Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Story - Egos on the Road

I read a post about some of the egos out there in cycling. As a sport you'd think that cycling would draw those friendly, outgoing, fit people, and in general, you'd be right. But there are those who aren't quite so friendly. Cycling, for them, has a more immediate meaning - it defines some significant element of their self worth. It's unfortunate because such competitiveness sometimes makes such a rider overlook the joy of simply riding your bike.

It's one thing to identify oneself as a cyclist. I'm one, and when people ask what I do for fun, I say I race bicycles (not "bikes" because then they ask if I race Harleys). In that sense I identify myself, my personality, as "part cyclist". I'm also part auto enthusiast, part musician, and, more minutely, a cook, babysitter, and computer geek. For some though it's not enough - as a cyclist they have to be better or faster or have a lighter bike.

I feel comfortable in the cycling world. I figure I've learned a few things in the 25 years I've been racing bikes - and the few years before where I simply learned as much as I could about bicycles. At the same time I'm human. I make mistakes although I try and avoid them and I'm flat out wrong sometimes. I'm properly awed by some of the big personalities - put me in front of a famous racer and I'll be slack jawed and at a loss for words. Ask me to adjust his rear derailleur and I'd do it and know I did it right.

At one criterium I got to change a National team rider's rear wheel - I was proud of the quick wheel change, of holding him up so he's not leaning, and the fact that the wheel didn't slip when he gunned it to rejoin the race. I think he won but it didn't really matter - my highlight of the race was simply to be there to help him out.

Being at a race and being out on the road are different things altogether. Out on the road you may meet up with riders who place a lot more of themselves in their bikes and their riding. Their egos are intrinsically tied to their bikes, their cycling, and everything that envelops those two topics. If they falter in their cycling, it's personal. You know them - they catch you, pass you when they can, and hammer away from you, all without a nod or a wave. Just grim determination to be better than that other guy on the road.

I suppose I used to be like that, although I'd like to think I wasn't too negative. I liked it when I'd see other riders in front of me, partly because it was fun to try and catch other riders. In fact, if I see someone plodding along it's quite a bit of motivation for me to maintain my effort. I'd catch them, stay 30 or 40 feet behind for a bit, then roll past them, saying hi as I did so.

When you see random riders out on the road you try and judge them by their appearance (it's the only thing you go on until you interact with them). A local team jersey means the rider is probably a Cat 3-5. A local Elite or Pro team jersey indicates a Pro through Cat 2 rider. Non-racing club jerseys typically indicate serious riders who don't race, and generic clothing, those are the hardest to figure out.

Certain indicators do flash like beacons when judging another rider. For example, wearing the Yellow Jersey or the World Championship Jersey is simply a no-no and is probably someone who rides on their own (and doesn't really observe or comprehend etiquette followed by other riders on the road). Until recently I'd say the same of pro jerseys. I, like a lot of my peers, used to make fun of someone kitted out in a pro outfit (and obviously not a pro), especially at a bike race. Now I think of them as "fans of the team". Or a Cat 5 who doesn't know any better (but they quickly learn at a race).

At some point I outgrew the "no pro jerseys" thing, maybe 10 years ago when Mapei was ruling the one day Classics scene. Their riders looked so tough - their Brikos, colorful outfits, Colnagos, and their domination of their target races. One day my friend Mike told me that he and his friend Will were going to buy Mapei kits, go to Gimbles, and destroy everyone there. Ends up that most of us on the team did just that - we all bought Mapei kits, went to Gimbles, and put the hurt on people. It wasn't mean spirited - we just went and rode Gimbles and had a lot of fun attacking and counter attacking. It'd make for a good laugh or three, we had a lot of fun, and we really didn't care how things ended up. I guess that for us the whole Mapei phase was simply a sort of doing a hero worship kind of thing.

A story comes to mind, one that took place in 1993 or 1994, after a certain Lance Armstrong won the Worlds in Oslo. A group ride in Connecticut started catching a solo rider cruising along in a white jersey. As the group got closer they realized that the jersey was in fact the World Championship jersey. Disturbed by this obvious lack of respect of the current World Champion (an American no less!), the group accelerated and caught the offending rider. One of the more outspoken of the riders challenged the imposter.

"Who do you think you are, Lance Armstrong?"

You can guess who turned and looked at him.

It took me a while before I learned that it really doesn't matter how you ride when you're just training - it's the races where you decide who's who. I've been on recovery rides and been passed by very competitive looking guys who refuse to acknowledge my existence.

Okay by me. Look, if their egos prevent them from saying hi, it's their problem.

It's gone the other way too, where I was riding hard but got caught off guard by riders much better than me. On one of the Gimbles rides I was sort of tooling along, checking out the mood of the day's ride. A good sized group as usual, perhaps 100-150 total riders. There were some good racers around (ex-pros, a couple domestic pros, and a smattering of Cat 1s and 2s) so I lurked in the background. Some of the not-so-experienced racers were launching attacks here and there but with such horsepower covering moves, no one got away.

Unusually all that strong horsepower didn't do very much - they just kept things together. Normally when you get such talent together they hammer at the front until they've split away from the group and you don't see them until you pull up to the convenience store at the end of the ride.

As I'd mentioned there were those who were not pros or Cat 1s. One stranger was an obvious rabid Rabobank fan - he had the long sleeve jersey as well as the tights. I happened to be riding near this tall fan when I realized he had also bought the Rabobank Colnago frame. A really expensive frame - quite the fan I suppose. I noticed too that he had Spinergy wheels.

The Spinergys had, you guessed it, Rabobank colored decals.

He had a lot of money tied up in that bike.

My Spidey Sense started to tingle - I looked at his gloves - Rabobank - and his hat.


The only weird thing I noticed about his "riding" was that he stuck his 20 ounce bottle of Coke upside down in his cage. He looked slim, fit, and pedaled with a fluency which echoed a lot of miles in the legs.

I drifted away, looking for my friend who raced pro in Europe. I found him chattering away nearby and rode up to him.

"Who is that guy in the Rabobank outfit?"
"That guy?", he pointed.
"Marc Wauters"
"Who's that?"

My friend turned and looked at me.

"You don't know who Marc Wauters is? He did the Giro, 15 World Cup races, Worlds..."

I looked at him like he'd just sprouted fifteen eyeballs. "What the heck is he doing here?"

"He's here on vacation, knows John C."

I digested this information. Apparently he's friends with this ex-pro from Portugal who does the ride regularly. And when the ex-pro started hollering stuff in some European language and Wauters started chasing things down, I figured out the plot. Wauters would use his insanely strong Euro Pro strength to keep things together and lead out the Portugese ex-pro for the two sprints.

Since Wauters didn't know where the lines were, leading out would be a lot more straightforward. I've been in situations where people are trying to tell me where the line is while we're sprinting - it makes for awkward sprinting when you've jumped and you're still trying to listen to your leadout guy's instructions, the poor guy hollering from 50 meters back.

"The line is just past the big tree - that tree, not that tree.. by the sign.. not that sign, the white one... it's.. man, you just passed it."

Anyway, with Wauters leading out in comfortable oblivion (those World Cup legs would be able to leadout for a while - exact details of things like where the line was wouldn't be critical), the ex-pro could go and annihilate the others with a good sprint.

I love when I can figure these things out.

Knowing someone else's tactics makes it much, much easier to determine your own course of action. I figured I could keep tabs on Wauters, fight for his wheel (no one fights too hard on Gimbles), and use him to lead me out. He wouldn't know me since I don't do the World Cup circuit and I'm just some Hack 3 on Gimbles. The ex-pro would probably sit on my wheel, thankful for a little more draft (or he'd fight me for Wauter's wheel in which case I'd give it up gladly and stick on his wheel).

We started approaching the first of two sprints - the Route 120 sprint. It's my favorite sprint - a long, slightly downhill leadout for a couple miles (a couple rises thrown in there for fun) followed by a reasonably long, slight uphill sprint. The terrain favors a strong jump and lots of power rather than all out speed and anaerobic endurance.

With a few miles to go, Wauters, true to plan, started actively chasing things down. All the various racers were going for it now and usually he or the Portugese ex-pro would go rocketing after them, everyone else scrambling to stay on their wheels. It was pretty exciting - I felt like I was in the last kilometers before the end of Worlds when all the racers are just attacking one after another.

Wauters hit the front with about a kilometer or so to go, his legs churning steadily. I was on his wheel. I had no idea where the ex-pro was but it didn't matter - I would go when I'm ready and I knew I could get to the line once I committed. The only thing was that I wanted to wait for the speed to top out - I prefer to jump from 38 mph, not 28 mph. And we weren't going much faster than 28 at that moment.

I waited, tensed, ready to go. Wauters kept rolling - now under the bridge where the leadouts usually start.

Still he rolled.

He cruised around the last, slight bend.

Rolled up the start of the sprint.

He wasn't accelerating.

The ex-pro must have told him to keep the leadout slow or something.

A non-racer guy took off, struggling fiercely to escape the clutches of the soft pedaling bunch.

Still Wauters rolled.

Another guy went. And another.

Finally we were inside 300 meters, well inside the sprint. I realized that Wauters wasn't doing any leadout, no ex-pros were going to sprint, and they were just having fun riding their bikes.

I stood up and released some of that nervous energy by standing and pedaling past Wauters. When I looked back I saw every guy I'd consider a good sprinter on the ride doing the same thing behind me. One of them, a good friend of mine and a friendly rival sprinter, called out to me.

"Hey, Aki, why didn't you sprint - I was waiting for you to go."
A chorus of "Me toos" and "Yeah" and less polite phrases ("What the eff was that?") came up from the riders around him.

I pointed at Wauters.

"I was waiting for him but he never went!"

Wauters looked at me, pointed to himself. Laughed.

"I'm tired, I've raced enough. I'm just riding for fun now."

We all enjoyed a good laugh.

I talked a bit with him afterwards. I didn't know him from Peter Pan so drilled him on some topics. In the middle of describing why I don't race road races, he turned to me with an experienced eye.

"You must be a good sprinter..."


Marc Wauters, without ever seeing me sprint, knew I was a good sprinter.

I must be exuding "I jump" talent or something. Maybe it's my pedal stroke. Or my fluency on the bike. Perhaps he can simply see it in my legs - 11 tooth smashing power. Yeah. Images flashed through my head - track sprinter, Nationals, crit championships... But then he finished his sentence.

"...because all Japanese riders are good sprinters."


My fast sprinting ego hit a proverbial rock, flipped over its proverbial handlebars, and landed on its proverbial face.

What did I take away from that ride? Sticking a 20 ounce Coke upside down in your cage is more secure than trying to put it in right-side up.

Sometimes you get a chance to be good, to be nice or supportive to someone else. Take them because, well, just because you should.

One day I'd gone out for easy ride after work. I did a 8 or 9 mile loop around my office a few times, trying to be a nice, steady, disciplined rider. Normally I go sprinting after everything and my easy rides end up killing me, so this ride exercised my self control. On one particular false flat, the site for many a blow-up, I churned away in the small ring, being a good rider, disciplined, on an easy day. I avoided the temptation of the big ring, the 15, of pulling on the bars like I was trying to peel the cork off of them, of stomping on the pedals trying to snap bottom bracket axles and warping my chainrings.

At the top of the false flat, I stopped at a light - a car blocked the shoulder so I couldn't make the right on red like I normally do. It was a bit disappointing since it's a steep climb and a rolling start to it helps a bit to take the edge off the effort - this would help keep me in the "recovery" zone and exercise my self control.

Suddenly I heard panting behind me.

I turned around. A guy on a bike, in all probability not a racer, pulled up and put his foot down.

"Man, I can't believe I caught you. I've been chasing you for a couple miles now. Man, my wife is not going to believe this. Wow. Hey, do you race?"

I smiled. It's so unusual to see such unbridled enthusiasm. Maybe in an eight year old it's normal. But not for an obviously grown man.

"Yeah, I race. You've been chasing me for a couple miles?", I replied.
"Yeah, from that one intersection. I was killing myself to try and catch you. Man I didn't think I'd catch you but I went as hard as I could and I can't believe it. Wow."

He took a swig of water so I decided perhaps I could say something.

"Well, that's a really hard stretch of road. I'm impressed. Do you race?"
"Yeah that uphill is really hard. No, but I've been thinking about it."
"Well, racing is a lot of fun. Find a club, ride with them, and I think you'll have a blast."
"Yeah, maybe I will. Man, I can't believe I caught you."

The light turned green.

"I'm turning right", I told the guy with a questioning look on my face.
"I'm going straight. Later man!"
"Later", I called out, "Have a good ride."

I could hear him as he rolled away from the intersection, obviously stoked from catching a "racer".

"I can't believe I caught him."

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

How To - Rain Gear for Your Feet

Earlier this year we held the Bethel Spring Series. The last race fell on Sunday, April 15th. And although that was sort of tax day (in Connecticut it was actually April 17th due to a holiday in Massachusetts), most people remember that day for the rain.

It was the worst storm in decades.

Sections of I95 were shutdown, as were many local roads. One road near our house had water running over it so hard it resembled a foot deep white water rapids - and that was a state road!

Our house, usually snug as a bug, gave up and let some water in - my afternoon, evening, and night were spent pumping out water and moving damaged and almost-damaged goods around the basement.

In the morning of this insanely hard rainstorm, we held a race.

As you might imagine, few people turned up - basically the overall contenders, their friends and teammates, and some hardy souls out for a nice race in the wet. That last category - I figure they were scuba divers or fish or something because the rain was just overwhelming in its volume, ferocity, and duration.

The women almost didn't race but a single racer made it theoretically possible for the other women to switch the overall order, so the women went out and raced. After a long, sloggy race, the order didn't switch and things stayed status quo.

I entered my race really to help out a friend. My personal goals for the Series had been dashed after two weeks so I had no chance for the overall. After the race, although I had a rain jacket, I was totally drenched. The rain jacket simply served as a wind break, keeping my torso warm, but my bootie-enclosed feet were cold and sopping wet in the spray and the rain. I'd even duct taped the top of my booties to my calfs so I didn't get that piercing cold water trickling down my calves, but as the booties soaked through, my shoes and my feet ended up soaked.

A long time after the race, I got to talk to one of those women who placed overall. She claimed her feet were dry during the whole race.

Ha. Right. And it wasn't really raining hard, right? Just a little sprinkle?

Without a stitch of sarcasm she repeated her claim. I know there are no booties that good so I asked her to explain. She did.

First, put on some socks and your shoes.

Second, put a plastic shopping bag (think of a thin plastic bag from the grocery store) over your shoes. Tape the ankle area of the bag shut.

Third, put on booties.

You can clip in and out a few times without compromising the integrity of the plastic bag (at least with Look Keos). And the bag will keep out the rain and wind.

I tried this the other day - while kitting up for a two hour ride in a heavy rain, I did exactly that. To give credit, I had to ask the missus exactly what to do with the plastic bag as I'd forgotten. The missus never forgets and so detailed the three steps above.

Properly kitted up, I left on my ride. After the first hour of riding, I felt like I had my feet up in front of a warm fire, cozy, toasty, and comfy. The fact that my quads were wet and cold seemed a bit of a contrast but the plastic bag idea worked on my feet. Since I was reconning houses, I had to unclip a number of times, but the plastic bag remained intact.

I figured out two more things to do but the overall idea works well.

The first addendum is that you need to tape the plastic bag top to your calf/shin, not just tape it shut. Wrapping it in duct tape would work (shaving your legs regularly also helps keep the pain factor down when undressing after your ride).

The second addendum is to tape the top of your booties to your calf. I use black duct tape so it looks clean (and black duct tape works the same as the grey stuff).

The two addendums help prevent water from entering the plastic bag. On my two hour ride my shoes ended up wet, either from condensation (likely) or water coming down my ankles into the plastic bag (very likely based on how wet my calf was above and below the plastic bags - which had gotten loose).

Now I have to figure out a good strategy for protecting my quads in cold rain - they always get wet, my knickers heavy, and my sprint starts to lack umph. I want to figure out a way to reduce the wet weight of my gear as well since I seem to gain 10 pounds in water after riding for an hour.

The shoe thing is a good place to start though.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Life - House Hunting

The problem with life is that it sometimes gets in the way of blogging.

Seriously, though, we've been busy looking at houses - with a CPA's schedule (the missus), we either move before January or after tax season - May would be safe. March and April are out due to the Bethel Spring Series but the missus's schedule overlaps so it doesn't make a difference - we simply can't move then. Although moving around the holidays wouldn't be ideal, if we didn't we'd have to stay in our apartment for a few extra months. I know, not a big deal, but it feels like we're on hold and we'd like to hit "Play" on our life movie some time soon.

We spent the weekend looking at houses (online, in the paper, and then a whirlwind tour of open houses on Sunday). I did some recon first - and the best way, of course, it to ride a bike around. This is what I did - on what had to be the rainiest day we've had since we moved up here. I was looking forward to riding in the rain for some reason - I alluded to that in my prior post - and the rain, thankfully, didn't let up until I was well into my ride.

One thought that crossed my mind - if I'm going to get wet riding outside, it better be raining. It would be much worse getting wet from just road spray and dripping trees.

I planned a route, but without using any topo type maps, I had no idea how hilly the route would be - and I learned the hard way when I hit my first major hill out here. Struggling in the 39x25, I climbed this massive hill as best I could, my main goal simply to stay upright. Eventually I got up the hill and saw the house - a nice one, the road seemed reasonably trafficked, so the house went on the list.

A quick descent and I proceeded on my way. The roads up here are quite bucolic and I felt like I was riding into the foothills of the mountains.

Come to think of it, I was.

I avoided them all though - I didn't have that time to ride into the actual mountains - and returned to the apartment a couple hours later, soaking wet and happy.

Sunday we visited many of the houses I rode past the day before. We found two new ones in particular we like - one is about a mile away from here, 2500 sf (so a big house for us), older, and renovated to an extreme level (enormous stove in a beautiful kitchen, 8 foot tv screen in the living room with insane sound system, third floor plumbed for a master bedroom suite, beautiful garage, but only 1.1 bathrooms and a low ceiling basement that sometimes gets wet). The other is perhaps 8 or 9 miles away in the middle of nowhere, bigger (3200 sf), has central air, lots of land, usable basement, but has an old kitchen, tiny garage, and virtually no lawn (the land is mainly forest on a steeply angled valley - we'd own 2 acres on each side - with a stream at the bottom).

Seeing these two diametrically opposed houses really stopped and made us think of what we want in our home. Until now we had limited our looking to more cookie-cutter houses (4 bed, 2.5 bath, about 2000-2500 sf, some lawn, garage) and jumped when a house had an extra like, say, an office room. Our world view was relatively limited.

I read in a car racing book once that when you make a suspension change, first you should make an extreme one. Go out, drive it, and you'll see what an extreme, say, shock stiffening change would do to your car. Then you adjust it so it's closer to what you actually want. I did the same for mountain bike suspensions - make it super hard, ride a bit, then super soft, ride a bit. You get an idea of what each does and now you're in a position to make a better judgment on what you want.

These two houses were the extremes of our housing world and opened our horizons a bit. We ended up talking about them until we fell asleep.

We still have a few houses we want to check out but it seems our list of "housing wants" has been refined just that little bit more. We need to talk to our agent, schedule a few showings, and see what we find. However, compared to our prior showings, I think we'll be a lot better prepared for spotting what we want (as opposed to what we don't want - we're pretty good about that).

Friday, October 26, 2007

Racing - 2008 Tour de France - Course Review

A couple days ago the organizers of the Tour presented the world with the route of the 2008 Tour de France. I haven't had my ear to the ground and I didn't hear of any "leaks" on potential host cities and stuff - I guess with all the doping in the news, no one needed any extra excuses for a cycling story. Because of that I was blindsided by the actual route.

There are a few things biggies which pop out at me.

1. Very short time trials - no prologue, a 29km first TT, and a final of about 52 km.
2. No time bonuses for any stage, climbing or otherwise.
3. Five mountain stages.

So here are a few reasonable assumptions (barring, of course, what the word assume means).

1. Whoever wins the first stage (probably a sprint finish, may be a very, very hard fought finish due to a 2.3 km climb) will wear the yellow jersey until the first TT. This is because normally the Yellow changes hands due to time bonuses (or crashes or weird breakaways). Without time bonuses, crashes and breaks will determine who holds the Yellow. Basically whoever wins the first stage will both be very strong as well as have to have a team determined to hang on to it (unless they are a GC team - in which case they probably wouldn't go for the first stage because they know the non GC teams will be dying to get the Yellow). Figure pretty much everyone will finish with the same time so the only ones allowed freedom will be those wearing bandages from a crash which caused them to lose massive time.

"And in the break is poor old So-and-So, his crash on stage one put him 30 minutes down on the field. With the field hovering at 20 minutes, he may win the stage but the Yellow will stay on Sprinter's jersey."

In that particular scenario, unless the bandaged racer is a French idol, the teams looking for a stage win will be chasing him down. Or, if one of my other ideas (described below) pans out, teams with second tier climbers will be whipping up the pace.

2. No chance for TT boys to shine unless they try and TT away from the field. A somewhat predictable pattern would have been to have a prologue specialist win the prologue, lose the jersey to a sprinter (who then trades it with other sprinters), then a big, heavy TT guy takes it, then the mountain guys who TT play a tug-a-war with it. This time, no real chance for the heavy TT guys to take the jersey. They'll be tired from dragging their sprinters to the line (or chasing some break for a hundred clicks or so) and preparing to deliver their climbers to the base of the mountains.

3. The climbers will probably have a relatively easy ride to the mountains. I guess because I can't climb, I'm not thrilled with tons of climbing stages, especially when any racer that does well for more than a day or two will be looked on with suspicion (from me anyway). I'd like to see everyone have at least one off day because that would make for a very interesting race. When one guy dominates the others, it's no fun to watch. But when there's struggle and revival, well, it's a great Tour to watch. Just think 1989.

Unfortunately, because of the lack of big TTs and no time bonuses, the climbers will start the climbs without too much of a handicap (normally they'd lose gobs of time in the prologue, the first time trial, and if there was a team time trial, there too). This lack of a handicap will let them quickly distance themselves from the flat landers and make for a small, select group vying for the overall.


Even the "standard" equation is nice. The sprinter guys go for it in the sprints for the yellow, for the green. Then the big power rouleurs on the TT to get the yellow for however long they can hold it. Finally the climbers go out and annihilate guys who are perhaps 5-10 minutes ahead of them - and try and get enough of a gap to hold out through the last TT.

The 2008 Fitchburg stage race, in the 3s anyway, was essentially unchanged from start to finish. The uphill TT mirrored the uphill finish of the Circuit race which mirrored the uphill finish of the road race. The top four in the TT finished the overall in the same order.


If Fitchburg opened with a crit, then the flat TT, then the Road Race, with the Circuit race at the end, it would be a much more dynamic race. A sprinter would take the lead on the Crit, lose the jersey to the pesky TT guys in the TT, who would then lose the jersey to the flyweights on Stage 3. The Circuit Race is probably the most even of them all (hard enough climb but sprinters can make it to the finish, plus breaks do work there) so it would be a fitting finish for the final smackdown. Heck I'd even enter to try and get up there on the first day.

Anyone listening up there in Massachusetts?

So the question is, how to alter the scenario in the '08 Tour? How do you defeat the climbers (because, really, that's what you need to do if you're not one of the leading featherweights out there).

The only way to change my overall "how-the-race-is-going-to-turn-out opinion" is to toughen the race on the flats. Kind of like the way Astana or CSC sometimes puts the hammer down, or in the days of past, Raleigh or Renault/Elf. Use the big guys up and really hammer the lighter riders on the flats. When the super light Columbians showed up in their first Tour, they danced all over the stodgy pros. The next year the pros knew what to do and they really worked over the (amateur) Columbians. The pace was so fast on the flats that the tiny climbers, with their limited natural reserves, arrived in the mountains totally and completely spent. They were so weakened they never played a role in the mountains.

If I were a team director with a slightly heavier-than-a-feather climber who can time trial, when the roads get narrow, there's a strong crosswind, or there are lots of turns (accordion effect), I'd put my team on the front to pour on the pressure and try and sap those rival featherweights' reserves. Yes it takes days to do this but that's why the Tour is 21 days, not just a couple TTs and five mountain stages.

Alternately, the really tiny climbers have to really put the hurt down on the climbs, they need to get rid of those who can't perhaps climb as well but can TT (like, say, Evans or Leipheimer, both of whom can TT for 50 km). It'll be payback for those hundreds of kilometers suffering in the gutter when the super light climbers go rocketing up the mountains. Those first couple days in the mountains will be hard, at least until everyone's legs are numb with lactic acid.

Then we'll see who's left.

Here's hoping for some strong crosswinds.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Equipment - SRM and Cannondale

So I was waiting to post this because I was waiting to bid on one SystemSix Cannondale "Team Edition" with an SRM crank, Record components, and Fulcrum 1 wheels. There's some other stuff on the bike too, like the Alien seatpost and the Fizik seat (probably taking that second thing off). I know I'll lose the bar and stem and put my own stuff on instead.

For some reason I'm looking forward to putting a dinky stem on top of such a massive head tube.

This is all because of my season long thinking on how to get power readings when I'm racing. A lot of guys pshaw the idea of measuring power while racing but to me, measuring power while racing is critical. Training is fine but it's when I'm racing that my mind and body wake up. A few of the guys have told me, over the years, that whatever happens to me in training is fine (getting dropped, etc., usually comments after a ride where I got dropped). They point out that when I'm actually racing and really wanting to do well, I find the form from somewhere, dig it up, and use it.

It's like those french fries under the car seat - if you look long enough, you'll find one or two.

Anyway, after all my thinking (obsessive wasn't exactly a term I'd have used but now that I think it over, obsessive might be appropriate), I came to the conclusion that I can't use the Power Tap system. I have too many wheels and to spend $800 or so on each of them to PT them simply didn't make sense.

I'd have to find my power elsewhere. Ergomo was out as I don't like that they only measure one side (versus the other). The iBike, to me, is still unproven (give me one on a 3 month, money back guarantee, and I'll give it a go, but otherwise, no thanks). There's a new crank thing that starts with a Q but it's not here yet and will cost as much as its main competitor - the SRM.

So that leaves me with the SRM system. It's good, it's reliable, works, and best of all, I can use any wheel I want with it.

As a gauge of cost, I went to my trusty eBay and looked up SRM. I noticed a formerly local good guy was selling his DA setup (but it's too wide for me and it's since ended). Another guy is selling a pair of cranks with one computer (appealing as I could have two bikes with SRM - this is still open - but they're for a normal bottom bracket). And then I saw a Cannondale Team Liquigas bike, with Record, SRM, everything.

Its opening bid was about $1000 more than the cost of a new SRM setup and about $1600 more than what the local DA SRM sold for.

For a whole bike.

With Record.


I spoke with the missus a couple times about this. More than a couple. It started out over the early summer with buying at least one more PT hub. Then a rim for said hub. Then perhaps the SRM and sell the PT (that was recent when I missed out on a 24H Campy PT hub).

Today we spoke again and I mentioned I was a bit nervous because the Cannondale auction was going to end in about 90 minutes and no one had bid on the bike. When I mentioned the cost of a new SRM to her, she said that I really ought to buy this thing.

I didn't even have to go into how light the bike is, how the Hollowgram SI SRM is the best of the SRMs, nothing.

With my mind at ease about this (I wouldn't have done it if my mind wasn't at ease - that's perhaps a bit compulsive I suppose) I decided to bid on it.

Mind you, at that point I had already put in a bid amount, confirmed my account, and only had to click "Confirm bid" to place it officially. I can get that close and if my Spidey-sense goes off, I'll back off. I've done it a number of times, literally making my mind up not to buy something in the last 30 or 60 seconds of the auction.

Speaking of which...

Since every single thing I've bought on eBay (all 8 items) I've waited till the last second to bid, I decided to do something similar. But with a bunch of things with work distracting me for 15 or 30 minutes at a time, I decided to bid with 30 minutes to go, else I'd be kicking myself if I missed it.

As it turns out, no one else bid. I bought the bike :)

This is the first new complete road bike I've bought since late 1982 (!) when I bought a Basso with Campy (Nuovo) Record and Excel Rino. Since then I've always bought either drivetrain parts (rear derailleur, cassette, chain, and Ergo levers), "long term" parts (cranks, bottom bracket, seatpost, stem, bars, seat), wheels (or hubs, spokes, and rims), or a frame set - and never all at once.

I never thought I'd even contemplate buying a new bike. A lot of my muttering in the last year or two has been the insane frame prices. My perceived value of a new race bike is about $3000 (without pedals and with nicer level clinchers). My perceived value on an SRM equipped bike is perhaps $2000 more - and that's just over what I bid for this bike.

I rarely spend this much money at one time. In fact, my last purchase in the price range (other than home improvements - but for example all the very nice stainless appliances in the kitchen cost about as much as this bike) was the beloved Passat I bought about 6 or 7 years ago.

So this is a really big step for me.

There will be a whole bunch of changes when this happens as well.

1. The Cannondale frame is essentially non-compact (it slopes a bit but not really a lot); it'll be the first time in many years I'll be on such a machine. Stiff frame, high top tube. Very stiff - I found some article where they measured how many pounds it took to flex the bottom bracket one inch to the side. Cannondale was around 1200 pounds. The Giant? Something like 700.

Yo that's my bike! 700 pounds? What kind of a wimpy carbon piece of...

I can't wait to stomp on the pedals on this bike.

I also checked the stand over height because I want to have kids (and do all the things you need to do to have kids too) - and for Mr. Short Legs here, I'll be sitting on the top tube when I'm straddling the bike. If my voice goes up significantly after I get this bike, you may know why.

2. 170 cranks. Why not the 175s I've been preaching since I switched to them? I know it's easy to change cranks but not when they cost about $2100 for the SRM version of the crankarms. So I'm not planning on changing them. I've had a hard time justifying this but this year I did a lot of thinking and pondering (obsessive? me?) on going back to shorter cranks. I'd thought about trying to increase my top speed in my sprint, perhaps going to the track and seeing how things work out there. I thought about how I used to feel comfortable at 110 rpms at my threshold - and with 175s it went to around 90 rpms.

Perhaps, then, it's time to get back to the spin days. I didn't do a lot of scientific equations or anything though. Ultimately it came down to this - McEwen uses 170s and he gets the job done. I think (I hope?) that I can exert the leverage necessary to pull off a 1500 watt sprint with 170s (3% less leverage, a loss of 45 watts). My big hope is that my pedal speed will go back up and I'll be able to break through the very frustrating 40 mph barrier that seems to be in the way right now.

Incidentally, this will require the purchase of at least one set of 170s, for whatever my backup bike ends up. If I can find another SystemSix...

3. Weight - 15.9 pounds without pedals, for a 56 cm I think (since that's the frame they weigh for their frame weights). For a 52 it'll be a bit lighter. My current bike, the Giant carbon TCR, size small, with the Reynolds DV46 wheels, weighed 17.5 pounds on a shop's digital scale. As the Reynolds weigh about a pedal set's worth of weight less than the Fulcrums, the bike should weigh in at about 16 lbs complete, maybe an extra 1/4 pound for my old school bar and stem. Say 19 or 20 lbs ready for training (currently my carbon bike easily gets into the 20s when I'm going for a training ride).

This light weight will be my first significant upgrade in weight since I was pedaling around a 17.5 pound Cannondale 2.7 in the early '90s.

4. A fancy bike - my current frame set is the one that came on the Ultegra Giant TCR - hardly the top line bike (and in fact, the top line Giant had a different carbon frame and fork). My previous frame was the aluminum yellow Giant TCR Team - and that was for real, it even had the ONCE bits on it. Before that was an S-Works M2 frame, but again, it was the frame that came adorned with Ultegra.

Along those lines I have a few Record components but never had a Record front derailleur or Record brakes (always cheaped out and bought much lower - as in Daytona/Centaur for a front derailleur and similar or -gasp- Ultegra for brakes). This bike has the whole Record thing on it (minus the cranks since they're the Hollogram SI SRMs). With the fancy paint job (which coincidentally matches my current kit's colors), I'll have to ride faster - no better motivation than that.

So I won, I paid (for some reason I can't wait to pay once I win), and now?

Now to wait for the bike.

I'll be selling a few things of mine as I won't need them anymore. The Power Tap setup of course, and a few fit related things on the new bike (seat, bar, stem). And since I'll be getting a sweet set of training wheels (Fulcrum 1s), I'll sell one or perhaps both of my Eurus wheelsets. Or the Fulcrums.

I don't know yet, I'll have to obsess over this for a bit.

I may sell all those wheels (perhaps put a set on the missus's bike) and just buy a set of carbon deep section clinchers for proper training ($1000 from Williams Cycling - sounds pretty good to me, and they weigh just about the same as the Fulcrums). The Reynolds will be my race wheels. Perhaps I can buy a disk wheel too. It would be a cool wheel to use in certain races (crazy for others).

They're all good things to think about.

I have to confess something though. I knew my gut instincts were steering me towards the SRM because somehow, in my drowsy "just woke up and haven't had coffee" state, I took the PT wheel and computer head off my bike this morning.

See, it was raining outside.

And if the PT gets wet and grimy and something happens to it, I can't sell it as easily (both in practical as well as conscientious terms).

I put on my kit (it's nice having all the right gear - matching knickers, SS and LS jerseys, wind vest and black booties, gloves, and head stuff, perfect outfit for 50 degree rain) and ventured out. Once the initial shock of cold wet wore off I was okay. I hunkered down and tried to keep the hoods dry by keeping my hands there. I stood up when I could because you can't do that on a trainer. I felt secure on the bike - stable, no sliding, wheels nice and solid on the ground.

Felt very flahute with the booties, knickers, layered top, and long gloves. The peeking shin is critical in this flahute feeling, as is the long sleeve top.

Didn't avoid all the puddles or pavement cracks.


Thought about SRMs and aerobic base and slid forward on the seat to do a little speed effort when I got too excited thinking about such things and thought about training in the rain and how much I liked it as a kid.

Got back, rinsed off the bike, lubed the chain. Threw all the gear in the washer, then the dryer. Laid out my shoes in front of a fan.

They're all dry now, ready to go again.

I hope it rains tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Story - 8th Grade Art Class

Back in the day when I was just starting to discover bicycle racing, I was a geeky kid trying to get through middle school. For me, sixth through most of eighth grade were probably the hardest years for me as a kid. Move to a new place (back to the US, from Holland), new school, and, if it's okay to admit this, a much more close-minded place. My ethnicity, never an issue in Europe, became a major one here, at least at my age at the time.

Still though the area had some good things going for it - my parents selected the town mainly because of its superb school system. So superb that when the family moved to a different town a couple hours away, my mom quickly withdrew the kids (due to the poor school system) and promptly moved back while my dad tried to figure out a way to work in the "old" office.

One teacher in sixth grade, Mr. Morris, taught me how to write. I think he taught History, but I don't know. All he really taught was writing - and, to be honest, what he did got me through all of high school and college. My only As in college? English (where I had to write). Such teachers are treasures but unfortunately he's since passed away.

Another teacher, this one in middle school, encouraged my love for cars. Mr. Zellner taught art and all my projects were inevitably car related. However, I remember this teacher more for his social lessons than the school related stuff.

Back then, with no internet spreading the news, I had very little contact with the "popular" world. We had no TV, which, in pre-cable days, meant the only place we got news was from an occasional newspaper (or TV at a friend's house). The first football game I ever watched? The 13th Superbowl.

I know. "What? You mean there were days where there was no cable? 13th Superbowl???" Yep, there was such a Dark Age.

We didn't have a TV until sometime in eighth grade, and although we had TV in Holland, the government broadcast the programming, all two channels worth, starting at about 4:00 PM and ending at about midnight - and naturally most of the programs were in Dutch. Not really conducive towards watching TV and since it was safe to roam around as kids, that's what we did instead. We'd dig little tunnels under the fences, shoot paper blowgun darts at each other, and have cap gun fights. Oh, and take buses and trams all over that part of Holland.

Anyway, in seventh or eighth grade I did have an FM radio and managed to listen to one station, a classic rock station still around. I managed to learn of bands like Led Zepplin, Yes, Queen, and the like. Such stations, though, neglected to point out things like, well, that the Beatles had broken up. I mean if you listen to a station now, they don't say, "And here's a classic from that now-broken-up band, The Beatles!". So I didn't know that many of these bands no longer existed. I thought of them as, well, timeless.

I learned the Beatles fact in art class. I think I learned this when the art teacher announced (for those of us, like me, who didn't listen to current news) that John Lennon had been shot to death. I wondered out loud what the Beatles would do without their "lead singer" - and that's when everyone in the class looked at me like I'd sprouted a third eyeball. Naturally I took some ribbing, but it was okay. Learning such things is important.

I also learned about a comedic pair named Cheech and Chong. The teacher, Mr. Z, would play the records all the time. My favorite was the teacher (Sister Mary Elephant) who would say "Class... class... SHUT UP!". His classes were relaxing, fun, and I got to learn a lot about the outside world.

As I mentioned, he liked cars too, and had a nice BMW 2002. We'd talk about cars but since I only knew about Hot Rod magazine, I thought Chevy small blocks were the sizzle and the big blocks, well, they were just out of this world.

He'd smile, shake his head, and move on to the next student's problems.

It was about this time that I started getting interested in racing. Somehow this came up one day and, lo and behold, ends up his son raced bikes. But Mr. Z had some bad feelings about this, mostly due to a start/finish banner falling on his son, no medical assistance for 45 minutes, and yada yada yada. Whatever. He didn't want to talk about whether 4130 was really better than 1020 steel so I didn't pay him much attention.

When I started racing, I heard about this banner incident. Apparently two guys were away in a crit in Connecticut, Cat 1-2 race, windy day, and as they passed the start/finish line the banner fell on top of them. One racer broke his collarbone and for some reason it took a long time to get him assistance.

Mr. Z's son.


He was a lot older than me though (i.e. not in middle school) so I didn't feel like I could talk to him. So I didn't. I managed, with the help of other riders, racers, and friends, to get into racing. Got my bike, gears, wheels, clothing, and started riding with a local team.

Fast forward about 10 years.

I now managed a bike shop. The state championship road race was approaching - in 1992, a 10 or 11 mile loop which ended in a moderate 1 or 2 mile climb. A kid Mark that worked for the shop I managed was super motivated to do well in the Junior race and put up a banner over his work bench - 1992 State Championships or Bust.

Ballsy, right? The last guy who I knew of that made such a list was Greg Lemond.

He wasn't even the team leader. So he ends up he worked his butt off on the hill every lap, pulled three other racers free of the small field, and worked for the team leader, a great sprinter (and son of the founder of the Bethel Spring Series). Mark worked to drag the sprinter to the line and led out the sprint from the top of the climb, about 300 meters to the finish.

Incredibly, he dropped everyone, including his sprinter teammate. He won perhaps 10 or 20 meters clear, essentially solo, after doing massive amounts of work the whole race.

The Senior race was the one I wanted to check out. I didn't enter (2 mile climb, are you kidding?) and was there to feed and support any teammates or friends in there.

The first lap the field crawled around at about 15 mph. The second lap wasn't much faster. I started regretting not entering - if I'd gone on a nice solo break, I could average my normal 17 or 18 mph and have a great lap or two off the front, great photo ops, something to talk about in the off season ("At States I went off the front for two laps on my own and then..."), the possiblities were endless. At this rate guys would have time to stop, have lunch, and still bridge back to the field in reasonable time.

Finally, an unknown guy in a somewhat generic white jersey rocketed by us at the top of the hill (which was also the feed zone). He was riding like they were breathing down his neck. So we anxiously waited for the "breathers".

It was an incredible 3 minutes before the field went by.

Who was this guy?

One of the old hands said it was Robin Zellner.

Mr. Z's son. Back from Italy to try and claim a state championship. Unimpressed with the negative racing. And willing to change it on his own.

His move sparked a fire under the favorites, and a few laps later, he was in the lead group of four. Eventually someone else won (I think Doug of Benidorm Bikes) but Robin managed a decent place, perhaps second or third. I didn't talk to him that day, and he went back to Italy where he apparently preferred racing.

I guess they tie their banners a bit tighter or something.

Fast forward another 10 years or so. A new team formed with some pretty cool looking kits and bikes. Kodak Gallery Sierra Nevada.

And when I read the article, a familiar name popped up.

Robin Zellner.

Zeke's son was still in the race scene, but now he sat in the team car, not on the saddle. For 2008, he and the other guy that runs the team, Kurt Stockton, are splitting the team back up. So Robin will be running his own smaller team.

I'll have to see what happens in another 10 years.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Equipment - Power, PowerTap, SRM

So I've been doing my typical "end of season equipment review". This is where I decide that next year I'll try and optimize my equipment in order to utilize my soon-to-be-started training to its utmost.

In other words, how do I buy more speed?

I've been very happy with the Power Tap setup except for one thing - I don't have an aero Power Tap rear wheel, whether clincher or tubular, and I definitely don't have one that is a real race wheel. The 32H Mavic Reflex tubular rim currently on the hub is a sad excuse for a race rim and not an ideal rim for a training wheel.

I realized shortly after learning you have to lace Power Tap hubs equally on each side (precluding me lacing a 24H rim onto a 32H hub) that I should have gotten a 24H hub, and in fact, I should have gotten two 24H hubs. 24H Power Taps are hard to find though and weren't an option for me when I first ordered a hub. Whatever. One theoretical 24H Power Tap would be laced to an aero clincher, the other to an aero tubular.

This is due to two theories (of mine) about aero rear wheels:

Theory 1:
You can ALWAYS train on an aero rear wheel, regardless of wind, and since most (carbon) aero rims weigh the same or a little more than a box section rimmed rim, a carbon, deep section clincher wheel would be the obvious choice for a training wheel.

Theory 2:
You can ALWAYS race on an aero rear wheel. Wind conditions can be ignored (see Theory 1, above). The only other factor - weight. Perhaps on a steep hilltop finish, the extra 50-100 grams might be a detriment, but think of the aero savings sitting in the field leading up to the finish. Okay, so on Mount Washington there's no such opportunity so there a light wheel would be good - and probably one without a Power Tap hub jammed in the middle of it. So, if you have a Power Tap hub for racing, you should have an aero rear rim - a deep section rim.

Deep section rims need, at most, 24 spokes, so you need to get a 24H hub.

Unfortunately, I got myself a 32H hub.

According to my two rules above, the hub is unusable.

There's a corollary too.

For most racers (under, say, 225 lbs), you need, at most, 24 spokes in the rear with a deep section rim.

Since Theory 1 and Theory 2 illustrate why you'd never be without a deep section rim, the corollary illustrates why you'd never need a Power Tap hub with more than 24 spoke holes. As an illustration of this - my Reynolds (carbon 46mm deep) rear wheel has 20 spokes.

As usual, there is one exception - and it's for whoever wants to buy my Power Tap. They definitely want a 32H Power Tap!

Anyway, with my two theories and the corollary in mind, I realized that, based on my current financial situation, the Power Tap won't meet my needs.

This is because to satisfy my training and racing requirements, I'll need to buy two hubs - both 24H Campy hubs. 24H - one hurdle. Campy - another hurdle. Based on eBay prices, this will set me back about $2000, and based on an email to Saris, I have to choose either wired or wireless, the latter being more prevalent at this time (and more costly). This two hub purchase will set me up with one race wheel and no training wheels. The race wheel will come courtesy of a surplus (and old) 24H Zipp rim sitting in my wheel collection. I'll have to buy one training rim to build a similar training wheel - deep section rim, $400 or so.

I'm looking at $2400, perhaps another $800-1200 if I decide to buy matching rims (meaning two clinchers and another tubular).

And after all that, I'll have just two power-compatible rear wheels.

For someone who's just started racing, or someone with two or maybe three sets of wheels, this would be an acceptable solution. Train on the deep section clinchers, race on the deep section tubulars (with the clinchers as spares, or you can do with two sets of clinchers), and you have a perfect setup - similar parts, easily switchable wheels, etc.

The problem is that I have a LOT of wheels that I use and like - my favorite Reynolds 46mm carbon tubulars, the three Specialized TriSpokes (two front, one rear), my Campy Eurus wheelset (with a second backup set), and a boatload of less exotic wheels - mainly Spinergys and conventional Campy-hubbed FiR-rimmed wheelsets.

All of which, I should point out, do not have Power Tap hubs. The exotics, by the way, do not even accept Power Tap hubs - the TriSpokes (nope), the Reynolds (20H hub? Not readily available), the Campy wheels (21 spoke with a 14/7 spoke count? You crazy?).

I've been kicking around the idea of racing a rear disc wheel in crits as well, and those are definitely not Power Tap-able.


This means my Power Tap experiment is coming to a close.

I've decided to sell my Power Tap, the wheel around it (Mavic Reflex, 32H, DT 2.0 Revolution spokes, alloy nipples on the left side, brass on the right), as well as the original wheel around it (DT 1.1 double eyelet rim, 32 2.0 straight DT spokes, brass nipples, but all currently not on the hub). No tires but there's a rim strip on the DT rim I'll leave. $850 or best offer, by the way, unless I have to eBay it, in which case I'll let the market decide. That's for both rims if you know how to build wheels (you choose which one is actually built around the hub), and I even have a set of 32H FiR tubular rims that I bought sort of by accident (not realizing when the Reflex was coming in, I order other rims "just in case"). And a couple new batteries for the head.

And at some point I'll be buying an SRM crank - 175 mm, 53x39, not sure what other specs.

The big decision on the SRM will be based on Q-factor (the crankset's width, measured by the distance between the left and right pedal's vertical path). The Campy cranks have always been low - as low as 112mm, currently in the 120s. A DA SRM crank is about 139 mm - I'd feel like I'm riding a horse, not a bike. I'd need to stick with the standard SRM setup or go to the System Integration model, i.e. specific for the Cannondale frameset.

That's another thing.

Ever since someone told me their Giant felt a bit flexy, I've been obsessing over that, even if I've denied it in public. A good friend of mine works for a company that makes frames and commented on "flexy is as flexy does" as well. As a clincher, on my pre-wedding training ride, one of the guys had a 6-13, the aluminum lugged, carbon tubed Cannondale - and he loves it. Incidentally he also rode on deep section clinchers, front and rear - the perfect training setup.

So, if Cannondale's frame measures okay (I'm obsessive about fit) and I get to test ride one in some reasonable time, I'll probably be getting a Cannondale frameset, 52 cm. I'm thinking either the 6-13 (unlikely), the System Six (carbon front triangle, aluminum rear, probable), or the new Super Six (all carbon, unlikely).

This would mean getting the SI version of the SRM crankset - the best of the versions, apparently (stiffest anyway).

Then I'd be able to use my beloved Reynolds wheelset and still get power readings. Build my 24H Zipp rim around a Campy 32H hub. Use a disk wheel. All that kind of stuff.

For now though I guess that means I need to dismount my PT stuff and start training on, gasp, "normal" wheels. I suppose that'll be okay - it's how I trained until April of this year, after all.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Helmet Cam - Optimized

Somewhere I saw an ad for a "YouTube" optimized digital camcorder. I've always wondered why my clips were sort of fuzzy and other people's were much nicer when I spent all that money on a nice helmet cam etc.

Well, it ends up that uploading the best quality clips doesn't do anything for YouTube. So with a major recommendation in mind (uploading in 320x240 instead of 640x480), I'll be uploading cleaner and clearer clips of all the clips already there.

In addition I found a clip or two I'd been working on and sort of forgot to finish so I'll try and get them up at some point too.

Life - Wedding - Bonus Note

Out of respect for the folks that appear in the bonus (and to avoid setting an uncomfortable precedent), I'm making the post and related things private.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Life - The Wedding

Ultimately, my goal, and the missus's (now I can say this instead of "future missus") goal, was to have a fun celebration. Yes, we got married, and yes, it was emotional, but really, what took place October 6 was a way of announcing that "Hey, we love each other!" to our family and closest of friends.

We were married at the Friends Meeting House in Wilton, CT. Although we're not necessarily religious, the Meeting House had some special meaning for me - I went to nursery school there, my nephew is now going there (and my nursery school teacher was still teaching when he started although she passed away recently), and my mom's memorial was held there. I hadn't been there in forever (except for my mom's memorial where I wasn't exactly in the mood to explore), so when I went, I discovered that my favorite playground toy, the merry go round, was still there. I remember sitting on it and spinning like mad until I was ill with dizziness. Even back then I was experimenting with rotating weight and moment of inertia - I found that if I went fast on the perimeter and then scooted to the middle, somehow the merry go round would accelerate. That was great because then I'd be even dizzier.

Incredible what four year olds think about.

We had our rehearsal Friday evening. Things went pretty well and a bunch of my family spent some time arranging and rearranging things in the Meeting Room. Our sound system was primitive (laptop + subwoofer equipped speakers) and my little brother was assigned DJ duties (my other brother's wife was extremely pregnant and my sister is only slightly less so which made me reluctant to ask them for anything).

We then went over to the Tuscan Oven in Norwalk for some dinner. They set aside a room for us, it was tastefully decorated, they'd prepared a custom menu (with our names on it and everything). Great food, great time, highly recommended.

Most everyone left but my best man, his wife, the groomsman, and my younger brother were sort of hanging out afterwards. A while back I'd talked what I wanted to do but due to various logistical problems, no one had made any plans. After asking a waitress if she knew any "clubs" in the area (she knew of one), she went and got another guy who happened to know of another ("I, uh, haven't been there in a while but there's a club...". The waitress remembered it - she lives nearby - and gave us detailed directions on how to get there. So we set off on a caravan to this joint.

I won't go into details but I'll say that my little brother, for all his rather extreme music and all that, had never been in one of those clubs. And my Best Man's wife hadn't either. So it was fun because it's fun to go with someone who hadn't gone before and see their reactions to what they see. We were there till some reasonably late hour and left after the scene started getting stale.

Saturday morning, after our late night out, I woke up five hours later at something like 7 in the morning, feeling somewhat zoned-out. I could barely eat, I felt almost numb, and I struggled to get anything done. It surprised me because I thought I had dealt with (or was dealing with) any stress or anxiety - but I realize now that the morning of the wedding I was pretty stressed. Usually I'm grumbly when I'm stressed but fortunately that day I was just frozen like a deer in headlights.

In my normal life I have all sorts of lists and time schedules and stuff - but that day I had a hard time figuring out if 11:30 was too early to shower (or eat or something) for a 1:30 wedding. I'm actually surprised I wasn't sitting frozen in the kitchen till 1:15.

Somehow, I started getting ready (including publishing the post 95 minutes before the wedding), and then time accelerated uncomfortably fast. It's like sitting in a long (for me) 30 lap race and zoning out and suddenly it's 5 to go and there's a break 30 seconds up the road. I started to stress - I had this vague feeling that I should have been at the Meeting House at 12:30 - and it was about 12:30. So I told everyone I'd go on ahead to open up the House and meet them there.

Obviously I arrived there a bit late - about 1 - and there were perhaps half a dozen cars parked already. I opened up the Meeting House doors (I had the keys), and then sat in my fiancee's car (which I'd driven there), AC on high, to try and cool off. It was in the 80s, a bit high for an early October weekend, and combined with what stress or nerves I wasn't officially feeling, it felt pretty hot.

Mike, one of my two tux-suited support friends, was already there - apparently he'd arrived a couple hours before to tailgate with whoever showed up. Unfortunately no one else got there till about when I got there.

As the cyclist friends arrived, most of them commented on the accessory sitting on the roof - my bike.

"Only Aki would bring his bike to his wedding."

Well, the thought did cross my mind that leaving it on the roof unattended at the reception site might be bad (although it's in a town that you probably never need to lock your doors). Plus I really wanted to drive that particular car (it has good AC and I really, really needed it) and I didn't know where else to put the bike that was already sitting on top of it.

Unfortunately it was relatively easy to stay cool since I only had my shirt, shoes, and pants on (which means that I would get service at a store at least). I forgot the tie, vest, cuff links, and jacket at the house (oops). My younger brother and sister (and their spouses - I was the last to get married) arrived with the rest of my wedding kit, and with the help of one of my finacee's in-laws Mark, I got dressed. Melissa, wife of a good friend, pinned the flower things on our lapels. (The flower things are not buccaneers but it sounds something like that).

Her husband, David, is also an avid cyclist and returning-to-competition racer - as apparent by his second place finish in a race that morning! He had been a bit concerned about the timing of it all so had actually asked me if I felt it appropriate for him to go racing that morning. I thought about it and there was nothing really to hold him back - if it were me it'd be a different story, but him, hey, the worst case scenario might be him limping a bit with Tegaderm under his suit. I gave him my blessings and -voila- he showed up all grins after a great race.

My other brother (he's younger too, just by not as much, so I call him my brother) arrived with his wife, two point nine-nine kids (she was having contractions at the wedding and had her third son three days later), and my dad arrived. Melissa quickly pinned the buccaneer things on my dad and the oldest nephew (who's four years old and designated professional ring bearer - he'd done my younger brother and my sister's weddings in his slightly-longer-than one year career) and we were set.

We had to be since the limo with the girls had arrived something like 15 minutes before that last paragraph happened. The JP was nice, gently reminded everyone to be calm, and we got on our way.

Suddenly I was feeling really warm. The pictures I've seen caught me wiping my forehead more than a few times so it wasn't an illusion.

So, with the merry go round out back somewhere, we had our ceremony. I didn't think I'd be too nervous but I started feeling a bit something as we lined up, ready to walk in. I realized that I was actually getting really nervous, worse than wondering if we'd sell the house, worse than lining up for a race. It was a different kind of nervousness - I guess at my age (hey, I can say that) nervousness manifests itself differently. My stomach started turning circles, my mind went blank, and I asked our JP what exactly we'd be doing. She reassured me and went over what I was to do.

"We're going to walk to the front of the room together."
"Okay. I can do that." I looked at her expectantly.
"That's it," she added after looking at me.
"Okay," I said, pausing to collect my thoughts. They all escaped again. I turned to the JP.
"Wait, what are we doing again?"

Alright, it wasn't that bad. But it was almost that bad. My mind went truly blank.

Then we went in and we were standing and the girls walked in and then the (still) future missus walked in and she and I think everyone else started crying.

Afterwards everyone was talking about that moment and Rich (Best Man) laughingly said to tough guy Mike (Tailgating Groomsman), "You know, I thought I heard some sniffling back there."

"Damn right, man, I didn't want to start bawling and make everyone else bawl too."

Mike's so sensitive, isn't he?

I don't remember very much other than Arianna (one of the two flower girls) looking up at me so cutely and then giving me a great, big, honest, reassuring smile in the middle of the ceremony. And my nephew, our ring bearer (in theory - the rings were really with Rich), he was sooo serious about walking up to the two angelic girls it was too cute.

My mind did go blank - while I was supposed to be repeating what the JP was saying, you know the "I, -insert name- take -insert name- to be my lawfully wedded wife". Blankness in sprints is good - it's a sort of a Zen thing - but blankness in a wedding ceremony, not good. I was struggling to repeat the lines - and as an aside, now I know why they read just one or two words at a time and then have the nervous wedded-to-be repeat after them. Within a few lines I was in trouble - I had no idea what the JP had just said.

So I looked at the JP and asked, "What was that?"

Everyone laughed and that unblanked my mind although I still didn't know what to say. Kevin, like his accurate sprint blow up prediction the day before, told me later that I was taking longer and longer to repeat things and by that fourth bit I looked to be in serious trouble and ka-blam that was the kicker.

Anyway I got through the rest of it okay. The still-future missus got through with the help of my best man (he gave her the first tissue which he had "just in case" - he was well prepared) and me (I got her tears with the stylish hankie in my breast pocket). We wrote our ceremony (which makes me blanking out even worse) and part of it asks everyone for their support in our marriage. Everyone caught on and a chorus of "We do's" resounded in the Meeting Room. And finally, at some point, we were pronounced man and wife and we kissed.

We were married.

And the future missus became missus which makes typing this blog a lot easier.

We took a nice leisurely cruise north to the reception site, the Keeler Tavern Inn. The drive was slow, steady, the driver was the epitome of perfection. We drank some of a bottle of champagne, talked and laughed, the things you do in a limo. The driver shoehorned the limo into the narrow driveway and dropped us off.

The reception itself was a casual affair catered by a wonderful person named Diane Browne - the missus had gone to a wedding (while I was training in California) and was so impressed with the caterer that we decided to use the same one - Diane. Excellent food, professional but personable, really nice crew too - they made you feel special.

The music was very cool too. In the stressful last week of the wedding planning, the last major planning hurdle ended up being deciding what music to play. We had some different ideas of what we like (for example, although I wouldn't play it at a wedding, I really like Linkin Park - the missus prefers John Mayer). One song which we didn't agree on was one we both liked but differed on its appropriateness at the wedding - Madness "It Must Be Love". Her choices I didn't even know most of them and hence I was hesitant to have them played (I'd want the music to reflect something in each of us I thought). In the end we decided to let the DJ pick the music - he claimed he had a tasteful mix of background type music and had offered up a subtle but nice background type of scene. He was really good, really understanding, and pulled off a great gig.

That DJ's name is Matt and he happened to be a designer in the real world - and has done such things as design a lot of what made Cipollini famous (the Peace thing, the Roman thing, Saeco's normal kit, etc) as well as the Carpe Diem Racing kit. He happens to be a pretty strong racer as well, racing as a Cat 2 for a long time.

His DJing skills are like his design ones - he knows his stuff, is fluent in his environment, and works with a quiet, confident authority. He started things off with some of the big band things that the missus liked (and everyone else apparently) but as he promised, the music was really there as a backdrop, not as a focus. His music grew a beat as the afternoon wore on, eventually culminating in some fun music. During the course of the day the missus and I ended up apart from each other as we talked with various peoples. At some point we ran into each other - just as "It Must Be Love" was playing.

"Hey, it's the song!"

We both had silly grins plastered on our faces.

Coincidentally our photog's name is Matt too. Like our DJ, he was dressed in very chic all black (he sort of resembles one of the Madness guys actually). He too was fluent in his environment, quietly secure, and exuded confidence that things were going great. He used the Keeler Tavern's garden with its various walkways and such to great effect, including a somewhat, um, hilarious shot of me and the garden's little water spout. He saw it, thought of it, and then had me replicate his pose - worth a laugh for sure.

If I ranked his photography as a cyclist might, he'd be an Elite or Cat 1 at worst. He was everywhere, cheerful, great to work with, never bossy, just excellent to work with, and to top it off he took a lot of great shots.

Yeah, like I know right?

Well, actually, I do know. He'd show us some of the shots right after he took them, but then what's a shot or two if you can't get everything? Exactly - which is probably why, before he left, he'd set up a laptop playing a slide show... of the wedding and the reception, all to music.


When it got to be that time we started closing shop. My various brothers and in-laws helped break things down (they had already done the same at the Meeting House) and stuffed a lot of gear in the missus's car (which one of them drove up, bike and all). My sister was excused of course as she's well into her first pregnancy (due December). We were interrupted by someone coming to check out the place for some gig (a reception?) - I don't think you could have gotten a more enthusiastic recommendation, and the two women drove off talking about booking the place now.

And that, as they say, was that.

We wrapped up the day at the Tuscan Oven bar - after the great dinner there the prior evening, we decided to go back for drinks. Us newlyweds were pretty exhausted though and called it a night sort of early on. We retreated to our room after biding everyone a good night.

We really enjoyed working with the folks that helped us celebrate our day so I'd like to give them some credit here -
AfterHours Formal Wear, Nationwide (good if your best man lives 3000 miles away)
Wilton Friends Meeting House, Wilton, CT (non-denominational weddings welcome, I'd say a 100-120 person max)
Regency Limo, Wilton, CT (they've been around about as long as I've been cycling and now I know why)
Tuscan Oven, Norwalk, CT (our dining room was for about 25 or so people, excellent service and staff)
Diane Browne at Good Food, Good Things, 203-656-1920 (no site so they get a tel#), Darien, CT
Keeler Tavern Inn, Ridgefield, CT (up to 80 or so people, you can get a guided tour for very little more)
Matthew J Wagner Photography (can't say enough about him, great photog tricks, and he has a blog)
Mary Pugh, Justice of the Peace, Norwalk, CT (for CT only; she takes some pics too, and highly recommended if you're looking for something smaller and/or non-denominational)

Wednesday, October 17, 2007


btw I'm still sick and spent virtually the whole day in bed, dead to the world. I even missed a couple of the missus's calls (unusual for me). I'm coughing and hacking now but hopefully I'll beat this stupid thing down. Normally it's not a big deal to be sick (other than being sick) but I have a physical type thing on Saturday so I absolutely have to be better by then. Plus we want to visit my brother's family and the new baby - being sick probably isn't the best way to visit. Arg.

Training - Day Before the Wedding

I've alluded to the fact that I went for a ride the day before the wedding. Not only that, it was just before the rehearsal. My best man Rich and I went to a local (to my dad's house) shop Cycle Center to meet up with two of my good friends Kevin and Greg. Mike (my groomsman), who all of us desperately wanted on the ride, was unable to attend, having to finish a beautiful Aston Martin by Sunday - for a show, I guessed, and it ends up there was a high end car show Sunday morning.

One of the problems in getting a ride set up was the fact that Rich and Kevin both live really far away - California and Colorado respectively. So neither had a bike out here and Kevin didn't even bring pedals. Seeing as Greg is about the same size as Rich and Kevin, I'd asked him about borrowing some bikes from him (he usually has a bunch of bikes or friends who can loan him bikes). He told me he'd take care of it and said to talk to Nate at Cycle Center.

Cycle Center? Was he storing his bikes there?


It ends up that when Nate heard of our predicament, he volunteered us two bikes - his own and a demo. They fit Rich and Kevin perfectly after Nate did some seat adjustments. Kevin bought some pedals, I bought some Enervit stuff, and eventually we kitted up and headed out.

Rich got Nate's personal 'cross bike and although he was initially skeptical of the various "shock absorbing" things on the bike, he seemed quite at home on the bike and eventually admitted the bike was pretty comfy. His Indurain-like pedaling style put the hurt on Kevin and myself on the first big (up) hill. My heart rate was starting to rise.

Luckily the road leveled and the three of us commented on Rich's steady but spirited pull. Rich was modest about it - it's hard to judge pace when you aren't looking around all the time. Nevertheless he backed off a bit on his pulls after that. With him a bit out of the "attacking" picture (in other words, this was a ride for me, not a hammerfest ride), Greg or Kevin ended up pulling ahead here and there.

Me, I was sitting in like usual, except when I wanted to go fast on the more thrilling parts (descents and a curve or two). I rode in a familiar zone because these guys and I go back a long way. Before Gene helped me with the Bethel Spring Series, it was Rich who was there, week after week, year after year. He worked with me as well, and as a friend, he's offered advice and observations, at times quite pointed. But that's what friends are for, right? Because if they don't tell you the real deal, no one will.

And just like Gene would work hard for me in my most important target races (like the 2005 Bethel Spring Series final where Gene absolutely rode his legs into the ground to support me), so too did Rich work his heart out for me on the bike. In one of my posts I detail his work as the then-unidentified Primary Leadout. What was incredible (and for which I felt bad) was whenever any race we were both in started winding down to its last laps, he'd always be looking for me, looking to pull me to the front, drop me off in a prime spot for the dash to the line. It seemed that he never thought to go for it himself.

Kevin was just like that before he moved out west. He, too, helped at the Bethel Spring Series. Similarly, he also helped me with my shop (again, making some pointed observations). In races too he'd look to lead me out - one race in particular sticks out as he was racing for a different team - I had two leadout guys competing to lead me out! And way back when, he helped me simply by being my second roommate during the first few years I had my house (and was dying for a paying roommate). He even found my third roommate after my first one moved out after she got married. His helpful nature manifested itself as he couldn't resist calling with offers of assistance the day before this ride

These "help your friend" habits die hard it seems. Towards the end of the ride, when the missus called to check where I was, I had to ease up to pull the phone out of my pocket. Kevin eased with me and watched as I flipped open my phone. I answered with "I'm running a bit late," and then made sure I knew what to wear, etc.

After I hung up Kevin looked over and commented that perhaps a different opening might have been better - the "I'm running a bit late" could have been improved to something like "Hi honey, how's it going?". Nonetheless, with the reasonably tight schedule in mind, his helpful mind turned to the task at hand - he asked me if he should go to the front to up the pace.

I felt like I was in the Yellow Jersey in the Tour.

Minus any doping allegations of course.

Greg too somehow always wanted to help out. I've known him a while - and if you've followed the posts, I've written a few bits about him, my favorite being the Purple Jersey post. Even at the peak of his riding he'd ask if I wanted to ride with him (imagine being asked by a Chris Horner if you wanted to ride with him - nice, yes, but how much good would it do Chris to have to wait for me everywhere?). Whenever we rode, he'd talk about "Oh man, I should lead you out for Gimbles" or Bethel or whatever ride/race we happened to be talking about at the time.

He's a lot younger than me - in fact, I was already an "adult" when I met this scrawny 12 year old kid. And like most kids, he had his issues - one that bugged me was his lackadaisical attitude towards time.

A long time ago he told me he'd ride with me at a particular time. When he didn't show up for a while (perhaps 20 or 30 minutes), I called him up and let loose with a lot of choice words. He claimed it wasn't a big deal, etc etc etc. Although it dampened our riding (and talking) for a bit, we smoothed it over like friends do.

Well, it seems that life has taught him a few lessons. Rich and I were running late with the car swap taking a bit longer than expected (ditto the physical). We'd told Kevin and Greg we'd be there at 2. I was driving my brother's Honda as fast as I could, meaning slightly above the limit on non-highways but accelerating hard (and faster on the highways). At the same time I was trying to listen for some indescribable "axle noise" reported by my brother (I didn't hear it). I'd been talking to Rich about Greg, how he's matured as he's gotten older (don't we all?), and I told him that Greg would probably call as we're running late. As if on cue, my phone rang. I glanced at the time before I answered it - 2:00:55.

Greg, it seems, gave us about 55 seconds leeway. Not bad for someone who used to show up 30 minutes late for stuff.

"Hey, where are you guys?"

I grinned.

Anyway, we were riding, I wasn't pulling much (basically never), and I used my lower frontal area and equal weight to descend like a rock. Greg (the only one who still lives and rides around the area) led us around on roads I'd forgotten about and it was nice to rediscover (and remember) the various descents, fast curves, and fun stuff on the ride. The whole time I was conscious of the fact that I had a rehearsal and dinner, and I knew we were already pushing the time envelope. This meant riding conservative, working hard on the hills, and letting the guys do the work on the flats.

You know, like old days.

That was until a little truck went trundling by at about 30 mph. I looked at it lovingly - an absolutely perfect leadout truck.

But no, this was my pre-rehearsal ride and I didn't want to show up at the rehearsal absolutely shattered.

That was when the back end of the truck went by - and the trailer it was pulling started past me.

The trailer pushed my self control out the window. I glanced, made sure I had some room (I did, barely), and jumped like the finish line on the Champs Elysee was 200 meters away. The car following the trailer tried to pass me (i.e. nudge me away from the back of the trailer since I was all of ten feet behind the trailer, not enough room for the car to actually pass me) but I doggedly stayed on the trailer, shifting up a few times until finally I was in my 11T, flying along at what the Power Tap claimed to be 42 mph. For some reason I kept going as long as I could and then ka-blam I blew sky high.

I coasted down and realized that I'd just done what I didn't want to do - totally annihilated myself. Luckily there was a light and stuff but we turned right and started up a hill.

Oh crap. I remembered this hill. It's long (and it's why I usually turn left at the light, which is what I was assuming we'd do). You know what assume stands for right?

Anyway, my back had gone numb (it does that after big sprints), I felt pretty queasy, and my legs were totally spent. I could barely bend my legs to turn the pedals - Mister Power Tap says I rode at about 6.5 mph for the next 10 minutes or so. This was a bit slow for the guys so they stopped and waited (sort of like old days again) and we went at a much reduced pace while I recovered (again, like old days).

Kevin was chuckling. Apparently when he saw the truck he just knew I wouldn't be able to resist. Of course I went flying by - and after the three of them watched me scamper away, Kevin turned to the other guys.

"Just wait a second... wait.. wait... There! Did you hear that?"
"Hear what?"
"That was Aki exploding."

Chuckle chuckle and all that.

When they stopped at the top of the hill to wait for me, they had enough time that they were busy examining the two loaner bikes and comparing notes on them. We headed back at, our time for riding quickly vanishing, Kevin doing some good pace making, even gapping Rich and Greg at one point accelerating through the last hard turn of the ride, but as we headed down the last stretch of road to the shop, Greg rocketed off. We sat up as he looked back with a big cheeky grin plastered across his face.

Some things, it seems, never change.

Of course, if I had the legs, I'd have gone. Of course. But I was already in a decent amount of hurt and decided I didn't want it bad enough. That looming rehearsal and all that. Right.

We got back, said some thank yous, I learned at that time about Nate's reason for helping so thanked him profusely. It was a great ride - great weather, great company, and a fun route. The distant guys (Rich, Kevin) caught up with both each other and with Greg. I'd been in reasonably contact with all of them so I suffered quietly - or not, I suppose you'd have to ask the guys. Kevin was so happy after the ride that later on he suggested to his (shocked) wife that perhaps they should move back east.

I wish that more of the guys could have made the ride, but with work and all that, I know it'd have been difficult. The lack of a definitive plan didn't help - we only solidified the ride time the day before because, frankly, I didn't know my own schedule. I suppose that when we move into a house we could do a BBQ/training ride thing - we'd have more than the two parking spots we have now, hopefully we'd have more than one shower, and I think it'd be a great day to spend a day, doing a fun ride and then hanging out with a whole bunch of friends.

I've said it before and I'll say it again. The ride couldn't have happened without Nate at Cycle Center on High Ridge Road in Stamford, CT. He explained it away as saying that since it was a special weekend for me, he wanted to help in whatever way he could. He did, we had a great ride, so my thanks go to him.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Life - Day Before the Wedding - Physical

This is a bit post-dated as the wedding took place October 6 and I'm writing about the 5th and the 4th. With that in mind...

Thursday was a chaotic day with lots of small, miscellaneous things to do. It was the last day for us to get things done before the whirlwind of an already planned out Friday. Since Thursday was really us getting down to the southwest corner of Connecticut, I'll skip the "And then we ate breakfast - coffee and eggs for me" kind of post.

Friday morning we were up reasonably early to go pick up my best man. He flew in on the red-eye after a busy schedule back where he lives - on the other coast of the US. Because he'd be without a car, he joined us on our first round of errands (his wife would later join him/us driving her mom's car). At about 1 in the afternoon we'd swap cars (the missus would keep her car, we'd borrow my brother's), and go meet up for a ride with a couple of the boys from back in the day.

But I get ahead of myself.

We had breakfast at a diner which has a special meaning for the missus and myself. Although not a five star restaurant, it is where the we pretty much established our relationship over coffees and breakfasts. I think those kinds of meals are good for illuminating some of the other's traits - how one handles money, a mistaken order, cold coffee (or no coffee), even how one opens a door. It should be apparent that over the three or four years we ate there we decided we liked the person sitting across (and sometimes next to) us.

After this nostalgic meal (completely lost on the Best Man), we went to the doctor - I had a physical scheduled for late that morning. A little crazy as the office is 1.5 hours away from where I now live, but I like my doctor. More importantly, I trust him.

I trust him because he was the one that told me about my heart problem - some backwards thing on my EKG. He told me that if he'd seen my EKG with no other information, he'd figure he was looking at a guy having a heart attack. As a favor to me and any EMTs that might find me unconscious, he gave me a copy of the EKG with some appropriately illegible notes. A teammate who is also a doctor deciphered it quite easily (I guess doctors have their own secret handbook, just like I know Cat 2s have them). Basically it says that "This is normal and this guy is NOT having a heart attack and don't defibulate him."

I carry a reduced copy of it, laminated, in my wallet.

Here it is, with Tiger present for scale.

He told me that if I ever wanted a day off, I should wander into an emergency room rubbing my chest. I wouldn't need to say a word, he told me, and I'd be detained for a day or two for observation.

I haven't done this so far.

Anyway, the missus had some questions for the doc, my best man had no vehicle, so the three of us tramped into the office together. I felt like Britney Spears with her posse trailing her.

Minus the blond hair. And bare midriff. And with a much reduced posse. And... well, you know.

We were shown the waiting room, a circular bit with a bazillion medical pamphlets, all proclaiming how you might be afflicted with something for which they have a drug, and ask you doctor about it.

The best man (I'll name him - let's call him Rich) is a subtlely mischievous kind of guy. He managed to find a testosterone test - an electric one - and tried to use it. It had a gauge and a bunch of yes/no phrases, and it would tell you if you might be suffering from low testosterone. To his (and our) dismay, the batteries were so dead they were bloating. I went to the nice receptionist and asked for both batteries and wondered out loud if we could keep it. She said yes to both and got us some batteries. Properly armed I returned to the waiting room.

We found a couple Yes answers got you the prize - "You might have low testosterone". I started wondering if perhaps my "deterioration in my ability to play sports" (an actual yes/no phrase) was perhaps related to low testosterone.

I may have low testosterone.

Of course this test could be customized for specific professions. Like, let's see, maybe, um, bike racers?

Imagine the bike-specific phrases.

"I feel tired 14 days into a 21 day stage race"
"I can't outsprint Bettini"
"My name is Flo.."

I hate when the ink rubs off and you can't read the whole phrase. I suppose if your name is like that Florence Griffith-Joyner and most of it is rubbed off...

The nurse called me in for my prelims - weight, blood pressure, things like that. I was 184 lbs (aye caramba), bp was 120/80 (seems high but I wasn't feeling quite myself), and pulse 56 (not bad, but then again, I think I was a bit sick). The last time I went she weighed me, and when I hit over 180, she looked at me in surprise and said "You don't look that heavy - I thought you were 165 or so."

"I'm just dense," I replied, straight-faced.

She gave me a look like "Do you know what you just said?". I didn't elaborate and giggled inside. When I mentioned that from the last visit she told me that she'd laughed when she left the room. This time she didn't wait till she left - she was chuckling walking out the door.

The doc came in, said my cholesterol was high again. I forget the number but it's back over 200 (bad stuff) and I think almost 300 total. Since I'd gotten the bad stuff to 135 and my total to around 200 before, I figured it was the lack of exercise and lots of cholesterol type food that contributed. See, before the blood test I was eating 5 or so enormous hamburgers a day, meat loaf, and not a lot of veggies. The beef was leftover from my birthday bash and was so good I felt obliged to try and finish a whole Costco bag of ground sirloin patties - I couldn't eat the last two.

That makes it almost 16 1/3 pound patties in a week or so - about five pounds of beef. To be fair the missus had some meatloaf (but not any burgers). So maybe I had 4.5 pounds. Whatever.

The missus asked her questions and reminded me of mine - in no particular order "Why am I getting sick more than before?" and "Are there any issues with a guy 45 or so having kids?". I forget the other questions but the missus asked them - that's why she was there.

I asked about testosterone and the electronic test in the waiting room. Hey, if I have a TUE (Therapeutic Use Exemption) for androgen... But my plans for winning the Green Jersey in the Tour were smashed when the doc dismissed the test - "They all want you to medicate" or something to that effect.


Most important to me though was my hematocrit. It's quite high naturally and I was hoping for a 50%. It's like getting a speeding ticket on a bike I guess - if my 'crit was over 50% I could take two weeks off from racing. And I figured the five pounds of beef should have helped - all that iron and other red blood cell stuff. So I quickly looked at the sheet.


My heart sank. Lower than before - in my last four physicals I'd gone from 49 to 48 to 47 to 46. Overall though, except for the cholesterol and my weight, things were reasonably fine. Of course I want to lose weight (getting up that hill at Bethel is a real pain when you're carrying 20 or 30 extra pounds), I'd like to lower my cholesterol so it's not something I have to think about, and I really, really want to break that magical 50% barrier for my hematocrit.


I wonder if they have an electronic test for anemia.