should be ignored simply upon seeing the title. There is no dignity left when and if you finish the BWR. In fact, there’s not much of anything left. Spit, sweat, mucous, blood glucose, pride, dreams, hope … everything will have been torn from your chest, beheaded, and left wriggling on the roadside back around, say, Mile 100. If you’re lucky. Many will have suffered the Junkyard Implosion much earlier. Others will have simply quit. Still others will have abandoned before the race even started.
When Shirley talks about “finishing with dignity,” he’s referring to about ten people, and you will never see them except perhaps, briefly, at the start. Everyone else will finish with desperation. Exhaustion. A sense of bodily collapse and mental defeat. But not dignity. No fuggin’ way.
You are also advised to ignore everything Shirley says because he’s a two-time winner. Right. We have nothing in common with him. If he’s talking about the BWR, go ahead and turn up your iPod. As one of the best and most accomplished riders in SoCal, a guy who is devastatingly good no matter the discipline, he simply has nothing to offer the rank and file, not to mention the file shavings like you and me.
So here’s my reality tip sheet for the 2015 BWR. It won’t help you do better, but that’s because there is no “better.” To crumple and fold like bad origami is your destination. Trust me on this.
- Blab & Brag: Tell everyone you’re going to crush the BWR. This is the only pleasure you will get from competing in the event. Everything else will be a reduction of your humanity into a quivering puddle of failure and defeat.
- Polish & Purchase: Have your bike polished, cleaned, overhauled, and detailed. Then add the trick shit you’ve always wanted — Di2, full carbon wheels made of carbon, and lots of carbon. Plus carbon. The only chance you have of looking good and making next year’s video is either in the Preen Area at the start finish, or with your guts torn out after crashing along Lake Hodges. Also, lots of lightweight trick shit ups your chance of a ride-ending mechanical, which will get you back to the celebratory sausages and beer that much more quickly.
- Stamp Your Authority: True, the BWR is a 140-mile long odyssey that demands almost perfect resource management and conservation of energy simply to finish. But you don’t care about that. Those sausages are calling your name and Sam Ames has extra ice cream for the waffles left over from breakfast. Finagle your way into the first starting wave and drill it. If you’re not pushing 450+ watts on the rollers out of town, you’re losing. Plus, this is a great way to maybe get into one of those cool photos that has you riding next to all those hammerheads at the front.
- Ink up: The Preen Area will be filled with the legends of SoCal. They will be doing last minute equipment checks, reviewing the course map for changes, and making sure everything is ready. Take the time to interrupt them and request autographs, preferably onto obscure body parts. “Hey, Phil, I’ve always been a fan of yours. Would you autograph my scrotum?” is always a winner. Plus, you’ll have a unique memento to show your wife as she wraps you in a huge sheet of Tegaderm.
- Cower and Hide: If you really are planning on finishing the BWR, don’t ever take a pull. Ever. Not even one. My best moment in 2014 was drafting for 20 miles behind Hines, Chatty Cathy, Junkyard, and a string of South Bay wankers all the way into Ramona from Black Canyon, then sprunting by them as they stopped for drinks and organ transplants.
- Use Up Others: When you get shelled, immediately soft pedal until you’re overtaken by the next group. Slink to the back and occasionally yell encouragement to the people doing all the work. When they collapse and fall of the back, just remember, “Sucks to be them.”
- Cheat Where You Can: The BWR has a long and illustrious history of people who cheat, cut the course, hang onto follow vehicles, and take advantage of the fact that there are no race commissars or firing squads. Have your S/O wait for you at the 25, 75, 50, and 100-mile marks with her Prius and give you little 5-mile tows. If your conscience is a bit squeamish, just remember the BWR Wanker Motto: Rules are for losers!
- Dope: This one is obvious, but with no doping controls you should be loaded up with your favorite brand of cortisol, HGH, EPO, and steroid inhalers for your “asthma.” The joy of destroying some hairy-legged Fred to secure your 286th place is something you will cherish forever.
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February 6, 2015 § 25 Comments
The 2015 edition of the galactically famous Belgian Waffle Ride opened yesterday, filling 528 of the available 700 slots in less than thirty-six hours. Although the ride always fills up long before the event, this year the registrations have been off the charts. Maybe it’s because of all the media. Maybe it’s because of this killer video. Or maybe it’s just because you’re still trembling after watching Jen strut around in her panties, and the thought that she’s going to be at the BWR has caused the servers over at BikeReg.com to break. The remaining 172 slots will be gone in the coming days, but that’s no reason for you to register. In fact, you shouldn’t. Don’t even think about it.
Because based on the last three years I’ve compiled an awesome set of emails and/or Facebag messages you can send to the staff at SPY Optic after the deadline passes. The ideal timing is late at night one or two days before the event, long after the event has closed and everyone is in overdrive putting the last touches on the course, the venue, and the countywide infrastructure that something like this requires.
So DO NOT REGISTER NOW. Wait and send one (or all) of these messages instead. You’ll be in like Flynn, and you can tell ’em that Wanky sent ya.
- The Ol’ Buddy Ol’ Pal Grovel: Yo, MMX, what up? Dooshy McGillicuddy here — we rode together on the Swami’s Ride two years ago, it was in August. You probably don’t remember me but I said hi just before you guys hit the jets at PCH and Encinitas Blvd. Ennyhoo … been planning on the BWR all year, did some BIG MILEZ over the winter (check my Strava, I friended you and kudos on ripping that dirt section last week, BADASS) but dude I completely forgot to register. Can you help a buddy out? Gonna be bummed here in PARADISE if I don’t get to ride, bro. Also, can you comp my entry?
- The Beggar Blogger: Hi, Michael and team. Really looking forward to covering the BWR this year on my blog, Shitheads in the South Bay and my sister publication, Red Kite Bore. We’re hitting some pretty good numbers — site stats are up to 15 views and 3 unique readers per week. Our event coverage is saturation bombing, and I’m glad to do it because I love what you do and want to help grow the sport. By the way, I somehow missed the registration. Did you forget to notify me? Stuff slips through the cracks, and I’m sure you have a lot on your plate. If you could squeeze me in I’d be deeply appreciative, and trust me, you’ll get a big media bump when I turn on the spigot. Also, can you comp my entry and a BWR kit?
- The Cat 2 UCI Pro Proposal: Hey, MMX! Good racing against the SPY guys last weekend. You guys have come a long way, props. I had Anderson and Alverson in the box on that last turn, but decided to sit up after I hit the cones and went off-course and I let them take the one-two. I’ve been on the podium enough this year and don’t mind spreading the glory around, plus it helps your brand. Hey, I was meaning to register for the BWR this year. I have done a ton of miles (no dirt but that’s NBD) and am expecting my Cat 1 upgrade and then the call-up to the pros later this year. Might be nice to have me rocking the SPY shades over in Europe (for a fee! Just kidding!). Anyway, shoot me the pro entry promo code when you get a chance. Also, can you comp my entry and a BWR kit and give me a couple of extra beer tickets?
- The Aged Profamateur Living in a Car: Pretty disappointing to have missed the registration for this ride. Thought you might help. Lots of my life given to the sport. Taught you a few things if I remember correctly. Glad for your success. Doubtless room for one more bike. Out of cat food so need comped entry. Also need comped BWR kit and couple cases of beer, and tell Ames to let me have trash bags with half-eaten waffles and melted ice cream. Calories are calories.
- Greedy Team Leech: Hi, MMX! Sucky McSuckwater here! Team camp was awesome; love the new kits and shades (shoot me a couple of extra skinsuits and maybe another Daft when you get a sec, need it by next Tuesday). I’ve got big racing plans this year after taking a sabbatical in 2012, 2013, and 2014. Can you believe I waited til the last minute to register and now it’s fuggin’ full? The bikereg site is a pain. Maybe use someone else next year for online signups? Be sure to register me. Team guys ride free I’m assuming. I know there are four waves this year, so put me in the first wave. Shirley, Trebon, Prenzlow, and Tinstman are gonna feel my burn this year. Also, aren’t the fees kind of high? I’m not really down with that, for other people, I mean.
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May 1, 2014 § 25 Comments
The first time we shared a beer, or rather ten beers, neither of us could drink. I, because I had been on the wagon for the better part of three years. She, because she was five.
It was at a big party put on by her dad. There was the obligatory keg and more than a hundred guests. She had been fascinated by the tapping of the keg and the spew of foam. Her dad had noticed her curiosity. “Romy,” he said when she got too close to the tap, “don’t pour the beer.”
I watched the whole thing from a safe distance and said nothing, but sooner rather than later dad got pulled away by the festivities, leaving me, the teetotaler, to fill up all those red plastic cups. And fill them I did, with Romy watching shyly, but not too shyly, from the edge of the hedge. Pretty soon the drunks, I mean the guests, had as much beer as their cups could handle, and with the arrival of the taco truck they migrated down the hill to cut the bitter beer with an infusion of salt and salsa.
I looked at her and she looked at me. It was just the two of us. “Want some beer?” I said. She nicked her head and came over to the tap.
“How do I do it?” she asked.
I showed her, and we filled up a cup all the way to the top. “Okay,” I said. “Now fill up mine.” She did.
We stood there looking at each other, grinning, and nervously glancing down the hill to see if dad had noticed our shenanigans. He was holding court, though, and it was pretty far away. “Now what?” she asked.
“I dunno,” I said. “I don’t drink beer.”
“Me neither. But it’s fun squirting out from the thingy,” she said.
“Let’s dump it over here,” I suggested, and we committed the ultimate beer sin: we poured out our cups under the hedge.
“Let’s do it again!” she said.
She filled our cups with more beer, and we laughed, looking down the hill, giggling but a shade worried that we’d get discovered. After filling and tossing several more cups, a drunk came up and requested a refill. I obliged.
Much later I went down the hill to pay my respects to the godfather and say goodnight. “Thanks for the party,” I said.
“You have fun?” he asked, eyes twinkling.
“Romy seemed to enjoy herself.”
“Ah, yeah,” I said.
He grinned a knowing grin.
As the years go by
Later that year he moved to North County San Diego. Over the years I’d go down from time to time to ride bikes and drink his beer, having fallen long and hard from that impossibly unstable wagon. Romy would invariably pop in when we were drinking and would want to talk about books. She read everything, remembered everything, talked about everything. I’d call her precocious except she wasn’t “pre.” She was fully informed and alert, and ended up giving me books to read, probably to improve what she’d identified as a seriously deficient intellect.
What I always noticed, though, wasn’t simply the brilliance and the fully formed mind. I noticed her and her dad. Something very profound and warm existed between them, as strong and evident as that day when we’d poured beer on the sly, which hadn’t been on the sly after all. He was all-seeing. She was all-loving. The father and daughter were in harmony with the world and had been from the date of issue.
On Sunday I finished the Belgian Waffle Ride, riding through a puffed-up arch, the scanner notching my time at almost nine hours, and there was nothing on my mind except the thought that I could get off my bike and have a beer. Across the way I saw Romy and her dad. She’d been waiting anxiously at the finish line for him to come through, which he had done, almost two hours before me.
When he got there, the moment was captured in pixels by Kristy Morrow, one of the finest photographers around. It was more than a tired old guy crossing the finish line. It was something far more special than that. I’d tell you what it was, but since a picture is worth a thousand words, I’ll spare you the extra two thousand in verbiage and let you figure it out for yourself.
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April 25, 2014 § 20 Comments
There are three things that make a course: the route, the weather, and the riders.
The 2014 SPY Belgian Waffle Ride offers up a route like no other. Much has been written about it, and each rider will discover the extraordinary difficulty of this 136-mile torture chamber at his leisure. The weather will likely be dry and cool with a moderate wind.
When it comes to riders, though, most of us will have only a fleeting glance of the strongest participants, as they will storm away in the first wave, never to be seen until the finish. If you are one of the people who is showing up to the BWR in order win a jersey, here’s a snapshot of a few of the people you’ll have to beat.
- Ryan Trebon. Pro cyclocross racer and sponsored SPY rider, former U.S. national champion.
- Neil Shirley. First place finisher in the Belgian Waffle Ride’s 2013 edition, and one of the best professional riders in America.
- Dan Cobley. Don’t let the Cat 3 fool you. He finished fourth last year behind Neil, Thurlow Rogers, and Karl Bordine.
- Brent Prenzlow. He’s an uncategorized “public” rider. He also made mincemeat of virtually the entire field in the inaugural 2012 BWR.
- Phil Tinstman. The best all-around masters racer in America. He time trials, sprints, climbs, and has exceptional off-road skills. Former sprint jersey winner in the 2012 edition. If Neil misses a pedal stroke, Phil’s my pick to win it all.
- Chris DeMarchi. This is Chris’s first BWR, and you can expect that he will ride it with a vengeance. Chris is also one of the best masters racers in America and is teammates with Phil. Look for a one-two combo from these two titans.
- John Abate. Lokalmotor from San Diego, John has the legs and the knowledge of the local roads to be there at the finish.
- Lars Finanger. Unhappily (for us) shipped off to Houston last year, Lars returns to his old stomping grounds where he can be expected to stomp people’s heads in if he’s on form.
- Michael Marckx. Will this be MMX’s year? He knows every inch of the course because he designed it. He’s riding with exceptional speed and strength. Could be awkward if the head honcho wins his own race!
- Ryan Dahl. Truly one of the beasts of North County and always a top finisher at the BWR, in 2013 Ryan earned the hardman jersey for toughest rider on the course.
- Brian Zink. The question mark here is fitness. If Brian is on form, he will storm the field, much as he did in 2012 when he won the hardman jersey, and last year when he finished sixth.
- David Jaeger. Winner of the inaugural BWR in 2012, DJ is currently on fire as evidenced by his podium finish in the state road race. If he carries it over to Sunday, he will be lethal.
- Logan Fiedler. If he hadn’t been felled by a broken elbow earlier this year, Logan would be higher on this list as he’s an excellent climber, skilled in the dirt, and has tremendous endurance.
- Robert Frank. Major Bob placed 16th last year with minimal training. This year he’s scorching, earning 2nd place last weekend at the state road race. Lean, fast, an excellent climber, and equally comfortable on dirt and asphalt, a podium is not out of the question.
Given the fact that over 500 riders have signed up for the 2014 SPY Belgian Waffle Ride, there will certainly be surprises as well as strong riders who I’m simply unfamiliar with and have omitted out of ignorance. This list, however, should include at least a handful of the top finishers. Game on!
Did you know that you can subscribe to “Cycling in the South Bay”? Your donation will go directly to a masseuse fund that will help me feel better after the BWR! Plus, everything here is true except for the parts I’ve made up, which is all of it. Click here and select the “subscribe” link in the upper right-hand corner. I’ll be glad you did.